Mohamed with the book  "Stormy Seas" | Photo: ANSA
Mohamed with the book "Stormy Seas" | Photo: ANSA

Mohamed's story is just one of five stories of refugees from Nazism to the present day contained in a new book "Stormy Seas" by Canadian Mary Beth Letherdale, a children's book author.

A young migrant named Mohamed left the Ivory Coast in 2003, after his parents were killed by a bomb. His story, contained in the children's book "Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees", was told to ANSA by the book's author, Mary Beth Leatherdale, at the Bologna Children's Book Fair.

After leaving the Ivory Coast, Mohamed reached Libya, where, at the age of 15, he was imprisoned for five months. Mohamed eventually crossed the Mediterranean, risking drowning in a drifting boat. Finally he arrived on Malta but felt detained there too in a refugee camp. In 2010, he arrived in Italy, where he slept for months at Rome's main train station, Termini, along with other homeless people. 

Despite all of these hardships and suffering, Canadian children's book author Leatherdale, whose book also tells the story of four other young refugees, said that Mohamed today says "there are also opportunities" and that he "always tried to think about the positive sides of the enormous difficulties" he experienced. She said he "wants to give back the good" he has received. 

Mohamed's photos tell his story 

The book tells five true stories of young refugees, starting with Ruth, who fled Nazi Germany; to Mohamed, who today is 26 years old, lives in Rome, works as a doorman at a hotel, and in his free time enjoys taking photographs. 

"Some of my photos will be shown in a collective at the next Biennale in Venice," Mohamed said, smiling. "I never thought I would be a photographer, but it was a way to document what I lived through," he said, speaking fluent Italian that he learned, together with photography, at the Civico Zero reception center for unaccompanied minors. When he was at his lowest ebb, he was welcomed by the center and helped and now he gives back by teaching photography to the new young arrivals who attend each week.  

"I also created a kind of workshop program in Africa, and every year I go to Mali for two-three months and to Kenya to hold photography workshops," he said. 

'No one happily leaves the place they were born' 

"Sharing stories is very important, and it was exciting to meet Mary Beth Leatherdale," Mohamed said. He added that it can be difficult for migrants and refugees to find a place they feel comfortable in a society in which they weren't born or raised.

"Before asking why people come to Europe, we should ask ourselves why they leave their homes?" he says. "No one happily leaves the place they were born. If they do, it's because they can't stay there." Despite everything he has lived through, he feels lucky, because he was raised with strong values by his parents. "They put deeds before words," he says. "Even in the most tragic moments, I always knew that I would do something good in life someday." 

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