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Toni having a smoke in his tent at Kalochori camp.


Everyone at Kalochori camp knows Mohammed, or, as they all prefer to call him, Tony.
“I lived with some Christians in Beirut as a child,” he explains. “They always called me Tony, and somehow it stuck.”
The Syrian native arrived in Idomeni, an informal camp which has since been demolished and where many of Kalochori's residents came from, with only 100 Euros to his name. He had spent all his savings to get to Europe.
“I needed money,” he says. “So I bought camping lights to sell to people for use in their tents.” This fledgling enterprise grew into a small market and he became well known and respected among the other refugees. Although he is only 40 years old, Tony seems to be a father figure to many in the camp.
“I'm like a mayor of this place,” he jokes. “Whenever there is trouble, the police call me to fix it.”

This isn't to say Tony doesn't have his own problems. Although they are still legally married, his wife left him and married a much older and wealthier Iraqi man. She took Tony's two young children and moved from Syria to Iraq to live with him.
“They told the kids I'm dead,” says Tony. “Now I'm stuck here and I'm trying everything I can to get in touch with them, to let them know I'm alive.” He even made a video with photos of himself and his children telling them how much he loves them and posted it on Facebook in the hopes that some day they or someone they know may see it. Tony asked the UN for help, but to no avail.
“I hope that I can find a lawyer to help me once I can leave this place,” he says.
In Kalochori, he is famous for his artwork. There are not many living in refugee camps who find a creative outlet for their troubles, but he is one of the few. His creations are about love and hope and beauty – there are wooden hearts framed in seashells and delicately painted flowers. All of his art makes references to his children. Tony occasionally sells his pieces to the workers and volunteers at the camp.

Life at Kalochori is not easy, not even for the seemingly larger than life Tony.
“This place is a jungle,” he says. “There are drugs, alcohol, everything.”
Tony used to hope to move to Germany because he has relatives there, but he no longer cares where he goes.
“Let them send me anywhere,” he says. “Any place is better than here.”

Toni with some of his artwork.

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