About Refugees, By Refugees
So hello, Evora.
Can you tell us, first of all, where are you from? Which country are you from? And, where are you living today? I mean, as a country, of course. And, how did you find your living conditions? Are you happy or can it be better?
Yeah. First I am from Syria, I live now in France. And the third part of the question like the living condition, right, as for the living condition, I can consider it as good.
So far hmm yeah.
So, you’re… You told me you were an asylum seeker right now.
So how do you spend your your days in France?
I’m actually… I’m a student as well now. So mainly my time is going for my studies and also for learning more French by creating more French things, listening more to French programs, French… watching French movies to try. But because, you know, I don’t want to jump to another subject. But now with the COVID and with the communication, the social life, like it’s tough been a year and that’s preventing me from using my French with people. And I’m feeling like it’s deteriorating un peu (a little), so I’m trying like to compensate that by doing these activities alone. So mainly this is how I spend my time now.
OK, and how do you feel when you learn French? Is it difficult?
Yes, definitely. It is difficult. It’s not an easy language to learn. It’s beautiful, but it’s difficult. At the same time there is some frustration sometimes, but it’s good so far. I’m in general linguistic enthusiast. I love languages. I love learn new languages always. And I have, like on my lists, five other languages I’m going to learn later on when I’m done with the French. Hopefully I would be able. So yeah, I like the process, but I find it a bit… because also of the conditions now and the reality I live in now, everything is télétravail (remote working) I… everything is from distance. The people cannot see each other, cannot talk, not like do any kind of activities together. So yeah, I feel like it’s a bit more difficult now and before.
OK, and do you have any other activities like hobbies or passions, some things you like to do?
Yeah I draw sometimes. And sport, doing sports in general. Yeah. I have a little pet. I have a little dog, also is taking my time. Sometimes we play, we go for a walk. Yeah.
OK, so you live alone or with people or?
Oh no, it’s not a shared place no, it’s my place.
It is my place.
Okay good. And so you said you draw, how does it make you feel when you draw?
It’s really make me not to overthink lots, like sometimes when you are stressed, when you thinking, when you overthinking. So that’s good because you concentrate on what you do and you try not to think, or actually like direct your thinking on like one thing. It’s good. It works sometimes, sometimes not.
And did you draw before coming to Europe or?
Yeah. A bit since since… I was in Syria, but….
Yeah, I was like trying. But it’s not like very proficient you know, it’s an amateur who is… who wants to spend some time, you know.
And what about the languages? Did you… Were you always interested in languages also before?
Yes. Yes. In fact even my studies in Syria was related to languages and literatures and writing . Yeah.
OK, so you read lots of books.
No, no books.
OK, so I know, I mean “you read”, not “you wrote”.
I read, ah yeah, oui.
Yeah Yeah Yeah.
Yes of course.
Oh okay good, so can you tell us a little bit… so how, as much as you want to, why did you have to leave your country?
Yes in fact, I left Syria because of the war and because of the whole situation on the country, or in fact, Syria has been under a dictatorship for a very long time. And we grew up in this, like, we didn’t know anything but that dictatorship, you know, and it came the moment like ten years ago for people to say enough is enough. And that’s like the whole world saw the reaction of the regime. It was so violent. It was so vicious. And at some point I had to leave because of this conflict and because of my political opinions. So…
Okay and how was your life in Syria before that? So you said a little bit about the dictatorship and everything, but overall were you with your family? Were you happy before the war? How was it?
Yes, with my family. Of course it was. It was a normal, ordinary life. You can say, kind of, I was working by then and I was studying as well. And yeah, it was OK, yeah not like very good, but it was ok.
Bad things were going on. No…
And how did you feel when you understand, when you understood sorry that you had to leave?
It happened actually gradually, like it wasn’t “hop (off you go), I need to leave now” and I left, you know. First I went in… I moved outside Syria to a neighboring country. And later on, I kept going back and forth to see my family. And later on, things turned into like a worse and more dangerous episode, you know? So it was impossible for me to go back anymore. And it happened like without planning for it, without knowing, like at this date, I will not be able anymore to go back. It happened like that. So, yeah, it was shocking. But I was expecting that to come at some point. But when it happened, it was shocking and it wasn’t easy to really, like, believe that you cannot go back there anymore. You know, you cannot see people there, you cannot see your friends or family and everything, you know, in life. It’s there, you know. So yeah that was the difficult thing about it.
And did you find some help in yourself, I mean, some strength or some help around you at that time?
Yes, of course. Of course. You know, living in Syria, it’s like ongoing training and workshop for you to know how to deal with difficult situations. So, yeah, I… we had this kind of resilience often. It’s not just people of Syria. I feel like all people around the globe who live under dictatorships and under this kind of, like, oppression, they are in a way or another. They know how to, like, get out of a difficult situation. They are trained. They have their resilience. So, yeah, that helped me a bit. And also having friends always helped me as well and supported me, that they supported me in many like stages of this journey.
And do you want to tell us about your journey or is it something you want to keep anonymous let’s say?
Well I can give you like the headlines. Okay. About it? It was normally and I came here to France with a regulated situation, with like, legal situation. I entered the country and here I had some friends also, who some of them it’s been a very long time they are in France. And some of them, maybe they were like newly arrived in France as well. They were here and they helped me. You know, it’s really different when you have people who are helping you, because I always think about it. And we like… I saw a lot of cases when people arrive here, and they don’t know the language. They don’t know anybody and they are by their own. It’s really… can get very difficult and ugly, the whole experience. So luckily, I had this, like I, I consider myself lucky, really, for having this.
And do you remember the feelings you had when you arrived here, what you thought of the people, the country, the culture?
Uh in general… tt was strange, in fact, because I’ve never thought about in my life, to be honest. I thought about maybe I would go to Europe, someday you know, for some reasons, I don’t know, but not like this. And not after all of what happened, you know, so it was a strange feeling in fact and being geographically that away from, you know, but when you are in the neighboring countries, you think about it like you… you’re still near. Even if you don’t, you cannot cross and go back to that country. But you’re geographically, physically, you are like not that far away. But when you go to another continent completely, like a thousand miles away, if you are like, “Oh.” Now you are feeling like very away from from that country and maybe you will never be able to go back there. So it’s really strange. It was strange and shocking and like it was mixed, the feelings in fact, yeah.
And how did you deal with those feelings?
Well, we overcome these feelings, we live with it, and bit by bit when you know the things around you, when you start to work on your situation in your work, you start to get used to these kind of feelings and you learn how to deal with them with time. You know, you create like ways to be able to distract yourself from negative thoughts you can say, and going back there like drowning in the nostalgia and not coming back to the real life situation you are living in. Yeah.
And is there something in particular that that helped you? Do you recall? I don’t know, some activity or some some people told me that they saw a psychiatrist… A psychologist, for example, or some people told me that reading books or literature helped them, or I don’t know, is there one thing or may it’s just overall?
When I arrived in fact, work helped me a lot. I was able to work. And I’m kind of a workaholic, so, yeah, being busy with work and with deadlines helped me to actually distract myself. And at the same time, I was feeling like I was doing something also. Not just like sitting and feeling bad and sad about what happened with me. You know, I’m trying to do something for myself and for other people that I’m trying to help. Hopefully, I was able, I don’t know…
That is great. That’s great. And do you think often of Syria and what’s happening there?
Yes, definitely it’s on a daily basis, in fact, because I always follow up what’s going on there. Like I follow all news actually, not only like on the military, on the war side, like what’s happening also economically, what’s going on in the country socially and other issues. So every day always, like I check the news in Syria and then I check around the world what’s going on? So, yeah, it’s there, even if I wasn’t thinking about something personal, I’m thinking about something that’s happening now there because I keep like… I make sure that I am up to date with what’s happening there.
And how does it make you feel?
I mean what to say? You know, you always keep the hope that at some point that violence at least will end. And every time you read what’s going on and you try to read also behind like what’s happening actually in the news. And that makes you feel every time like something happened. When you have, like, a little hope that this will end, something happened, turn the war into like a new level, a new front, a new edition of what’s going on then. And the conflict renew itself again, over and over again. And that’s really… it’s not just sad because people… this is the reality, people who are living in Syria, this is their everyday, it’s their daily life. So it’s really sad to see this and it’s more disappointing to see the whole world like watch what’s happened in Syria and still watching what’s happening today, you know. And it’s pass… it’s passing. It’s OK, you know, and it shouldn’t be, you know. Killing civilians, it shouldn’t be something okay. Using chemical weapons, it shouldn’t be okay. Invading some country, invading other parts of the country or whatever country, it’s not okay. It shouldn’t be okay. But they… the ethnic cleansing or the demographic change that’s happening, it’s been 10 years today. And I can’t believe I’m saying like it’s been 10 years today in Syria. We can say like it’s a decade, you know, the war started there. So, yeah, it’s disappointing. It’s sad. And it’s a feeling… it’s not just me. The whole Syrians are trying to, like, live despite that, you know, not live with it. You cannot live with it. You know, it’s still not acceptable. But despite that, we try to survive and to go on with a normal life.
And thank you, that is that is very, very sad. But does it make you angry also, the situation?
Oh, yes, of course.
So how do you channel this anger or all these emotions? I mean, you talked about work, right?
You know, before COVID… seeing friends and talking about this specific… because seeing like Syrians, friends- we can say it like that- and talking about these specific issues and exchanging ideas and opinions, and like getting out that frustration was giving bit like, if you can say, kind of meditation. It was… And now it’s like the past year was really difficult for us to keep doing this, like it was weekly kind of activity. Sometimes, like every couple of weeks we see each other and talk about everything that’s going on in our lives and in our country. So that was giving like a bit of relief. Now, this is not happening.
Sadly. I hope, like soon we will… I see like the COVID is affecting the life of all people around the planet, you know, so…. feeling like you’re not alone, Everybody is like feeling this together. So makes me like think, no OK “c’est pas grave” (it doesn’t matter), it’s not a big deal you know. We can, like… we went through worse than this and we survived, so we can survive this as well.
And do you have any thoughts, I mean, anything about the refugee experience being a refugee in France, how does that make you feel? You were talking about being away like a very long distance from your home country. Uh, is there anything else as a refugee that you feel?
Technically, but we talked… technically, I’m not a refugee yet.
So, I don’t still have the experience, let’s say… that’s related to my papers, to all the official like, I’m going to say like “parcours” (process).
The process, the process, yeah.
The process exactly. The official process, I didn’t go through it yet, so I cannot like say. But as a… someone not from here, “étranger”, foreigner, immigrant….
Asylum seeker, yeah. You’re asking me about life in general? Experience, my life here?
Yeah. Someone in exile, I mean, have you ever felt… I don’t know… discriminated against or on the contrary, did you feel like welcome, people being welcoming?
Discriminated against? In fact, I didn’t. Some friends of mine had been, like, in direct situation, in a, like… in some incidents. They weren’t nice. But actually because I had when I arrived here- I had that barrier of the language so always there was misunderstanding that was keep going on with people. And sometimes, like, you would say something and maybe I shouldn’t say that- I don’t know in French how they use it. So sometimes I felt like they weren’t, like, really good situations, because of the language issue. But other than that, it was very… the whole experience here was rich, en fait (as a matter of fact), because in fact because I didn’t just know French people. I knew a lot of people like other refugees, fellow refugees, other nationalities, other students from like around the world who are studying here. So I can say it was like culturally very rich and also, knowing more about the French people, their culture, how they deal with things, what are the things that they like to do, how they spend their times and knowing like their routine. It was a nice experience in general yeah.
And so you sound like you’re a curious type of person. Did you develop that with coming here or were you always that curious and wanting to learn?
I think always like… I was like that, especially like I’m coming from a country where there is no access– there wasn’t any access to information ever while I was growing up. You know, you have the official newspapers and the official TV and you have the school. And let’s not talk about schools in Syria. So, yeah, always I was seeking information somewhere else. I was thinking and I was asking and trying to know more about things because I knew, like, this is not the story. This is not how everything in life, you know, we’re not all Arabs. We’re not all like members of Ba’ath Party. We’re not all, like, loving the president, and…. you know. And a lot of other things we learned in the school, they were just so wrong. So, yeah, it’s always like… it’s an ongoing process. It was like that… and still I still have it. Thankfully, I hope I would keep like having it with the age.
Interesting. And is there something that you developed in particular when coming here, that you felt “ah”, you know, “I’m like that now, and I wasn’t like this before?”
I really didn’t get the question.
You were talking about resilience, for example, and you said that you you were in a way educated to be resilient, but coming here with the journey and also the experience of living here, do you think that you developed something else?
Yeah, you can say like flexibility. We can say it like that yeah, it’s more like flexibility with things. But I think that comes with when you’re more grow up also. With the age it comes like, you know, when you are twentyish, you see the world from an aspect, from a perspective, and when you are starting going towards the thirties, you see this from different perspective. So also that played a role, and definitely changing locations and coming here at the end and living the whole, like, exile experience. Also, like, I feel my flexibility is… towards things and toward tolerating difficult situations, is higher now.
Okay alright. Thank you very much. I have a question when we finish the interview, I usually ask people for the dreams, and if you can quote, say it like a quote. So starting the answer with “Before I left my country, before I had to leave my country, my dream was” and if you can tell us what your dream was-, if you had more than one, you can tell “my dreams were.” And then today “Today, my dream is.”
To be honest, when I left, my dream was to be able to live again normally, you know, with my family in my country. To be able to go back and to do all the things I was thinking of, dreaming of, wanting to do it for my society, for my people, for my country. To be able to do it without being prosecuted, without having fear for my life or for my family’s life, you know. Because in countries like this, it’s not just you. Maybe something you do, it will affect whole your family, even your uncles and your, like, extended family, not just the close one. It’s a very heavy and big responsibility. So, yeah, I want… like it was really a dream, and still today it is a dream. Unfortunately, nothing… like… there wasn’t any progress on that level. So, yeah, being a normal person, living in my country without fearing for my life and now it’s really like my dream is for this war to stop and for my country. And my people to have a life with dignity and freedom. That’s all they are asking for. And it’s sad to say it’s kind of like a dream, because sometimes dreams, like, they just don’t happen, and they just don’t… So, yeah, I hope like this dream will come true at some point.
Thank you. That’s a very nice way of ending this interview. I just wanted- maybe just because my question wasn’t very clear- but when I said before you had to leave your county, I meant before the war started. Did you have a dream- for example, some say “I wanted to become a doctor. I wanted to become…” Was there something in particular before the war”
Well, I was in a good stage of my professional life, in fact, in Syria when I was there. And by then I had a lot of like, projects. You can say like, it was more like projects in my head. But… and some of them I was trying with some friends to do something about it, but mainly in my head as a woman there to be independent, to be able to develop and make progress in my career, and by the end of that whole story… to be, to have my own business. And in fact that was a dream, but it didn’t happen. And now for me… it’s c’est pas la peine (it’s not worth it), it’s not the thing that I’m looking for now.
Okay. So can you say that in a quote? Sorry, like “Before the war, my dream was to be independent.”
OK, let me put it in some other way. Well, before the war and before I leave my country- when I was living in my country- my dream was to continue with my profession, to make progress, in my professional life and to have my own business in my country, my own… my own work in my country. When I left, and now my dream is to be able to go back there, and not just to be able to go back there, no, and also for war to stop, for this regime…to fall, and for people to to live a life in dignity and in safety and liberty.
Thank you very much.
Is there anything that you want to say on the topic of refugees in general? Not maybe just only in Syria, but the subject of refugees?
Well, “in general”, we cannot talk about it because there are a lot of problems around the globe everywhere. In fact, when it comes to the movement of people, with freedom around places. But let’s talk about Europe since we’re here. In fact, since 2016 until today, there is a problem that is like a snowball. It’s like getting bigger and bigger and bigger because there is no clear solution to it. Today, there is thousands of people that are still stuck in Greece, some of them now for years. They are there… we cannot name it even a temporary life. It’s really difficult life. It’s not… it’s not real life… to be honest. It’s a life… You’re waiting, just waiting. And you’re doing nothing. And the conditions are really bad. And the whole thing, like the bargain between Europe and Turkey and this issue of refugees, it’s really a step to the back, not forward. And I don’t see it’s solving a problem. In fact, it’s not solving a problem. It’s not also helping the people. And at the end of the day, it’s for the… for the Europe’s record of dealing with refugees, with people seeking safety and protection and fleeing war, violence, killing. It’s really needs… to be like… they need… everybody needs to think about it again and to find sustainable solutions for that. It’s just like, putting people in Greece, and preventing them from crossing to Europe, and paying to Turkey to prevent people to cross the Mediterranean, it’s really… it’s not the answer for this problem. You know, I believe human beings can do better always. And I wish, like… the countries, the political will- if we can say, because the whole issue is related to the political will and the political decision. So I really hope for that to… I really hope for them to rethink about this issue and to give better solutions for it.
OK, great. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Evora.
This is the end of the interview, so I will stop now.
Unless you have something else to say. But I think we are okay.
C’est fini pour moi(It’s over for me).
So Evora, you were mentioning to me something about plants, and can you just expand on what you’re doing on your free time with plants?
Yeah, actually, since I arrived, I’ve moved to France. I’m living here. I got this habit of planting flowers, plants, sometimes fruits, seeds of fruits, and actually I feel like it’s a way of… it’s a stress relief way for me when I plant, I feel like I feel better. And also, it’s something nostalgic that reminds me of my country, of my mother, because I always have that picture in my head. She’s on the balcony and planting some flowers, some roses. So when I got here, like it was the first time I started to plant and I loved it because I feel like it’s connecting me with my country, with my family, with my mother, and memories.
Thank you very much.