European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Service tools

From the Syrian warzone to a protective apartment in Greece

Greece by TDH
A Terre des hommes team talk with Ahmed and his family who are accommodated in a EU-funded protective apartment. © Tdh/Vasilis Vavvas

Ahmed* travelled with his three children, Hassan*, 18, Rasha*, 7, and Yousef* 6 years old,  for 35 days to reach Greece. They travelled 1500 km from Damascus, in Syria, to Izmir in Turkey, then to the Greek island of Chios, Athens, Konitsa, and now Ioannina in Epirus. With support from EU Humanitarian Aid and its humanitarian partner Terre des hommes (Tdh), the family is now accommodated in a peaceful city, in a nice apartment with all the necessities. Ahmed smiles and shares his story.

Konstantinos Kanellos

By Kostas Kanellos, Liaison, Visibility and Communication Manager @tdh_greece

"My house was in Damascus, in the area that was under control of the Syrian army and when we decided to leave, we crossed to the other side, into the area that was under control of the opposition forces because it was closer to the Turkish borders. When we crossed the borders, soldiers stopped us and beat us," says Ahmed.

He held his two little kids in his arms to stop soldiers from hitting them. Later they were sent to prison and then back to Syria. Ahmed had to pay a lot of money for a bus to take them back home. As he was wounded, he went to a hospital.

"The next day a smuggler took my family and me and brought us to a village. We stayed there, inside the war zone, for one week. I was constantly afraid for my children because bombs were dropping everywhere." The following week, running out of options, Ahmed paid the smuggler again so that he and his family could cross the Syrian-Turkish border. They walked for almost thirteen hours through the mountains. "Our target was to reach Izmir, close to Greece. We tried seven times to cross the borders to Greece without success. Finally, after 19 days in Izmir, we found our way on a boat. We reached a small island with no citizens but only the Greek army."

Ahmed and his family were transferred to Chios where they stayed in a camp for five days and then to Athens and Konitsa. "Arriving in Konitsa, a camp with so many families not knowing each other and with my kids in fear, I could only feel uncertainty. I was the only parent present for them. I asked for psychological support for my children, especially for the two youngest." 

Ahmed describes his life in the protective apartments managed by Terre des hommes with support from the EU Humanitarian Aid, "after 14 months in Konitsa, now I feel I have a normal life, all I need in terms of materials and services we can have. I feel I am in a healthy condition. Since we came to the apartment, our life is much better. Every day, my children go to the new community centre where they can stay for hours. The rest of the day we spend time doing things together.’’

Explaining the challenges his family currently faces in Greece, Ahmed says, ‘’there is the language issue. The neighbourhood is very peaceful. I have conversations with the neighbours, but language remains a problem for me. I only know basic Greek vocabulary and it is difficult for me to communicate effectively. We go to the playground, near the apartment, where the kids play. My daughter Rasha is learning Greek, so it is easier for her to communicate and play with other kids. Yesterday, when we went to the park, my daughter met another kid with his mother and had a very nice conversation. When the kids stare outside the window, the neighbours say hello and smile. Many neighbours also ask my daughter if we need anything and they are willing to help with any problem that might come up."

Ahmed dreams of family reunification, something he hopes will soon come true, "my dream is that my children are safe and my family is reunited. I want my children to see their mother, who has already been in Germany since 2015 and all together, we can have a normal life again."

Nansy, a psychologist supporting Ahmed’s family on a weekly basis, explains how the EU Humanitarian Aid and Terre des hommes' programme supports families stranded in Greece, "the main challenges are psychological and psychosocial, due to their recent experiences, medical issues and difficulties with documentation regarding the reunification procedure. Thanks to the protective apartments, people can regain normality in their life, leaving the war and its tragic consequences behind.’’

* Names changed for protection purposes