Twelve-year-old Georgi had been sleeping for nearly a year. He had lost consciousness shortlyafter his family found out they would be kicked out of Sweden.
Georgi and his family are refugees. Seven years before, they escaped religious persecution intheir home country. They had made a new home in Sweden. Although Sweden is one ofEurope’s most welcoming countries for refugees, it has become stricter.
When the official-looking letter arrived from the government, Georgi’s parents couldn’t readSwedish, so Georgi read it out loud to his entire family. The letter said that the family wouldbe deported.
That’s when things took a turn for the worse.
Georgi dropped the letter on the floor and went to bed. He would remain in a mysterious deep sleep for nearly a year. His family tried everything to wake him. And his friends andteacher visited him daily and wrote him letters. Nothing worked.
Georgi wasn’t alone, and he wasn’t faking it. He was wasting away. Like many other refugeechildren facing deportation, a feeding tube was inserted down his throat to keep him alive.
In Sweden, in the early 2000s, many children whose families were being deported began tofall into a deep sleep. By 2005, more than 400 children were affected, remaining in bed,sometimes for years. Since then, many more have suffered, including Georgi.
Georgi’s doctor said, “I think it is a form of protection, this coma they are in…They are likeSnow White. They just fall away from the world.”
When the government heard about Georgi’s condition from his doctor, they allowed thefamily to stay put in Sweden.
Within two weeks of hearing the good news, Georgi began to wake up. Though his recoverywas arduous, he slowly learned to open his eyes, walk and talk. Within a few months, he wasstrong enough to start school again.
Georgi says he was completely unaware of the outside world during his months in bed. Hedescribes feeling as if he were in a glass box deep in the ocean. He said he had to remain stilland silent or the glass would break causing the water to rush in and kill him. He says, “Now Iunderstand that it wasn’t real at all. But, at that time, it was very difficult, because every movecould kill you. I was living there.”
Doctors remain baffled by the hundreds of sleeping refugee children that have only beenfound in Sweden. So far, the only theory is that the children are so afraid to return to theirhome country, and they feel so helpless, that they give up hope. Basically, they lose the willto live. And the only cure is being allowed to stay.
forced to leave
say something so that others can hear
took a turn for the worse
to suddenly worsen
to remain in one’s current place
to stop trying, to let go of
will to live
desire and effort to survive