Five years ago Tirej Brimo left Syria with all his possessions in just one bag. He fled Aleppo which was under siege during the Syrian civil war. Now he has graduated as a doctor from St George’s, University of London.

Tirej and Sadiq web rs
In a moving facebook post to mark his graduation, Tirej wrote: “So the longest Journey in my life is finally over. Ten years of my life, four countries, four medical schools, 10 cities, 21 houses and most importantly a heart full of memories and love. One chapter of my life is over, another has just started.”

After criss-crossing the Middle East via the Lebanon, Tirej became separated from his mother and sister, he went to Egypt and then eventually made it to the UK and was accepted as a refugee in the UK along with his mother, Amina, who had joined him after a period in Turkey.

His brother, Peshang, was already living in the UK and has been in the country for more than 10 years working as a doctor. While his sister, Berbang, had made it to the UK via Turkey.

After one year of separation, the family was reunited again in the UK. Tirej said: “To be separated from your family in that way, and to be stripped of everything you ever had at once can be very cruel. You go back to your innate human mode. Your fear and desire to survive take over you deeply.

“You don't care about the quality of your food or how good your night asleep was anymore.

“Anything to do with your self-identity gets lost and dissolves away.

“I still remember the way I cried when I first realized that everything was lost and I became just a number. We all became numbers, it was not only me.

“It feels like you don't matter anymore, sometimes not even to yourself.  It’s like melting an ice cream back into milk. You are not special anymore. You are not you anymore.”

When he arrived in the UK, Tirej, now aged 27, was desperate to take up his medical training again. He was in his final year of medical school in Syria when he was forced to flee. He applied to all the medical schools in the UK but as the course differs he was rejected by most, some even suggesting he do his A levels again.

That is when St George’s, University of London, offered him a place after interviewing him.

Tirej said: “Everything changed when I was accepted into St George's. The world was smiling at me again and a flower of hope grew back into my life. I still remember how euphoric I used to get every time I received an email from the university’s admissions office. I used to call it "An email from Heaven".

Dr Philippa Tostevin, Medicine Course Director and Reader in Surgical Education, St George’s University of London, said: “I interviewed Tirej when he applied to St George’s and I did not hesitate to offer him a place.
“I remember the passion for medicine that he demonstrated at that interview and I am so proud of what he has achieved. I am truly delighted to see him graduate this year.”

On life as a refugee in the UK, Tirej says he has experienced some challenges but he felt that he has been welcomed with open hearts.

He explained: “The transition into the UK was tough. You feel like a child again. You try to learn the language and you try to learn about the culture and what is perceived as the right attitude. However, these things take time.”

It was not that easy all the time for Tirej. He said “I think the linguistic barrier could make friendships more challenging. Sometimes, everyone is nice to you, but you have no one to spend the evening with. So, you go back to your room, staring at the walls again, questioning everything you once believed about life. It's not your fault. It's not their fault. It's simply your fate.

“Nevertheless, the quicker you learn the language, the easier it becomes. The UK is full of love and passion, and I feel lucky I experienced it.

“Many people believed in me. They looked me in the eyes and said to me, "We feel your pain". It meant the world to me. Sometimes all you need is a smile or a tap on the shoulder.

“Now I know what pain is, I am so ready to start my new role as a doctor and I am so ready to look after others’ loved ones. I promise, I will do it with a heart full of love and a smile full of hope.”

Read the Evening Standard story here