Mementos of a lost homeland

written by Europeana on June 21, 2018 in Content and Europeana Migration and Events with no comments

When we asked people to share their stories and symbolic objects of migration, the responses submitted could be largely separated into two categories: those who emigrated by choice, and those who did not.

Refugees. Cyprián Majerník, Slovak National Gallery, Public DomainRefugees. Cyprián Majerník, Slovak National Gallery, Public Domain

Heartbreaking stories of asylum seeking throughout history have been showcased from those who were made refugees and struggled to find new homes for themselves in foreign countries. Perhaps none more so relevant in the wake of World Refugee Day are those then those have been recently disposed from their homes, and their lives, in Syria.  

People like Khalil, who left the port city of Latakia, Syria for Brussels. Khalil’s story centers on the prayer beads that he holds dear as a symbol of his homeland, and a self-drawn picture that shows the horrors of war that he and his family experience.

Khalil’s Misbaha Prayer Beads and his drawing ‘Stop the War’.
Contribution to Europeana Migration, CC BY-SA

Khalil describes the horrors of war, the use of chemical weapons and the great burden this has placed on Syria. He refers to Belgium as his ‘current home’.

Another refugee, an independent journalist and Kurdish Syrian, too vividly highlights the horrors and trauma of their experience, submitting an image of their crumbled home.

They write, ‘I did not see a street where my house and my family’s house where located. I found a large mountain of stones, burnt houses and a completely destroyed street. It was a difficult situation and I found my dreams and memories under the stones of my ruined house.’

House in AleppoHouse in Aleppo. ‘Escape from Hell’ contribution to European Migration, CC BY-SA

They too describe the horrors of war. Of the death and destruction, and now asylum and safety in Austria.

They write, ‘I want freedom. I want democracy. I want justice…. Austrian police came and saved our lives. Austrian police gave me care and help, so I asked to stay in Austria and I am now happy.’

At Collection days, where the public are invited to share their migration stories and objects, people speak of the catharsis they feel as a result of sharing their experiences. Asylum seeking transforms one notion of home and identity. Sharing and archiving our personal stories stands as an expression of identity and legacy, even in times when these are challenged or transformed.

Do you have a story to share about seeking a new home? Share your stories with Europeana Migration.