Photo credit: IOM/Tiago Figueiredo
"I landed in Portugal on June6, 2016. I came alone through the EU Relocation Program. I left my country when the situation became unbearable, although I had never imagined I would have to leave Syria one day. It did not make sense. I had a career in interior design, I had my family and friends there, and I already had a planned date for my wedding. Life was good and I enjoyed living in Aleppo.
It was not until my bride to be died that I decided to risk everything and cross the Mediterranean. During the first attempt our boat capsized so we spent five hours adrift until we were finally rescued by the Turkish authorities. I could only reach a Greek island on my third attempt, in February 2016.
It was such a disappointment to reach the Macedonian border and realize that it was closed. When I began looking for alternatives, I was told about the relocation program, in which we could pick 8 countries and be eventually sent to one. Like many other people in the same situation, my dream was to go to Northern Europe, to Norway. After a few weeks, I got the news that my application had been approved by Portugal. I remember reviewing my collection of stams from 225 countries – one of the few items I had carefully brought with me from Syria - and looking for any Portuguese stamp. I had none, so I took it as a good opportunity to get one.
When I arrived in Portugal I felt really lonely. Speaking English helped me to make friends and communicate more easily. After two Portuguese courses I am now able to speak in Portuguese. Had I been told years ago that one day I would be speaking in Portuguese I would probably have laughed and thought it would be impossible. Today, I am surprised by the number of Portuguese words that are similar to Arabic, among those are sugar (açúcar – as-sukkar), rice (arroz – ar-ruz), or cotton (algodão – al-kutun).
I miss working. I was an interior designer for 15 years in Aleppo. Nobody leaves their country to seek help. Everyone wants to work and be independent. I hope I will be able to do so in Lisbon one day.
This year I had the chance to start studying architecture in a university in Lisbon. In spite of the difficulties of studying in Portuguese, this opportunity has been a great source of motivation.
In order to fill my free time, I volunteer in homeless associations in Lisbon. I go there two times a week to help distribute food in Santa Apolónia, Rossio and Saldanha, with people who also need help and I take this as an opportunity to practice my Portuguese and meet new people too."