Najlaa, 40, with Mahmood, 5, and Jasan, 7

Portraits by Jacobia Dahm

Najlaa (40) mit Mahmood (5) und Jasan (7). Foto: Jacobia Dahm, Berlin 2015
Najlaa (40) with Mahmood (5) and Jasan (7). Foto: Jacobia Dahm, Berlin 2015

Najlaa left her small hometown near Damascus in 2011 soon after the government assaults started. She first went to Jordan with her two young children, now 5 and 7, and her nephew, also 7. She spent three years in the massive Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, and decided to leave after a Jordan policeman suggested it would be safer she married her very young daughter off to him. Najlaa’s journey via Turkey took 3 months. She traveled in a group with 250 people but she was the only family and felt people worried she would slow things down. In Macedonia the police caught her and threatened to return her to Greece. But Najlaa was so determined and desperate, she put a knife to her throat and declared she’d rather die than trace back her journey. Surprised, the Macedonian police then helped her to the Serbian border. In Hungary a hotel owner, after taking her money, called the police on her. She arrived in Berlin in May 2015, where she now lives in a group home. Her two eldest just started school. August 22, 2015.

Jacobia Dahm spent the summer of 2015 in Berlin, a time when the city was going through major changes: thousands of people arrived every day, Syrians fleeing their beloved country destroyed by war. Jacobia wanted to talk to them about their dangerous journeys and the lives they left behind – and she began to take their portraits.