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Football tickets

I still remember my days in Syria. I grew up in Aleppo as the only child in my family. Every Friday, after school, we would go with my father to watch our favourite football team, Al-Ittihad SC Aleppo, play.

I was always keen on football. We would play with my friends every day and we would discuss Friday’s match at school. I had my own special little tradition: I would keep mine and my dad’s tickets in the pocket of my favourite jacket after each match.

One day, as I was getting ready to go to school, I saw on the news that the rebels and extremists were closing into Aleppo. I was terrified and sad. When my parents saw me crying, they told me that everything was going to be fine and that I should not get scared or discouraged. They continued saying that education is really important for me and that I would not stop going to school no matter the cost. After hearing them I calmed down, I took some deep breaths and I left for school.

It was Friday so I had to be home soon in order to get ready for the game. I didn’t pay attention to my friends waving goodbye as I was leaving and thought: «until Sunday…»; a big mistake. Then I rushed back home full of joy and excitement for the upcoming match, only to see our home half-burnt and all the buildings around it destroyed.

I was shocked. I tried to enter the house through the front door but I failed as a broken piece of concrete and some burning scrap metal blocked my path. I then spotted my parents inside. I climbed through the shattered bathroom window and entered. My parents thought that they would never see me again so they cried. After calming down, my father said that we have to move fast. We quickly packed our bags; we took all the money we had and left. When I exited the house, my father told me to quickly go back in and grab my jacket, so I did.

After that we got into a van that my dad had arranged for us and drove for some hours to the old abandoned docks. We saw a lot of people there; more than fifty surely, waiting for a boat. When the boat arrived, everybody jumped in. My parents went first while I was so horrified that for a moment I couldn’t move. It was a long journey, many hours at sea. It was midnight, everybody was crazy from the cold and fatigue while I was sitting on the edge of the boat, hanging on for dear life.

Next thing I know, it was midday and some men wearing uniforms pulled me out of the boat shouting something in a language I didn’t know. Then, they wrapped me and my parents in a huge piece of aluminium foil to avoid hypothermia and put us in a green tent for a quick medical check-up. Later, I found out that we were lucky and had made it to Lesvos, a Greek island. Then, they drove us to a refugee camp and gave us a prefab to live in. Finally, after a long, tough journey I was able to take a rest. When I took out my jacket, I felt something unusual in the pocket. It looked like melted, wet paper and I instantly understood what it was!

Some months later, our documents were arranged and we were given a house in Lesvos, outside the refugee camp where we had been living for so long.

Now, I can proudly say that I live in a peaceful island with the most-friendly people and I go to a Greek school, where I have made a lot of friends; but I still remember my friends back home and those Friday matches…

Emmanouil Titos Stavrianakis
1st Model Middle School of Athens

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