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What reminds me of home in Syria

I am from Syria and came to the Netherlands as a refugee. These two objects remind me of home a lot.

I left Syria in 2014. I had a great life there. I worked at the Indonesian embassy, had my own apartment and a car. I was happy.

When the war started everything changed, life became worse and worse in my area. We moved to another city, and then to another city. It affected my work and my life. As a man, I was being forced to fight - I could not, it's not me, it's not my war.

I had to run away with my mother and sister. I had to protect them. Still the war was getting worse and worse, so I moved to Istanbul in Turkey. I found a job there but after 6 months the job ended. I had nothing, I couldn't go back to Syria, or stay in Istanbul. Moving to Europe was not a choice from beginning. I had skills and didn't think of myself as a refugee.

Eventually, I came to the Netherlands after having travelled through Greece and Italy. It was very expensive to come to Europe, I had saved money and spent €12000 to get a boat from Turkey to Greece. The boat was very small, with 60 people. I was afraid for others, for the children and the woman. It was super dangerous.

As soon as I arrived in Italy, I became a refugee. It wasn't easy to accept myself as a refugee. I had two cousins in Netherlands, who suggested to come there.

In Syria, I had my own house and car and suddenly I have nothing. I was living in a refugee camp in Netherlands. I was sharing a room with 15 people. It was really traumatising. I had to start again from zero. I didn't have a network, didn't speak the language.

Over time, I eventually got a job and found an apartment in Amsterdam. When I was more settled in Netherlands, I asked my mother, who still lives in Damascus, to send these things to me as I missed having them around me.

The first is an award I got when I was in the scouts. I got this in 2005. There was an event where around 250 people were camping. As part of the event, there was a competition and award for the best leader. I won this award. It really opened my eyes about who I could be. Before, I was a bit insecure about myself but this showed me who I could be. I promised myself that I would keep it until I died, it is very important to me.

The second is my shisha. Shisha for us is about time spent with family and friends. We invite them, the shisha brings us all together. We connect shisha with talking, fun, love, being gezellig, as the Dutch say. If there is no shisha, we feel bored. This shisha is very old, I've had it for around 15 years. Part of the shisha is broken. I remember when it broke, the accident was funny. We laughed a lot and I remember that when I see the broken part.

I still miss a lot from Syria. I once thought that I missed the community, the way we live there - big things. But sometimes it's very small things I miss: the steps I used to sit on with friends, shisha, cafes I used to visit, the jasmine trees in the garden that I sat under every morning.

I now don't really feel I belong to one country, but more in places which have meaning for me or good memories. In a while, I wonder there will be places here that have that same meaning for me.

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