The Journey To Europe

My name is Shakila Mosanafi.

I’m Iranian. My family is political and when I was 2 years old when we ran away to Iraq. I can’t remember running away. I was too young. We were refugees then too, and we didn’t have anything. I was there for 15 years but I had nothing. We were just refugees.

My dad had a small shop that sold sweets. He was political. He wasn’t an MP but he was outspoken. He was a Kurdish activist, and Iran was catching them, so we ran away. For our safety we ran away.

We could go to school in Iraq, but that was it. We had no future there. We went to school and then we went home to be a housewife. Just that. We had a good life in Iraq, but it was a life without a future.

If you don’t have anything, life is so difficult.


We left Iraq on 27th September 2016. The war started. The war was 3 hours away from where we lived and we were worried they could come and get us.

I wasn’t scared, but my parents were scared. There was nothing to be afraid of, I thought, but they were afraid and I didn’t know what of or why. Every time I asked why we were leaving they said ‘it’s for your future’.

They said we were going to Europe. I didn’t want to come here. They told me we were going and I said I didn’t want to come.

It was so easy.

We went to Eribil, Diana, then we went to the smuggler house. It was 2 or 3am and they came with a car and took us to the Turkish border. I couldn’t believe how easy it seemed. We got a bus to Istanbul and stayed in a hotel. We called the smuggler and we went to Greece.

We went to Greece through the water. It was a small boat, and it seemed like 5 minutes. We stayed in the forest for an hour when we got there, and then we got into a van.

I don’t remember much, but I do remember, in that moment, my Dad was crying. It was the second time I’d seen my Dad cry. It was so difficult.

We went in a van, and then a car. But they wouldn’t let us go because they wanted money. My mother was so scared. So we gave the smuggler more money, but they said that would only cover the people who left before us. It was a disaster.

We went to the train station at 3am and took a train to Athens, and from there we went together on foot, through Albania.

We went to the border and we sat and waited for darkness to come.

But the police came and caught us. They sent us back to Greece. After that we managed to get to Albania and then to Montenegro, then we waited for a bus to Belgrade.

When we arrived in Belgrade we stayed in the barracks (a pop up refugee camp) for 3 or 4 days. It was so cold. Eventually the refugee information centre gave us some documents so we could go to Presevo. It’s safe here. Everyone is so friendly and kind, and everyone knows me here! I’m always a leader for women and girls. We have meetings about what women want, what they need, what activities they want to do.

I’m helping in the school to teach the children English and Maths. And I spend all my time translating. Always translating!

My family get given a cash card, and I get another one in exchange for doing some translating. I don’t like going outside of the camp though, so my mother spends it for me. She bought me some nail varnish.

I’ll miss the people I’ve met if I leave, but I want to have a passport and to go back and visit my country. To go back to Iraq.

I just want to go home.

Presevo refugee camp in Serbia is home to 811 refugees. It’s been set up in a dis-used factory. Christian Aid’s partner, Philanthropy, provide people with hot evening meals, fruit, hygiene kits, and cash cards. They’ve also started a film and animation project for young people, giving them a space to share their stories and speak about their experiences.