“I love myself and my daughters; when I felt that ‘I saved them’, I knew we would make it”
The beautiful 34-year-old woman who welcomes us to her home in Athens is a refugee from Iran, a divorced mother of two and she chooses to introduce herself to us as ‘Maria’.
Maria speaks farsi and some greek. Talking with her is very pleasant; her hands are as lively as her eyes when she narrates her life so far. Eyes and hands grow even more vibrant when her two daughters, 4 and 10, enter the room.
When Maria and her children came to Athens, after living for a while in Moria camp in Lesvos island and in Malakasa camp, they joined SolidarityNow’s accommodation program*. They lived again in a “normal home”, as Maria says, one she wouldn’t leave from the first three months – “I guess I needed to feel safe first“. But after she got out of it, Maria didn’t give up. Leaving her country, she decided she would never live again in a state of fear, relying on no one else but herself; being free to choose her own future. This is how it is – and still is today.
While Maria was a beneficiary of the organization’s accommodation program, she took Greek lessons, received psychological support and her children began school. “For the first time in my life I felt someone was listening to me“, Maria says, thanking SolidarityNow’s social worker. At the same time, she attended classes and received her diploma as a nail technician. Today, she works in an Afghan store downtown Athens.
The future belongs to the three women. They have been granted asylum in Greece and have moved on to the next step from SolidarityNow’s accommodation program, the integration program and are now beneficiaries of Helios**. This means that for the next six months, the duration of the program, Maria has time to be more empowered and financially independent.
What about the past? “I cannot delete what has happened, but I have managed to keep only the positives, which of course are my children. Still, it is also the power I discovered within. A power that enabled me to do all the things necessary to get away from the abuse, the insecurity and the humiliation that my children’s father presented as if it was affection. I love myself and my daughters; when I felt that ‘I saved them’, I knew we would make it. I’ll be their best example”.
* ESTIA, the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation program, is implemented by UNHCR and funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union.
** Hellenic Integration Support for Beneficiaries of International Protection by IOM (International Organization for Migration)