Live stories

The story of Hivro and his wife – refugees from Syria

The man who lost four loved ones and found a family of five

by Dimitrina Popova, editor Peter Yovkov

Bulgarian Red Cross

For one month Hivro and his wife (in this story we will call her with the fictional name Asra), refugees from Syria have lived separately in different accommodation centres in Bulgaria, without knowing the fate of each other.

Hivro left Syria together with his wife Asra, in advanced pregnancy, her mother and sister and his 2 years old girl. Due to circumstances, they refuse to talk about, the family was separated in Turkey and Hivro was left behind. He managed to cross the Bulgarian border only a week after the other members of the family have already found refuge in Bulgaria.

What happened?

When Asra and her family crossed the border, they were taken to the transit centre of Border Police in the town Elhovo for registration. Asra’s birth pains started and the young woman was sent immediately to the hospital in the nearest town of Yambol, where she delivered a beautiful and healthy boy. Yet she could not feel happy as she had no news from her husband.

Meanwhile Asra’s old mother, her sister and little daughter were settled in the accommodation centre of the State Agency for Refugees in Kovachevtzi, dedicated for large families with children. A week later Asra joined them with her new-born baby.

At the same time Hivro was crossing the Turkish – Bulgarian border, but as he was single, he was placed in another accommodation centre of the State Agency for Refugees – in the city of Harmanli, designated for single refugees, or families without children – more than 300 km away from his wife.

During one of the regular visits to the accommodation centre in Kovachevtzi, the Bulgarian Red Cross team was approached by Asra asking about the fate of her husband. The case was registered by Svetloslav Roussev, Chief Expert for International Cooperation and Tracing at the Bulgarian Red Cross and search was initiated with the state institutions in charge of the refugees.

The procedure was started and took about a month. Luckily the name of Hivro was identified in the beneficiaries list of the local Bulgarian Red Cross branch in Haskovo after distribution of relief to the refugees accommodated in Harmanli. The Bulgarian Red Cross contacted the authorities with the request for family reunification and after one month of separation, Hivro was transferred to Kovachevtzi. At last the family was together again and only then Hivro learned that he has a son.

Hivro and his wife are very thankful for the involvement of the Red Cross. They come from a little village near Kamishli in Syria and their goal now is to continue their way to Europe. Hivro has a brother in law who lives in Sweden and this is where they want to settle, searching for a better future, away from the horrors of war in Syria.

In Bulgaria the crisis situation started in September 2013 with a massive influx of refugees from Syria. Ever since, the Bulgarian Red Cross is doing its best to support the asylum seekers who have found refuge in Bulgaria. The Red Cross continues to provide humanitarian relief to the refugees, including food and psycho-social support for refugee children and youth. As of early March 2014, over 10,000 refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War are residing in Bulgaria. In the first few months of the crisis, the Bulgarian Red Cross successfully reunited four families who were separated while entering the Republic of Bulgaria. 

The story of Berivan Raduan Sulejmen 

Berivan and her family have been separated for over a month and a half on the territory of Bulgaria. When they were crossing the border they lost Berivan. She was placed in accommodation center of the State Agency for refugees in Harmanli and her family in center in Kovachevtzi. Following the intervention of the Red Cross team to restore family links, Berivan and her family are together again.

We are in the reception centre of State Agency for Refugees in Kovachevtsi and we are talking with Berivan, 20 year old girl from Syria. Beside her is her mother – Leila Usef, 45 year old and her father Raduan Ahmed Sulejmen. The family consists of 6 people. Berivan has two other brothers and a sister. With joy they meet with Svetloslav Roussev, chief expert of Restoring Family Links at International Department in Bulgarian Red Cross. He is the man who on December, 30 delighted her family with the greatest gift.

What happened?
On November 18, 2013 Berivan, with her parents, younger sister and two brothers took difficult and dangerous journey to cross the border between Turkey and Bulgaria. Their goal was to get to Europe, to search for a better future and to escape from the horror of the war in Syria.
The group consisted of 25 people traveling at night. Smugglers often forced people to run. Early in the morning during this dangerous journey Berivan lost her family. Berivan and her cousin found themselves alone in the forest.
Around 10-11 a.m. Berivan, her cousin and a few more refugees were captured. Berivan spent three days in the temporary accommodation center in Elhovo and then was transferred to the center in Harmanli.
Her family did not manage to cross the border and returned back to Turkey without even knowing the fate of their daughter. In late November, they took a new journey but - abandoned by smugglers, they lost in the forest, spent two days without food and drinking water. After they were arrested by the Border Police, they were sent to center in Elhovo and then in accommodation center in Kovachevtsi.
When the humanitarian team of Red Cross visited them in the centre in Kovachevtzi, Leila – Berivan’s mother, asked them to seek for her daughter. Leila’s sister, Nadja Namat Bashar, 47 year old, joined the request because on November 18, 2013 she lost her two children- Abdul – 19 years old and Bashar 14 years old, when they were crossing the border.
The case has been taken by the expert of the Red Cross and for the purpose was made the necessary requests to Bulgarian institutions. Official letters and requests were sent, meetings were held, and contacts in the system of the Red Cross were realized. Svetloslav Roussev managed to make a contact between mothers and their children. A fact registration was obtained for Berivan and her two cousins.  On December, 30, after more than a month and a half in mystery they were transported in center in Kovachevtsi. It was a great gift for the New Year.

Here is what they shared with us during the interviews:
- Berivan, what can you tell us? How did you feel being reunited with your family?
- Berivan: I cannot express my happiness…I have no words. I was so happy that they found me and that I was brought here. I was the only girl there…I was not feeling well, I felt very lonely…conditions were very difficult. So many people around me….complete strangers. Thanks to God that I am finally with my family and I am very happy. We are very thankful what the Red Cross did for us. Thank you so much!

- Hello Mrs. Nadja!  Bulgarian Red Cross gathered your family, found your children. How are you today? How do you feel?
- Nadja Namat Bashar: First I would like to thank to you …God will give you health for what you have done for us. Well what can I say……..Firstly I cried so much…Now we are so happy. We could not believe that we are together again. If my husband and my middle son were here.. to be all together I would be just fine. They remained in Syria…..We hope and pray to God that one they we will all together.

- And how do you feel, boy! Is it better for you here? Far from the war! Here is a better place for you than Harmanlii…
- Bashar Saadun 14 years old: Of course! I am very happy not only because I'm far from the war, but mostly because I'm here with my mother!

In Bulgaria crisis situation of a strong flood of refugees started six months ago (September 2013). In March 2014 more than 10 000 people are residing in the country.
Since September 2013 the Bulgarian Red Cross has been doing its best to support the asylum seekers who found refuge in Bulgaria. Bulgarian Red Cross provides humanitarian relief for the asylum seeking persons in Bulgaria - food and not nutritious products. Psycho-social support to the refugee children and young people also is provided.
In the first few months of the crisis Bulgarian Red Cross has been restored family links of four families separated when they entering the Republic of Bulgaria.

Chaotically running children all over the school yard, mostly under 3 years old. Their mothers are standing at the queue for donations. In front are several women in late pregnancy who look very tired and sleepy.

We flee from the war

- Where are you from? Tell me how did you escape?
- My name is Aysha and I am from Syria. I am pregnant in my seventh month. We flee from the war. We are Kurds from Qamishli. They guided us through Turkey. Until there we arrived in a truck. We walked to the Bulgarian border on foot at least 9-10 hours, it was very difficult and hard... A real nightmare.
- Weren’t you afraid that something can happen to you on the road, I see you are pregnant?
- Yes, I am in my eight month, my name is Dalila. I am from Syria, but I am Kurd. In fact we are all Kurds here. We walked 7 hours with our five kids. I was not scared, and even if I was, what could we do? Death is chasing you from every corner, and if we are to die in the road – it does not matter anymore. We did not have a choice except to leave and run away from this meaningless war! We did it for the children and for the one that is in my belly! You just cannot imagine what it is like, when bombs are falling.
- And from whom exactly you run away?
- Now there is war in Syria! It is such a mess that you don’t know at all who is killing who! But the point is to kill each other! It is horrible, a full nightmare. We don’t know who is who, is it a Kurd, is it a Muslim, a Syrian or someone else – it is such a hell there, we only want to save our children from the death that haunts us everywhere!

„We run from the war!“ – this was the repeated words of the many mothers waiting on the cue for clothes and blankets in the refugee centre in Voenna Rampa... A cue for a new life, a new hope, and complete lack of any clue about what will happen to them tomorrow.       

The women want to return to their homes!

"Ah, those men of ours, what did they drag us into!" – is the unanimous call of women in the refugee centre of Voenna Rampa. They do not understand and are not interested in politics. The only thing they want is a home and to raise in peace their numerous children ... This is their dream.
- How do you feel now, after you managed to escape far away from bullets?
- Oh, I don’t want to talk about it - Salima sighs. I remember how we ran through the woods – with me pregnant and my four children. Nothing we could see at night but clear sky above us. Children were falling asleep, their feet tangled. The older ones – no matter if sleepy or awake – they kept walking, what else to do. We carried the smaller ones on our hands ... It was very difficult.
- Do you know who were you fleeing form?
- I know, we run away from the war. But we have no idea who is fighting who. We only know that we are very scared.

A bomb killed my mum and my sister

The story of the 12 years old Ala al Isa from Damascus is shockingly sad, but there are no other stories. For a very long time nobody tells fairytales to these children, now they are the ones telling the stories.
- How old are you, my boy and where are you from exactly?
- I am 12 years old and I am from Syria, from Damascus. We lived in the outskirts of Damascus, in Eastern Ghouta district.
- Tell me your story, what happened?
- Nothing special... We were sitting at home as usual – me, my sister and my mother, I was playing on the computer in my room, when my mom called me in the other room to help her with something. And suddenly, as we were sitting, a missile fell right inside the room! Just like this, the shell fell right in the middle of our house and suddenly everything exploded. I jumped, but rather the explosion threw me aside. When I became conscious again, I saw that I'm alive, but I was badly wounded in the leg, I did not feel it at all. I realized that there was also something with my face, but yet I had not seen what I look like ...
- What did you see after you became conscious again?
- I could see things dimly, because there was something in my eyes. But what I saw and could feel that everything was destroyed. I had not noticed yet that the body of my mother is headless, because I had dust in my eyes. She and my sister were lying on the floor, covered by ruins. I got very scared, so I attempted to go out to the neighbours and see what it going on there, but then I realized that I am not able to walk. Then I started crawling on the floor and I managed to get out. The house next door was not affected so I knocked on their door. I felt the blood all over me. Neighbours called the ambulance and it drove me to the hospital. Now I have no mother, and my sister was only 9 years old ...
- Is this your father next to you?
- Yes, I am here with my dad, let him tell you the rest.
- Where were you at the time of the explosion?
- By an accident I was not at home. I always with them, but I had to go to Jordan to earn some money. There is no longer any work in Syria... I was planning to return on the next day. I learned what had happened and came back, but... I had a wonderful family, two children – him and his little sister. Look at her, how pretty she was (his eyes fill with tears and he shows a photo of his deceased daughter and his wife in her 38 years).
Look what letter she wrote to me, I always carry it with me (he shows a letter, written in children's handwriting, starting with "to my dearest dad ..."). Now my son is disabled, see his face, obviously he will need surgery. His leg is also badly hurt… Now we are here, but the conditions are no good at all. We are with other 65 people in one room. They put this child with grown up men in one room where we are suffocating. The conditions inside are more than miserable!
- How are you now, dear boy? How do you feel, do the wounds hurt?
- I'm better now, of course. At the hospital, for more than a week I had to lay completely naked because of the wounds, they could not put any cloths on me. And for a long time I was still unable to see. They made me a foot surgery without anaesthetic! I don’t want to remember this nightmare. And I felt my like an electric current was going across my face. I was trembling in pain completely. I suffered a great deal of pain, now I have a broken nerve in the leg and I cannot move it or bend it. They made me an eye surgery too. And my head hurts all the time... I am 12 years old, I want to be healthy and to live normally. I have one dream – to end the war!