The words of a Syrian refugee in the Greek press had me rummaging for words to respond. Promptly. Before it’s too late.

Before he took those steps to return; before he let go of the last bursts of hope that make him the vulnerable human that he is. Before… alas, it is too late.

He said: “A message to the whole world. What is happening in Syria is beyond imagination. They kill us for no reason, imprison us, torture us to death. We leave after being chased and try to live with dignity.
“In Turkey they try to exploit us and we try to get to Greece. In this effort, we drown and volunteers of all faiths and atheists try to help us. And we discover that governments exploit the war in Syria in order to achieve their political objectives. And we lose our dignity, we get tired, we drown and die on the way to what we think is paradise, the European Union…”

“I lost everything. Those who I loved. My Father, my mother, my wife and my five brothers. I arrived in Athens… and I made sure it was not paradise… I decided to go back to a certain death in Syria. Where I buried those who I loved. I thank all the volunteers and all peoples of all religions. I don’t thank any government.”

As a veteran volunteer in Lesvos, I want to thank him for thanking me, even though I also want to let him know that there is no need for gratitude; it’s only human to tend to those in need.

Although I understand his need to ‘go home’, I find it pertinently unjust to let him go: however soothing a ‘certain death’ may be. It was this crunch of hopelessness I feared to confront while working within the refugee crisis. My fear is now a reality.

More so than ever. In all admiration for his courage, silence envelopes my thoughts. I have no response.

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About Melissa Hekkers

I am freelance journalist and author, who has frequently been featured in mainstream news outlets and other publications in Cyprus. Recently, I've been focusing on developing my writing, promoting my own books and teaching creative writing to children and adults. My most recent publication (2020) - Amir's Blue Elephant- pushes the boundaries of creative non-fiction, and recreates the moments that marked me the most, whilst volunteering in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and during her ongoing involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus. In 2018 I published My Capre Greco Mandala which is the third in a series, an interactive colouring book about the biodiversity of the Cape Greco peninsula in Cyprus. My Akamas Mandala, the second in the series, is a colouring book inspired by the variety of endemic plants found on the Akamas Peninsula. In 2016, I published My Nicosia Mandala, the first of the above series, an innovative, interactive colouring book about the historic fortifications of the old town of Nicosia. I also focuses on silenced communities in Cyprus: I writes about migrants and refugees, both as a reporter and a features writer; I profile them and teach them creative writing skills. In 2007, soon after graduating with a Communications degree, I published my first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, I launched my second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which I was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. My third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014. In between the last two books, I published my first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London