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At eighteen fate placed Ali and his family in the center of hostilities in northern Afghanistan. Warring militant factions killed hundreds of people in his village. Ali helped identify and bury dozens of his friends and neighbors in a mass grave.
We spent days and nights in the mountains and blocked on the borders. I crossed the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan walking with my handicap. Then it took us another sixteen hours to cross the border between Pakistan and Iran, also in very high mountains of more than 2500 meters. The Iranian police were killing people on the borders. We saw people in the mountains who were dead—some from hunger, some were shot.
The rough terrain caused Ali’s plastic leg to break several times. He repaired it with sticks and duct tape but by the time he reached Greece—a journey of 4,900 km (3,045 miles)—he was in great pain.
Ali made it to Greece just as the Balkan route closed, which blocked his progress to central Europe. He stayed in two refugee camps—one on the island of Lesbos, the second near Athens where he quickly formed friendships with other residents and volunteers, chief among them Bilal, another Afghan refugee. Bilal accompanied Ali to Athens the day he was fitted with a new, state- of-the-art prosthetic leg, which was purchased by a generous donor.
*Ali's story is featured in the publication Let Me Tell You My Story
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