Four years of brutal civil war in Syria could not keep Ayham Ahmad from singing. Neither could his harrowing voyage to Europe.
The 27-year-old musician fled Syria and took a rubber dinghy from Turkey to Greece last week. As soon as he arrived on the shores of Europe, he sat down in front of the waves and began to sing of his home — the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk near Damascus.
“Europe is a land of freedom. Now that I’m in Europe I can continue to keep singing about life in Yarmouk and the people who live there,” he told The WorldPost after he arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos.
As he trekked across the Balkans, trying to find a safe route to enter Austria, he reprised the ballads to Yarmouk that he once sang on the camp’s war-shattered streets.
On Monday, Ahmad made it to Austria, the country of Mozart and Schubert. The same day, he came across a piano made by historic Austrian instrument-maker Bösendorfer in Vienna and sat down to play a song about Yarmouk.
“Yarmouk is in my heart, and it will remain in my thoughts and in my music,” he wrote on Facebook that day. “We will keep on singing.”
Ahmad arrived in Germany on Tuesday, where he hopes to find a better life and provide for his wife, two young children and elderly parents back in Syria.
On his first day in Munich, he got a German volunteer at the refugee reception center to join him on guitar as he sang stories of Yarmouk to the other refugees. He posted another video of him playing the piano in Munich on Thursday, wishing everyone well for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
For years, Ahmad has posted videos of his recitals amid the ruins of Yarmouk to draw attention to the plight of the camp’s besieged residents. Earlier this year, Ahmad’s piano was burned by Islamist militants as he tried to move it out of the camp.
As he finally fled the country, Ahmad has meticulously documented his voyage on Facebook, and provided further materials to The WorldPost for a diary of his voyage.
“To speak the language of music is better than speaking English, Arabic, German, Dutch, Russian, Serbian and Bulgarian,” Ahmad wrote on Facebook from Munich on Wednesday. “This is what I felt through the interaction with foreigners on my journey to Germany.”
Mehreen Kasana contributed to this report.
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