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This is my story and this frightening journey will always be a big part of my life.


Imagine waking up one cold rainy morning at 3 am to someone screaming; “It’s time! Get out! Get out!” Imagine someone ripping you from your parents’ arms, putting you in a van and dropping you in a jungle-looking place. Imagine that all you can hear are the screams of your parents calling out your name. And then, you suddenly find yourself in a small wooden boat with 30 people all squished in together in the middle of the ocean.


My name is Atena and I come from a small town in Iran where we had no oceans.

As a child, my biggest dream was to go to the beach on a nice sunny day and enjoy the calming waves while my mum cuts me fruits and my dad sets the volleyball nets. Well, I guess life likes to surprise us.

The soothing ocean that I had always imagined was actually a dark and a scary place. The calming waves that I dreamt of were brutal storms.


The fruits that I imagined my mum cutting were actually the last apple in the boat that everyone was fighting for, and the nets that I imagined my dad setting were actually the water he was emptying from the boat to stop us from sinking.

"The calming waves that I dreamt of were brutal storms,' says Atena Banitorof.

Today, I am 19 years old. A grown female studying a university degree yet, due to those experiences, I am still unable to enjoy the calming waves of the ocean, I am still unable to sleep in the darkness, and I am still unable to erase those horrifying memories.


This is my story and this frightening journey will always be a big part of my life.


Words by Atena Banitorof






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Refugee Voices

Refugee Voices is a refugee-led community organisation committed to ensuring that when it comes to the policies, campaigns and decisions that affect us, our voices are heard loud and clear.

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