Former refugees concerned: ‘My father is now afraid that war will come here’ –

Former refugees concerned: ‘My father is now afraid that war will come here’ –

“During dinner, it’s not about anything else.” The war in Ukraine is a constant topic of conversation between Larissa Al Bazi (27) and her family. He came to the Netherlands as a baby, his Syrian family fled Iraq. “My family is very concerned. They fear that it will worsen and that there will be war here too, that we will have to flee again.”

His father fears that compulsory military service will be introduced and his 25-year-old son will have to join the army. “My father was traumatized by this. He jokes that we need to get a visa for a remote place, and I really don’t know if it’s a joke.”


Former refugees react sharply to the situation in Ukraine, says psychiatrist Imma van Galen of ARQ Centrum’45, who specializes in complex psychotrauma complaints. “You see images of corpses, people seeking refuge in Ukraine, and you hear the sound of air strikes and bombings on TV or on the radio. They have experienced fear and despair and it is their turn. If you have PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – it can lead to increased symptoms such as nightmares.”

Van Galen says leaving home and the stove is understandable, especially for people who run away from it. Whether they have experienced the war in Syria, Afghanistan or the former Yugoslavia. “It confuses everything. The overwhelming fear of death, of losing loved ones and having to leave everything behind. Now in Ukraine we see people crossing the border with one suitcase again.”

Visual artist Elma Čavčić contributes to the impact of the war images. He himself does not remember how he fled from the former Yugoslavia to the Netherlands at the age of 2, but it all goes back to his family. He incorporates his experience into his work.

The war in Ukraine also evokes memories for Jehad Tabasha. He works for Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland and fled Syria eight years ago. “The situation in Ukraine raises a lot of emotions. When I saw what happened in Ukraine, it is almost the same as what I experienced in Syria. People are afraid of losing their loved ones or that they will die. It’s the same fear. By the way, what country do you live in? It’s painful to watch because I know how the Ukrainian people feel right now.”

bitter comparison

Al Bazi says the events in Ukraine are painful in another way, too. She struggles to see how different Ukrainian refugees are perceived. “A US journalist said on television that this is different from refugees from Syria because they are white Christians. I don’t know the context, but it hurts so much. There is no comparison and neither should we.”

Jehad Tabasha is also aware of this double feeling. “It is also very sad that some refugees are more easily accepted than others. After all, the pain of war and violence is the same no matter where it comes from. Even the enemy is the same: the Russians have bombed Syria too. Poland opens its borders to Ukrainian Ukrainians, not to other nationalities fleeing Ukraine. I feel sorry for the unwelcome people, but I’m happy for the refugees. Fortunately, their lives were saved.

Source: NOS