Waled and Hana had a happy and thriving family life in Idlib, including a restaurant business and their own home. After their house was shelled and they lost family members, they decided they had no choice but to flee for safety. They now live in Pafos and have to rely on charity and community support to keep food on the table.
Waled Alkhef, 53, and his wife, Hana Shahin, 39, from Syria, live today in Pafos with their eight children on subsidiary protection status.
They fled Idlib, Syria in 2017 after they lost their home and close relatives from airstrikes and explosions. “Our house was destroyed by the bombardments in Idlib. When my father and brother lost their lives, we decided that we could no longer wait for the war to end. We had to leave and find a safe place for us and our family,” says Hana.
Waled longs for the peaceful life the family once had back home: “We had a good life in Syria; we didn’t need any help from anyone. We had our house, a car, I owned a restaurant which afforded us a decent living. But we lost everything.”
Building a life in a new country as a refugee can be very challenging, especially for a big family. While Waled works occasionally, this is not enough to ensure food on the table for all, and the family has become reliant on charity and community support to cover basic needs.
Waled and Hana in their home in Pafos with five out of their eight children. © UNHCR Cyprus/Sebastian Rich
Despite the hardships, Waled and Hana choose not to lose hope and they’re grateful for what they have: safety and education for their children.
“We feel safe in Cyprus. It’s important that we don’t live everyday with the fear…. I’m happy that my children can go to school, get education and hope for a future,” says Walid.
Indeed, for an entire generation of Syrian children who have known nothing but crisis and exile their whole lives, education is key in reestablishing a sense of normalcy and enabling them to dream of a better future.