MALAKASA DAY 2
Estimate 5 minutes reading
We met Hussein at Viktoria metro station and walked to catch a train to see Mehrdad at his home in Malakasa Refugee Camp.
Almost 40 kilometers outside the city. As we rode Husein told us about growing up in Ras al-Ayn, the small town, close to the Syrian border of Turkey, where he was born and raised. He described it as beautiful and diverse, with no concept of religion between neighbors, and respect for different cultures, Muslim, Christian, or otherwise. He came from a big family, and they used to go gathering wood as a family, cousins and all. He remembered how they would cut down whole trees and drag them home on their shoulders, with a towel placed on the neck to protect their skin from the wood.
We arrived at the station in good spirits, and Mehrdad was there with umbrellas and rain jackets for all of us because as the train doors opened a magnificent lightning storm began. We had only walked thirty seconds from the platform, and we were already thoroughly soaked. We had a great time walking into the camp to Mehrdads container. As we stepped in Mehrdad handed us dry clothes and slippers. The floor of his room was almost inundated, but the heater was blasting. He had prepared a table full of food and drink for us. He immediately and went back to get an instrument that he had made himself, like a modified Sez. The strings were held to the body with safety pins. He had engraved it himself with personal designs. Husein had already taken out his beautiful Oud and was playing meditatively. Husein and Mehrdad began to sing immediately. We were having a great time. Mehrdad on his instrument was so capable and communicative. His voice was practiced as though he had performed in crowds all his life. The songs that he and Husein knew didn’t cross roads very often, but they had a scale in common. Then we set up the cameras, and Mehrdad began his story. No matter how many times you tell a story, remembering is always going to carry you back. It was almost impossible not to be moved. Husein helped translate, but grasping what was being said was difficult, as nobody could fully understand Farsi.
As the interview faded out, the instruments started up again, and the filmographers were very busy capturing the different perspectives. Merhdad received a call from his family in Iran, and they spoke for a good while. He said he hadn’t been back in two and a half years. He showed us pictures of his daughter when she was small, a recent photo that she had sent him, and the soccer field where his son plays in Iran. Mehrdad seemed a bit tired after his interview, the storm cleared, and Husein went outside to receive a call from his mother in Syria, he let us all say hello. She seemed happy. We prepared to leave but we missed the train back to Athens, so we hung around the train station and sang and made jokes. Merhdad graciously waited with us, but in fact, he fell asleep while we were waiting. The train came, and we all embraced and said goodbye. It was a good day.