From one home to another in Gaza, Ukraine, Germany: Dr. Mohab Mousa, a Palestinian neurosurgeon, worked and lived in Ukraine until the conflict forced him to evacuate. He and his family have now sought asylum in Germany.
Since the crisis began, more than 4 million people have fled Ukraine. Over 300,000 of them have landed in Germany, mostly from the Middle East, where Ukraine has a tens of thousands-strong community.
Mousa, who is from the Gaza Strip’s Rafah, has witnessed the horrors of war firsthand. He opted to depart because the situation in Gaza was unlikely to improve.
He told Arab News, “I wanted to develop my skills and offer a safe home for my wife and children.” Mousa enrolled at Kharkiv University in eastern Ukraine in 2016.
Soon later, his wife and three children arrived. His fourth kid, a Ukrainian citizen, was born there.
Mousa became fluent in Russian and began working in Kharkiv. His new home was Ukraine. “I admire the country,” he continued, “but Kharkiv is like a personal love tale.”
“Everything in Kharkiv is wonderful,” says the author. “The people are nice, there’s a significant expat community.”
But the new world Mousa had escaped to has been turned upside down, something he said he didn’t expect until the day the fighting started.
“I was having coffee with a friend when he asked if I thought there would be a war. “I declined.”
The quarter where he lives on the outskirts of the city was attacked by rockets the next day. “I woke up my wife and kids, and we ran to the school to seek refuge,” Mousa added.
As the situation worsened by the day, he and his wife made the decision to flee in order to safeguard their children.
They only brought what they could carry and chartered a train to Lviv, Ukraine’s westernmost city.
They arrived after a long and hard journey of 30 hours, but they were still a long way from safety. Those who provided migrants a lift to Slovakia were not afraid to take advantage of their plight.
“Instead of the customary 500 Ukrainian hryvnia ($85), they charged foreigners 2,500 Ukrainian hryvnia ($85),” Mousa alleged. He accepted, despite his children’s presence and the sub-zero temperatures at night.
They arrived in Bratislava, where “the stress the small ones had to endure began to manifest,” he explained.
Despite pleasant memories of people willing to assist, Mousa called Slovakia’s treatment of non-Ukrainian foreigners “shameful.”
Despite EU assurances that refugees from Ukraine would be able to travel freely, one staff at Bratislava’s main railway station insisted on charging Mousa €77 ($84) for tickets since he is not Ukrainian.
“I inquired as to why?” My youngest child is a Ukrainian citizen, and I had our residence permits from Ukraine.” Regardless, he had to pay. “It was completely random.”
The family’s journey was far from ended. They landed in Karlsruhe, southwest Germany, after passing via several stations, where they registered and were provided shelter, first in Heidelberg and subsequently in Schwetzingen.
Mousa claimed he tried his hardest to keep the realities of war from his children, which he admitted was nearly impossible.
His current aim is for them to return to school and participate in outside activities. “They should begin learning German as soon as possible so that they can assimilate more smoothly.”
Mousa is determined to stay in Germany and perform his career there, despite having lived in Ukraine for six years.
In order to accomplish so, he plans to learn German as rapidly as possible, demonstrate his qualifications, and begin working. “A guy who is unproductive is a liability to society.”