Thousands of refugees and migrants trying to cross into the European Union are stranded along the Belarusian border as Poland has denied them entry amid a standoff with Belarus. Fears for their safety are growing due to freezing conditions, a lack of vital supplies and medical care, and a spate of deaths on both sides of the border. Nidal Ibrahim, a Syrian refugee stranded at the border, tells Al Jazeera’s Sara Cincurova about the suffering he and others have endured. Here is his story in his own words.
I am Nidal Ibrahim from Aleppo, I am 37 years old, and I am dying.
Me, my friend Muhammad and his four children came to the Belarusian border along with other refugees. We hoped that we would reach Europe, but we are now stuck in the forests without water, drinking from swamps, without any food. The temperature outside is -5 or -7.
I am only alive because I also have three children who stayed with my wife in Turkey. For their sake, I must survive. I love them and miss them very much.
I usually cannot sleep because of the cold and the rain, but when I do, I dream about my wife and children and how we might live together in a safe place. I dream about my children going to school. But at any moment, I can die.
In the woods, we have no shelter. My friend Muhammad’s four children are with us. I cannot describe the condition they are in. They are hungry and they cannot sleep. Either someone takes pity on us, or we die.
Prior to the war in Syria, I used to work as a school teacher and a principal of a primary school. My wife and I left Syria after losing some of our relatives. The war in Syria destroyed everything that we dreamt about.
My wife studied law, but the circumstances did not allow her to complete her studies in Syria. We got married and had three children, two girls and a boy.
When we first fled Syria, we tried to cross the Turkish border. We stayed at the border for 24 days. On October 9, 2014, we finally entered Turkey.
I stayed in Turkey with my family for a long time, but my financial situation deteriorated after they fired me from work.
I was working in agriculture at that time: I had low wages and much less work in the winter because of rain and the bad weather. So I decided to go to Libya and from Libya across the sea to Europe, but I could not make the crossing because of the armed groups operating in Libya.
Then, I heard that the route to Europe would become open through Belarus. I hoped that I would reach Europe and that my wife and children would join me later, to live a safe and dignified life.
I bought a visa and a plane ticket with a Belarusian company from an online office for $800. I was told it would cost me another $500 to get into Poland. But when I arrived at the Polish border by car, my tragedy began. It was on October 5.
At the border, I saw people die of hunger, thirst and cold, but I couldn’t do anything. I was now fleeing death.
Right now, we usually sleep on the ground among the trees, but the weather is very cold. We cannot sleep. Sometimes, we can light a fire, and sometimes we cannot, because of the rain.
We were pushed back and forth by Polish authorities and the Belarusian army. The Polish authorities took our SIM cards away from us. There is nowhere we can go from here now.
Our feet are injured and we are in pain. We can never rest.
Today, again, I didn’t sleep because the temperature was too low. But yesterday, we found a bag with a little bread and milk in it. We thank God.
It is very sad when you die of cold and hunger at the doors of Europe. I have nothing else to say, but I am sad for my country, which is being destroyed by [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad.
Right now, I can only think about my children, and how I must stay alive. I speak with them and my wife on WhatsApp; I feel like they lost everything too.
I should have said farewell when I was leaving Turkey. It may have been the last time I saw them.
Please, just help me to live. Please, someone, save us.