Afghan boy’s 4 year search for lost family

The refugee camp near the Belgrade, Serbia bus terminal where Caritas distributed hygiene kits that include: soap, shampoo, sanitary napkins, toothbrushes, toothpaste, diapers and clothing for infants. Photos by Kira Horvath for Catholic Relief Services

A refugee camp near the Belgrade, Serbia bus terminal where Caritas distributed hygiene kits that include: soap, shampoo, sanitary napkins, toothbrushes, toothpaste, diapers and clothing for infants. Photos by Kira Horvath for Catholic Relief Services

During a distribution of 600 hygiene kits to the refugees staying near the Belgrade city bus station, Caritas colleagues Dusan Peric and Roberta del Prete met Ali. Grey haired and looking years beyond his age, he told them his story.

“My name is Ali and I’m 15 years old now, even if I know I look older. I’m from Afghanistan. My family lived in a village near Kabul. We were seven in total. Now I don’t know where they are.

“It’s when I was 11 years old. It took just one night, 6 hours, to lose everything and for my world to change. Some people arrived in our village. We thought that they were nomads so were not afraid. But the next morning, the rest of my family was gone.

“My father’s friends said they’d take care of me. But they sent me to Iran. I stayed there on my own for 4 years, living and working in a laundry shop. I did ironing for 12 hours a day. I earned enough to eat and to study English. I knew it was essential to take this trip. I decided to leave and go to Germany.

“Before leaving for Europe, I went back to my village in Afghanistan to search my family, but I just found my house totally destroyed. It was a really nice house, with trees, a huge backyard and we also had goats. Now, there’s nothing.

“In Turkey, I ran into my uncle in a centre. Now I’m travelling with him, his wife and children. that’s why we are going quite slowly, also because my aunt is pregnant.

“I arrived in Belgrade two days. Serbia is the first country in which we were treated as persons. At the moment, I have everything: clothes, some money, my Smartphone. I have everything I need, but I don’t have my everything, you know what I mean?”

“I’m planning to reach the Hungarian border. I have friends in Horgos updating me on the situation. I will try that route anyway, then if it’s not possible, I will try to enter in Croatia and Slovenia. Then I will go to Austria. I want to go to Germany, but I think also Austria could be a good place to start a new life.

“Two months ago, I found on Facebook one of my brothers, who is now living in Augsburg. I didn’t believe I finally found him, since in all these years I never stopped searching my family, but I wasn’t lucky.

“As soon as we spoke on the phone, we immediately recognized each other: it was an amazing joy for me. I’m looking forward to see him, but I also want to know where are my parents and the other brothers and sisters. I want to kiss my mother and my father too.”

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