Hana Saky knows what it means to be a refugee. Today she runs a café in Edinburgh and gives part of her income to A Drop in the Ocean. As she says, without organisations like the Drop she would not have been where she is today.
Text: Eline Anker, Communication Coordinator Photo: Private
In a district filled with students and tourists lies the small and charming coffee shop Love, Peace and Coffee. There are posters of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix on the walls, and colourful flowers. The owner, Hana Saky, describes it as “very hippie”.
“I was never made for an office job. I wanted my own coffee shop, and then suddenly this place was available around the corner.” Hana renovated it from a video shop to a café. “And that´s how Love, Peace and Coffee started,” she explains.
Then the corona pandemic hit Scotland. “It got to the point, during the pandemic, when finally, people saw that it´s not nice to be in a dangerous environment.” It made her reflect upon her own background and the struggles she’s been through: “so I made a mission to myself; no one should ever experience my childhood.”
Fled Iraq as a young girl
Hana is Kurdish, and was born in former Kurdistan, now Iraq. In the 90’s, the country was hit by the Gulf War. Her house was bombed, and as a young girl she fled with her mom and three siblings to Europe. They lost everything on their way, including their personal identity documents. In spite of this, she also talks of joy in her childhood: “There were always laughter. Even though there were bombs dropping down on our houses, we never missed a day off laughing, all thanks to my mom.”
They left Turkeys coast in a small boat twice. Their first try was not successful. The boat sank and a safety boat took them back to Turkey. “From what I remember, and according to my mom, we were the only kids on that boat that survived.
The second time, they finally arrived on Lesvos. “At that time, there was no proper camp, there was nothing.” Luckily a local Greek family helped them and let them stay in their house for weeks. But then something terrible happened, she explains. “We don’t know exactly what went wrong, maybe someone got tipped off that there was an illegal family in the house.” Once again, her family were sent back to Turkey. In Turkey, eight years old, she was reunited with her father.
Together, they all travelled to Europe once again. It took them two years, and a long travel through Eastern Europe, before they finally arrived in Berlin – all six of them.
A message of hope to the kids who are suffering
But life wasn’t all easy in Germany. For ten years, she lived without resident papers. “We were illegal during all those years going through school and university. We were threatened every year to be sent back.”
Finally, in 2010 she got a German passport. “As soon as I had the passport, I was like ’let’s explore the world!’.” She continued her studies in Switzerland and after her graduation, she travelled the world. “I always wanted to travel, so I did a two-year trip around the world, no phone, nothing, which was brilliant.”
In the end, it was love who brought her to Scotland: “It’s a classic love story! He moved to Berlin, we fell in love and then moved here to Edinburgh.”
With her story, Hana wants to send a message of hope to the kids living as refugees. “The kids who are suffering at the moment, I want them to see the example of me, and see that ‘hey, there’s hope!’,” she says, and continues: “I know how hopeless you feel, when you arrive in these camps, your life is on hold and you have nothing.”
Donated income to refugees in Greece
Now the coffee shop in Edinburgh is one year old. Hana tells me she wants to contribute and thus decided to donate income from the coffee shop to A Drop in the Ocean´s work for people forced to flee living in Greece. “The least I can do is to give a little bit back,” she says.
“Thanks to organisations like A Drop in the Ocean, I made it to where I am. I could not have done it without the people helping. I would not have made it to Europe and have a coffee shop today.”
The fundraising was very successful, with positive reactions from her customers waiting for when she will repeat the donation. “Honestly, I was shocked and surprised, the reactions were outstanding,” she says. Several customers paid 10 or 20 pounds for a cup of coffee, and one customer donated even more. “One person payed 150 pounds for one coffee – for the money to be spent on children,” she tells. “I have the best customers in the world!”
When asked why she decided to do this donation, she answers: “I have running water, enough to eat and there is money coming in. I´m not a rich person, but I have all that I need, so why would I keep everything to myself if I can share it?”