My name is Mohammad Abdlrazak. I’m a Syrian citizen from the village of Kiljibreen in Aleppo governorate, born in 1970.
I came to Cyprus at the beginning of the year 2000 on a four-year work contract for a man named Yanagi Yorgo. I ended up in Cyprus by chance, after meeting a man named Harout in Syria. He was from Aleppo, and I was living in Saudi Arabia at the time. He asked me where I worked, and I replied Saudi. He said that he was in Cyprus and knew a man who needed someone in my field, which was auto body paint, to commit to a four-year contract. I said: “If the conditions are good, I have no problem, I’ll come.” They were, and so I came to this country.
The family who hosted me were the ones who drew up the work contract to bring me here. My employer’s wife was a lovely woman; she helped me feel so welcome. She went above and beyond the call of duty, welcoming me at the airport, driving me to the garage where I would work and introducing me to my workplace. My employer also provided me with a place to live.
His wife had gone to the supermarket and bought me everything I might need, stocking my house up fully. Slowly we became closer and I’d come to their house for a family gathering every Sunday, and she would take care of everything. We’d share stories and chat; she compensated for any sense of loss I might have, never letting me feel so much as a hint of estrangement. She was an amazing woman, and we are still friends to this day. I still thank her a lot, because she was really like a mother to me. Every week after I got my salary she’d give me a little extra and say: “This money is for your kids, some personal spending money for you.” She was so caring and kind.
I always spoke about family and my Syrian culture, and we talked a lot about food. Sometimes her daughters and I prepared certain dishes together, and everything was really great. We were all together for seven years, working together. Then they had the opportunity to sell their garage and they did, and so I decided to open up my own garage, investing on my own. I established myself and everything went very well.
As far as Cypriot society goes, it’s quite close to our own. You can call it a Middle Eastern culture. They have the same kindness and humanity; they feel compassion for strangers. My employer’s wife would sometimes look at me sadly, and I could feel the sadness in her voice when she asked me: “Do you miss your kids?”
The whole time I’ve lived in this country—20 years so far—I’ve never felt any discrimination or racism directed at me. They are a tasteful, understanding people, who respect hard workers. My work is successful, and I have many good relationships with people in Cyprus, many different acquaintances and contacts. I work independently and my circumstances are very good, praise God.
Of course, I’m still quite close to Arab society, because no matter what happens, these are my people, from the same country, the same environment, and also because there is little difference between Cypriot and Arab society. For me, a sense of belonging in this country is about having a good relationship with the society and being able to build successful relationships with people and to work.
I’m Mohammad Abdlrazak from Cyprus, and this was my story.