• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Syrian refugee jumps for joy after finding asylum in Moldova

Telling the Human Story, 19 November 2012

© Dimitri Doru
Raghid Jened became a refugee when he was unable to return to his native Syria and is now working in Moldova as an ear, nose and throat doctor.

CHIŞINĂU, Moldova, November 19 (UNHCR) Syrian-born Raghid Jened is a success story for the integration of refugees: a doctor, a certified Arabic-Russian translator and a passionate skydiver, he doesn't see himself living anywhere else than Moldova.

Before coming to Chişinău 13 years ago to study, Jened knew little about Moldova. "I only heard that it is a small and safe country, where people are kind, just like in Syria," he said. "And now, after so much time living here, I can confirm that these things are true."

His first days in Chişinău were difficult, especially because he didn't know the language. At first he regretted his decision to study outside his homeland, but soon he started learning Russian and some Romanian and found new Moldovan friends who made him feel at home.

"I am lucky to have people by my side who care for me just as my parents do," Jened said. Moreover, he feels Chişinău is his home not only because he watched it grow and develop, but also because he now knows it better than his own town in Syria, Homs.

The Syrian uprising began in March 2011, just as Jened was completing his medical degree with a speciality in otolaryngology at one of Moldova's leading hospitals.

As the fighting across the country worsened, his home town of Homs was deeply affected. His parents are still there, he said, doing their best to survive, but because of the bombings and fighting they live with friends while his brother is now in hiding. Jened has not been able to speak to his parents in weeks as telephone lines only work intermittently. He hopes to be able to help his parents somehow although it seems very difficult to evacuate them for the time being, he said

Because of the ongoing conflict, Jened was unable to return to Syria. Instead he approached Moldova's Refugee Directorate to seek asylum as a refugee sur place and was granted complementary protection. At present there are 75 Syrians with protection in the Republic of Moldova, most having arrived over the last year.

Since obtaining protection, Jened has received legal and social support as well as financial aid and in-kind assistance from UNHCR and its implementing partners, for which he is very grateful.

But he is not helpless and has skills to contribute. With his local medical degree he found work as an ear, nose and throat doctor in Chişinău's main hospital, the Centre for Mother and Child Care. "I enjoy working with children and I plan to keep working with them," Jened said.

Apart from loving his work as a doctor, Jened is passionate about skydiving. "I started jumping in 2003, just out of curiosity, afterwards I couldn't stop," he said smiling broadly. He obtained a professional skydiving license in 2011 and jumps as often as the weather allows.

Recently, to demonstrate his appreciation for the support that UNHCR has provided, he took several UNHCR flags on one of his jumps to promote the UN refugee agency's work.

When asked about his future, Jened excitedly speaks about his hopes to eventually obtain Moldovan citizenship, his wish to obtain an advanced Doctor of Medicine degree, and his desire to help his parents and ultimately to start a family in Moldova, which, at least for the time being, is his home.

By Irina Ungureanu in Chişinău, Moldova




Syria Emergency: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

A Face in a Million: the Struggle of Syria's Refugees in Lebanon

They are everywhere in Lebanon - 1 million Syrian refugees, in a land of 4.8 million people. There are no refugee camps in Lebanon. Instead, most rent apartments and others live in makeshift shelters and in garages, factories and prisons. Three years after the Syria crisis began, Lebanon has become the country with the highest concentration per capita of refugees in the world. It's struggling to keep pace with the influx. Rents have spiked, accommodation is scarce; food prices are rising. Meanwhile, a generation could be lost. Half of Syria's refugees are children; most don't go to school. Instead many of them work to help their families survive. Some marry early, others must beg to make a bit of money. Yet they share the same dream of getting an education.

In the northern city of Tripoli, many of the Syrians live in Al Tanak district, dubbed "Tin City." Long home to poor locals, it is now a surreal suburb - garbage piled to one side, a Ferris wheel on the other. The inhabitants share their dwellings with rats. "They're as big as cats," said one. "They're not scared of us, we're scared of them."

Award-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario visited Tin City and other areas of Lebanon with UNHCR to show the faces and suffering of Syrians to the world. Addario, in publications such as The New York Times and National Geographic, has highlighted the victims of conflict and rights abuse around the world, particularly women.

A Face in a Million: the Struggle of Syria's Refugees in Lebanon

Syria Crisis Third Anniversary: A Child of the Conflict

Ashraf was born the very day the Syria conflict began: March 15, 2011. He is the seventh child in a family from Homs. Within a week of his birth, the conflict arrived in his neighbourhood. For months his family rarely left the house. Some days there was non-stop bombing, others were eerily quiet. On the quiet days, Ashraf's mother made a run with him to the local health clinic for vaccinations and check-ups.

When Ashraf was about 18 months old, his aunt, uncle and cousin were murdered - their throats slit - as the boy slept nearby in his family's home. Terrified that they were next, Ashraf's family crammed into their car, taking a few precious belongings, and drove to the border.

They left behind their home, built by Ashraf's father and uncle. Within days the house was looted and destroyed. Photographer Andrew McConnell visited the family at their new home, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, which was also built by Ashraf's father and uncle. Located on the edge of a muddy field, it is a patchwork of plastic sheeting, canvas and scrap metal. The floor is covered with blankets and mattresses from UNHCR. They now face new challenges such as the daily battle to keep the children warm, dry and protected from rats. Ashraf still starts at sudden loud noises, but the doctor told his mother that the boy would get used to it.

Syria Crisis Third Anniversary: A Child of the Conflict

Forced to grow up too soon in Lebanon: Mahmoud

Mahmoud,15, hasn't been to school in 3 years. In his native Syria, his parents were afraid to send him because of the civil war. They ended up fleeing a year ago when, in the early morning hours, a bomb fell on a nearby house. The family, still groggy from being jolted awake, grabbed what they could and fled to Lebanon. Their home and the local school have since been destroyed.

In Lebanon, Mahmoud's father is unable to find work and now the family can barely afford rent.

A month ago, Mahmoud started working for tips cleaning fish at a small shop next to his home. He makes about $60 USD a month. With this money he helps pay rent on his family's tiny underground room, shared between his parents and eight brothers and sisters. Mahmoud is proud to help his family but with the fish shop located in the same subterranean structure as his home, he barely goes out into the sunshine.

Children like Mahmoud, some as young as seven, often work long hours for little pay, and in some cases in dangerous conditions. These children forfeit their future by missing out on an education and the carefree years of childhood. Many are also traumatized by what they witnessed back in Syria.

UNHCR and its partners together with local governments are providing financial assistance to help vulnerable Syrian refugee families cover expenses like rent and medical care, which means there is less need to pull children out of school and put them to work. UN agencies and their partners have also established case management and referral systems in Jordan and Lebanon to identify children at risk and refer them to the appropriate services.

Forced to grow up too soon in Lebanon: Mahmoud

Syria: Aid Reaches Eastern AleppoPlay video

Syria: Aid Reaches Eastern Aleppo

An agreement between the Syrian Government and the opposition allows UNHCR and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver humanitarian assistance to the besieged city of Aleppo.
Jordan: Syrian Refugees' Housing CrisisPlay video

Jordan: Syrian Refugees' Housing Crisis

Hundreds of thousands of refugees living in urban areas are struggling to survive. They face rising rents, inadequate accommodation, and educational challenges for their children.
Jordan: Shahad Finds her VoicePlay video

Jordan: Shahad Finds her Voice

Four-year-old Shahad is among hundreds of thousands of Syrian children suffering from the traumatic effects of the war in Syria. After a bomb attack on her family home, she stopped speaking.