When I first met Modar, in the gray and depressive surrounding of the Center for Asylum Seekers, in the suburb of Belgrade, i instantly felt a spark of friendship. His polite, intelligent and strong personality stood out among other young Syrian refuges who were temporarily settled there. I don’t want to be too harsh to other guys I met in Krnjaca though. Syrians are a special kind, in the best possible meaning of the phrase, and all my scarce encounters with them speak in favor of it.
Modar is one of many who took the long and uncertain road, wishing to fulfill his dreams. His story is not tragic as many others are. Yet, when i heard the news about the van of horror that went off the highway somewhere in Serbia, with fifty lost souls in it, i couldn’t stop thinking about him and the others, so many of them actually, who are desperate enough to go through all this madness just to get the chance to live a normal life. Not all of them succeed at the end. But, I am trying to think positively. That’s something I’ve learned from my Syrian friends.
On the windy and freezing night, while the heavy snowstorm was raging outside, and we were sitting in just a bit less cold room of the Center, the stories started succeeding one another. And those were stories of horror they all survived, while being imprisoned by the regime, or forced to join the war they didn’t want to fight, and about all the troubles they had along their journey, being exposed to coldness, gangs and extortionists of all kinds. Everybody had a story, but they were all told with smiles on their faces, like they believed this is something they’ve left behind. The faces turned very serious again only when they were talking about the families and friends who stayed, and whose photos they carried close to the hearth all the way. Modar, as all the others, modestly hoped that future can bring something better for him. Inshallah.
I saw Modar for the last time while he was running along dirty unlit road, into the night, towards the only beacon – headlights of incoming car that were about to take him and his friends somewhere close to the border area. From there, new uncertainties and challenges were waiting ahead. I somehow knew that he is going to fight all of them with smile on his face, and simple, honest wish that has already taken him across many borders.
The story about Syrian asylum seekers in Serbia was published in March edition of National Geographic Serbia magazine as an addition to the broader story about the Syrian refugees worldwide. Please read great text by my colleague Dragana Nikoletić and take a look at photos telling part of the story about this important issue.
Photographs: Marko Risović ©Kamerades