Fleeing Syria: Batoul’s story from Serbia

by Hala Youssef

In February 2016, Batoul packed a bag, carried her four-month-old baby, and headed into the unknown all by herself. She travelled thousands of kilometres and faced many obstacles until she reached Serbia in June later that year.

Batoul is 18 years old. Before February, she had hardly left her house, let alone her small town in Syria. She has been on the road for four months and does not know how much longer it will be before she is reunited with her husband who has yet to meet his first child.

Her final destination is Germany, where her husband and nine year-old brother went last August. Batoul was seven months pregnant then and the couple did not have enough money to travel together, so she had to wait.

After six attempts, Batoul finally made it across the Turkish border.

“It was so dark and it was raining hard,” Batoul recalls. “The river got high and muddy and, before I knew it, my baby and I were drowning in the mud.”

Batoul screamed for several minutes but none of the other hurrying refugees could hear her. She thought she was going to die when a hand grabbed her and pulled her out of the mud.

“It was a young Syrian man who heard me. I owe him my life and my baby’s life.”

Batoul rested for only one day in Turkey before paying to get to Greece. She stayed in a refugee camp for three months, living only on lentil soup. One night, a fire broke out in the camp and she and her baby managed to escape from a hole in the fence, along with 200 other Syrian refugees. Her baby had a 40-degree fever.

She walked with other refugees for six days through a forest trying to reach Macedonia. They ran out of food after three days.

“I would look at the woman next to me and ask her if she was hungry,” Batoul recalls, “and she would deny it. When she asked me in return, I’d say that I don’t even think of food.”

At the Hungarian border that was closed three months ago, Batoul will join more than 300 stranded refugees. The Hungarian authorities only allow 15 people to enter every day and Batoul is hoping she will be one of the lucky few.

“The first thing I want to do when I get to Germany,” Batoul said in a determined tone, “is to study English and German. I will put my son in a nursery and find a job so I can help my husband create a good life for our family.”

When asked if her conservative husband, who did not allow her to finish high school in Syria when they got married, would support her plans, she firmly responds:

“He will. Women are strong and we have a role to play.”

CARE and its partner organizations in Croatia and Serbia have assisted refugees and migrants on the Western Balkan route since the summer of 2015. CARE and its partners provide food packages, warm clothes, shoes and hygiene packages. To this date, CARE has reached almost 125,000 people.

Help support strong, determined women like Batoul get to safety and rebuild their lives.