Murtaza Rezai was born in Kandahar, Afghanistan. When he was six years old his parents took him with them when they fled from the civil war to Pakistan. In the spring of 2015 Murtaza left his parents and took his chances with a large group of refugees trying to make it to Europe.
They crossed the mountainous border between Pakistan and Iran on foot before crossing the country by car to the Turkish border. After entering Turkey on foot again they journeyed over 1.500 kilometers as the bird flies and nearly 2.000 road kilometers to the Turkish Mediterranean coast. From there they set over in rubber boats to Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos.
From there Murtaza and his fellow refugees managed to get on a ferry to Athens, where they stayed for five days. Next they travelled by train northwards to the border of North Macedonia which they crossed in a six hour long forced march. From there it took a week – partly by train and partly by foot – until they reached Serbia. In Belgrade Murtaza was arrested by the police and held on the station for three hours. They were hauled by car to the Hungarian border. After the crossing they stayed in Hungary for two days before they were smuggled to Austria in the cargo area of a truck.
He was held for eleven days in the reception center in Traiskirchen, Lower Austria. Then he was transferred to a refugee accommodation center in Vienna’s Erdberg district that was alternately operated by Caritas and Samariterbund, two aid agencies with ties to the Catholic Church and the labor movement respectively. Under the aegis of Caritas Murtaza as an unaccompanied minor refugee was billeted with single males in the upper floors of the center while families lodged in the lower floors. The Samaritans did not continue that division and intermixed all refugees over all floors of the center.
Through a project called Connecting People, Murtaza met Marion and Bernhard from Vienna’s Währing-district, who invited him in the spring of 2018 to move in with them and their son Dominik. Ever since they support him and act as his foster family in Austria.
Since his arrival in Austria, Murtaza has visited German language courses and for eighteen months the Jugendcollege (Youth College), operated by the city of Vienna to provide young refugees with some minimal education to build on. For a year he went to a vocational school for the hospitality industry and acquired a minimum compulsory schooling degree. For a year now, Murtaza is in an education program to become a caretaker for persons with special needs. In his spare time he loves to go climbing and biking and loves to play badminton. But his most cherished activity is to sleep.