Written by Anahita Jain, a grade 8 student
Note: This is a synopsis of the book Refugee by Alan Gratz and not an original storyline.
War is something that no human enjoys, yet continues doing it. It brings no one joy, only suffering to all sides. This is a story of a 13-year-old boy whose house gets destroyed by a missile because he is someone of a religion that isn’t welcome in his country.
Mahmoud Bishara comes home from a walk, pondering whether staying invisible is the best solution in these troubling times. He soon resolves it by agreeing that staying invisible will help him avoid trouble of any sort. Little does he know, his whole life is about to change in the next few minutes.
The wall facing east of the dining hall suddenly collapsed with a big booming sound. Mahmoud’s mother told Mahmoud to grab his 10-year-old brother Waleed and infant sister Hana and run out of the building while she gathered some important things. Everyone knew what was happening, the Syrian government was launching missiles, and it was his neighbourhood’s turn. He rushed out, followed by his mother. Fear and anxiety were surging through his veins, unsure of what to do next.
Mahmoud’s father met him soon after the bombing. He decided that they would flee to Germany, a country that was accepting refugees. Everyone got in the car and the long and dangerous journey began.
Once they reached the Syrian border, they encountered a gunning by the border police. This caused the family to abandon their car and travel by foot, leaving back all the clothes they had to reduce the luggage carried. Mahmoud, Waleed, and their family had walked a long way to reach Turkey, from which they would get a dinghy boat, taking them to Lesbos. Mahmoud’s family had to wait for several days before they set sail at midnight.
At around 3 AM, things started going wrong. The dingy started deflating and sinking, leaving the passengers stranded in the middle of the cold and dark Mediterranean Sea. The life jackets which Mahmoud’s father had purchased turned out to be a scam, and the Bishara family was in trouble. Mahmoud’s father and Waleed had been separated from Mahmoud’s mother, Hana, and him.
Another dinghy passed by Mahmoud, and he thought that he could ask for some space on the small boat for his mother, sister, and him, but the people in the boat refused. With a heavy heart and a lot of persuasion, he was able to give Hana to a woman on the boat. His mother kept crying and regretting the decision, so Mahmoud had to struggle to keep both of them afloat.
As soon as the sky dawned, a Greek Coast Guard ship saw Mahmoud and his mother and rescued them immediately. They were overjoyed once they saw that Waleed and his father were also on the ship, but gloom hung in the atmosphere when they recalled the incident of the other dinghy boat and Hana.
As soon as they reached shore and replenished their energy, the small group headed towards Austria on foot. Luckily, they found numerous car rides to the country.
Mahmoud and his family faced trouble again when they were arrested in Hungary along with other Syrians. A day later, a few officials from the UN came to assess the situation. Mahmoud took advantage of this and started leading a march to the Hungary-Austria border. He was very nervous at first, since he always tried to stay hidden, but saw that the Hungarian soldiers couldn’t do anything as a higher authority was present.
The news of the march was spread to Austria Germany, and when the refugees arrived, they were welcomed with open arms. As they walked across the country, the Austrians offered food, clothes, diapers for babies, and other necessities for the last step of their journey. Looking at the diapers, Mahmoud’s mother was reminded of Hana and started looking for her, but had no luck.
It was the same situation in Germany. Mahmoud realized that though staying invisible meant that he could avoid the bad people, it also meant that the good people wouldn’t be able to help him.
The family finally had a place to call home after a long and painful journey. They never found Hana again, but hoped that she is safe and sound with a trustable family.
Headline image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vernonbarford/26099448928