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The Youngest Refugee

It was a hot, sunny morning on the island of Lesvos. It was the third day of my assignment. I was walking down the road towards the port of Lesvos where hundreds of migrants and refugees are stuck, trying desperately to get registered by the police and buy a coveted ticket to Athens.
I was standing by the road, waiting for a chance to cross. On the other side of the road I could see a young man who looked Afghani. I am now able to identify roughly where the migrants and refugees come from by their look.
He was young, fit and tall. He looked at me like he wanted to tell me something. The moment I crossed the road he turned and asked me in broken but understandable English where he could find a taxi. I asked him right away whether he had been registered, as I knew that taxis weren’t allowed to take anyone who wasn’t.
He said no, he hadn’t, so I told him it would be unlikely that he would get a taxi but we could at least try. He seemed a bit worried and disappointed, but continued talking.
“My wife is in the hospital, she had a baby last night,” he said, gravely. The first thing that came to my mind was the image of his wife laying down in a small hospital waiting for her husband. As a woman, I tried to imagine how it would feel to bring your first baby into the world, away from everyone you loved, in a country where you don’t even speak the language. I then thought how important getting a taxi for him was.
We walked to the centre of Mytilene together, but we couldn’t find one. In the meantime, the young Afghani told me that he needed a taxi so he could go to the transit camp where he was staying with his wife, pack all their stuff and go back to the hospital. After a while I found one. I asked the driver if he could take us, even though the man didn’t have any legal documents.
“Are you going to sort out everything if the police take my permit?” answered the driver. I didn’t know how to reply. I instantly thought that the Afghani man must have had a document from the hospital, and knowing the Greek culture and mentality – even if the police stopped us – if we explained that his wife had just given birth and we needed to pack their stuff, they would understand.

Fortunately the man had a document from the hospital so the driver accepted us. The Afghani man thanked me and introduced himself. His name was Ramish

During the ride and even though the taxi driver was speaking constantly, I was thinking about Ramish’s wife who’d gotten into a plastic boat nine months into her pregnancy. I don’t think I could ever do that. Half an hour later, we arrived at the hospital. The taximeter said 25 Euros. Ramish took his wallet out right away. But a Greek would never let a guest pay. And to me, Ramish was a vulnerable guest. He had to save his money for his wife and his newborn baby. I knew the exact expenses he would have to pay until he reached the Greek- Macedonian border. I knew how cold it would be in Northern borders of Greece. I promised him that he could buy me a drink once they were in Austria and I paid for the ride. It made me so happy to have helped him a little.

He took me to the hospital room where his wife was staying. Even though he couldn’t read any of the hospital’s signposts, he knew better than me the shortest way to his wife’s room.

When we arrived, she was lying on the bed wearing her black hijab. She was 24 years old and a very beautiful woman. For some reason she reminded me of Mother Mary. Unfortunately she didn’t speak any English, but I told to Ramish to congratulate her for the little girl and tell her how beautiful she was. She managed to thank me in English, repeatedly.
Ramish didn’t waste any time. He told me “wait, I am going to bring my daughter.” He looked so excited and I was, too I. After a few minutes he opened the door, dragging a small plastic trailer inside that held a very small baby covered in a blue blanket. He carried it like a little treasure chest.  He was a proud father and we took some photos with the baby and the whole family. Sadly his wife was so weak and in pain after the c-section.

 

 

SMLXL

 

 

 

I took some more photos, gave my number to Ramish and then walked out of the hospital. I was feeling very I took some more photos, gave my number to Ramish and then walked out of the hospital. I was so happy I met Ramish and his family and I hoped that they felt they’d gained their first Greek friend. Ramish messaged me later to thank me. After one or two days I messaged him asking whether he needed any help or anything from the market. I really wanted to visit them again but I had to find an excuse. Finally, we arranged to meet! Before heading to the hospital I thought that it would be a great idea to buy something for the baby. The only store open was a Chinese market where I found some baby clothes. I got a pink and a white babygrow, maybe the first baby clothes I’ve bought in my life and I headed towards the hospital. I even bought some necessities that the hospital couldn’t provide for the baby’s mother.

When I arrived, Ramish insisted again that he pay. I greeted his wife and then went with him and his cousin to a nearby cafe where he offered me some iced tea. He and his cousin talked to me about Afghanistan and their journey to Europe. Ramish told me he’d worked for the Afghan police and then for a security company. The fact that he was working for the Police made his life very dangerous there, so he’d decided to leave. Among other questions, I asked him what name he was thinking of for his newborn daughter. His reply not only surprised me but it made me a little overwhelmed. “I suggested to my wife that we name her Anna, because the doctor who helped her to give birth was named Anna and you are also Anna!” he said to me.

Later, he told me he wanted to offer me a bottle of wine. I told him it wouldn’t be a good idea as I was working in Lesvos and I wouldn’t be allowed to take it on the plane. It was a good excuse for not letting him spend any money on me. Finally he decided to give me his rosary from Kabul and I accepted with pleasure. Some days later I bumped into him and his cousin near the port. That was the last time I saw them. We went for a quick coffee and said goodbye. He and his family were leaving that night for Athens. Today, they are in Austria, trying to start a new life.

SMLXL