Saleh, 38, is a Palestinian Syrian from Yarmouk camp, and worked as a nurse until the day he was paralyzed.
On Dec. 13, 2012, Saleh raced in an ambulance to a home in Yarmouk that had been hit by shelling. Two children, ages 5 and 9, were injured and trapped inside. While he was trying to rescue them, another shell hit the house, and his spine was crushed under the rubble. Unable to move, he watched both children die just two meters away from him. After he was finally rescued, he spent 6 weeks in a Damascus hospital, then went to Lebanon with his wife and four daughters for physical therapy. He hoped to go to Germany for more advanced medical treatment, but was not granted the visa because he is Palestinian and does not have a Syrian passport. He traveled to Turkey in April 2014, and attempted to fly to Libya so that he could ride a boat to Italy, but he was denied entry at the Tripoli airport. After several unsuccessful attempts, Saleh, his brother, and a few friends from Yarmouk took a boat packed with 150 refugees from Turkey to Greece. They landed on Symi Island. Saleh’s brother and friends carried him for four hours across the island, looking to turn themselves in to the police. Unfortunately, he fell and broke his hip and leg during this trek.
Five days later, and a year and a half after he left Syria, Saleh arrived in Athens on August 23. He still hopes to get to Germany, but his spirits are low. His injuries, the long separation from his wife and daughters, and his uncertain future are wearing him down.
Image and caption by Holly Pickett. Greece, 2014.
Holly reports with Joanna Kakissis from Greece, Sweden, Germany and Russia for the upcoming project “A War’s Diaspora: Syrian Refugees in a Troubled Europe.”