About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee holding a card saying 'Migration is not a crime' that hides their face


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“I got wanted at one point for military duty and it’s not my thing to carry a weapon and kill without reason or being killed without reason, and even with reason I don’t want to do it.” The 31-year-old asylum seeker asks not to be identified for his safety. He arrived in Europe in 2015, after journeying through Turkey and Hungary, leaving behind loved ones who continue to live with the threat of kidnapping and war. “It’s really difficult… I have seen how much people really [try] to make it… whatever that costs. So they just go and survive.” His experiences have taught him patience, he says. He also works through the trauma all the time. “This kind of experience made me feel my survival so I will keep going anyway. If not for me, for my beloved ones.” Now working as a freelancer, he says one of his dreams is “simple”: “I would be happy with some little vegetable garden… This is a dream [that’s] making me a little bit hope that there’s something still to discover.”

Trigger Warning: Discrimination, war, death, violence.

full interview

I will directly jump into it.

So, um, what kind of housing do you live in?
I live at the moment in a type of community.

And can you describe the conditions of the place?
It’s an old place. It was renovated by some people and it’s becomes a Verein (association) like somehow. It’s an old place, but it’s quite good. It’s cheap for living.

Who do you live with? How many people?
Around, let’s say, 25.

And how do you spend your time in general?
At the moment, you know, how is the last year, so like with the Corona, made the not that much work and stuff like that, but I’m still, kind of, in my day working on my stuff, which not much social, not much stuff, so in, in a way, on my own.

So do you work?
Yes. Yes, usually, yes, I do.

Is it easy to find jobs?
Well, like, I don’t know if I can say easy or not easy like this. It’s of course, always difficult to find a job, but for my qualifications and stuff like this. So I’m a freelancer and basically I’m getting kind of enough jobs for a cheap life. But then, of course, it’s difficult to get something like more fixed or stable.

And, uh, what are some of the things that bring you joy in life?
Oo. (Both laugh). Um …I’m not sure how I can answer this question, but like I mean, joy can come from different things. I mean, like doing life itself is a joy like.

And how has life been since you arrived to Europe?
Well,in the beginning, it was quite, um, difficult to just adapt and, like, come into the place and know where to live, how, how the system works. And so it takes me some, like a few years – two or three – until I got settled somewhere. And, yeah.

And what has been good about being here?
It’s quite of a normal life, somewhat. Like it’s, how I can describe this?There’s no war (laughs), that’s the most important. There’s a different type of war, in a way, in my opinion, but it’s at least more safe, it’s like for, living.

And what has been difficult being here?
Of course, like, as a social person, like in the beginning, it takes just a while to find the surround, the right surrounds which I can fit in. It’s as any a different country here, so like, there’s a society and, there’s an authority of people (laughs), always. And somehow to find the, the real or like the fitting surround that was quite difficult in a way. And of course, finding like jobs and like there’s many different things to make it difficult, but mostly for me as a person, I think.

And can you describe how living here has made you feel?
Well, in the beginning, I thought it would be kind of a relief because you know how the interpretation of being in Europe, but it’s still, there’s different feelings of being faked in a way? Like and somehow, like when life is running, so there’s a lot of emotions comes up and when we speak about ourselves as a creatures we can’t remember. So it feels kind of with my past and the present, and so it feels like somehow … I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but it seems fake a little bit then how the interpretation about it.

And how does being away from your home or family make you feel?
Actually it’s fine to not be there. It’s not that, like I mean, I, it’s just a different spot on this earth so … And especially now these days, like, you miss the mom or dad, just call video. But of course, it’s still like, sadly, that I can’t enter and sit on a table with some food and, um, you know, it’s like this just to see the people who we like. Andthis is, of course, feels sad that to not be able to, especially in my certain situation, that I can’t go there even, even if I want, so. And yeah, I mean, it is sad a little bit about not being the presence, but of course, still the communication. It’s kind of a daily process in a way.

And do you feel discrimination or do you feel that belonging? Do you have such kind of feelings?
Of course, like discrimination it exists in a sense of that it can be seen, especially in such a sensitive situation, like, I look after this and these things because it’s in my mind and we live in such a, a type of discrimination in the world and somehow, it been, it have been felt around, most likely. Sure. Sometimes people don’t feel like, or they don’t notice that they’re discriminating and this is the problem. That these people are discriminating with, let’s say a sense of knowledge of that they know that they’re discriminating, which is bad. And of course, when I see these people, it’s like I try to avoid because this seems to be not smart so much. But there’sthe most difficult discrimination sometimes I face with people who are doing it without noticing even or not knowing that they are doing some discrimination. Could be in a, like as a funny joke, you know, doesn’t have to be violent or anything.

And how does that make you feel?
Well, I think discrimination is not cool. Anyway in general, it’s not nice and it’s really hard to take it because it’s like after acknowledging this, what does that mean to be discriminated or to discriminate? It’s through the generations before.It feels hard to still notice in the world that there’s something still like discrimination, like when we will learn that it’s something we don’t need even. It’s not important and it’s just bringing, uh, chaos and bad feelings.

And, um, how have you been able to overcome or survive or live with that?
Well, this is something I need to work with myself, I noticed that it’s, it’s not something to be changed individually. That should be a decision of groups, like societies, like, when people open up for – I mean, border itself is making such a nation, which is, could be going into that type of discrimination, and this is somehow I think it’s a group action as a human, a humanistic idea that what is discrimination? So, I can’t change the world myself, but somehow I can try for myself to not do it and not accept it and so basically that was my solution for it.

Mm hmm. So it’s kind of mechanism?
Yes. In a way it should be talking about and if I would face it, I would tell that, ‘Hey, you do something.’ Who is someone is discriminating me, maybe I would try to say that what’s happening and I wouldn’t so much fight for it because if this person not able or not wanting to understand. So as an individual behavior about it, I just try to be standing in front of it and face it and that’s it without taking so much advantage.

And, um, do you think that you developed this kind of mechanism or ability to deal with racism or discrimination, or did you always have it?
Of course, like discrimination exist everywhere. So I have faced it since I start to acknowledge myself as a human and understand what can that brain do. And, so I think it’s a process of learning about it and of course, we had it before like so on. I mean, we, we still live in a society that somehow I could be discriminated for my gender, for example, or for being as I am or how I behave or how I think sometimes, you know, and where I come from, it’s like somehow it could be discriminated for your religion and anything. That sometimes you work could be discriminated, you know, like as any other country so basically, this, this knowledge about discrimination has existed since start to talk about it, I mean.

Yeah. How does it affect you, like as a person and let’s say you are in Europe and you are not born here?This is, another point of it, that you, um, face discrimination just because you were not born here and which is related to racism also and, you know, this kind of, discrimination that you face and, you see it just in Europe. You face it in Europe. And, how do you deal with it here and, this kind of, mechanism that you develop? I don’t know if it would exist in your country of origin because, you were born there and there you were facing another kind of discrimination? Of course, discrimination exists in different, uh, layers.
Yeah, sure.

But, uh, at the moment here, just not being born here and facing the discrimination because of this reason.
When I, when I arrived in Europe, the most difficulty was like dealing with paperwork. That’s really difficult, and especially there then you start to notice the discrimination. Sometimes you’re lucky, you go into an office and and you get with a person which is nice and sometimes you get unlucky and you get … So you see this fear that I’m standing in front of a building, I know that I have a bunch of papers I need to deal with, which is a super difficult, especially as someone I mean, I mean the citizens who are born and raised in this country sometimes with like I start to because of asking for friends, like friends for help and stuff, especially language-wise or … So, the point of understanding of official paper is difficult for them too. And, and there is the first step of knowledging the, the type of discrimination like I through, through my friends I got to help me for translation sometimes and so on, how they got even reacting to how this person was dealing in the office. I don’t want to name any officers, I could be anywhere. And if this person is really in the wrong place, dealing with, let’s say, foreigners office and you put, um, such a closed minded or such a racist or I don’t know, I don’t want to judge.

Butin one point, this person is acting the discrimination by looking at you as like ah sometimes, like, you know …Like it’s really strange, to go to a dentist and then the dentist asks me, ‘Ah do you eat sugar?’ And then I say, ‘No, I don’t use this much sugar, but I still have honey, for example, in my tea or so.’ And then she laughs and she thinks, she look at the friend and they’re like, ‘Ah these people really don’t know that honey is with sugar. I mean, most of the people from this country comes and they really eat a lot of sugar.’ And she was really saying it in a really super strange way. So we are talking about someone who’s supposed to be an educated person and knowledging something, kind of, out of this bubble of … So that’s kind of likeI don’t want to say only in an office to work with where I could see it, it’s just, um, I could see it anywhere. As an interpretation that people are looking at you where I come from, so like, ‘Ah, you are from there? Then you maybe idiot or whatever,’ like you don’t know something, you don’t know, that’s the, that’s the most discrimination point I have seen in many different situations that, like, they have an interpretation of you, where you come from. And even this interpretation is not correct, because if they would know what is there, they wouldn’t be like this. Because like what I’m facing in here, actually, is same what I face in my country too so … I don’t know if I answered that question, but I was a little bit, um …

Yeah, okay. Um, how, um, Covid-19 – Corona – affected your life? Wellbeing, emotional feelings?
Isolation is annoying, like, I’m not used to be isolated, which is the, of course, the whole system working in isolation, like … Especially like latelyin my country before I leave, that was super bad isolation because of war. And then coming here, then Covid, like isolating. Actually, it’s affected me a lot because I, kind of, struggled a little bit in the beginning for with my qualification to, to find myself a job and be, out of categories of government support or anything, because it’s quite annoying too. And somehow I like to do my thing too, is like my, I try as well as hard, I managed to get a job that is fitting my qualifications. I don’t want to work anything else just for money, it’s like, of course I get money for my job and at least I’m doing my job. And it was difficult to, to get into there after approving this. Uh, it was really a hustle to, to make paperwork to be a freelancer, because otherwise it’s really like for each thing I need a paper and it’s not, it’s quite difficult predicaments. So basically, it’s affected me, for example, that I already work less because I work, like, as a freelancer and I’m quite like start to be freshly into it. And actually the expectations was for, for this year with Corona, that was the third year of me practicing the job, in here, in Europe. And then now it’s, kind of, I start to lose the track slowly, slowly. So I likefor two years building up to be in the right position and the third year I just like even I start to lose that. I work with organizations like Cultural Associations, and these was closed most of the time, museums or, art places.

So it’s like, it was kind of a bad financially, bad emotionally because I, as well I don’t know what a coincidence, but I broke up with my girlfriend too in this year and isolation and difficulties that missing, for example, a person who used to be with you for four years and, not able to go and do my action that I do mostly for my soul somehow? Socializing, this reason. Yeah, I don’t know … Something like that.

Okay, now I will ask a couple of questions regarding your past. And as I said, you can say that you don’t want to answer and I will cancel it. Um, why did you leave your past, why did you leave your country?
That was because, first: war, or we keep it simple like this?

If you want, it’s completely up to you.
I mean, of course there’s many different reasons, butmainly it was war. Like, it’s not a place to live in a way and not a place for me, because in a way, I cannot. As we said before, I have a specific job in my life so like, I can’t be …And I got wanted at one point for military duty and it’s not my thing to carry a weapon and kill without reason or being killed without reason, and even with the reason I don’t want to do it. Like it’s not something to do and, it was too much for me to like late, after I finished my study, I got my Bachelor and then at one point I got wanted and it’s not my thing and it’s not a choice there. So, like, I be involved or I just leave, you know, that’s not something I can choose.

And how did that make you feel at that time?
Quite bad.I wouldn’t leave this way if there wouldn’t be a war. I like my people, I like my family, I like my friends, I like the neighborhood. And at least I would leave with a peace with that place. It’s not like I’m saying now, I’m totally connected to that place. Of course, there’s a big connection with that place, there’s a memory, there’s, there’s a whole … I mean, not whole, but most of my years and my friends and everyone I like and I love – my beloved ones – if I can say. So, it would, it was really bad that I was looking orI wasn’t there even to look behind for my dad, my mom, my friends standing in front of the house while leaving. So it wasn’t, it wasn’t that pleasant because it wasn’t a decision even. It’s how hard to just like you be ordered, you have to do this, even if you don’t know.

Maybe I would like to go and see the world. I don’t like borders, I don’t believe in it. I like to see more. I like to, like, know about what is this earth about. It’s nice to see, but not in this way. And like I’m being pushed to be – even in Europe – is like, yeah, okay, you know what, I would like to come Europe, but why I have to make myself a European to be in Europe? I don’t need to be anyone with a paper and says that I can be in here to be in here.

So imagine that you are being forced to leave for such reasons, which is like actually it’s not necessarily for acknowledging as well as a human being, like nobody wants to see war, it’s not, um … But in the same time, I don’t want to be being forced to come to Europe, for example, and living the war, but in a different continent. And this is really driving me insane a little bit. It’s like living the war, but in a different time because I can’t get out of it. So I’m actually talking home,my family are there and they are facing kidnapping and it’s like this terrible situation after years of war and chaos and of course, now how the system are working there that it’s still, it’s going to divide smaller and smaller. So that wasn’t a good opportunity for me to be hoping more. It’s like I had the choice that I just leave or I be a little bit controlled in a smaller cage. And of course, Europe is a big part of what is happening, I believe, you know, this is my own mind, how I acknowledged politics and stuff, of course, like the here they want something, here they want something. The Russians are doing something, the Americans are doing something. And then okay, you know, like here they want gas, here they want oil, here they want then hard worker, here they want something else, I don’t know … It’s uh quite confusing. It’s, uh, not as small, uh, news story. It’s just a little bit older than me to be complete able to explain what’s happening. And so I’m used here too.

And, um, how was your journey to Europe?
I came by the rubber boats, this thing from Turkey – this way, I mean – like the smuggling way to, to Greece and then somehow managing to work – it was 20 days of, uh … It was difficult, but I liked it in a way. It was kind of a weird adventure, but it’s a little bit scary because you see people around panicking and stuff and being discriminated too. Like I still remember in Hungary, I was like standing for a couple of days because I, I don’t want to be hit by the police and I don’t want to be, as well, as we know that, like I, you know, if you got captured in this country, they have fingerprint and then if you have the fingerprint, it’s much more difficult to reach your destiny – destination into where you’re going. So maybe this country will refuse and will send you this. But this country is actually, they’re making it so tight for people who are searching for a home because they don’t have, you know, like, it’s really difficult and so bad. So anyway,I had to stay, uh, for two days there, for example. Just to find out or figure the right time to just sneak in without being, uh, catched or discriminated or whatever they do.

And sobasically I came as a lot of people in groups and numbers, crossing, hoping for something. And actually it was dangerous a little bit, I was quite young so … But I have seen families walking and old people and really kids and, you know, it was difficult. I cannot even, sometimes I feel ashamed that to say that I know it was quite an adventure for me. Yeah, I was young and I was kind of happy for what I’m doing, even because I thought I got my rights to just do what I want at the moment and I decided to do this and I decided, I followed my decision. Um, and I have knowledge, what does that mean actually and to see how that is happening, because whatever from the news, we don’t get what it is about. Um, so it was quite difficult if that would be, for example, if they would be opening up the borders for these people, who needs this. It wouldn’t be that difficult if people die in the sea and people will be being held and discriminated somewhere else and here is people. There’s some, a lot of stories that people went to jail sometimes in some country for, for a year or so just for trying to cross and being tortured at one point. So like in a way that’s how it was, basically. Honestly.

Do you think about these events often or at all?
That will never go from my memory. It’s something, kind of, um … There’s a lot of decisions I took for my life to and is it depend to this experience so it’s added something in me and it’s made me see something which is changes a lot as well. And these changes are, kind of, exists in me now. So I think in my thoughts there, in my unconsciousness, is always there because in a way it was really a strong experience.That’s why I called an adventure, you know, like to make it funny In a way. It was an adventure, but actually it was really not any, like, it’s not a, not a movie. It’s something real. It’s, um, yeah, dangerous too.

And how do you feel when you think about that now?
I feel my survival. Like, my strong animals, you know. It’s really, there’s many different emotions comes up when you ask me that ‘What does that feel?’ Well, actually, there’s a lot of images come, come to my brain and, you know … It wasn’t like a touristic trip. People was sometimes screaming and sometimes being crying and afraid, though these people had the fear and, seeing a lot of death, and that’s why they left, actually. So imagine this, this image of a struggling, how we can say? Like it’s a struggle.It’s a struggling hope somehow for surviving. People are trying to keep themselves, their kids, their families safe. And then at one point they jump into a boat filled with people and just send into the water. In that moment, actually, that there’s images comes that people was, kind of, really panicking. They have kids, they are just like carrying their kids with them. It’s really difficult. So these kind of images, it’s making me feel myself a lot because I have seen how, how much people really trying to, to make it hard, whatever that costs. So they just go and survive. It’s really a nice, nice image to see that others people are still capable to, to knowledge such a thing and continue their life, and that’s what I mean much more important, actually.

And could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle the situation?
I freaked out before a lot because it’s like, it’s a process of taking in and taking out. But at the moment, I think I, yeah, I can deal with the situation, it’s fine. I mean, it’s okay after working on it and to see it in the right position, so of course there’s some traumas out of it, but it still worked on and in a way used for good too.

And, um, how were we able to survive it? Did you have some kind of like coping mechanism or strategy to go through hard times?
I mean,this kind of knowledge has broughts types of strength. I learn patience, as well, and somehow, after facing this and see what is behind, of course, like even the bad feelings comes as a traumas. I try to work with it all the time, just to keep it up, because, as I said, that this kind of experience made me feel my survival so I will keep going anyway. If not for me, for my beloved ones, so.

And, um, before leaving your country, did you have dreams?
Dreams when I am sleep, you mean? (Both laugh)

No, about the future.
Yeah, sure. Sure, sure. I had both actually, I have that dreams when I’m sleeping and I have the dreams for the future. So when I left, I was, forced to – and this is, this is doesn’t have to do anything with my dreams, because even before I was a dreamer, like dreaming a lot about what, what is happen – what I would wish to happen and how I would like, what I would like to do.There’s a lot of plans, which is half of them just like vanished because it’s not possible to do anything. Like if, it’s not possible to do everything in a way. But of course,there were a lot of dreams and most of them I actually did like somehow. An artist or this, kind of, was something nice for me to do. And I’m still trying to keep them, there some dreams to the front, actually, which is going back to the wild life in a little bit like this idea of wildlife. Enough system, enough.

Before leaving your home country, what would you describe as your strength?
Well, what … Strength?

Simply, I have realized through that, process of living, I mean, the living in there. I have noticed that I can see and I can knowledge and I’m not really in a bubble. So basically my strength was, again, surviving from being in a bubble and being closed in one point, that to not be able to open up and see always the alternative of any idea can come to my mind. That was a strength.

Did you maintain that? Do you still have it?
I think so. I trained it there and I kept, I kept going with it.

Mmhmm. And, um, through this all difficult experiences, do you think as a result of this experience, something came out positive?
Which experiences exactly?

Like your past experiences like war or your journey, um, what you have been through in the past?

You know, like now, the first images come to my mind, that is about how I start, for good knowledging music, because if we speak about, the situation in the country back in the days, there were dictatorship and still. And that’s the thing, there were not nothing called Internet until 2000 to cut open. So imagine how hard to, to go through and see what is there and think about what is in between my hands and what is, how it could be completed somehow, and what does that mean and what does that do? And as an idea, that is an ideas or whatever.
And then I still remember that. At first I start to knowledge music and that was, um, came from a little series about many different awkward weird stuff in the system, how it’s going. And then I heard a song, I don’t know, maybe it’s kitschy to say that song of Bob Marley, it was about like ‘Get up, stand up’. Yeah, that was really strange and ‘Wow it’s so nice’ and I had a friend, we were like all the time looking like, ‘Ah, what is this song?’ And there were nothing called Shazam or something like that, you need to make a research and that, and that times, in that country somehow, it’s not that much, uh, possibilities because that’s how the system was. They want to keep the people not aware of what’s happening around. As an isolation as, like, that’s what I mean with an isolation. It’s like it’s a system working to isolate. It’s not like people are deciding to isolate themselves.
And I knowledged how a country or a society can be changed through only a couple of years, one generation – one and a half – is enough to manipulate and brainwash people to, to be obeying even for the dictatorship. So this is one of of the most, uh, important things that happen to me. To see that, how much that, that, that system try to keep the people, suppressing the people and backward the people. And somehow there is still a little, little part about like, ‘Okay, wait a moment, there’s something else in here.’ So that’s the thing like I see the something else, the first thing comes to my mind was like finding out such a music like Reggae in the beginning. Now, I listen to something else totally. But, um, I mean, you know, I trying to keep it as simple as I can. I don’t know if this is an answer, but that’s a beautiful thing. You know,I feel proud of myself all the time.

Yeah, it’s beautiful.
When I think of it, it’s like really all that happened and I’m still okay, you know, I didn’t go into the way that the system wants, because that way is a deadly, it’s not friendly at all and it’s not nice and, it’s discriminating, too. And it’s using the population for, for weird stuff and torturing everyone say something. Wow,you know, like the elderly generation, they are really afraid to say a joke about politics or anything, it’s like they really afraid because there, you know, walls has ears and stuff like that and the system works that if you even in a group and telling a joke about a politician, for example, you end up in a jail for a couple of years and you go out crazy, you know? It’s really, so it’s really hard to keep, keep up. In the 50s was country, it was from the highest countries in the world, you know, I know what we’ve talking about. And then after this dictatorship, it was, kind of, going to a war. And then later on, we found out as well that, ah okay, you know. But, there’s not one person behind, it’s several countries, and it’s, um, it’s a plan to control and divide like that.

And, um, what are your hopes and dreams for the future now?
Oh, lately I’m quite depressed. (laughs). Um…

Almost the last question.
Okay. It’s just like I’m getting a little bit shock to the question, itself, because I am … Just keeping it up, at least at the moment, and I said before, I like I mean. .. but I would like to do that to keep myself as free I can. And for that I am up to, um, give up all the paperwork and system and the money and everything. So somehow I really like,I would be happy with some, some little vegetable garden, you know. See, it’s a simple dream. Of course, it’s like just a dream now and this is a dream and actually this, kind of, making me a little bit hope that there’s something still to discover, at least. And the … And somehow I’m looking for, for this that my past is always telling me that I know now could something change? I would like to go and visit friends somewhere, but …

And … And of course, now actually after Corona as well, I don’t know, I’m quite confused with a lot of plans. (Laughs) Wow, well, like I said, last year was like a big plan and didn’t happen at all, like I would say 25% of my plan for the year, and that’s, of course, dependent on my many different facilities, like I mean, work and life, social, being free to move. And of course, like it’s difficult, as an, as an asylum, I’m like, it’s not that easy for me too … with the passport I have. Mm … Yeah. SoI’m looking forward to have a type of, um, again, not isolated life and that’s the most important thing happened for my plans.

And thank you for answering all the questions first and is there anything you would like to add that might help people in Europe better understand the life of people with immigration background?
I mean, as a lot of people nice in Europe and they understand what does that mean to see a ‘foreigner’, let’s say, what foreigner is a person that someone who from different nation or whatever? A different continent. What I can say, all my expectations when I arrived to Europe, I wouldn’t say all to not be exaggerating, but most of my expectations was wrong. It was just an interpretation about how we know from far away what is this place and what is it about. Far from political things, but as a living, you know, like what you see and how you experience and so I would actually just add this.

Rethinking is really, really good. Rethinking of, like we should rethink all the time of what we have in our minds and when we see someone we don’t know anything about, before we put our expectations, actually it could be nice to ask, you know? It’s like to not treat someone as like, okay, you are from there, then you don’t do this and you do this and you don’t do this and you do this. No, maybe I’m different.

Maybe it’s like there’s a lot of different things, is like the main interpretation of where I come from is, as well, not that correct. And even in each society, there’s alternative always like the, you know, like just like to not be treating someone as our own expectations, that doesn’t make any sense, like … I mean, I have four brothers and each one of them have a different mindset and, sowhen I would meet someone in Europe and treat me like, as how the interpretation of me in this mind, actually, the first thing I consider that, like actually I would wish that my brothers are with me (laughs). To show there’s like, ‘Oh, you know what? I am like this. I am from this place. I’m different than how the people thinking I am are. And actually, these are my brothers and they are totally different. And everyone has his own personality.’ It’s like, of course, there’s the main category of lifestyle of a society, but it’s always different, it’s always different. It’s not that people don’t ride camels, you know. (Laughs) It is not about this.

Many 1000 Dreams interviews were not conducted in English. Their translation has not always been performed by professional translators. Despite great efforts to ensure accuracy, there may be errors.