Cricket-player. Member of the Hungarian National Team. Refugee.
“I want to play well for this country.”
Zeeshan, 19 years old: “Today, I think of Hungary as my own country, and love to wear the jersey of the national team. When we play, I want to play well for this country.”
“I like my school and the cricket team. I do not have problems with anything here. The only problem is I miss my family so much it sometimes hurts. I miss my parents, my little sister and brother.”
“When we flew to Malta with the national team, it was my first time on a plane. At take-off I told the others there was no way I would get on board again. I would rather run back to Hungary. Then we laughed a lot, and I forgot about being scared.
“I want to live in Hungary. My friends who made it to Belgium, Austria and other European countries call me all the time to join them, but I haven’t gone for four years nor will go in the future.”
Just over four years ago, the Taliban militia used an intermediary to send a terrifying message to Zeeshan’s family, living near Peshawar, Pakistan: Join us or die. There was no time to hesitate – the family sent Zeeshan running, even though he was only 14.
After a nine-month perilous journey, the teenager arrived in Hungary in a cargo container on the back of a truck. In January, 2013 he officially became a refugee. Not long after, on a visit to Budapest’s leafy Margaret Island, a recreational centre in the Danube River, he was delighted to find men from India and the UK playing cricket.
Back in Pakistan, Zeeshan had played cricket from dawn to dusk. Hungary is not known as a cricket powerhouse, and his talent was quickly spotted by officials of the Hungarian Cricket Association. In a flash, he was a member of Hungary’s national team, and off to Malta to help Hungary win a silver medal in the eight-nation Malta International Tournament 2013. That glory came a mere six months after he was granted refugee status in Hungary.
“I do not think about going back to Pakistan,” he says. “Whenever I leave Hungary, one or two days later I already feel homesick. The only thing I dream of today is my family coming here, so I could be with them again.”
Refugees. Ordinary people living through extraordinary times. Share their stories.