Fahad, 24, is an ADRA translator from Iraq. His family left when he was 14 years old.
“There was no electricity and no water. I go out and see dead people, I see bombs. I was in school when a bomb fell nearby, and blew out the windows of the school. It takes you a few seconds to realize what is happening. I was young and thought this was normal. Cartoons were only on television for 20 minutes a day. If you put a satellite dish on your house, they would arrest you. On my birthday, men came to arrest my father, but I pleaded with them and he just paid a fine.”
One of Fahad’s uncles was killed by Saddam’s agents in front of his father. He says his father carried his brother’s body, and since that time is not normal, getting nervous very fast.
His father’s other siblings, five brothers and four sisters, fled while Iraq was under Saddam’s regime, seeking refuge in countries all over the world. His father stayed “because he loved his family”, but, eventually, they left as well.
Fahad and his family moved to Jordan. Fahad never felt happy there. He felt that, as an Iraqi, he wasn’t welcome, and didn’t feel like he could have a future there. His grandmother was Serbian, entitling him to a Serbian passport, so he left his family in Jordan and set out for Serbia on his own.
In the beginning, times were tough. He started off working in a car wash, in weather so cold the snow was waist deep and he couldn’t feel his fingers. Then he found a job at a radio station and life started to get easier. After one and a half years, his family joined him in Serbia. He began working as a broker, and rose to be team leader of the Arabic desk. Then refugees started arriving in Serbia, and he had an offer to join ADRA Serbia.
“In the beginning I was scared to leave my job, but I was thinking of these people who need me, and how I can be more useful in this role.”
He worked for awhile in Presevo, and then when the Balkan route closed, they asked him to go to Greece to help out there.
“When I left from Serbia I cried – it’s my country and I feel like I belong to Serbia. When I go out I have the same feeling as when I left Iraq – scared that I may never come back. But they are my people and they need my help.
“I feel a very, very open heart. It is my first job where I can really do something for my country, Iraq. I’m very proud of my country, of it’s history. Even though I feel like I more belong to Serbia, Iraq is my family side.”
Fahad has a special connection with the refugee children, who flock to him as soon as he arrives in a camp and never leave his side. So it is difficult for him to see them suffering. He was especially moved by Sana, a 7-year-old Yazidi girl, who’s leg was badly burned when a pot of tea tipped over. When the wound wasn’t healing, Fahad took her to the hospital for further treatment.
“She is very young but very strong. She knows that she burned her leg, but she was walking on it. She wasn’t scared of the doctor, but I was scared. The doctor wasn’t so gentle. He was hurting her a lot. She was screaming. I was holding her, I couldn’t look. I was kissing her head.
“The medicine is expensive. I wanted to help but I can’t. I felt ashamed. I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t help them. It was miserable for me, miserable. It was like my daughter. Imagine a little girl begging you, and you couldn’t help them.”
Since moving to Serbia, Fahad, a trained ballerina, has taken up salsa dancing, even winning a Serbian championship in 2014. The world championships are in October, but he doesn’t think he’ll be selected to represent Serbia, because his translation work is keeping him from training with the team.
“I would love to go to the World Cup, but helping people is more important than anything,” he insists.
“I love my story. I had a happy ending. But there are a lot of miserable stories out there. I thank ADRA for letting me help my people. I do this so my grandchildren will remember that I helped refugees, and will be proud of me. If you want to live forever you have to do something in this world.”