A refugee's tale: From being held by the Syrian army to helping other refugees

  • Video report by ITV News Europe Editor James Mates

Abdo Sheike fled Syria years ago and now runs a refugee help centre for dozens of his fellow countryfolk living in Greece.

Abdo tells ITV News that when the Syrian civil war started ten years ago, he, and many others who fled, thought they would be able to return in less than a year.

"In the beginning, all Syrians were thinking, 'it will be a few months and everything will be under control and we'll go back to normal'.

"But it doesn't happen like this," he says.

Syria's conflict - the numbers

Source: UNHCR

Before the war began in 2011, Abdo was an international polo player who owned a Syrian swimming academy. He lived a prosperous middle class life, but neither fame, status or lifestyle protected him from being captured by the Syrian army.

Abdo completed his military service in 2005, but the army wanted him to fight for them again.

He explains: "This is the story of every youth in Syria. The two sides - they kidnap the youth to fight and force them to fight with them."

  • Abdo, sitting next to his wife, talks about being captured by the Syrian army

He chose to flee, which meant he had to leave behind a large extended family and a comfortable home in Aleppo.

Abdo ended up in a tented camp on a Greek island, but not before taking a risky boat journey across the Mediterranean.

Abdo and his wife (left) and Abdo being interviewed on Syrian TV as a water polo player (right).

His prospects have improved since - he married an American charity worker and has a new home in a peaceful country.

Many of the Syrian refugees he helps, however, are still in limbo. They often arrive in Greece without papers, asylum documents or options for resettlement.

They desperately miss their old lives and those they had to leave behind, as Abdo does up until this day.

He has survived the last decade of war better than most have, but he's living proof never to take a comfortable life for granted.