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Syrian Refugee Reflects On His Arduous Journey To Germany

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The flood of Syrian refugees into Germany these past days has offered a tableau of misery, desperation and, ultimately, relief and joy. Trekking among the thousands was the young man we're about to meet. Ahmad Akkad is 25, from Damascus. Two years ago, facing conscription into Syria's army as a civil war raged, he fled - first to Dubai, where he lived illegally, then on to Turkey where he joined the exodus of refugees and migrants. Welcome to the program.

AHMAD AKKAD: Hi, good morning.

MONTAGNE: From Turkey, through Greece into Hungary before getting to Germany - what was the most difficult part of that journey for you?

AKKAD: It was that small rubber boat from Turkey to Greece through the sea. You know, it's a small boat, big waves, and it's dangerous with children, women, their children crying, you know.

MONTAGNE: Now, this is one of those inflatable boats overfilled with people like yourself.

AKKAD: Yeah. We tried two times. The first time, the boat sink because it's all full of people, like 55. So at sea, we swim back to the beach. So we tried another time. Second time, it was OK. We reached Greece, yes, and no one get hurt.

MONTAGNE: And then once you got to Greece, went through to Hungary, how were you treated when you did finally arrive to Hungary?

AKKAD: Not good at all. Not good at all. When we arrived, they took us to the camp. They put us outside. It was raining, windy. It was night. We were not allowed to leave the camp. After that, we agreed altogether, all people inside the camp, to make strike. After that, they agreed to open the gate, and we went to Budapest.

MONTAGNE: OK, Budapest would have been the train station that we've all seen. What about you? What was your situation when you were there?

AKKAD: The people are very lovely there. They give us food, water, clothes. But when you go on the train, they cut you back. So we planned with all the people there to go in one train so police cannot do anything. So we all got tickets on one train to the border. Then from border to Austria, we walked.

MONTAGNE: Now, Austria, you would've gotten through pretty easily.

AKKAD: Well, very easy - also, they were waiting there for us. They asked if anyone needs a doctor. They give out blankets, jackets. They provide buses to take us to the train station to continue our journey.

MONTAGNE: When you finally showed up in Germany, what was the first thing that happened to you?

AKKAD: Actually, the first city I arrived to, it was Munich. I was surprised when I entered the train station, a lot of people just waiting for us.

MONTAGNE: And they had food and drinks and...

AKKAD: Yes, everything. They even give cell phone card.

MONTAGNE: Well, that must have been welcome to get your cell phones all organized.

AKKAD: (Laughter).

MONTAGNE: Well, you sound very happy. Do you think you'll go back to Syria, or are you changing everything in your life?

AKKAD: Actually, it depends. If the war ends there, I think I'll go back to Syria. It's my hometown. My family's there - my father and my mother and my little brother there, so I think I will go back.

MONTAGNE: Ahmad Akkad is a refugee from Syria. He spoke to us from where he is, which, at the moment, is a camp north of Berlin.

AKKAD: Thank you. It was nice talking to you guys. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.