Photo credit: WFP
"My name is Marwa. I am 38 years old and I come from Latakia in Syria. Since November 2015 I have been living in Berlin. Back home, I worked as a teacher. I have three children, two girls and a boy. This is my story.
I divorced my husband four years ago but as there are no rights for mothers in Syria, he has full custody for our children.
It was after the divorce that I decided to visit my sister, who lives with her husband in Turkey. I could not stay, but I heard that teachers were needed in Idlib, about 50 km from Aleppo, so I moved there. Although the war was ongoing, it was not that bad when I arrived there. I had a flat and I taught Arabic. Then the situation deteriorated. We were attacked from the air, the military moved closer, and different armed groups were fighting nearby.
One day, some extremists came to me. They threatened me, saying that I can’t continue to live alone, as a divorced woman. They said I should either find a new husband or they would choose someone for me. I packed my bags the minute they left my place. But I had nowhere to go. Coming from Idlib – a rebel-held area – I could not go back to Latakia, where they would have arrested me. So I fled to Turkey.
But believe me, the situation in Turkey is not easy at all, especially as a single woman without a chance to work. I decided to leave and head for Greece. It was not easy to think of the boat, as we knew we might not make it. But luckily we did and moved forward, aiming to reach Germany. It was a very difficult journey, as difficult as you could possibly imagine.
I was travelling alone, with nobody to defend me. I had to find a place to sleep on my own, find something to eat on my own. We slept on the ground; we slept everywhere. We were travelling by foot, sometimes by bus or train. After 15 days, we finally reached Germany. At the beginning, I lived in a gym with people of all nationalities. It was the first time in my life that I was in touch with so many different people!
Now I have moved to a former school, into a real room that I share with another woman. The people here are all from different countries. They are helpful and very kind. In Berlin, I have done many things already with my German friends and other refugees – we have been to the cinema and the opera. For the first time in my life, I have been ice-skating. You feel the freedom here.
What hurts me terribly is that I have not really seen my children for four years. They are living with a sister of their father in Latakia. I am in touch with them through internet, but my 14-year-old son ran away from his aunt’s place and is now stranded at the border with Turkey. His situation is very dangerous and it breaks my heart that I cannot do anything; I can barely reach him by phone.
I am like all mothers – I miss my children badly and I wish they could be here, away from war, away from persecution, away from the whole political situation. That they could have the chance to go to school or to university, the chance to live a safe and happy life. I am hopeful that someday my children can come here too. Because I have the chance to be here, a chance that so many others do not have, I wish that this war would be over. Twenty-three million Syrians still live there, they live in the midst of war and they suffer from hunger. I wish they would have a future of freedom and peace."
This story was originally published as part of the #IAMSYRIAN series.