Douaa Alkoka, a Syrian refugee who now lives in the Italian region of Calabria, told the story of her migrant journey and reception in Italy during a press conference in which the UNHCR report Global Trends was presented. Alkoka described the many difficulties of being a Syrian fleeing her country.
The story of Douaa Alkoka is one of a Syrian refugee who left her country of origin as a young girl, in search of a future with her family and medical treatment for her father.
Today, Alkoka lives in the town of Camini, in the Italian region of Calabria. Her migrant journey included difficulties in Lebanon and eventually the chance to come to Italy, where she finally found the peace she had been seeking for such a long time.
Alkoka, originally from Damascus and now 19 years old, told her story on Thursday, June 18, during a press conference to present the UNHCR report Global Trends
"It was difficult to leave my country," Alkoka said, visibly moved. "You leave all your memories behind, the joy that you felt," she said.
The journey to save her father
"I've been in Italy for four years, but I left my country many years ago for various reasons," she said. "The first was the war, and then for my father's health problems. In Syria it was difficult to find a solution, and we had to leave to find a special operation for my father," Alkoka said.
"I left Syria as a little girl, at nearly nine years old. We went to Lebanon, where we encountered many difficulties. We ended up in a place where they don't want people like us," she said. "With a lot of struggle we managed to find a room to stay in. There were seven of us, and we stayed there for three years. Those were the hardest years of my life. We didn't manage to attend school well. They treated us badly. We really had a lot of problems, until we found out that we could do my father's operation in Italy. They called us to come here," she said, adding that when the family learned the news, "we felt sad and happy at the same time."
"We were happy for my father, because it's difficult to see a father who is ill without being able to do anything about it. But we were sad because we had to leave our country and we were going really far away, without knowing if we would go back one day."
Arrival in Italy, a new life
She said her family was lucky because they didn't have to cross the sea to come to Italy. "When we arrived, in the beginning, it was difficult because everyone spoke Italian and we didn't understand what they were saying," Alkoka said.
When the family reached Lamezia Terme, they met Rosario Zurzolo, president of the Eurocoop Servizi company that was responsible for the accommodation project. "He accompanied us to Camini. In the beginning we weren't happy. We felt that we were truly far away from our country, finding ourselves in a place where we didn't know if we would be OK or not," she said.
"But when we started to speak Italian, to go to school, we felt happy. We realized we had found a place where people cared about us. We found peace, which we hadn't had for a long time," she said. In Camini, where Douaa is the local representative of the Pro Loco tourist information office, she managed to continue her studies, something she said had been impossible both in Syria as well as in Lebanon. She said today she feels "happy to have come to Italy, above all to Camini; there are special people here."