“It would be more dangerous to stay in Syria”

Rami (in the red cap) and other Syrian refugees walking along a roadside in Serbia

Rami, 17, is fleeing from Syria to Germany. In Serbia, he talked to CARE staff member Ninja Taprogge about his journey, the war in his home country and his hopes for the future.

My name is Rami. I am turning 18 in four months from now. I am from Damascus, the capital of Syria. 18 days ago, I left my father, my mother and my siblings in order to start a new life. My father works at a bank, my mother is the head teacher in a secondary school.

They want me to have a future far away from war-torn Syria.

A few weeks ago I was still in school but most of the chairs in my classroom had been empty for a long time. Many of my friends had left school from one day to another. Some had left Syria; others are internally displaced.

Three weeks ago, my chair remained empty as well. I drove to the Syrian-Lebanese border by car. It was quite dangerous to cross the border but I managed to enter Turkey.

Rami, a Syrian refugee
Rami holding his mobile phone, his most treasured possession as it enables him to keep in touch with his family back in Syria

I took a boat to get from Turkey to Kos, one of the Greek islands. The boat was two metres long and built for five people – but we were more than 20. Most of us were from Syria, others from Iraq and Afghanistan. It took us over two hours to get to Kos. Apparently it normally only takes 30 minutes, but there were too many people on the boat and we were therefore very slow.

There was a woman with a little baby on board, who cried throughout the entire trip. The sea was quite rough and a lot of us were frightened.

But we were lucky and arrived in Kos dry and safe. We stayed there for four days. There were a lot of aid organisations supporting refugees. I helped distributing water, juice, milk and food to my fellow refugees. On one of the days we were sitting on a hill watching the coastline when we caught sight of a boat full of refugees at risk of overturning. We called the Greek coastguards who finally could save all of them. I will never forget this scene.

Pictures from Macedonia are stuck in my head as well. We went through awful situations. We took the train to the Serbian border and had to endure for hours without moving.

We were terribly afraid for our lives. We were locked up like animals.

When we finally arrived at the border, there were more than 2,000 people waiting to get into Serbia. We joined them and could luckily enter Serbia immediately. But only a few minutes later, people panicked and started running. Everybody was afraid they could be left.

During my flight, I joined a family I know from Syria. Amal, one of their little daughters, got lost in the crowd and we could not see her anymore. People were pushing her down and she could barely breathe. Suddenly, I saw her, was able to pick her up and carried her across the border.

Rami and other Syrian refugees
Rami and other refugees in the town of Subotica in northern Serbia

Today I arrived in Subotica, a town in northern Serbia. I do not know when or how to move on from here. All I am wishing for is to live in safety.

I need help and I am very thankful for the support of aid organisations like CARE.

I try to get information about the situation at the border. I do not even know if I can make it across the Serbian-Hungarian border at all. I had to switch off my phone in order to save battery life. My phone is the most valuable thing I have left. I cannot lose it under any circumstances; otherwise I cannot keep in touch with my mother. I need to be able to text her on a daily basis about my whereabouts and my condition.

Refugees sleeping in a park in Serbia
People sleeping in a park in Serbia

Almost every day I wake up in different cities. I sleep at the roadside, under trees or in fields and often I am very exhausted. More than four years of war in Syria have left many invisible wounds. On my flight I had to experience situations I will never forget.

A lot of people may wonder why I have even started this dangerous journey. But for me, it would have been more dangerous to stay in Syria.

This flight is my only chance to not join the military service. As long as there will be war in Syria, nobody is safe. I do not want to shoot people and I do not want to be the reason why more grandparents, mothers and fathers have to suffer. I want to help people. This is why I need to stay alive.

Together with our local partner organisation Novi Sad Humanitarian Centre (NSHC), CARE is supporting refugee families in Serbia with food, water and hygiene items.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.