About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of Refugee Greis hugging a shall


Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Belal Darder Mohamed

The dream before coming to Spain, was simply to survive. It was to be able to spend another day by my girlfriend’s side and not get killed first.” Greis (she/her, 37) grew up in Peru bullied and abused by her family and community for identifying as a trans boy. She was suicidal and hit rock bottom. “I didn’t feel like a human being… They made me believe I wasn’t worth anything,” she says. “If something bad happened to me, it was because I deserved it. I lived in shadows, hidden.” After being nearly killed by an armed group, Greis and her girlfriend left to seek asylum in Spain. She still faces homophobia, but feels happy, motivated and walks without fear. Despite her experiences, she doesn’t hold hate or grudges against anyone. Her patience, perseverance and belief in God helped her overcome her demons. “They can be challenges, but they are things that teach us,” she says. “Every dawn is a new opportunity to show ourselves what we are capable of doing… There’s a lot of bread yet to slice.”

Trigger Warning: Suicidal thoughts, Sexual abuse, Forced abortion, Violence, Homophobia

full interview

Greisi, can you tell me where you live now?
Well, I currently live here in Madrid. I live in [address redacted].

And… Can you describe your house to me?
Well, it’s a flat that the Red Cross has given to us, for a while, until the asylum petition is solved.

And how is it? How is it going?
Good. Fine for now. We’re comfortable, we don’t… We have peace of mind, which is the most important thing. We’re good for now.

And who do you live with?
I live with my girlfriend and one more girl, who is Venezuelan, who is with us at home.

And how about…? What do you do in your day-to-day life?
Well, in my day-to-day life I do a lot of things. The first thing I do when I wake up, is giving me a lot of strength, right? And… So I can move forward. I work on everything. I work on floor cleaning, geriatric care, kitchen. Now last I’m working in a kitchen, which is my passion. I would even work for free in the kitchen, I swear. But well, I love it, I love it so much.

And what do you do to feel happy?
To feel happy… Every day that goes by I’m more motivated, because I know that… I’m closer to fulfilling my dreams. 

And what are those dreams? What was your dream before coming to Spain? What was…?
The dream before coming to Spain, was simply to survive. It was to be able to spend another day by my girlfriend’s side and not get killed first. Now my dream came true. I’m alive. I feel calm here and I have other dreams. Maybe for many people, they can be simple, but for us, it’s a bit complicated. I longed to be who I really am, to be able to show myself to the world as I am. I consider myself a trans boy, I have always considered myself that way, but in the society that I come from, it was wrong and I always felt pressured to lead a double life. I want to fulfill my dream here, I want to start my transition and marry my girlfriend and have children and lead a quiet and normal life, as always, as anyone would like to have. Nothing else.

How would you describe your life here in Spain?
Although it is true we have undergone harsh things it is nothing compared to what we went through in Peru. I can actually say today, today, today is July 17th, 2000… 21, that I’m leading a fucking great life. The life I wanted to lead. I can walk with my girlfriend hand in hand. To know that no one is going to beat me up in the back, I walk without fear. I know there is a margin of danger anyway. But… but I’m free. I feel good. I feel calm. I think I’m very lucky to be here, to have survived and got here. I feel good.

And… Tell me a little bit about your life in Peru. What… What was it like…? Tell me a little bit about why you left Peru.
Well, it’s just that it all started since I was a little girl. We are seven siblings. My siblings and my father and mother, actually, grew up in a sexist world. A sexist society, right? My father used to beat us a lot. My mother, us… When my father became aware of my preferences, he would strip me and put me in dresses, and throw me out on the street. And… Well, people made fun of me because… I physically look like a girl but I don’t feel it, no, I feel like I’m not. Everyone made fun of me in the neighborhood where I lived. One of my brothers sexually abused me at the age of five, when I told him that I liked a girl from the kindergarten, he sexually abused me… I grew up and I knew it was… It was wrong to show who I was. Therefore, I would hide it, hide it and hide it. I felt bad. I wanted to kill myself many times. I was almost killed by an armed organization of people chasing homosexuals like me. Unfortunately, one of my older brothers was part of this armed group and I was doing badly. I was beaten up, wherever they found me. Once they tried to sexually abuse me, they broke my nose, sprained my arm with almost a fracture as well. They put something… Sharp in me on the left breast because they said I looked like a man and they were going to do me the favor of pulling my tits out. Well, I went to report them and the commissioner said, “Well, it’s family assault because your brother is there.” The report was never made… That is, correctly. Right? Many of these people who were part of this group, who are part of this group, have dads who are militaries, policemen… So, that was the main reason why I ran away with my girlfriend from Peru. We ran away without knowing where we were going. We arrived here on December 5th, 2019, without knowing anything. We sold everything we had. We left our jobs and with the liquidations and settlements, we got here. We pretty much lived on our savings for a year, until it ran out. We asked for asylum now in January of this year and we were on the streets. We didn’t have anything. We clashed face-to-face with reality. With the harsh reality of a migrant here. But I’ll tell you again, everything I went through, is worth it… To be alive.

[Cries] I’m alive and it’s worth it. It’s hard. My father abused me when I was 14 years old. He got me pregnant. My girlfriend just found out a few days ago about this, because I couldn’t sleep well, I had the recurring image of my father on top of me. My father beat me so I’d have a miscarriage and no one would know. These are things that I will never forget, that are marked on me. Sometimes people tell me, “Hey Greis, but forget it already, it’s over, it’s already in the past.” These are things you don’t forget. I have to learn to live with them. But it’s hard. It’s a very hard process. Being an immigrant, having all these demons on you, are very hard things. But I know this is all going to pass. I consider myself a very patient person. I consider myself an incredible human being, you know? I recently talked to a friend, whom I told a few things and she said, “Greis, you’re great. You’re amazing, but you have to believe it.” I’m believing it, you know? And I think that’s helping me heal a lot of things inside me. I’m an incredible human being, I’ve never hurt anyone. I would never do it. I know what it’s like to suffer. I work. Well, I started working since I was three years old because there wasn’t enough to eat. And if… If anyone comes to me and asks me for something, I’m never going to deny them. Never. And if one day I can settle down here in Spain, which I know I’m going to, my mission is to help a lot of people just as they helped me, a lot of people. I think I’m going to do that. I want to help a lot of people, to tell them that it’s possible. That despite living in shit, you can get out of it. You just have to believe in yourself. Just that. Just that.

And… Tell me a little about your attributes, which help you overcome all this.
As I say, I consider myself a patient person. I know everything will come in its own time, everything will come in its own time. They say God’s times are perfect. And I know that if I’m here, it’s because something good is waiting for me. I am very much a believer in God. I know that if He brought me here, it’s because something good is going to happen. I’m very patient. I’m very persevering, very stubborn when I want to get something and… I think my partner’s love and her understanding have helped me grow as a human being, I think that without her, all that would not be possible. It is 19 years that I have been with her and, and this year and a half, only after so many years, is that we have peace, and that peace pushes us to move forward. 

And tell me more about the challenges you’ve had to face here.
Well, I think like every immigrant, right? Having no documents, running away from the police, without documents. There’s still a bit of, of, of, of homophobia still. Yes, I could tell. A few days ago on the subway a man couldn’t identify me and said “fag” to me. And I laughed, I swear. But hey, it’s not like my country, as I tell you. And there’s also the internal challenge I have, right? Fighting my demons. There are a lot of things. There are a lot of things. But, I think… They can be challenges, but they are things that teach us. This will happen and there is going to come a time when it’s going to be… I’m going to look back and say, “I could go through all that. I did it and learned from those, from those challenges.”

And… Have you faced any racism here in Spain?
No, so far, no. I have met many Spanish people, who welcomed me with open arms. I have a very good friend who is an activist. Also in “Senda de Cuidados.” They are amazing people, some friends out there, who love us very much. We work with them too. They’re really nice. They welcomed me with open arms. I haven’t received so far, I mean, racism from… Aggressions of racism nowhere. I take great care of myself. I try not to walk in places I shouldn’t, right? I’m a very tidy person. I know until what hours I have to walk. I know I take risks if I walk at such hour in such place. I take great care of myself in that aspect.

And… I always ask people, how is your relationship with the family, right? But after everything you’ve told me…

I don’t know whether to ask or not.
Look… Emm, my family, you know? Recently my father got sick and… I was very worried. Despite everything, I was very worried because I said, if anything happens to that man, my mother will be sad. My mother has been a victim of all this. My mother is an illiterate woman, who didn’t study, didn’t prepare. My father manipulated her as he wanted, mistreated her, abused her in every way. So what I did was… Collect all the money I could and send it to my country. So they can save him. And so it was. He’s very good now. I don’t think I have a grudge in my heart. Just memories in my head, crushing me. I won’t forget it. Never. Life will make sure they pay for what they did, at some point. But I… I don’t hold a grudge or hate for anyone. I can’t. It doesn’t go with my personality. It’s not for me. I am “peace and love”. Always. Always, in spite of everything. Despite everything I’ve been through, what I’ve suffered. I’m not trying to carry that because I would be hurting myself. They are happy and their secret is safe with me.

And… Well, I know, I don’t know, the decision to leave Peru, do you think a lot about this decision, in your last days? Or…
I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it. If I had to go through everything I had to go through in Peru to be here now, I can tell you it was worth it. I’m here and… And I’m fine. Despite the situation in which we are, of being asylum seekers and… And if we get a negative answer, being again on the streets. But I am a very positive person. Definitely something good, something good has to happen. If asylum is negative, something good will happen. I have hands and I have feet and I can work on anything. In my country, I worked a lot. From Monday to Sunday, and yet it wasn’t enough for anything. I work here for a few hours and can save a little money. It’s worth it to be here because I’m alive and can I smile freely.

Why Spain?
Uh, Spain. I like Spain because my great-grandfather was Spanish. From Seville.

Yes, and… I always had him in my mind. And well, a root of my grandfather came back here. And here I am, back on the ground again, I’m at my roots. I feel fucking great. I feel good.

I’m really glad.
Thank you.

What would you say to other people who… refugees, asylum seekers… what would you say?
Don’t give up. That every dawn is a new opportunity to show ourselves what we are capable of doing. That there’s a lot of bread yet to slice. If they had the strength to get out, they’re going to have enough strength to be here. Nothing is easy, but neither is impossible. While there is life, there is hope. I would tell them that.

And how did COVID affect you? You arrived just before…
We arrived in December and in March [we were] confined. We were very scared, but… But I was confident that everything was going to be okay. Well, I don’t think it really affected me much. I think it favored me because I was hiding for many months and like my friends say, right? Uh… the police, they… They redirected their gaze to the other side, right? And well, I think it didn’t affect us, it didn’t affect us, it was just a little bit of fear. We got sick of COVID too, we had it. But it’s all right. As I tell you, I’ve already stepped too deep and what comes now is just profit.

What is that feeling of stepping too deep, as you said?
That feeling of hitting rock bottom is…

How does it make you feel?
When I was there, at the bottom, I didn’t feel like a human being. I felt I wasn’t worth anything. They made me believe I wasn’t worth anything. They made me believe that, that I was an object. And if something bad happened to me, it was because I deserved it. I lived in shadows, hidden. That’s hitting rock bottom, feeling nothing, meaningless. I was walking like… Like a dead person. I was… I was a living dead. That, I was a living dead.

Have you thought about writing this?
I have been invited by some writer friends that I met here in Spain to write about my life. But I told them that my life is just starting. What happened before, is just the intro. The good is yet to come.

And… I know you’re very involved in a lot of activities..
I try to participate. Uh… Like some activist friends, right? But well, when I can, I’m with them. But you know, we have to get by, we have to get by, work. But yes, when I can I go to the demonstrations with them, right? I try to make my network of friends grow more, and to surround myself with people, good people, people who understand the feelings of the immigrant. It’s nice. It’s nice to meet new people, it enriches you a lot.

Perfect. That’s all.
Thank you.

To you. 

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.