‘When I’m in the water I feel free’

Syrian refugee, swimmer, and Accounting and Finance student Eid shares #WhatHomeMeans to him for Gallery of the (New) Home.


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My name is Eid and I arrived in the UK as a Syrian refugee at the end of 2016. I now live in the London Borough of Waltham Forest and I am studying Accounting and Finance at King’s College London. 

When thinking about what home meant to me, one idea came to mind which was central to my journey, and I enlisted the help of photographer David Emery to capture my vision at my home in London. In the image above you can see reflections of water and flowers on my skin. Water represents my training as a swimmer since I arrived in the UK, but it also has a much deeper meaning for me. 

During my journey from Syria I was stranded in the sea for four hours after the boat I was in capsized. I wanted this image to represent how I have turned my fear of water into a strength. When I’m training for swimming now, the water is the place where I feel most at home. The flowers reflected on my skin represent my positivity and my hope for a better future in the UK. 

My relationship with water has been difficult at times. After arriving in the UK I first started training as a swimmer in 2016, but before this I had never set foot in a swimming pool. I couldn’t swim at all. However, after spending many hours teaching myself how to swim, alongside securing a few free swimming lessons, I had not only achieved my goal, but exceeded it. I went from being someone who used to get very scared in the water to swimming competitively. 

My happiest memory is when I found out recently that I had achieved a personal best time of under 30 seconds in an important race. Even a few months ago, the prospect of breaking that 30-second barrier had seemed utterly impossible to me. Reaching that goal was just incredible. It really showed me just how much I have achieved since my arrival in the UK. 

When I’m in the water I feel free. I’m in the lane, I’m alone – it’s like another world for me. The water is my favourite place when I really want to chill and feel at peace. When I’m swimming, nobody calls me a refugee, nobody calls me an asylum seeker. They may ask me where I’m from because I’ve got a different accent from them but that’s all. You put your goggles and hat on, and you’re treated the same as any other swimmer. 

Home for me means family, friends and feeling I belong wherever that is – which is what I feel when I’m swimming. 
To have empathy for other people is very important, to be able to stand in their shoes and understand that they may not be here through choice. I encourage everyone to reach out to refugees and hear their stories – no two journeys are the same. 

To join Eid in submitting #WhatHomeMeans to you as part of Gallery of the (New) Home and see all of the amazing entries we’ve received, please visit our website here.

To support Eid on his journey, please visit his GoFundMe.


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