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Quelle: The Guardian

Scenes of welcome have awaited refugees in Germany, but what caused them to flee their homes in the first place?

‘I want to go back to my country and teach people’

Majd Haaj Hassan is as quick with a Shakespeare quotation, reeling off Sonnet XVIII in a grubby refugee camp, as he is with a political analysis of Syria’s woes.

Like many of those who could afford the steep smugglers’ fees to cross the first borders into Europe, the English literature student, who is still determined to graduate from some university, somewhere, comes from a wealthy family.

“We had six houses, two cars, 1,000 hectares of land with olive trees,” he says. “For five years we had patience, but now the situation is different.”

He is travelling with his brother, Walid, who operated a concrete-mixer truck in Idlib, Walid’s wife and two young children and several other friends and relatives.

The two specific triggers for their departure were a battle between Jabhat al-Nusra and Isis that levelled two houses in their small town, and a drawing his six-year-old niece made one day when he brought her a pack of crayons and some paper.

“I told her she should practise holding pens, because she couldn’t go to school, and she painted a soldier, a tank, and a bomb. That made my brother and I very sad; we didn’t want her to live in this awful world.”

So they sold the cars, land and two houses to pay for the journey. Their parents stayed behind, saying they preferred to die at home than live far away, and the boys miss them already.

The journey is gruelling, even with money to cushion the way. Majd was beaten up so badly the first time he tried to cross the Turkish border, alone, that he lost two front teeth, later replaced with a crown, before the whole group tried a less direct route.

Deeper pockets did not make the seas where they were tossed for hours less dangerous, and it has not often allowed them to take a room. They haven’t had a roof over their heads since leaving Turkey, a journey they estimate cost at least $2,000 (£1,300) each.

In Serbia they paid a taxi driver to take them to a hostel he promised would welcome refugees but, when they arrived, the manager turned them away because they didn’t have papers.

It took them 20 days to get to Hungary, where they spent four days trapped at the station, filthy and depressed. “We can only wash in the streets, our hands and faces,” says Majd. “I used to shower twice a day.”

In the early days of the war he worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross, helping refugees within Syria fleeing violence elsewhere. So he knew the trip would be tough and exhausting, but was determined to survive, prosper and eventually move back home.

“I want to be a professor, I want to come back to my country and teach people, and I want to be a reformer, help people to be educated.”

‘When my babies hear planes, they are frightened’

In a life she can barely remember, Mary al-Aboud taught English at a primary school in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor before the war. On her mobile phone, she shows a video of the bomb that flattened her home and killed her husband.

”It’s just me and my babies now,” she says as four young children play around her legs.

They have been on the road for about 50 exhausting days, she estimates, after finally deciding to flee their home this summer as Isis closed in. Mary and her children are trying to join her brother, already in Germany, whom she describes as “the only person I have left”.

He has sent what money he can to cover the costs of their journey, but it is never enough. Mary has the gaunt look of a mother who has gone without to feed her kids. For days, they have eaten little but bread and the odd tin of fish.

They have only the clothes they stand up in and Mary races to a queue of handouts in the hope of finding jackets or blankets to protect the family from the creeping chill of autumn evenings.

She is juggling a sheaf of worries about her children; some pressing, others less immediate but more disturbing to a mother.

Two-year-old Rua needs shoes, after hers went missing in the Hungarian camp where they were briefly detained and fingerprinted. Muhammad, five, needs to see a doctor after a bomb that exploded too close to his young ears left him permanently deaf.

Her oldest, Nada, 10, has not been to school for two years. She was a good student and should have graduated from sixth grade, but the schools closed after she finished fourth grade.

And all of them are still living with the trauma of the war they fled, even in the difficult but safe forecourt of the Budapest train station. “When my babies hear any plane go overhead, even here they are frightened,” says Mary.

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