I Just Wanted to Save My Family
The timely, powerful memoir of a man unjustly charged with a crime for helping his relatives, refugees from Syria.
For trying to save his in-laws, who were fleeing certain death in Syria, Stéphan Pélissier was threatened with fifteen years in prison by the Greek justice system, which accused him of human smuggling. His crime? Having gone to search for the parents, brother, and sister of his wife, Zéna, in Greece rather than leaving them to undertake a treacherous journey by boat to Italy.
Their joy on finding each other quickly turned into a nightmare: Pélissier was arrested as a result of a missing car registration and thrown into prison. Although his relatives were ultimately able to seek asylum—legally—in France, Pélissier had to fight to prove his innocence, and to uphold the values of common humanity and solidarity in which he so strongly believes.
I Just Wanted to Save My Family offers a heartrending window into the lives of those displaced by the Syrian civil war and a scathing critique of the often absurd, unfeeling bureaucracies that determine their fates.
P lissier delivers a riveting meditation on love, family, and the perilous lives of asylum seekers. He opens with the story of his charmed romance with a beautiful Syrian woman named Zena who was working on her PhD in Lorraine, France. They fell in love and married, but things took a dark turn after Zena's family became endangered in war-torn Syria. Hoping to help his in-laws, P lissier drove to Greece, where Zena's family had been detained on their way to France from Syria, but instead of facilitating their escape, he is accused of trafficking them by Greek officials. Released after appearing in court, he returned to his wife without her parents and siblings. After Zena's family's separation from P lissier, the memoir switches to their point of view, following them to Hungary, where they are apprehended and taken to a migrant camp, and finally to France, where they receive asylum. The memoir is striking in its ability to remain harrowing and suspenseful while also digging deeply into the emotional dynamics of an extended family that's been pushed to the brink. P lissier's stirring account exposes the inhumanity of asylum seekers' plight and illuminates how precious and precarious the right to freedom can be.