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Anas, Syria

When I first arrived in Leiden, I was dropped off at this bus stop. It was a very special day, because I finally had a home again. What happened previous to this, is a pretty terrifying story.

In Damascus I worked for 15 years as a chef in a restaurant. When the war started, we decided to move to the city of As Suwayda. We are Druze and it was more and more dangerous for us in other parts of the country. In 2018 it became clear that we had to flee. I decided to go alone first and started to walk and hitchhike, but I didn't know to which country.

We were with some 75 people when we got to the Turkish border. It was night. We were quietly walking down a mountain and suddenly lights went on all around us. Police were everywhere. Shots were fired in the air. I ran and hid in a pit. Everyone else was taken away, but they hadn't seen me. I was alone again and crossed the border.

I must have walked 100 kilometers when I saw a checkpoint. I didn't want to be sent back, so I took a detour through tall grass one kilometer from the building. I had to crawl through the grass on all fours with my heart pounding in my throat. However, after ten minutes a raven flew over my head. And after fifteen minutes there were 20. They attracted attention and because of them, I was found.

I had to wait a long time but, in the end, they didn't send me back. They even arranged a lift for me to the coast. After another long walk, I was able to take a boat with another 60 people that took us to Greece. The rest of the journey was in two trucks, but I don't know in which country we switched. After a long and difficult journey of a month, I finally arrived in the Netherlands.

The asylum procedure took another eight months. After that, my family was allowed to come. Luckily just by plane. I hadn't seen them for almost a year. I was waiting at Schiphol with flowers in my hand and tears in my eyes. I was so happy! This was the most beautiful day ever, because I live for them.

We have been here for almost three years now and we are happy. My wife and I do a lot of volunteer work. Among other things, as a cook at the Leids Support Desk for Migrants. In the long run, we also want to open a restaurant again. I've already spotted a good location. To get help from the municipality, I have to write a business plan. But my Dutch is not good enough yet. We'll get there eventually. I trust that we will.


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