I was staring at the men on the other side of the fence. The rain just started, and he used his simple shelter – a plastic bag he had found nearby. He made a hole in it so he can see. The view was not much. A piece of dirty dusty land, now turned into mud, with few trees, rare grass scorched by the sun, numerous police forces and curious journalist squads, and this piece of barbed wire that stood right in front of his face. His eyes looked watery from this distance, showing deep sadness and humiliation. At moments, it looked like the bag will cover what was still visible of his wrinkled face, once and for ever.
I tried to imagine what those eyes have seen during past sixty or more years. The whole life was behind them, life of a man who might have been happy once upon a time, in his beautiful country, with his family and friends. I was trying to recreate the scenery of the unknown Syrian mountain range on a beautiful sunny day, a laughter of children playing, the airy sight of a falcon in joyful flight, and the feeling of freedom that was growing in this man’s hearth at that very moment.
Suddenly, the sound of a rocket tore the air, bringing the smell of burning, death and fear. The hearth of this man must have started beating in new, previously unknown rhythm. All for what he thought was his life, disappeared in a moment, and he was forced to leave. His eyes have seen so many things along the way. Destroyed cities and suffering of his people while he was running through numerous checkpoints in Syria kept by various armies, modest meals in refugee camp in Turkey, small orange rubber boat sailing out with dozens of scared people in it, water rising around his ankles, the lights of Greek coastguard showing them the way to the seemingly safe ground, another refugee camp, masked people who tried to rob him in the middle of the dusty road on his way to the border.
Now, he was here on this piece of no man’s land, hidden from the downpour in a plastic bag, looking into the distance behind the barbed wire. This scorched patch of earth was his dream at the moment. The path leading further away offered so many possibilities for a new life. Yes, he was very far away from the modest place he called home for more than sixty years, aware that he’ll probably never see it again, and far away from the beautiful mountain range that for decades was the only known view of his eyes. He lost everything, but no one could ever steal from him the strong wish to earn back that forgotten feeling of freedom and joy in his hearth. Remembering it, he could almost fly over the fence like Syrian falcon…
Later, i saw many other faces, and each and every one of them had a story to tell. Those were faces of people craving for dignity and screaming for help, wanting nothing more than to be treated as human beings. As the migrant crisis continues with the uncertain outcome, i am still haunted by the faces I have seen on Greece-Macedonian border, and I truly want to believe that many of migrants will find their roads to decent new life.
Photo and text by Marko Risović © Kamerades. Any use of the photos without written permission from the author is strictly forbidden!