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What's it like to actually live inside a defunct airport? Ask a Syrian family.

War took everything from them. Now they're looking for stability.

What's it like to actually live inside a defunct airport? Ask a Syrian family.
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J&J Save the Children

“We used to have a happy and beautiful life," said one mother and refugee. "Hopefully we will return to those days. Hopefully we will return to our country.”

This mom, her husband, and their four sons lived in Syria before the war started. (Due to safety concerns, we won't use their names.)

Their lives changed completely when war broke out. The sound of bombs kept the kids up at night. She was terrified, afraid for her children's safety.


One day, when they weren't at home, their house was bombed and destroyed. Their lives were spared, but they knew they had to leave. So the family fled the country and now they’re making the best of their new reality. This is their story.

*This is a 360-degree video. Use the arrows in the top left corner to rotate the video and get a full glimpse of each room.

The conflict took everything from them. The life they knew, the life she’d dreamed of for her sons, was gone. They’re safe, but they’ve had to leave so much behind in order to ensure their continued safety.

“A refugee is not someone who comes for money," she said. "It’s not about money at all. It’s about our children’s safety so they can have stability.”

Today this family and around 1,700 other refugees are living in an old airport in Germany.

Tempelhof airport. Photo via Martina Roell/Flickr.

When the Syrian refugee crisis hit, Germany opened its doors. “We don’t want anyone who has experienced war and terror to have to sleep on the streets,” said parliament member Daniel Buchholz in January 2016. With this in mind, a vote was passed to turn what many would call an iconic building into a refuge.

Tempelhof, a decommissioned airport that was the site of the Berlin Airlift in 1948-1949, is now filled with tents and little partitions that have been set up for the thousands of refugees who now call it home.

The spaces are small. In some cases, there are 10 or more people sharing 270 square feet of space. Families that didn’t know each other before are now becoming intimately acquainted as they try to carve out some sense of normalcy. It’s not an ideal living situation, but at least it's safer than what they left behind.

A man, his three kids, and his brother, all fleeing the violence in Syria. Photo via DFID, U.K. Department for International Development/Flickr.

“I dream of a modest house where I can live happily with my children," the refugee mother of four said. "A house that brings us together."

She and the other refugees are hoping for news that there is a house for them. They are hoping that they’ll be able to leave the camp, integrate into German society, and rebuild their lives. Children are excited to attend school, while their parents worry about their safety and about whether they’ll be accepted into their new society.

This isn’t a situation they expected to be in, but as victims of war, they’re doing what they can to survive. They’re doing what they can to build a stable future. And the protection offered by Germany’s government is getting them one step closer to making their dreams of stability a reality.

A mom and her daughter, Syrian refugees living in the U.K. Photo via DFID, U.K. Department for International Development/Flickr.

The refugee crisis has been met with a lot of fear. It's easy to get caught up in the politics and to worry about the unknown, but the unknown is what these families are living every day — dreaming of a future that, for right now, they're powerless to create. They're relying on other countries to open their doors and for citizens to open their hearts. They're asking for the opportunity to have a fresh start.

Courtesy of Movemeant Foundation

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