Friday September 11, 2015

A Syrian refugee's story: 'I see people dying. I see children crying'

Syrian refugee Ahmed Yusef al Khalid (third from right) with his family and friends at a train station in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 11, 2015.

Syrian refugee Ahmed Yusef al Khalid (third from right) with his family and friends at a train station in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 11, 2015. (Nicholas Cameron)

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Ahmed Yusef al Khalid fled the war in Syria with his family one month ago. Since then, he nearly drowned. Greek police shot his toddler in the hand. The family walked for hours and then slept outside in the rain. They evaded Hungarian border patrols — and spent almost all their money.

Today, finally, he was safe in Budapest with his wife and two children, a two- and four-year-old. His brother and some friends were there as well. They were all about to board a train heading towards Austria. But he wonders if it was worth it.

"It was very hard. I see everything in this journey. I see people dying. I see the children crying and women crying," he tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Khalid Budapest

Ahmed Yusef al Khalid (centre) checks his ticket at the train station in Budapest, September 11, 2015. (Nicholas Cameron)

The journey began in Syria. The family travelled through Lebanon to Turkey, then through Greece, Macedonia and Serbia.

The worst part, al Khalid says, was the sea crossing from Turkey to the Greek Island of Mytilini. The crowded boat was on the rough waters for 10 hours.

"This moment, I remember my family and my country and I think I'm going to die," he recalls. "Then I'm crying when I see bullets coming."

He says they came from the guns of Greek police officers. His two-year-old son was hit in the hand. 

"I wanted to go back to Turkey, really, really, or go back to Syria. I wanted to die in my country," al Khalid says.

To make their way from Greece to Hungary, the family often had to walk for hours. They slept outdoors in the rain and got sick. Sometimes they had nothing to eat. When they got to the Hungarian border, they had to sneak past the guards.

But, at the Keleti Station in Budapest, help was waiting. Volunteers there fed them and gave them clothes and shoes. A doctor treated his son's hand. He's going to be fine.

RAW: Syrian refugees ready to board Budapest train0:51

[Video: Nicholas Cameron]

On Friday evening, they boarded a train heading towards Austria. Their plan is to continue on to Sweden, where al Khalid has a brother.

He tells Carol that he is now feeling more hopeful about the future.

"In Budapest, I feel good."