I’ll never forget finding lost boy’s mum

Publié: 10 mai 2016 17:22 CET

Badi Hadad is among the hundreds of Croatian Red Cross workers who have been responding to the migration crisis since it erupted last summer. The 30-year-old explains what it means to be Syrian and supporting people from your home country as they face the toughest time of their lives.

I was born in Homs, Syria.  I would not recognise the place now.  It has been reduced to rubble by five years of fighting – flattened. I left Syria in 2004 when I won a scholarship to study mining, geology and engineering in Croatia. I arrived in Zagreb, got to grips with the Croatian language and nine years later I had two degrees.

Everything changed in the summer of 2015.  Seeing people from my country, and other places that have been ravaged by war, having to leave everything behind and try to find a life in Europe was so painful – I wanted to do something to help. My only wish was to try make those people happier and to make their dangerous trip to a safer future easier. So I contacted the Croatian Red Cross and began straight away as a translator which then led me to the Restoring Family Links team. Being part of that team is incredible. Our job is to try and reconnect people with lost family members or people they love. Sometimes families are separated by thousands of miles because of war. Sometimes it is a devastated mum whose little boy’s hand slipped through hers in a crowd and the chaos of transit camp somewhere.

There is one special case that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

One day last year in the transit centre in Opatovac, I spotted a little boy. He was about five years old and stood on his own, crying and looking around for someone. I went over to him and hugged him and tried to calm him down – this little guy was so scared and beginning to panic. I felt that panic rise in me too – that day people had been moving through the camp quickly, on to the next leg of their journey, and we had 4,000 people waiting to catch the bus to Slovenia.

I grabbed a megaphone and started pacing through the huge crowd, asking over and over again if anyone had lost their child. I walked around and around, hoping that someone would come forward.  Suddenly, there she was – the little boy’s mum ran through the throngs of people crying and shouting “that is my son”. She threw her arms around me and asked me if I had kids of my own.  “Not yet,” I told her. She said she would pray for me to be blessed with one beautiful and healthy boy one day because I brought her boy back to her.

The family invited me to their tent where I was greeted with 20 Syrians, many of whom were from my hometown Homs. As we were sat together, someone started to sing an old Syrian song and we all joined in together. For a moment, it brought us all some relief and reminded us of happier times at home. It’s impossible for me to describe how I felt in that moment.

It’s hard to sum up the last year – there have been many highs and lows and I’ve been in situations I could never have predicted. One day, we had a group of VIPs come to our transit centre. It turned out to be the Prime Minister of Croatia and it was an honour to shake his hand.  Sometime later, some of the Red Cross volunteers were invited to the office of the Croatian President. I’m proud to say I was among those that represented our teams there

Even though the Balkan route has officially closed, our work continues and there is much to do in other centres in Croatia now and we continue to provide support. The toughest part of our work is seeing people suffering and hearing their painful stories but I never let them see how that makes me feel, as a Syrian, as a human. I always have a smile on my face when talk to people because it's my job to make them feel comfortable and safe, for the short time they are in Croatia. People face an uncertain future  but our work goes on and we continue to try and do our best.