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Culture

My piece of hope: Syrian refugees carry memories of home

Their flight from Syria was an absolute nightmare - yet this family still manages to smile. They would be even happier if the father could get in touch with them and join them.

As hundreds of thousands of refugees are entering Germany, the country is facing the challenge - and opportunity - of the century. In this DW series, "My piece of hope," refugees share their personal stories of persecution, escape and waiting. Each individual shows one significant object they've brought with them on their journey - their "piece of hope."

On a photo of the family, the eyes of Ahlam and her 14-year-old daughter Sahar and 11-year-old son Ahmad shine - a strong contrast to the ordeals they recently went through.

"The planes came at 2 a.m. and bombed our house," says Sahar. She speaks a little bit of German and some English, but that's enough to share the facts.

No one in the family knows who dropped the bombs. A year went by since their world collapsed. They fled the country after their house was destroyed - a journey which turned into a pure nightmare.

At the beginning, Ahlam's husband Ghaleb, an engineer, was with them. The family collected all the money they could get and crossed over to Turkey, hoping to reach Europe. A boat was to bring them to Italy. "We spent 10 days on the boat," says Sahar. "There were 104 refugees on board. We paid $18,000 for the trip."

Their hopes vanished when they realized where the boat had finally landed: On the Egyptian Mediterranean coast. "We were cheated," she says, "and the money was gone."

Memories in the heart

As if that weren't enough, the Egyptian police put them in a refugee camp. Their detention lasted eight months. Ahmad developed pneumonia. The father started suffering from a kidney disease and was sent to a hospital in Dubai for treatment, whereas the rest of the family was flown in to Germany. They now live in a refugee center in Bonn, and they haven't heard from Ghaleb since. They hope he will be able to join them soon.

Something's roasting in the large kitchen of the refugee center: It is almost time to eat. Ahlan, Sahar and Ahmed were given passports, as so-called "quota refugees." They are allowed to stay in Germany for two years.

Now they hope to find their own apartment. Ahlam wants to work in a kindergarten. They don't have any material possessions left from home, but their most precious piece of hope is their memories*. "I carry them in my heart," says Ahlam with a smile. You can see it in her eyes.

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