Until I Found Art,

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

My name is Max and I’m a refugee I was arrested and tortured by the forces on suspicion for acting against the government several times. After suffering a long time in prison, I escaped the country to the UK. I claimed asylum at the airport and I ended up in prison and I was transferred to a removal detention centre. I believed that the UK will protect me but I did not expect that the Home Office would treat me the same way my country was. I was so upset and deeply regretted my decision to come to the UK. I was going through lost pain and fear about deportation. I rarely could eat and sleep. I got sick inside the detention and could not get medical support except. My PTSD was at a peak.


Fear, Anxiety, flashback and nightmare about my detention and torture back home made me weak and hopeless about my life. After 3 weeks I was released on reporting condition every month. A charity for survivors of human cruelty from London helped for my release. One day, I was given a letter saying I was illegal in this country and must leave the country voluntary otherwise the HO will deport me. This made me fear the worst. I was overwhelmed by PTSD after receiving that letter. I had to take sleeping pills to sleep and visit the mental health centre every month.

My doctor from the charity who examined and suggested attending some of the groups running by the charity. So, it could be helpful for me to meet others and to spend time with different things rather than staying alone with fear. So, I joined the walking group and the photography group. I liked the photography more than walking.

There were 10 – 15 of us. We ate lots of food than taking photos. We go out and take photos and we study about the photo (in particular about aperture, shutter speed and ISO and light of the photos. I was very interesting for me learning about photography.

We get homework every week. So, I liked to take photos and always ask questions about it in the class. Our mentors are professional photographers, who run this group at the charity and always happy to help. I took photos and shared them in our WhatsApp group and got good responses which made me go out to take more photos rather than staying in the room and worrying about the future. When time goes, I had a reason to go out that was to take photos.

Later, I wanted to study English and I joined to study my ESOL at the City of Westminster College and completed it.

After fighting against HO for 5 years, I was granted permission to stay.

I still remember the last day of my reporting at Eaton House, Reporting Centre, Hounslow in November 2018. The lady officer said I was given permission to stay for 5 years and I don’t have to report anymore. I don’t know how to explain how I was happy when I hear that. I felt true freedom and I wanted to shout loud saying “I’m a free man now”. After going through lots of pain, fear of deportation and fear of death. I slept that night without my sleeping pills. I felt lots of relief.

I believe that the photography group played an important role in my life to come outside the darkroom and take photos which leads overcome the fear about life, fear about deportation and fear about arrested by the police. The interest in taking photos made me even at night to go out to take pictures. When I felt a little confident, I went to study and finished the course. With the support of the charity, I was able to fight against the Home Office to get my right back.

I started my 6 months talking therapy for my PTSD at the same charity and it was very effective. When I finish the therapy session, I felt I’m ready to go with lots of energy like I was before 20 years.

I attended an interview and got selected. I’m a happy co-worker who always wants to meet and help customers in my workplace.