Leen*, 11, is from Damascus in Syria. She came to Sweden as a refugee five years ago. She lives in northern Sweden with her family. Her memories of their home in Damascus are both peaceful and violent.
“We lived in a cosy apartment, my brother and I had our own playroom,” Leen says about their home.
But the on-going war was always close.
“I was at my aunt’s house and needed to go to the toilet,” Leen says. “But I was afraid of bombs… And after a long time arguing with my mum, I went… And then a bomb struck really close. I broke the toilet seat; I was so scared.”
“[The war] became normal. We had fun. I could come to my mum’s work. And mostly, nothing happened.”
Leen’s father went to Sweden first. He paid to be smuggled by sea and entered Europe, like so many others, through Greece. He travelled to Sweden and six months later his family was allowed to join him, travelling safely on a regular flight.
“I didn’t think it was dad,” Leen says about meeting her father at the airport in Stockholm after being apart for half a year. “But then I recognised him. And he came towards us, and I hugged him.”
Parents sometimes have a harder time building relationships in a new country. Save the Children works with newly arrived families, to support and find ways to empower them to find friends and a coherent social environment. Feeling safe and that you are in control is essential when finding your way into a new society.
Children usually connect to their new environment faster than their parents. Leen went to school right away, joined the scouts and played football for a while in their new hometown in northern Sweden.
“A good friend is kind and cares about others,” Leen says. “And stays with you and supports you.”
“My mum and dad are my role models,” Leen says. “It is like a ‘future-machine’ when I see them. They have it the way I would like to have it later in life.”