Vox refugee: Anas

Once a successful entrepreneur driven to despair by war in Syria, Anas is ready for a new start in Germany.

Image for Vox refugee: Anas
Photo by Boryana Ivanova

Anas, met October 30 at new LaGeSo at Bundesallee

“I still feel like a stranger here. I want to meet more local people and get a sense that I belong to a community. I’m an architect and back in Syria I had my own consultancy firm. I graduated in 2004, got training, and in 2007 started my own office for design, decoration and construction. I also opened an office in Lebanon. Back home we do business based on trust, we do work without signing a contract and people almost always stick to their commitments. The first four years I was working without a day off, from 8am to late at night – sometimes I got back home at 2am. I only took two day breaks for the biggest Muslim holidays.

After five years I managed to pay off my house, car and office. If I didn’t work so hard I would have gotten in trouble. It was then that I started working normal hours. I felt safer and could live as a human being. In 2012 I had to stop working because of the war. I couldn’t transport materials nor take my workers to different work sites. There were too many no-go areas. In 2014 I started my online design business. It was getting more and more difficult to survive in Syria but I couldn’t go to Europe because I didn’t have enough money. I felt so bad… sometimes I didn’t go out because there were air raids, other times I was just too depressed to leave the house. My brother would come and invite me for a coffee but I couldn’t even move. I was dying without being dead. I had lost everything I worked so hard for. I lost my office and my house. I never even set a foot in that house, I was holding on to it for when I got married. 

I lost so many friends during the war that I lost count. One day I was walking around with my friend and some tanks passed by and started shooting. Everyone ran. I couldn’t find my friend anymore. I turned around and saw him lying on the ground. A few days later his family told me he was dead. A few weeks later I was at the market with my friends. One of them was playing around, running to the front and then coming back. He turned around the corner and in that same moment a bomb fell in that exact place. He was just 10 metres away from me. The situation in Syria kills the human inside of you. You either kill your feelings or your feelings kill you. That’s the choice you have to make. After a few months you start seeing all the horror and death around as something normal, it becomes part of daily life and you become hollow on the inside.  

The travel [to Europe] cost between €5000 and €10,000. I couldn’t ask my parents to help me financially because they were planning to stay in Syria and needed the money for the future. I decided to go work in Oman and save up money. My biggest worry was my two younger brothers – they were both of age to be taken into the army. This was not an option, I knew they would get killed within a couple of months. Because they are Sunni, they would be put in the front line and used as human shields. So I tried working as much as possible to send them the money to escape to Europe as fast as possible. 

I was under a lot of pressure and every day that I called my family I feared that I would hear the worst: that my brothers were taken to the army. Finally, I had enough money to send my brothers to Germany. A few months ago I also managed to come here. I also want to bring my parents. One of the hardest parts of this experience is that I couldn’t see my family for such a long time. We are very close to each other and never spent more than three days apart from each other before. My mom says she doesn’t want to leave Syria but I know I could persuade her. I know that dad, however, wouldn’t leave home even at gunpoint.  

After I came to Germany, I decided to try everything, experience everything, to leave nothing for tomorrow. In Berlin I tried alcohol for the first time in my life. It’s the first time in ages that I can sleep until 9am. Life is very short, we should enjoy it as much as we possibly can. I spent big part of my life working and lost all that I had worked for in the blink of an eye. Dedicating your life to work alone is just not worth it.”