Jul 24, 2021
Challenges Inspiration Social Issues

The River Journey


While I was waiting for the boat to inflate, which will carry us to a new life by the river, it was as if I was watching a movie, not my reality. At no point in my life, even when I started this difficult journey, I never imagined that I would find myself with my family at midnight helplessly waiting for a boat to swell near a river which is a border between Turkey and Greece and is called Maritsa or Evros. 

When I was sitting helplessly with my two sons at the peak of excitement and fear, I was in deep thoughts wondering if this plastic thing could turn into a boat in a short time without getting caught. At that time, I knew that we had three smugglers, but I realized later that one of them was someone trying to get out of the country like us. There was another family with us that I had never met before, but who had two sons with whom we destined to be friends from now on.

We were torn between two smugglers, one of whom was too comfortable and the other who was too nervous. With every click, I wanted to integrate myself and the children with the soil and make them invisible. When we got to the river, I thought that a ready and extremely comfortable boat would be waiting for us. I was surprised, how high my expectations were. You can imagine how disappointed I was to see that the boat wasn't even ready yet and that the people responsible for smuggling us couldn't even inflate the boat. Of course, when we heard that some of our smugglers threatened some of our friends with death and took their all belongings, some were taken and delivered with their own hands to Turkish soldiers, and some were left to die on deserted islands, ours smuggling story seems like a pretty ordinary story. If it weren't for the courage of knowing nothing, it would be very difficult to decide to embark on such a journey, or it would never have happened.



While I waited anxiously, my eldest son repeated what he had said several times as he ran towards the river- “My feet got wet, Mommy.” I realized that my son's boots were not on his feet. In the swamp, his boots got stuck in the mud and came off his feet. Of course, we didn't realize that with all the excitement we were in. It was very interesting that although we passed through a lot of bushes afterwards, there was not even a scratch on his feet. One of the smugglers showed some humanity and brought us a pair of shoes that he found in the bushes. That's when I realized that many people like us had passed through this river, and these shoes belonged to one of them. I wonder if the boy who owned this shoe had crossed the river and reached the future he had dreamed of? Then I realized that this was not just our story, but of all of those who left their birth land to reach a safe harbor, if not for the same reasons or ways as us.

After what seemed like a century to me, but in reality perhaps less than an hour, the inflatable boat was ready. My husband organized our sitting on the boat; we placed the items in the middle and took our place in a way that would not disturb the balance. As soon as I sat on the boat, I took the children's hands and closed my eyes. I was surprised that we were still able to get on the boat without getting caught. Maybe you won't believe it, but from the moment we set off, even from the moment we started the preparations, I always thought that we would be caught and we would never succeed. I even prepared the statement I would give when I was caught. The children could not do without me, I said sorry to my husband and said when I'm caught, I'll put all the blame on you. I already knew that you would rather stay in jail than look after the children without me:)

I remembered the baby Aylan, who fled with her family from Syria with her family in 2015 and whose lifeless body washed up on the shores of Muğla in Turkey, and I was very upset. But now I realized when people did not go through the same paths, they felt incomplete. It was a complete shock to me to learn that there was no one left from the families of Abdurezzak and Doğan, who set out exactly two weeks after we passed. I always thought that we could have been the ones who lost their lives instead of them. On this journey, two families, four of them adults, were completely destroyed. And the saddest part is that even the disappearance of small bodies in the cold waters did not evoke any human emotion in most of the citizens and almost all of the officials of the country they belonged to. The media blamed their families for dragging the children to death as if they were living safely in the country they were in.

I would have never embarked on this difficult journey if I had even had a hope that everything would be better while I was walking the same roads with my children. When I heard the news of the death of my destiny friends, I could not come to myself for days even if I did not know them at all. Now in my dreams, or rather in my nightmares, while trying to cross the river, my children were slipping out of my hands and getting lost in cold waters, and I could not do anything. Despite being in a dream, I felt that helplessness deeply. I still have my nights interrupted by these kinds of dreams, and every day I am thankful we are alive.



When I realized that we had reached the shore, I opened my eyes, but I was very surprised. Because despite all my assumptions, we reached Greece without being caught, and our river journey took a much shorter time than I expected. My three-year-old son started to cry as we passed from the boat to the shore, but it was okay now that he was making noise, because we were no longer within the borders of our country, which had become hostile territory for us. Actually, since my son is younger, we took sleeping pills, thinking that he would make a noise and somebody would catch us because of this, but we forgot to give it in a hurry. Although he is a child who normally likes to talk, I guess he couldn't make a sound because of the shock of running. But when he got out the boat before us, he was wetting his trousers with fear and started crying.

At least we adults know why we're running away, and we know the reasons for our fear. But for children, the situation is different, their sudden separation from the place they see as their home and they can understand the fear in their parents' eyes, even though their parents, who the children  see as their heroes before, try to hide their feelings from their children. After this experience, the towers in their tiny world start to demolish one by one.

As a parent, I wanted to give my children a future where they could be safe and free, but I know that for every failure and unhappiness of my children in the future, I will blame myself for putting them on this journey.

Written by: Emine

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