Lina, 25, is Serbian-Syrian, born in Serbia to a Serbian mother and Syrian father. When she was 12, her father died, and she traveled to Syria with her mother and older brother, Samir, to return his body to his homeland. They didn’t plan to stay long, but as her mother now had two children to care for on her own and family in Syria, they ended up settling in Damascus.
After finishing high school, Lina started studying political science at university. Then war broke out.
“I didn’t feel safe. Sometimes when I left my house to go to university, I didn’t know if I’d come back. It was not a normal life. You would try not to go outside unless you really needed to.”
In 2011 she was in Serbia on holiday, when her mother rang and told her to stay there; she and Samir had decided to leave Syria, and would join her in Serbia.
“But I came back anyway. I didn’t want to leave Syria – all of my friends and family were there, and I wanted to finish my studies. But my mother had made up her mind, so I had to leave with them.”
In Serbia, Lina had several different jobs working as a translator, before she was offered the job with ADRA in November 2015. Lina and Samir were both offered translator jobs working at the Presevo refugee camp, and their mother also joined them as a translator a week later.
“When I was working as a translator in Presevo refugee camp, I met up with some of my friends from university and high school. They were very shocked to see me. They said ‘Lina, what are you doing here?’ It was very hard when you see people you know, and you know that they had a great life, and now they’re refugees.”
Lina stayed in touch with her friends, who are now in Germany. Some of them are still in camps, but some of them are in houses.
“They tell me that it will never be like Syria, they’ll always feel like strangers there.
“I feel like my original country is Syria. In Serbia, the people are different, the culture is different. I needed time to feel like I’m one of them.
“If the war stopped I would be the first person on the [Syrian] border. Maybe I will never live there again, but I will visit when I can.”