June 3, 2017

This sweet little boy was only a few months old when he left Syria. His mother traveled with a smuggler to Turkey, then Greece. “We stay five days in the mountains, it’s raining, it’s cold,” she says. “Sometimes police saw us; we sleep in mountains, without cover, without anything.” She would climb the mountain with one hand and grip her baby with the other; each time she would near the top, she would slip.

When Saanya and I met them, they were living in a ‘squat’, an abandoned building in Athens, in one corner of a room cordoned off with sheets. There was a thin mattress with a leopard print on the carpeted floor, plastic bags with clothes, and a pile of rough blankets; on the windowsill, some medicines, a bottle of Nutella, and two matchbox cars. The food at the squat is “not delicious”, mom tells me; breakfast is ok, some bread, chocolate and yogurt, but lunch and dinner “not delicious, not like Syrian food.”

The little boy was sick with a cold and cough. Mom doesn’t let him out of her sight, fearing his safety and health; so mother and son stay mostly in this corner of a room. He watches his favorite Arabic cartoon “Lady Lady” and also Shaun the Sheep, on his mom’s phone; he loves Mowgli from The Jungle Book. Mom watches Shah Rukh Khan movies to pass the time; they listen to Arabic music.

The little cutie was starting to get cranky. His mom made a makeshift swing, doubling a rope with one end tied to the windowsill and the other to a door hinge, with a quilt over it. She swung him saying 1, 2, 3 in Arabic, his little socked feet pointing and flexing, his tussled mop of brown hair waving. And for a few minutes, he smiled.

(names withheld for privacy).

Photo/video: Saanya Ali

To support the immediate needs of refugees on the ground in camps and squats around Athens, please donate through the Multicultural Institute at this link; indicate “Greece/refugees” in the designation section.

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