[i] My name is [name] father of a large family, we are Syrians, I, my wife 4 children and a granddaughter of 5 years, my eldest daughter is 26 years old, now has a child of 5 years, we came from Syria as you know from, unfortunately this conflict born in the Middle East because of the war, broke out 2011, but we in 2011 we already had a great business in Damascus, we lived in Damascus, just the capital. We lived very well, because as a job, I had my job my wife had her job, the children studied. who at school who at university. And unfortunately for a blow of this war, let’s not go into detail just enter the Internet and understand a little ‘the various conflicts that we are now 7 years in this war. We thought if we can survive, in 2011 game I lost all my job completely. I’m going back a moment, as a job I studied English literature, I have a degree in literature, a degree in history passionate about archaeology for which since 86, 1986, I began to work in Syria as a tourist guide. I accompanied groups arriving in most of Italy, because I already spoke Italian very well my father had studied medicine here in Italy, I arrived here in Italy when I was 2 years old, I studied all the schools here in Italy, then we returned home, and 18 years I began to learn Arabic for which Italian was already a mother tongue. But more studied English, I speak English very well so I started to accompany groups a bit ‘from all over the world then the Syrian travel agencies, when they heard the comments of Italian groups ah this very good guide always have, have always called me to accompany groups of Italian origin. And so after about ten years of work I started with a friend of mine to set up a small tourist office, a travel agency, this small office then became bigger and bigger, we have four employees, my wife took care of the same office for INCOMING, I OUTGOING. We organized trips both abroad and within Syria. And then when there are important groups I accompanied him myself as director of the office to see the beauty of Syria, it is so until 2005, I also began to work as an interpreter for the Italian embassy, for the Syrian government, came delegations from Italy to Syria and I interpret. From there was born the opportunity to make simultaneous interpreter, in Syria there was no such specialization so I had to go to Lebanon for 9 months and present an exam, and so I also became the simultaneous interpreter Arabic Italian vice versa, and I turned a little ‘in the Gulf in Italy, Egypt, for the translation of different conferences I also translated several books, of religious cultural origin, historical, from Arabic to Italian, I did a course of two years of theology, I’m a Muslim, we are a Muslim family. But I’m interested in entering as history and Islam in the discourse how Islam arrived as, how Islam spread from where it came Then studying theology I had to go back to study the Bible, the Old Testament the New Testament, and compare these sacred books, I have held several conferences, inter-religious conferences in Assisi in Sassari in Padua every now and then called me to hold these conferezas

[i] So you came to the post office from Syria to Italy? Yes I accompanied groups of various kinds, Obviously in Syria is a land where Christianity is born, if you read the gospel the city of Damascus, St. Paul converted on the routes, so many groups arrived, accompanied by priests as pilgrims to visit the Christian religious sites that there are in Syria, the oldest churches, Byzantine teachings And chatting with these groups, the speech opens but you are Muslim you are Christian, I’m not a Muslim you compare these two faiths, and from there when the priests come back with their contacts they called me to send me emails then come here to Italy, what you explained about our group is repeated here with a more studied conference is so for 6, 7 years, almost every year I made trips here in Italy both to promote my travel agency and for conferences inter-religious conferences.

[i] So the war of 2011 came suddenly or you had the perception that something was going on that would have

[r] Accompanying groups, towards the beginning of 2011 in Syria there was nothing only, we lived well there was work for all, schools and universities, in short, apart from the political question, civilians and citizens lived very well in Syria There was no real poverty of their own, there was no unemployment if we want to talk about a percentage, 4 5 % were unemployed But we Syrians always said who wants to work the job finds it with which want to work there is the work for all these groups arrived said ah [name] the domino effect started the Arab spring in Egypt in Tunisia in Algeria, will also arrive in Syria, I smiled saying for charity no Syria is something else Not like other Arab countries, it is true that the head of state there was a dictator then died arrived the son is not inherited is a presidency, so the president was appointed because there was no other candidate at the door of his father is also the people elected him, with this I had no idea that it could create this huge war in 2011 in March 2011 began demonstrations, simple demonstrations of young people who want to change the constitution I kept saying that these demonstrations have created a tourist hardship, suddenly all we had planned were canceled, and there I began to lose his job in the tourist industry, suddenly all were canceled, and there I began to lose his job in the son is not inherited is a presidency, so the president was appointed because there was another candidate at the door of his father is also the people elected him, with this I had no idea that it could be created this huge war in March 2011, simple demonstrations of young people who want to change the constitution.

[i] Gradual way ? so with these movements the embassy is closed the tourists have not arrived anymore I lost my job. But well or badly we have a large apartment in Damascus another apartment that we rented a villa, there was even a plan to build a hotel already bought the land to dig the foundation etc. … so I thought we have the money we can survive for a year or two will not last longer than this blockade of both the farnesina and tourism, my wife immediately thought why we do not turn the travel agency to increase a driving school, she has a driving license teacher was driving instructor for both her friends and another driving school and so we created this driving school,we went on for 2 3 years without any economic problem But then I realized in 2013 after 2 years these demonstrations are transformed from peaceful to their own guerrillas was born an armed opposition against the government, I realized that this opposition and funded by foreign sources Qatar Saudi Arabia Turkey. At the same time the Syrian government already has an armor of Russian origin supported by both Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah, I understand the situation is not a civil war, it is not a war between opponents against the government. intervened the foreign armies. Then at that time the children began college I was afraid of the future will not end in the space of 2 3 years not because of economic issues but question of the future of the children I decided to flee Syria,

[i] Is this in 2013?

[r] Already in early 2013 the idea had matured, we began to think about how to escape Syria

[i] You say to run because there was no way out, was it running in the direction of escape?

The city of Damascus was completely surrounded by these armies to protect the capital, outside the capital a few kilometers away, it was complete destruction. Missile bombs hunt, so we can not decide … the airport was closed, so we must necessarily take the car to get to Lebanon, and leave from the airport of Beirut depart where we need a visa embassies in Syria are all closed Then I began to send e-mails to my Italian friends working for 26 years in the tourism industry imagine how many Italian friends I had not only travel agency but also tourist visiting Syria on a 10-day trip has created a friendship. They sent me invitations I took all documents I asked the Italian embassy in Beirut, what do you need documents my passport full of stamps Schengen Italy for many years and also three times have denied the visa saying you presented an invitation to go to Italy for a period of 2 months 3 months then after these 2 months we do not have the assurance that you return to the country of origin this of course we knew. I had the good fortune of friends in Sapnia sent me a request for an invitation and the Spanish embassy gave me the visa, no know why, a good fortune Ok I took the visa my wife my children not , and then I decided to leave alone arriving in Italy, because in Italy I have so many friends who can help me, I apply for family reunification So within a few months I can also bring the whole family to safety, so with a Schengen visa I arrive in Italy, I find some friends to whom I give, speech a bit ‘complicated, because I had a legal visa to apply for political asylum, not . You must be illegal to apply for asylum. I changed several lawyers around Italy, until a friend who has a travel agency here in Turin told me come that we found here a lawyer who can help you then I arrived here in Turin with the help of these friends of mine, with the help of this lawyer in 6 months I obtained a residence permit. Speaking of 6 months for me a life,6 months then 2 months I was here 8 months anxious Because all my family lives there

[i] Were they in Beirut?

[r] In Damascus at war, we tried to escape from the war we went to the refugee camp in Beirut and water we ask please I want to drink a bottle of water, these organizations. We decided not to go back to Damascus we endure this war we do not go out on the street because mortar bombs went down, those who went out at home did not know if they were coming back or not.

[i] So a resistance?

[r] Remain closed, I managed to sell one of my houses to buy an underground refuge two floors underground, if bombs collapse etc we are at least saved. and I had this possibility economically I was fine

[i] So after this period?

[r] So 6 months 8 months I saw I hear other refugees here, who said blessed you that in 6 months I got this residence permit that many people are waiting for a year, a year and a half before the arrival of this permit. I got the permit then I have to do nothing to make family reunification. there I found out that it is valid for wife and children under 18, I did not have a son of 17 years a daughter 10 11 years but I have two daughters over 18 then I immediately did nothing for wife the little my son of 17 because I turned 18 and over 18 except there in Syria I took him immediately to the army in the face of war and so they arrived by plane, but leaving the two daughters one was married to a little girl. We rented a house in Istanbul I said escapes went to Istanbul at least there stay for a month two three then let’s see how to get there Not so simple we did for my daughter at the university here in Turin have denied the visa I wrote to Siena for foreigners for the Italian language, they denied the visa, for the simple reason

[i] What was the reason?

[r] The reason was once this visa period of 5 6 7 months was over we do not have the assurance that these will return home but rather remain in Italy, it is obvious that we have escaped from the war. You have closed the Italian embassy in Syria So you understand that we are running away from the war, but the bureaucracy does not … can not help

[i] is your arrival in Turin how was it? Have you managed to rejoin you? Unfortunately, the two daughters, not with the help of the embassies of the legal form, we contacted smugglers one on a rubber dinghy one on a ship, they saw badly. In short, in 2015 also the two daughters arrived here in Turin. After a terrible trauma, they saw the dead the prisons the trip between Turkey Greece arrived here very difficult anyway now they have learned the Italian language are much better they are out of trauma But this thing will remain for life. The problem I feel guilty but I had no choice I tried in all ways for a year to bring them here on a visa with a plane, more comfortable tranquil the only possibility I had was to contact smugglers and I had to tell my daughter get on a dinghy But do you know how many die on the dinghy? Yes you have a 50% chance to live, my daughter was swimming well if the dinghy goes down you swim and you get to the shore, 50% of life but you return to Syria deventano 5% So I found myself saying my daughter threw into the water. at least to have a chance to see you went well let’s say, in the worst cases have arrived here in Turin.

[i] And in Turin how are you, how was your arrival in this city?

What I saw from this person is not a friend but much more than a friend who knew me very well. Because he went to Syria 3 4 times, to accompany even groups, the exciting thing he did on his computer for aggenzia sent an email to all his aggenzia’s clients saying [name] is here and he needs help. Because we could not live in his house we need an apartment, so rent an apartment Move us, the money unfortunately I could not sell everything in Syria I spent a lot In short, I had no more money. But between this friend and all customers of his agency we talk about 250 people who live here in Turin all know me [name] his family are here so there are those who brought me clothes for me for my daughters, a man who brought a bed a refrigerator washing machine everything gave me back a house in the end I had to say enough enough space there is no more

[i] A real big help?

[r] I’m not talking about the government voluntary refugee associations I’m talking about civilians who have nothing to do with refugees who know me know what I did as a job in Syria, they know that graduate level, they said [name] you deserve much more for you for your family, they think they paid me 6 months in advance of renting the house. they have worked hard to find work that is for me, for my wife and my children.

[i] How have you settled in now? How long has it been since you arrived?

[r] I arrived here in February 2014, then my wife and son arrived here in March 2015, the daughters in October and November 2015, so let’s say they have been here for 2 years. The problem is that my daughter was studying letters in Damascus third year, the other was first year academy of fine arts and here were not recognized their titles. So what do we do again in the first year. Okay on no problem, No . But they must do before the eighth grade exam. So they have to do a study of Italian language, then have the certificate third grade then find work. In short, it was very difficult until now after two years are not yet written at the university. But one works as a cultural mediator and the other works in a hotel as a waiter and cleaning of the rooms between these two jobs my wife works as a cook Syrian kitchens here in Turin there are no Syrian restaurants so we thought of introducing this kitchen, thanks to these many friends, friends of friends have helped us this too, we could not open a restaurant because it takes 70, 80,000.00€ But we prepare Syrian cuisine at home then we sell it to these friends, sometimes they come with their friends to our home type restaurant, we called it home restaurant, eat with the family, chat about Syrian culture we are paid what we spent and so we can go on.

[i] What about you?

[r] I have done several jobs, as a translator as a cultural mediator, from March 2018 I found for the moment a fixed contract for 6 months at the Egyptian museum as a translator, as a consultant coordinator with associations because the Egyptian museum sometimes make intercultural events need both a translator and a person who knows all these voluntary associations to make these events I find myself very well, I studied history and archaeology I am in the most beautiful museum in the world After that in Cairo the Egyptian museum is the first in the world

[i] For your story, this migration with the idea that you always go towards something better, and in some cases is not so

[r] In our case definitely not, in our thing first of all we do not live in a rented house and badly to punishment we manage to get to the end of months, paying the rent bubbles etc … this thing in Syria we did not have my children Pope we want to do a tour, we go to Turkey, we go outside, we book a 4 5-star hotel a holiday for the whole family, I had no problems. Now daddy I want to go to the beach ehh dear mine how do I do it? is Genoa is 2h here. The train costs there the beach coast, it is not a person we are in 7, husband wife 4 children and a granddaughter, that poor girl also lost her father We do not know if I live dead, we lost contact with the father of this child for more than 1 year and a half Anyway life goes on

[i] Even things that used to be simple are now more complex

[r] For example in Syria, or as here in Italy, many people wake up turn on the light heat the coffee heat the tap Tea turn on the water goes down the water are trivial things in Syria since 2011 no longer exists the electricity we had a refrigerator at home we used it as a closet, because there was no longer run you do not use it anymore. The run arrived an hour two a day, drinking water 3 4 h a week, so we dream to take a shower, here now we are back to take a shower every day. we returned to turn on the tap see drinking water every minute Who lives in this banality does not think about it. But we have lived in Syria 3 years without running without drinking water. we do not want to talk about bread vegetables meat we do not care what there is a secondary thing. to be able to boil with that water that comes to us this is our life for 3 years in Syria . Now my children are happy because they were luckier than their many friends escaping from Syria found in Germany, America, Egypt are very happy because they arrived here in Turin already having a base, having many friends who helped us for example my daughter one of the two who left with the dinghy saw shots, saw people dead of the rock that were with her on the dinghy, remained for a year deaf mutant had no expulsion could not speak could not smile could not cry. a terrible trauma, a 22 year old girl who was boy scout was riding her bike to university suddenly finds herself in a situation in front of the police that he wants to shoot in the water dead for good luck that all those friends here in Italy have daughters of the same age I said please call my daughter invite her to drink a coffee bring her to the garden in the parks a few times she has also made friends and managed to talk. live well now

[i] Where do you live in Turin? we live in the new door area near the station just 7 8 minutes walk from the station is not like I said an accommodation that I chose I have chosen my friends but gentlemen is large 100 square meters But [name] at least you need 7 beds a living room a kitchen but I can not pay the rent . but I can not pay , do not worry. They are simple people, it is not an association or from the European Union or the Italian government that take money, from their salary from their pension that are helping me even today. Thanks to these friends, relatives, brothers and sisters that I found. then, knowing me and my family, they really understood what the war means. many of them experienced the Second World War here in Turin know what it means to live under the bombing for this reason, for many other reasons they decided to help us, I hope that 60% of the Syrian population escaped from Syria for the same problem will find friends to find assistance as I found it, it is a case I would say a little ‘rare to mine

[i] Have you managed to keep in touch with your other Syrian colleagues around Europe or around the world? Syrians yes, thanks to Facebook, WhatsApp etc … every now and then I discover …

[i] is a precise use of social networks in this thing ? This thing that makes me very angry, in Europe when a refugee comes a migrant etc. many say they have the latest generation tablets that not even I there, these which have lost everything I have a 30 year old job case ville office car etc 0 what I managed to save I downloaded everything from my computer on an external hard drive and I brought my memories here We sold our phones in Syria to buy the latest generations to stay connected when you go to sea when we move to have internet available, and with these we saved my daughter’s life thanks to the phone she had. and with these devices now on Facebook I discover the name of a friend of mine but where are you ? ah I’m in Tanzania, I’m in Sweden I’m in Canada. 1% are still in Syria

[i] Are you an exodus country? As I said, forces I exaggerated 60% out of the country I exaggerated in negative is more than 60% definitely There are cities in Syria type Homes had 1 million inhabitants, I when I talk about Homes always explain you have in mind Hiro chima after the bumblebee ? Homes is so. has disappeared completion 1 million inhabitants now Homes someone has returned, however until 2 years ago there was no person. Aleppo the same Aleppo 3 million and a half half half of the city of Aleppo is bombed completely destroyed People like, doctors a lawyers proprietary industry ministers have escaped there is a friend of ours we met here in Turin, it’s a case, an impressive thing. When I remember her I get the shivers, we met her 2 years ago here in Turin. There was an event in a Moroccan restaurant, and my wife sees that lady, but yes you are, no we all white hats aged, ah you are here in Turin, she was a friend of his from Damascus who is vice minister of communications now is here alone escaped from the war, does not work is not recognized his degree is electronic engineer, helps my wife now for cooking. Every now and then they call us for an event, for catering etc and these two friends with my daughters prepare food. We offer the community of Turin some of the flavours of the Syrian culture.

[i] That we’ll have to keep them alive anyway? Yes, we do it both to offer the Turin community some of the Middle Eastern flavors Because the thing my wife wanted at the beginning ah you from where you are Syria, Syria Arabs ah Couscous Couscous is Moroccan, there are thousands of miles between Morocco and Syria, the Syrians do not even know what couscous is and fortunately now many have realized that the Middle Eastern cuisine is very different from the North African one.

[i] is the Syrian one in turn Yes, Middle Eastern let’s say Syrian Lebanese Palestinian resemble each other because they are neighboring countries in Syria itself the cuisine of Damascus is different from that of Aleppo

[i] Here in Italy this theme is very sensitive Turin and Milan is near the kitchen will be the same

[r] Already in Milan do not know what is the bagna cauda for example do you think in Syria is the same thing something you would like to share ?

[r] There would be a lot to say, but what I would like to all the population in both Italian and migrant the person who chooses to leave his country to go and look for to improve his life is a choice that knows that he will go in the face of many problems, he left his country, I do not say country but simply from southern Italy to northern Italy, even that person left relatives close friends of home. penitentiary who basically left the fountain that went to drink water, no longer hides. so we must at least help him, not economically but morally, abandoning all this story a bit ‘of morale it takes, think that he decided as in our case in the span of 24 hours abound all I always tell the people I meet think one day, closing my eyes I get up in the morning turning on the coffee I take a brisk go to work instead of this bustano the door fomdano the door tell me you have 3 hours available you have to run away because a bomb will arrive at your house, in 3 hours what do you do? I have to prepare my suitcase to run away, it must not be heavy, because there is no car there is no plane I have to run as soon as possible to escape death so in these 3h I prepare a backpack with the most expensive memories what I did a hardcore with all the photos I made conferences I took photos my diplomas my children my wife etc. .

[i] is however is a great lucidity in doing this

[r] Yes it was not a matter of 24 hours but in a few months I understood that we must move and I know very well that we can not move with all our belongings at home.

[r] Now your house in Syria you know what it’s like ? is still standing one of the houses is still standing, the villa no longer exists the hotel no longer exists . a house the one we rented is still standing, I have friends every now and then pass tell me [name] there is no more the door is broken through the thieves but the walls are there. the problem is with this escape we saved many documents not the contrate of the house If we return to Syria after 5 years 10 years there will be a chance to say this is a property of mine or not but I do not intercede in Syria after 5 years 10 years there is a chance to say this is a property of mine or not but I do not intercede.

[i] Can you imagine coming back to Syria one day?

[[r] I hope, I hope tomorrow before tomorrow after tomorrow, but my problem now have learned Italian started with schools, my son did high school with 88% of votes managed to learn Italian quickly is now the first year of chemistry ago, if next year I’m told is over the war in Syria all right what do I do? I leave my son or I say leave the university let’s go back there Ok let’s start again from below zero, I don’t have an accommodation, I don’t have a job also as a tour guide that I was going to see the monuments of Syria is completely destroyed everything , Gia seeing the photos of these destroyed monuments shakes my heart so I would not want to go back to Syria to see these destructions live

[i] But the desire to return to the country you can return to the country here …

[r] The desire is there I have no relatives I have no one but I would like to go back to see the road where I lived In the hope that some of my friends some of my relatives may return to Syria, or what do I do? to find a cousin of mine I have to go to Dubai? o my Uncle going to Germany other cousin in Canada is difficult, I no longer intercede for the house I left that still standing that not yet standing, I lost millions of money, but a million more a million less I do not care what interests me now is the future of my children have found a life here, that continue, after having the degree in hand at least I studied university in Italy I have a degree will decide him after 5 years 6 years 10 years to return to Syria to be a doctor in Syria engineer to rebuild that country this is the dream of my children for the moment we do not want to think about it because it tightens our hearts

[i] Thank you so much [name] !

[r] Thanks to you.