After Harrowing Journey, Syrian Teacher Finally Rests In Germany
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
We first met Monzer Omar in Turkey. The 33-year-old teacher fled there from Syria. NPR began tracking his journey in Izmir, Turkey, when he was trying to board a smuggler's boat to Greece. We followed him as he made his way through the chaos in Hungary, attempting to reach Austria. And now he's made it to his final destination. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley caught up with him.
MONZER OMAR: Hello.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hello. Very nice to meet you.
OMAR: You also. Nice to meet you too. You are so tired, yeah?
BEARDSLEY: No. I'm OK.
Even though he's been the one on the move, Monzer Omar politely asks me if I'm tired. We meet in front of the residence where he and about a hundred other migrants from Syria are being housed in the Northern German town of Warendorf. Omar offers to pull my small suitcase as we walk into town to get something to eat. We make our way along a tree-lined pedestrian and bike path. Omar's been in Germany a month already, but some things are still hard to get used to, like adults riding bicycles.
OMAR: Oh, you are a big man. Why drive a bike? It's for kids.
BEARDSLEY: While we walk, he tells me about his wife and two tiny daughters he's left behind in Syria. Omar keeps in touch with them through Viber, an application on his cell phone. He says life became unbearable in his hometown of Hama this summer.
OMAR: You can't sleep. You can't eat. You can't work. You can't do anything - just guns, bombs.
OMAR: Yeah, yeah, bombing barrels.
BEARDSLEY: He's talking about the barrel bombs Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's forces drop on urban areas. Omar says Assad and the Islamic State are just two sides of the same coin. We decide to eat in a kebab restaurant.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).
OMAR: A Syrian man (laughter).
OMAR: Yeah, yeah.
BEARDSLEY: Omar's quite surprised to find the place's owned by a Syrian Kurd who immigrated to Germany 17 years ago.
BEARDSLEY: Though his English isn't perfect, Omar speaks easily and talks openly about his feelings. He says in Germany, he no longer has to worry about getting enough to eat or where he'll sleep, but he wakes each day to new worries.
OMAR: We hope to listen good news about us what will happen. Maybe today will take us to make an interview with us to record our names, to doing our papers - official papers.
BEARDSLEY: He's anxious to complete his residency paperwork and begin his new life. But every day, there's nothing, says Omar, only breakfast, lunch and dinner. His wife is expecting another child in five months, and they were hoping it would be born here in Germany. But he doubts it now because everything seems to take so long.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Praying in Arabic).
OMAR: This is - you know what this?
BEARDSLEY: All of a sudden, Omar's phone blares out a recording of the call to prayer.
BEARDSLEY: Do you pray?
OMAR: Yeah, I pray.
BEARDSLEY: Omar says he prays for his family and for peace. He shakes his head over the idea that the migrants' Muslim faith could ever be a threat to Europe. We are fleeing those extremists, he says. Omar believes God has brought him to Germany to find a better life.
OMAR: Everybody have something in his heart, everybody. You can't live without religion - Christian, Jewish, Muslim. It's something good to have a faith in your heart as a human.
BEARDSLEY: As I leave Monzer Omar to catch my train, I can't help thinking that for the first time, he's staying put. Monzer Omar is home. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Warendorf, Germany. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.