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After Chaotic Journey Through Europe, Syrian Teacher Arrives In Germany


Over the last few weeks, we've been following one of the tens of thousands of migrants fleeing to Europe. He's a teacher from Syria. We've tracked his journey from the Turkish coast to Greece and then northward to Macedonia. Joanna Kakissis caught up with him as he approached Hungary, the country that has thrown up the most roadblocks for these migrants.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: A little over a week ago, a bus stops at a migrant camp at a Serbian town near the Hungarian border. Hundreds of refugees get out. One is Monzer Omar, a teacher from Hamas, Syria. He's not sure where he is.

MONZER OMAR: We are in Kinjay, Kinjay?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It is actually called Kanjiza.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: We call it Kounjazi.

KAKISSIS: Omar is 33 married with two little girls back home in Syria. He has gentle eyes and usually smiles a lot, but tonight he's tense.

You guys, back up. It's a knife fight.

The camp is crowded and chaotic. He backs away from a knife fight that breaks out when too many people try to board a bus to another town. He wants to get out of here as soon as possible.

OMAR: It's a big problem for me. I just want to arrive to Germany and take a rest. We are ready.

KAKISSIS: Omar wants to go to Germany. He says Chancellor Angela Merkel has done more for Syrians than his fellow Arabs have.

OMAR: We call it the mother of Syrian people. She did a lot for Syrian people, more than Arab governments.

KAKISSIS: His wife and two small daughters are hiding in Syria, waiting for him to receive asylum and send for them.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Foreign language spoken).

KAKISSIS: He communicates with them and his parents through voice memos on his mobile phone.

OMAR: I remember my mother and father.

KAKISSIS: You miss them.

OMAR: More.

KAKISSIS: Tears stream down his face, and he puts his phone away.

OMAR: Maybe I will never see them again. But my wife and daughter - I hope I will see them in near future.

KAKISSIS: In the last month, he's traveled from Syria to Turkey to Greece, Macedonia and Serbia. He's about to walk two miles overnight to reach the Hungarian border. He and a few other Syrians walk on train tracks. He tells me later that they spent the night in cornfields so the police would not catch them. And he gets to Budapest where I meet with him again.

OMAR: How are you?

KAKISSIS: Have you gotten any sleep?


KAKISSIS: He's outside a rundown hotel that would charge them $20 just to sit in the courtyard.

He spends the night in a nearby city park, washing up in a water tap. The next day, he hears Hungary is letting migrants travel by train to Austria. He spends all day and all night waiting in the crowded station to buy a ticket. He's exhausted but hopeful.

OMAR: There is something that really makes you strong. That is the last stage.

KAKISSIS: But ticket sales to migrants are canceled just as he reaches the front of the line. I visit him as he spends the next three nights camped outside another rundown hotel that will not admit him.

How many smugglers have you met here tonight?

OMAR: Many.


On Saturday, good news. He's on a bus Austria. The Hungarian authorities bussed out migrants in Budapest after Austria and Germany agreed to take them. He sends a voice memo from the bus.

OMAR: I am on the border of Hungary and Austria - really, really joyful.

KAKISSIS: And on Sunday, he arrived in Germany where his story will continue. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Budapest. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.