Refugee women that live in Greece present photographs from home and reflect on the past they left behind — as well as their hopes for a brighter future.
Photographs tell a story — the story of our lives.
We fill them with faces and places. Birthdays and marriages. Holidays and home. Fleeting moments in time, captured forever on film.
A reminder, for three refugees, of what they left behind.
My name is Zarin* and I am 19 years old. I come from Afghanistan.
Although I only spent six years at school, I learned fast and I knew I was talented. I wanted so many things. To continue studying, to have a better life and find a job. But I was girl. And in my country I was not expected to make such plans after the years I spent in school.
This photo was taken at the yard of my family house in Herat. I was 16 years old then.
I met my husband in Afghanistan and we left together the country in 2016. We crossed from Iran to Turkey on foot. We spent a week in Turkey and then we took a boat to Greece. When we arrived in the city of Thessaloniki, we heard that the borders with neighboring countries had closed.
We decided to apply for asylum in Greece and, after a couple of days, we were told that we could move to Athens and be housed in a rented hotel. We stayed there for 1.5 years and during our stay I gave birth to my daughter. It was a tough time. We didn’t know anyone in the city, we only had one room and we couldn’t cook our own meals. There were moments when we considered going back to Afghanistan, but our relatives discouraged us for our safety.
Eventually, we were referred to this apartment. We live here for two months. I am much better now compared to the last two years. I study Greek at the university here and my husband wants to find a job. We are recognized refugees and we want to make our lives here.
My husband is good with me and he supports me. I want to learn better Greek and to do something, to become someone.
My dream is to become a doctor. I am spending my happiest moments now, having my husband and daughter, and thinking about the future.
*The name was changed for protection reasons
My name is Manal and I am 35. I grew up in Syria.
We were nine brothers and sisters, and I was the oldest one. My mother died when I was 17 and I had to take care of my siblings. This photo is taken at a fun park on the shores of the Euphrates River, after my mother had passed away. It was the first day of Ramadan and we were on a Ferris wheel with my youngest brother. I was trying to cheer him up.
I dreamed my siblings would be able to finish their studies, because I could not. And I wished the same for my children.
But the war destroyed our hopes. Syria was lost.
In August 2017, I left Syria with my five children. I would not have left my home if the situation was not so bad. From Turkey, we crossed to Lesvos and spent one month in a tent with several families. Life was very difficult. Eventually we were transferred to the mainland.
Three months ago, we moved into an apartment. Now I feel happy and relaxed. It is a quiet neighbourhood. Most importantly, the children are able to go to school, so they can continue with their education. I never expected Greece would be like this, that people would be so kind.
I want my children to finish their studies so that when we return back home they are well educated. Children will be able to rebuild Syria with their knowledge.
The happiest moment in my life is yet to come.It will be when we can return to Syria in safety.
My name is Salwa Humeidi and I am 46. I’m Palestinian and I used to live in Yarmouk camp in Damascus, Syria, where I was born.
We decided to leave Yarmouk in 2013. The situation was desperate — there was no food, no money and we had to eat grass. I asked my husband to take the boys to Palestine to stay with an uncle. But the border was closed.
So my sister and I made our way to Turkey and we spent the night in the forest. We were robbed of our money and mobile phones. Then, from Izmir, we went to the coast and boarded a boat. There were about 80 people on board, including children, the elderly and people with disabilities. After 2.5 hours we reached Lesvos. Four months later, in July, I came to Athens and applied for family reunification.
I’m still waiting for a decision.
I do voluntary work now. When I first came, I stayed in an abandoned building that was being run as a shelter. There are 116 people there. Just like I was assisted, I help people who arrive by making food, distributing water, discussing their concerns and giving them a shoulder to lean on. I love them, I feel like they are my own family. I help them from my heart.
This photo was taken nine years ago on my 34th birthday at a restaurant in Damascus. We had a big celebration with music and food. It was a special day.
Life is beautiful now but something is missing. I want my husband and children. I miss my home, my place, everything. I miss every rock.
It’s all gone.
We met Zarin, Manal and Salwa in the apartments they currently live in under the ESTIA program, implemented by the UNHCR in partnership with municipalities and non-governmental organizations and funded by the European Commission.