A Syrian boy’s journey to Germany


A Syrian boy’s journey to Germany


© UNICEF Video – Nawwar plays with Alec at the Nelson Mandela School in Germany. The two became good friends when Alec acted as Nawwar’s translator when he first arrived. Nawwar now excels in school and continues to make many new friends.


By Thomas Nybo

Nawwar and his family made the difficult journey from their Syrian home to Germany, with the assistance of some imaginary friends. Find out how he’s doing now that he’s back in school.

BERLIN, Gemany/HONG KONG, 2 May 2016 – How does a child deal with a dangerous sea crossing as his family flees the Syrian Arabic Republic in search of a safer life in Europe? For 7-year-old Nawwar, it was a group of imaginary friendly polar bears, floating on ice, that protected his family as they travelled in a crowded raft across the sea from Turkey to Greece.

“We have seen friendly white bears when we were going on the boat,” Nawwar says without equivocation. “The best part of my journey was the white bears.”


A perilous journey

In the past year, hundreds of children have drowned on that journey, many of them babies and toddlers. Nawwar and his family were among the lucky ones.

“The most difficult part was sleeping on rocks and climbing up mountains and down mountains – up and down,” Nawwar says. “It was a real hard journey.

“It’s a long story.”

A school and a friend

© UNICEF Video
Seven-year-old Nawwar and his family travelled from Syria through Turkey and Greece, eventually landing in Germany. During the dangerous sea crossing, he imagined he was protected by friendly polar bears.

The short version of the story has Nawwar arriving in Berlin three months ago and enrolling in the Nelson Mandela School, a UNESCO international school that defines itself as a miniature United Nations and embraces a diverse student body. Students come from more than 60 countries, and its bilingual curriculum instructs children in both English and German.

“I wasn’t even going to school in Syria,” Nawwar says.

His transition back into classes was made easier by another 7-year-old boy, Alec, who acted as Nawwar’s German translator. The two quickly grew close.

“Alec is a good friend, and I play with him a lot,” Nawwar says. “We play LEGOs and Minecraft.”

Alec speaks proudly of his newest friend.

“It’s really interesting that he went really far,” Alec says. “He started in Syria, travelled to Turkey, then to Greece, and then to Germany. And he’s learned so much German already. It’s really amazing.”


A top welcome for a top reader

Like many Syrian people, Nawwar learned to speak English as a young child. Even though he had to leave school because of the fighting, his skills in the classroom have impressed Alec.

“I would like to tell you that he’s one of the best readers in our class,” Alec says. “And he’s made a lot of friends so far, and he probably will make many more friends this school year, and he’s just really good in school.

“Everybody is very happy that we have him here.”