In Germany, A Syrian Refugee Is Reunited With His Family Syrian refugee Monzer Omar, who first spoke with NPR in 2015, has been living in Germany awaiting his wife and young children. After a 10-hour trek out of Syria, they were able to join him in January.
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In Germany, A Syrian Refugee Is Reunited With His Family

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In Germany, A Syrian Refugee Is Reunited With His Family

In Germany, A Syrian Refugee Is Reunited With His Family

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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We have an update now on a story that we've been telling chapter by chapter for two years. It began in Izmir, Turkey, a city on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, where I met a teacher from Syria in his early 30s. Monzer Omar sat with a crowd of Syrian families on flattened cardboard boxes on the sidewalk.

MONZER OMAR: We have no home, no house - all of us destroyed.

SHAPIRO: He'd been in Izmir for a week waiting for a phone call from a human smuggler who would put them onto a crowded raft headed for Greece.

M. OMAR: Smuggler call us. We'll be ready, five minutes.

SHAPIRO: Five minutes.

M. OMAR: Five minutes - get ready and go in the night. We not know we go.

SHAPIRO: It could be tonight.

M. OMAR: To the beach, to the beach - get, get, get, get.

SHAPIRO: Monzer Omar had left his pregnant wife and two young daughters in Syria with his parents. He didn't want them to risk their lives making the dangerous journey to Europe.

M. OMAR: I thank God for not to bring them with - maybe die in any minute, any second.

SHAPIRO: You might recall hearing about Monzer Omar. NPR reporters followed along on his journey, joining him by foot, by bus and by train across Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria and finally Germany. Every day, he sent voice messages to his wife, his daughters and his elderly parents.

M. OMAR: Maybe I will never saw them again. But my wife and daughter - I hope I will see them in the near future.

SHAPIRO: His oldest 4-year-old daughter would say, Papa, where are you? I miss you. Monzer Omar settled in the city of Dortmund. Last summer, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power visited Germany to meet with Syrian refugees, including Monzer Omar. I got a chance to ask the ambassador how he seemed.

SAMANTHA POWER: Well, on the one hand, he's getting settled in Germany. On the other hand, he's away from his three kids, and I think his heart is breaking.

SHAPIRO: Three kids - his wife had given birth. A few weeks ago, we got some news about Monzer, so we sent our producer in Germany, Esme Nicholson, to check in. She took the three-hour train from Berlin to Dortmund.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Ladies and gentleman, thanks for choosing...

ESME NICHOLSON, BYLINE: Here we are. This is where Monzer is now living. It's in a very pleasant surroundings, lots of green parkland. You can probably hear the birds singing. And it's pretty quiet here this afternoon. Let's go and see if he's home. He's certainly expecting me.

SHAPIRO: So you walked up to Monzer Omar's apartment building, and...

NICHOLSON: I walked up. I rang the buzzer. They were ready and waiting. In fact, Monzer had already sent me quite a few texts asking me where I was (laughter).

SHAPIRO: Inside the apartment, Monzer had laid out a Syrian banquet - lamb, tabbouleh, cake - enough food for a family.



M. OMAR: (Foreign language spoken).

SHAPIRO: Monzer opened the door with a baby in his arms. His wife and daughters have arrived in Germany.

NICHOLSON: It's Monzer with his girls. He's got his girls back. Lamar is 4. Then there's Lojain, who's 2-and-a-half, and then Lossin, who's 1, and then his wife, Walaa. They only arrived two months ago, so I think for him, it's still a real novelty that they're there and finally here in Germany.

SHAPIRO: They had their own challenges getting out of Syria into Turkey where they registered with the German embassy.

NICHOLSON: Monzer was telling me about her arduous journey from Syria over the border in November, which of course was winter. And they were smuggled by foot over the border, and she had to walk for 10 hours nonstop with three kids. Of course she was carrying their youngest daughter, which meant of course that their 2-year-old and 4-year-old also had to walk for 10 hours nonstop.

SHAPIRO: Well, Esme Nicholson, when you visited the apartment, you were kind enough to put us on the phone with Monzer Omar, so I had a chance to talk with him again. Let's listen.

M. OMAR: (Laughter) My life completely changed.

SHAPIRO: For good.

M. OMAR: Yeah, for good - of course for good.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell me the story of the day you learned your family was coming to Germany?

M. OMAR: I can't describe my feeling. I was in a Deutsche course...

SHAPIRO: You were in a German course.

M. OMAR: ...When I receive the email from the German ambassador in Turkey.

SHAPIRO: The German embassy in Turkey, yes.

M. OMAR: They told me, you can send your family to make visa.

SHAPIRO: And in the middle of class, did you jump up and shout? What happened?

M. OMAR: (Laughter) Yeah, yeah, exactly. That's what happened. Teacher said, oh, Monzer, what happen? I just heard my family will come. She was very happy for me, said congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #3: (Unintelligible).

M. OMAR: (Foreign language spoken).

SHAPIRO: Is that your daughter that you're talking to in the background there?

M. OMAR: Yeah, yeah, they are here talking. She wants to eat some cake (laughter).

SHAPIRO: So that's the story of when you learned that your family would come to Germany. Tell me about the day you saw your wife and children for the first time in more than a year.

M. OMAR: (Laughter) I feel my heart will go out of my chest (laughter). They come 1 o'clock in the midnight in Yanyuwa.

SHAPIRO: The 18th of January at 1:00 a.m.

M. OMAR: Yeah, in January. I was waiting in the airport...

SHAPIRO: And you're waiting at the airport.

M. OMAR: ...On the - I look to the people who get out from the (laughter) airplane. No, no, not my wife, not my family (laughter). I saw the - my little girl take a big bag. She saw me, and I ran immediately to hug my daughter on the - I was crying with my daughter and my wife. Really, everyone in the airport was take a photo for us.


SHAPIRO: When I talked to you the last time, you were afraid that you might never see your wife and children again.

M. OMAR: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

SHAPIRO: And now they are with you.

M. OMAR: Thank God. Yeah, yeah, exactly. They are with me and every day. For five days after they come, I can't sleep. I woke up and look at (laughter) my daughters sleeping beside me. I'm not dreaming. I ask myself, I'm not a dreaming. I speak with my wife. We are here together again. We are not dreaming, yeah.

SHAPIRO: I wondered if we should talk to her and say hello to her.

M. OMAR: Yeah I know. Walaa...

WALAA OMAR: (Unintelligible).

M. OMAR: Ari want to speak with you.

W. OMAR: Hello.

SHAPIRO: Hello. This is Ari.

W. OMAR: Hello (laughter).

M. OMAR: Ari.

W. OMAR: (Laughter) Welcome.

SHAPIRO: Welcome to Germany.


W. OMAR: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Do you like Germany?

W. OMAR: Yeah (laughter). Yeah, yeah, with Monzer (laughter) - like.

M. OMAR: Happy story (laughter) - this is happy ending.

SHAPIRO: Monzer Omar, I'm so happy to talk to you again. Congratulations, and good luck with your new life in Germany with your family.

M. OMAR: Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ari. I'm so happy also to hear from you again. Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: It is the end of this chapter, but not the end of his story. Monzer's wife and children have a temporary visa. They're hoping for permission to stay permanently. Monzer is working on getting his teaching qualifications and enrolling the kids in school. His wife has started learning German, and the entire family is about to move into a new, bigger home with a garden.


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