Four months on the road from Afghanistan to Athens

Published: 15 October 2015 15:00 CET

By Charlotte Hyest, IFRC

Roman is a 20-year-old police officer from Afghanistan. He left his country in fear of his life. “The day I was beaten by people from my own country, I understood I had to leave,” he says. As a sergeant at the police station, the threat was permanent. “The night of the beating, I came back to my parents’ house covered in blood. Together we decided I had to leave the country to stay alive.”

In the face of continuous violence, Roman says he was relieved when he decided to leave, but also sad and scared. “I was afraid to imagine myself far from my family, especially from my grandmother, whom I love so much,” he says.

His journey from Baghlân in Afghanistan to Athens, Greece has taken four months. He walked through Afghanistan to Iran, where he stayed for two months to earn the money he needed to reach Europe. Roman describes his trip from Turkey as the worst experience of his life. The rubber boat started taking in water, and soon it capsized and sank. “I swam in the cold water, in the middle of the night,” he says. “I did not know where I was. It was chaos. I thanked God I had bought a lifejacket.”

With tears in his eyes, Roman explains that he was lucky to be rescued by the coast guard, and that others were not so fortunate. The memory of a woman travelling on the same boat, who disappeared with her son into the dark water, still lingers.

Relief, Dignity and Respect from the Red Cross

This year, over 3,000 people people have died or disappeared while crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Today Roman is staying at Ellinikó, a former Olympic complex on the outskirts of Athens, now transformed into an accommodation facility for migrants. Here, the Hellenic Red Cross provides humanitarian assistance on a regular basis, in cooperation with authorities, the host community and other agencies. The volunteers at the society distribute food, water bottles and clothes, and provide first aid and health information.

Roman is able to give something back to the Red Cross, offering translation from Farsi to English. “It is good to feel useful,” he says.

After four months of hard travel, Roman says he is grateful to be treated with dignity and respect. “The volunteers from the Hellenic Red Cross treat us as human beings, as equals,” he says.“When I help others, I feel born again.”