As news reports offer images of thousands of Syrians escaping war-torn areas by foot, pushing onto packed trains and risking overcrowded boat journeys, there are some stories with happy endings. The Syrian family highlighted in a GT cover story (“Courage Under Bombs,” Oct. 2, 2013) has now made their way to Germany.
Suha, her husband Toni and their two children fled their birth country to Lebanon, as GT covered two years ago, but they never gave up hope of eventually getting to Europe. “The journey of the last four years was so stressful, yet our eagerness to survive was like a torch amidst the mess,” Suha tells GT via Skype.
The family paid a Lebanese smuggler $11,000 last October to get Toni from Beirut to Germany. Once Toni was established in Germany, the family was able to receive German visas. After 10 months of separation, the family was reunited in July in Butzbach, north of Frankfurt. Suha says they sold property in Syria to pay the smuggler.
“A lot of people envied us that we had papers from the embassy and we [could] go by visa to Germany,” Suha says. “Most people are seeking such papers and no country is taking refugees through the U.N., which would be safer than people paying cheaters and bad guys to do smuggling.”
Suha adds that because Toni looks “a bit European” he decided to use a Maltese passport to fly to Germany, via a maze of airports and hotels. “It’s safer than going [by boat] across the Mediterranean Sea,” she explains. “Toni went through Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia, China, Russia, and Austria. He went to countries where you don’t show a visa if you’re European. Every step was difficult; we prayed a lot.”
The update about Suha’s family comes shortly after Germany announced it would be taking in 800,000 refugees a year. The United States announced it would soon begin taking in 100,000 refugees annually—30,000 more than the current yearly allotment, at least 10,000 of whom would be Syrian.
Suha says that her children, ages 6 and 10, are happy to be safe and secure. German neighbors have offered the family bicycles, babysitters and emotional support. Suha provides translation for newly arrived Syrian families and is taking German classes.
“Here we are in a peaceful land, under a blue clear sky, where there’s no bloody dawns, no more bombs,” Suha says, adding that she hopes to bring her parents and siblings to Germany. “We don’t know what will happen in Europe in the future; there’s a kind of boiling now,” she says. “Does Germany have what it will take to embrace this number of people?”
Presently, Suha is grateful to be in Germany. “You can’t imagine how rich with happiness and serenity I am,” she says. “After all of our moving, I can say that a homeland is the place where you feel safe. We won’t forget our country, but for now we are safe here.” JOHN MALKIN
Just two months after State Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) told GT that his “Right-to-Die” bill would go on a two-year track (“Spirited Debate,” July 29), an almost-identical bill is now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Brown has indicated he isn’t crazy about how it got there, but he hasn’t given any signal as to whether or not he’ll sign it.
Lawmakers got the bill passed, thanks to something of a loophole, after Brown called a special session on healthcare earlier this month. In the special session, committee schedules got shuffled, and a few opponents of the right-to-die bill couldn’t make it to an assembly health committee meeting.
So supporters held a vote on the new End of Life Act, and it passed. The bill, which Assemblymembers Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) and Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) helped introduce, then passed the assembly and state senate. Monning is listed as a co-author. JACOB PIERCE