Back in September we told you about Syrian refugees who had fled their war-torn home for the safety of Lesbos, Greece, with their beloved cat, Zaytouna. Upon reaching the shores via life raft, Al Kadri and his wife Nadia carried Zaytouna in a sling around their necks for weeks as they trekked through Europe before arriving in a Suhl, Germany refugee camp. Then the couple ran into further difficulty.
When Zaytouna — Arabic for Olive — was spotted by German authorities, she was taken from Al Kadri and placed in quarantine. Being unable to speak German, Al Kadri and Nadia had no way of knowing where Zaytouna had been deposited, or whether or not they would see her again.
“We do not have kids yet,” Al Kadri told BuzzFeed News over WhatsApp, in October. “We only have Zaytouna. We need to get her back.”
For months, Al Kadri and Nadia have lived in limbo – curious as to where their beloved feline was, and somber at the sudden and unexplained removal of their family member; awaiting a sign that she would be returned to them. Then the unthinkable happened: last week, a veterinarian from a government-sponsored animal shelter arrived on their doorstep – Zaytouna, three-months older, in tow.
“She told me in most cases when people bring their pets from Syria they just kill the animal,” Al Kadri said. “I don’t know why it didn’t happen to her, but she is healthy and with us, and I haven’t felt this happy in a long time.”
Al Kadri and Nadia, who have since left the refugee camp due to hazardous conditions, are now residing in an apartment in a nearby town with financial help from German and Austrian activists whom they have befriended. Al Kadri, who had both of his feet broken in Syria, is unable to receive medical attention as he nor Nadia have been granted official refugee status paperwork from the courts; but all of that is neither here nor there with Zaytouna back in their lives.
“The first thing she did was come crawl into bed with us,” Al Kadri said. “She remembers her name, she knows she is with her family.”
Cheers to a happy reunion – just in time for the holidays!