Hani, Syrian refugee

Hani, Syrian refugee

A beautiful human who represents what living positively is about.

Cyprus, 3 days before Christmas. My car breaks down on my way to work. Many people offer their help. Hani, the man in the picture, is one of them. He doesn’t only help at that very moment though; he soon comes back to check whether the roadside service has come and whether I’ll get into trouble for being late. As we spend some time talking, I see more than a kind person. It’s not only about his positive energy and tranquility; Hani has this constant smile on his face, the purest and most genuine I’ve ever seen on a grown-up. I ask him where he is from; “Syria” he replies. I know already that there’s a lot more to admire behind this smile.

A couple of weeks later Hani, along with his wife and 4 children, opens his door to me and journalist M.Louvari to share his story, with us and with anyone who would be interested in as much as we were.

Hani is a mosaic maker, following his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. Up until 5 years ago he was a man enjoying his business, family and life. “I loved joy, I loved my friends, I loved my life“. Hani saw his whole life changing radically when the war in his country started. Like millions of people, he experienced everything war brings with it: Fear for his own and loved ones’ safety, agony, incarceration, hardships, struggle for survival. The pain was already indescribable when 1.5 years ago Hani faced a devastating loss; a bomb hit the house he had proudly built for all his family to live in, killing about 20 family members. “I don’t know what to tell my children when they ask me where our family is”.

All of what had been considered given was gone. War might have taken almost everything away, but there was one thing Hani kept intact: His hope.

Describing his way to Turkey, as well as the difficulties he faced and the help he received until he managed to come to Cyprus with his family, Hani keeps using one phrase: “Do good and good will come to you.” His new life in Cyprus is profoundly different than the life he used to live all these years before the war hit.  However, Hani sees this from a different perspective: Cyprus is his second home, and even though a big part is missing, “I am lucky that I left, I don’t live under anxiety anymore“. I point out how adjusting to a new country is still not easy and give the example of learning a new language which he has done very well, but Hani says: “We all have strength, there is no one who cannot find strength within them; it all depends on how much you want something“.

His children -aged 16, 14, 6 and 2- are gradually adapting to the new environment. It is easier for the younger than it is for the older ones, although his 6-year old girl still gets agitated upon hearing a loud noise. Hani explains she still thinks that loud noises mean that bombs are falling. I can see the concern on his face, but he smiles at her as he tells me: “She is strong. If she got over the nightmares after watching her friends getting killed next to her, I know she will get over this too”.

As I look at his sweet, so unique, smile throughout the interview I realize that what’s special about this man is not his strength –he is right, we all have incredible strength within us. It’s rather his positive attitude during all he’s been through that’s so admirable.

What is it that keeps you smiling, Hani?”

As long as my kids are alive and there’s food on the table for them I feel like a king. I see what tomorrow brings; I focus on what I have today”.

“I see what tomorrow brings. I focus on what I have today.”