From: Aleppo, Syria
My first year in the university I studied law, but I didn’t like it because I’m an honest man. The next year I moved to another city, Latakia, near the coast. I went to a university for sports. It’s difficult to get accepted: 10,000 people apply and they only accept 200. You have to be strong in swimming, football, volleyball, table tennis– all of the sports. The first year in the sports college was very difficult for me but I’m strong because I trust in myself very much.
Then a lot of friends told me “Come on Hassan, you look like an actor, try to study acting.” So the next year I moved to the university of acting. That was 2011, the year that the revolution started. It became very dangerous for all of the young men because Assad’s army takes all the young men to his army to kill the people. So I decided to leave my country. I ran away to Lebanon.
(Audio excerpt from Hassan’s interview)
There, it was a new life for me, no war, no bombing. Lebanon is a safe country. I started the first year working as a runner in a restaurant. The first year was very difficult for me because I had never worked in a restaurant before. The restaurant was a new life but I liked it very much. I told my boss that I want to be a chef one day. After working for two years in the kitchen, I decided to be a bartender. After two years in the kitchen and 6 months in the bar, the manager told me I should be a waiter. He said, “I love your work, you’re a strong man, you respect your time, and you love your job.”
So I worked for four months as a waiter, and then I became a supervisor. When I was a supervisor, all of the customers loved me. It was a huge restaurant that could hold 5,000 people. When they come to the restaurant they would ask, “Which area is Hassan in?” They wanted to come to my area.
I was so proud of myself. But after five years of not seeing my family, I missed them. I spoke to my mother. I told her I have 6 days off and I want to see you, I miss you so much. She told me not to come. She said it was too dangerous– just bombing, bombing, bombing all day in Aleppo. I told her I don’t care, I miss you and I miss my family. I decided to go anyway to surprise her. I traveled to Turkey. I called my mother and told her I am just three days away– I had to walk illegally to Aleppo. It was very dangerous for me, because if they were to catch me they would probably kill me. So I paid a lot of money just to save my life from ISIS and all the fighters. If you can pay money, you can stay safe.
But when I arrived to Aleppo, my friends told me that just the day before my house was destroyed by the bombs. They told me that my family had been inside.
It was the worst of my life. I lost all of my family. It’s terrible when you lose anyone in your family. But I lost all of them at once. I hadn’t seen my family for five years. Now I will never see them again.
I lost everything– my family, my money. But I didn’t lose my future. I decided to come to Europe. If I went back to Lebanon, it’s too close to Syria. I would always have the thought in my head: come back to Syria to kill Assad’s army because they killed your family. But I can’t kill anyone. I can’t kill animals, birds. I love peace. I hate blood. I hate the fucking war. So I decided to come to Europe.
I walked for three days in the forest to cross the border between Syria and Turkey.
I lost my feelings. My heart was like stone. I felt like a gladiator. My only thought was I need to stay alive so that I can tell the world what’s happening in Syria.
My next step in Europe is that I want to make a short film. I’m an actor. In Lebanon acted in commercials for Pepsi, chocolates, banks. I was also a model. On Facebook I have about 4,000 friends. I’m not famous, but I have a lot of friends.
In my appointment with the relocation program, they told me to choose 8 countries. I have to wait up to two months and I don’t know which country will choose me. And I don’t care which country chooses me. I just want a safe place, nothing more.
And then I can start to make my film. It’s my dream to be a famous actor. I like comedy, action and historical films– like Troy. In Lebanon I was always in the cinema– I love the cinema. I learned English from films– no teacher. Just Arabic subtitles. Each day I learned 10 more words. If you love something, you will do everything to get it. I will do anything to be a famous actor. I have a lot of friends who say they will support me.
And I have been making a lot of videos. I have video from when I was at Idomeni, from when I was in Turkey, in Lebanon. I have videos from when we were on those small boats between Izmir and the Greek island of Lesbos. It was very dangerous. Five hours in the sea on mini boats meant for 35 people– but we were 50 people. Huge waves. Bad weather. The Turkish coast guard shot at us.
My videos are tragedy and comedy at the same time. In Idomeni, I tried to joke with the children to see them laughing and smile.
My film will explain my story and talk about the refugees. The European governments think that the refugees are like homeless animals– but we are human. In Syria, there are doctors, engineers, actors. Because we are human, we can do everything.
Each moment, my family is inside my heart and my mind. When I see the families here– the women, the children– it hurts. But I know that can’t see my family again. Maybe I will see them in the next life. And if I do good work for the refugees, I’m sure my mom and my family will be proud of me and it will make them happy. That’s why I want to devote my life to the refugees, to the poor people, to everyone who needs help.
We do a lot of things for the refugees at Piraeus Port, me and and the other volunteers. We are one team, one soul. I help with everything, food distribution, clothing distribution.
Because I am a refugee, I know how they are feeling. They hate the food– actually it’s not even really food, it’s just army shit. Every day it’s pasta without sauce. For dinner it’s always potato, potato, potato. For breakfast, just one croissant and orange juice. No fruit- just an orange every two days. Every two weeks, a banana. There are no doctors.
So we created a team to help the refugees at the port. Some organizations help us by giving us money.
Half of my stuff is here at the port, and half is in a camp called Lavrio- but they need me here all day, so I never go back to Lavrio.
I sleep just 3 or 4 hours a day. First, breakfast distribution, then the clothes, all day, running running running. I play basketball, football, volleyball with the kids just to make them smile. I just take two or three hours off a day, and party at night. Every night we have a party– beer, whiskey wine– in the warehouse because all the volunteers sleep in the warehouse. I sing at all the parties. I can sing Arabic songs and also Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin.I listen to the music, dance, drink, have sex. It helps me forget for a few hours and then come back to work hard. If you feel tired, you need something to relax and forget the difficulties.
So it’s 3-4 hours of partying– then I wake up in the morning, and I’m just running running running all day. The same thing every day.
Before I go to sleep at night, I think about what we need for the next day– food, how many people we need to take to the hospital.
I feel like the refugees are my responsibility. I will do everything for them. I lost my family, but now I feel like all the refugees are like my big family. You will do anything for your family and I will do anything for them.
Nothing is impossible for me. If I want something I will do everything to get it. I will fight for my people, for all the refugees, for the homeless people. Because it’s not fair. We don’t need money. We need safe places. We are war refugees. That’s why we’re here.