|Families scattered by civil war seek passage to more comfortable life in Europe|
The wall that surrounds it and the barbed wire above give the impression of a crumbling military barracks, not a house of Christian worship. But beyond the door, there is a quiet courtyard and the sound of prayer.
|Mass is celebrated at a Syriac church in Istanbul. (Nil Köksal/CBC)|
There will be a luncheon later, with the money it will raise expected to help run the church and also aid the people living in an apartment building across the street.
At any given time, there are about 70 refugees who have fled the war in Syria. They share the bunk beds inside, six to a room.
They are among the two million people Turkey has taken in.
Many are housed in state-of-the-art refugee camps throughout the country, but those who have connections and more money choose to come to Istanbul in hopes of easier communication with foreign embassies, faster passage to what they hope will be a more comfortable life in Europe.
Nour Bekandy has been staying at the church's shelter for seven months.
"We lost everything," the university student says, tearing up.
|Nour Bekandy and her 12-year-old sister have spent seven months|
in the church's shelter. (Turgut Yeter/CBC NEWS)
The sisters stay in this room with three other women and their children. The war has split and scattered all of their families around the world. Bekandy's father is still back in Syria, her fiancé and mother are in London.
Bekandy was studying economics in Syria before the war. She's now trying to be a mom to her little sister, trying to be strong.
"God gives the power. We don't know we have this," she says.
Hoping for a reunion
Two floors down, on the ground level, Naim Lezieh lights a candle in his room.
He helps run the shelter in exchange for room and board. He hopes his good deeds might somehow help reunite him with his family, which is now split into three parts, spread across Europe.
His bags always remain packed in one corner of his room, his cellphone always close by. But that phone is more than a luxury for him. It is a lifeline.
The telltale ringtone of a Skype call comes through as we sit down to talk. He asks if he can answer it and we nod — of course.
Calls like this are frequent, but short, and almost always end in tears.
His wife and six-year-old son are on the line from Athens. Their eldest daughter — just 15 — is in Germany.
The family was supposed to get out of Syria and into Europe together.
|Naim Lezieh's wife and son are in Greece but his daughter, 15, is in Germany. |
(Turgut Yeter/CBC NEWS)
The final push to make that move was "a mark" left on his house, he says, drawing an X into the air.
Lezieh says ISIS drew that X on his house in Aleppo, marking it to show his was a Christian home. He says militants tried to recruit him, threatened to kidnap his children and bombed his new business.
They would get out, but not without more loss.
He says his family was conned by smugglers in Turkey, ready to prey on desperate Syrians looking for passage to other countries.
Thirty-two thousand Euros are gone, he says. That's nearly $40,000 Cdn, stolen in three separate attempts to get to Europe.
Now Lezieh gets by with donations from parishioners and hopes to see his family all in one place soon. He tries to smile through the tears. He has to. His daughter is calling.