Humans of Central District: Samuel & Obeda


TEXT: BIANCA WIJNSTEKERS-HANDY | PHOTOGRAPHY: ANTIM
On the Schiekade, under the railway bridge, I see a middle-aged couple walking towards me. Encouraged by their friendly appearance, I address them: if I may ask them what brings them here? They discuss this for a moment in their mother tongue and look at each other with mischievous eyes. “Yes, that is fine,” says the man. “My wife, she speaks better Nederlands, en ik better English.” They’re doing a better job than they think. Behind their sympathetic disposition lies an intense story.
The man is named Samuel, and his wife Obeda. “We live in a school nearby,” explains Samuel. “We are from Syria and fled from the war there. Our three children, aged 25, 18 and 15, go to school.” His wife, Obeda, continues: “And we have another son. He is still in Syria, he is 20 years old.” They consult with each other again in Syrian. “Not 20, he is 21 years old,” clarifies Samuel after the approval of Obeda. “He is in prison. He was picked up off the street, just like that, by the secret service. In 2014. He was not allowed a lawyer.” The last contact Samuel and Obeda had with their son was 2.5 years ago. They do not know where he is now.
How long have they been living in the Netherlands? “One year and five months,” tells Samuel. “One of our sons came to the Netherlands first. Via Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, and from there on foot to the Netherlands!” He made it possible for the family to come here. Now they are learning Dutch and Samuel is looking for a job. “I love working. In Syria I was a sound technician in a hotel, for thirty years.” Obeda takes care of the family. They feel very fortunate that they are here now. But in thought, they are still always in Syria, desperately awaiting a sign of life from their son.
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