Thursday, 8 February 2018


I instantly fell in love with Nujeen Mustafa from the first page of reading this book. Her story is one that ought to be told, over and over again. In short, this book will make you cry and it will make you laugh but above all, it will provide you with an agonisingly raw glimpse into the realities of life as a refugee and the arduous journey that so many Syrians feel that they have no alternative but to embark upon. 

Born with celebral palsy, Nujeen spent most of her life in a wheelchair and was bound to the constraints of her apartment in Kobane. With little formal education, she relied on television programmes and books to teach herself English and to absorb as much knowledge as she possibly could about the world around her, which she so desperately longed to experience but couldn't. 

When her home town became the backdrop of fighting between Daesh militants and Kurdish forces, her family were forced to flee the border into Turkey and eventually, her and her sister would embark upon the most dangerous journey of their lives; across Mediterranean waters and into Germany. 

Her positivist attitude and her zest for life shines through the book. You smile along with her, as she frequently lapses into lengthy narratives about her views on the world and how she thinks it ought to be run. She has a naive sense of hopeless wonder about her, yet she is also wise beyond her meagre  eighteen years, knowledgeable and all too aware about the world's misfortunes. 

All too frequently, the war is Syria is reported as a disembodied phenomena. But it is far from it. People are at the centre of the violence. Entire families have been separated and communities have been torn apart. Nujeen's story is just one, but there are thousands more like hers which need to be told. Her story reveals the very real effects the war has had on families and how individuals caught up in the violence attempt to make sense of it all. 

Upon her arrival into Europe, her accounts of unwelcoming hosts disgusted me to my core. I felt rather embarrassed by it all. We are all humans. Why do we seem to forget that? Western European sentiment towards influxes of Syrian refugees talk of Islam as if it's a disease and as if Syrian refugees are carriers of it, who must be quarantined and sent away. How can countries like Lebanon be expected to take huge migrant populations, despite how it is already hugely stretched for resources and space, yet the UK continues to turn its back on almost an entire country made homeless. 

Today, Nujeen lives in Germany and goes to school. She has been reunited with several of her family members. In some ways, you could describe Nujeen's story as a happy ending. But of course, it would be inaccurate to do so. She still yearns for the days of childhood in Syria and to feel like she belongs, a dream which has simply  and perhaps never will be realised as a refugee in Germany.

Antonia x


  1. I've been meaning to read this for a while. I remember watching Nujeen on the news when she was trying to cross the border, its such an inspiring story

  2. She is absolutely inspirational.


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