About Refugees, By Refugees


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My dreams always was of being free – I wanted to be free all those fears,” says Luka (29). When talking about her life in her country of origin, Luka says, “As a queer person, I was always hiding my sexuality, because it was a danger.” She says that talking about being queer could see one “end up in the jail or you like dead.” Now living in Hamburg, Germany, Luka is “not scared to walk on the street in the night… I don’t face everyday aggression, violence, sexism, discrimination in here because of being queer person.” However, with no legal status in Europe, “there is so much stress and every day, every month meeting with officials and, and each time, facing these deportation fears.” When describing her experience with the “European or German, let’s say state, how it works,” Luka says, “There is systematic racism… which is the big problem.” It makes her “mad, angry, sad.” But she says that “I gained many positive power out of it… I’m stronger, beautiful, better than these people.”

Trigger Warning: Homophobia, Violence

full interview

What kind of housing do you live in?
I live in the, uh, in the building, in the flat, which is old building. And yeah, I have this room through a friends connection. 

Can you describe the conditions of the place?
Uh, actually, the condition is really bad. It’s not liveable. It’s not allowed to live anybody there because there is no, um, heating system, there is no shower, there’s no hot water. And the flat is totally moisture. It’s humidity. And before people who live there, they left the house because they all got a lung problem. And sometimes I also feel like I also having these lung problems. And yeah, it’s I have a little kitchen, but, um, yeah. Just the other rooms is also out of order. I would say no one is living. So it’s just a um uh a place, um, I don’t know, maybe you can put your stuff storage, but it’s also not recommended even for storage. 

Well, um, do you live alone or who do you live with there?
In the house yes, I live alone. And yes. 

And um, how do you spend your time there? Do you work or um do you do stuff?
Uh, oh. So I live there since four years and um I don’t have a lot to do because officially not a lot to work. I still cannot get my, uh, working permissions pages. Um, and I was studying before, but I cannot continue my study because of all this Visa problems. And yeah, I don’t have so much social activity except meeting friends maybe, but usually doing nothing. I feel useless. 

How would you say, what are the things that bring you joy?
Mm hmm. Um, the things bring me joy. OK, honestly, there is not so much things brings me joy because there is so much stress and every day, every month meeting with officials and, and each time, uh, uh, facing these deportation fears, stuff like this. So there is not so much things which bring me joy. Hmm. And yeah, I think at the moment I lost my joy, uh, concept. 

How, um, your life being since you arrived in Europe?
Um, it’s constant struggle with bureaucracy and it’s stressing. And I have almost every month or after two or second, third week, I have to meet with Immigration Center. And I have or, I have, uh, let’s say every year court hearing. And yeah, I have to apply, I have to write letters, I have to apply politicians, uh, stuff like this. Like, uh, yeah. It’s just an ongoing stressing process. 

Mm, that sounds really harsh. Um, but do you think there’s, um, something good about being here?
Uh. Uh, um, of. Yeah, it’s a bit difficult question. Um, you know, when I came, left my country, I left because of my identity; I’m a queer person, so it was not possible for queer people to live in this country. And maybe here it’s a bit easier that I don’t have to hide myself. I, I am 100 percent me with my identity. But I would say Europe or any place in the world, I don’t know in them if there is a place that it is a haven for queer people. So there is good stuff, bad stuff. It’s, there is different layers on it. But generally I had a different problem in my country and here I have a different, uh, problems. But at the end they are same, I think they are both problems. And maybe being here, one good thing could be I am not scared to walk on the street in the night because of my appearance. And of course, you never know shit happened everywhere. But compare, uh, the country which I lived, I don’t face everyday aggression, violence, sexism, discrimination in here because of being queer person. 

But do you, do you, um, feel another kind of discrimination except being queer?
You mean in Germany? 

Of course. I think in Germany there is systematic racism which comes, um, which is the big problem. And I mean, by law, people actually can live here, but because of the people who are deciding for this, uh, they have systematically racism. They already have this negative, negative idea about the people who came live here, who immigrated, who came as a refugee. Also when you go to officials, you see that the way they act, the way they talk. And they, uh. Yeah. I see, I see racism actually not so much from society, but state. Like, I would say in this state, it exists really, uh, hard core and yeah. 

And, uh, how, how do you feel about this? Like you said, you were, um, like, uh, not accepted in your own country and here you are also facing discrimination. Can you describe a little bit of the feeling of it? How do you feel about that?
Uh, I feel, um. Hmm. I feel like people are really narrow minded and they don’t have tolerance to many stuff. Of course, of course, that makes me feel sad many times that how mad the world is going on. But, um, yeah, dif how I feel, yeah, sometimes I feel really, uh, really mad, I feel angry. Because, you know, in,in Europe, there is a concept of human right tolerance, it’s more safe space for queer people. Especially like in Germany this concept exists, but at the end, you see that it’s never there. It is. Of course, I have friends like which you can cultures and family which you feel accepted with your identity or being not German, but in a state level, it really hurts that you have to face this in a high level. And it makes me feel mad, angry, sad. And yeah, there is lots of, uh, feelings. Sometimes it can also depress you that you feel you are discriminated by those people who think you are under their level, which you look at your, uh, which you know, that you you more than these people, you know, you can’t speak. It’s not of course, it’s not a comparison. But speaking five language, finishing universities, having lots of education like how to live. And then you come and you meet with someone which has no idea about anything and discriminate. So this makes me feel really angry. 

Um, yeah, I can relate to that. How does being away from your family or from your home make you feel?
I would say being away from my family or from my home, I, uh, it’s also different feelings because I cannot call this place my home, first of all. Because as a queer person, I always had to, I always have to hide my identity, my homosexuality. And that’s why it never made me feel like home. And with not meeting with family, um, it’s like sometimes I feel actually safe not to meet with my family members. But sometimes I feel restricted, also because I would be happy if it’s based on my decision to meet or not to meet. So I would like to meet sometimes to go to visit my family. But now being away, not to meet with the family. And it makes me unconnected for my past. And, yeah, it’s really, it’s really sad that you cannot meet with your family with your own consent.

Yeah, um, and how do you, um, um, like, overcome survive your leave, uh, what you are going through now?
Uh, yes. Uh, how I live. Uh, uh, can you please ask the question again? 

Like, um, here, let’s say, like, uh, you are going through a difficult time,  difficult situation you are in right now. Um, what’s that thing that that makes you, um, go through it, survive it? You know what I mean. Like, um, you’re going through, uh, many.
So you asking me why I don’t die or? [laughing]

Of course not.
How it feels for me? 

How I overcome. 

Yeah. What still like drive motivation. Like because what you are telling me is kind of like difficult, no? It’s very very stressful, difficult, problematic. That you are going through this over the years not just one day, two days, three days. Like you said, like more than three or four years.
Uh like five years I would say almost. It’s five years. I’m having this legal fight and how I overcome. OK, I would say I will always have difficulties in my life before, uh, I live in Germany and living here. And of course, it’s difficult to overcome, but I think, um, yeah, there is. When I lived in my country, there was just two way to choose: either you have to die because you’re a homosexual person you are in danger or you have to leave. And here also, I think, uh, there’s still this question always on my mind and I chose to leave. Mm. And Mm. Yeah, I think there is many stuff that helps me to be strong, overcome through my experience. This uh, let’s say having, uh, criticizing or discriminating queer people is such a bullshit idea. So, um. And uh. 

Do you think, like you, um, developed this ability to deal with this challenge. Like you said, like you were going through already in your origin of country, uh, through this, like any race discrimination and, um, um, attitude towards queer people from your state. So for you had it already? So you mean, like you developed it over there and, um, you continue here or, uh, did you develop this, um, like coping mechanism coping with this difficulties here?
Uh, no. I think, uh, in my country, I never came out. I never, I was always hiding my sexuality because it was a danger. If you, uh, if you talk about this, you can end up in the jail or you like dead, you can end up dead. So I was playing a role in my country. Basically, I was hiding my sexuality. I never lived it in the country. So I was playing a role. Of course, it’s also a system that, uh, but, uh, yeah, you have to survive in a way because I had motivation that I will leave this country. Otherwise I shouldn’t live here. And here I am not coping this ability because now I’m in Europe, which I can talk loud. I can say that, yes, you are the country which you say same sex marriage a lot, uh, homosexuality a lot, there’s LGBTQ+ people, uh, rights protected. That’s why I don’t copy any of this role. I am, uh, uh, free to say, uh, how I feel, how I want to live my life. Um, but at the end, it’s not working also here. No, it’s same thing in the country I live in the past I had to hide, but here you can say it openly, but still, uh, still let’s say you, you are not accepted. So I don’t cope with anything here. 

Do you think you are not accepted because of your immigration background?
Uh, I think, uh, basically immigration background, I would say, uh, because, uh uh, yeah. First thing people see you are immigrant and the second is. Yeah. And you want to ask a question or can I continue? 

Yeah, no, no, continue.
OK, yeah, I want to say that when I was going through this process, I was meeting many German officials. Like I was three times in the court. I had a lawyer and I had to meet with the politician, with many LGBTQI+ organizations. And, but basically at the end, all their answer were same. Like Immigration Center, Auslaenderbehoerde told me that I can go back to the country I come from, I can hide my homosexuality and in this way no one will bother me. No one, no police, nobody will come and catch me and put me in the jail or kill me so I can go and hide my homosexuality. They even told me in the court that I can put peruke and which is. 

Peruke. Which is…

Yeah. Which is I can hide that I have short hair or so. And and this of course, is Immigration, Immigration Center they say all kinds of argument. But what is actually dramatic, that court also judge, also agreed with this idea that, yes, of course, you can go back, you can apply a visa there. It’s short time or we don’t know. But if you hide your homosexuality, then what’s the problem? And the politician told that you can go to a hotel room and in this case, no one will come and after you. So this is all this privileged, uh, approach ideas in this state. And then to you, it makes you think that there is no difference. The country which I came from and here. 

Um, so now we are going through Corona, no?
Mm hmm. 

Yeah, and, um, how, uh, it has affected you, your, um, your daily life or your mood, your emotional status. How do you cope with it?
Like, uh, here now it’s the Corona and yeah. It’s a question, everybody actually asking this question. But I would say honestly, I’m living this Corona life since five years without work and um and yeah being, uh, isolated many times because I have no other, uh, space in my brain to focus, uh, good stuff and do social active stuff. And yeah, I think of course Corona affects a lot also because there was a time I was working and like, not official work, like sometimes this cleaning or doing bar work, stuff like this, mm, and uh which I could survive a little bit with this money. And I don’t pay rent because it’s not, as I said, it’s not liveable space. It’s like uh I don’t know, uh you put animals, maybe there something like this and uh. Yeah. And now this all stopped also this bar or this cleaning, all this work stuff also stopped. So of course it’s more and more difficult for me. But what I live in my life, it’s not something new. I cannot see as a privileged people that, oh, I’m having depression and stuff like this because I had this since years. 

OK, so now I will ask a little bit about your past. Um, um, can you tell me a little bit why did you leave? I mean, I know it’s a little bit repetitive. Um, but, um, can you describe what you were going through there? Why did you leave your country?
Why I leave the country? 

Yeah, why you left.
Uh, I think I always wanted to leave the country because, uh, it’s the country, uh, which, uh, LGBTQI+ people cannot live there, cannot survive there. It’s a religion aspect, traditional cultural aspects in it. And there is a big social hatred toward this people. And state officially, uh, uh, officially the state is against. And can I say the name of the country actually? 

If you want to of course. If you want to share for sure.
Yeah. Like it’s

country name redacted
. And there was 2017, 2018 crackdown and police officially state was arresting, uh, gay, homosexual, trans people and putting them into prison. And they were, uh, punishing them. They were sexually attacking them. Uh, like all this, uh, really hardcore experience they all been through. Of course, some of them could flee the country, but some of them still there and struggling. So, uh, uh, yeah, I left the country because I want to leave country because I knew that either I if I live my gay life openly, the next day, I’m just, uh, in the jail, I can sexually attacked by police or state or I can just, uh, I can be dead in this outside by society. So there’s two aspects: the society and state is, uh, openly hatred and against this, um. 

And how you were feeling at the time?
I always was feeling alone. I was feeling that I don’t belong this place. I don’t deserve also this place and this place also don’t deserve me. And yes, I was feeling all the time alone because I was playing a role. I was going work, studying, meeting family. Of course, there is a few friends you can talk, but, uh, you cannot talk it openly. And yeah, it makes you feel you are playing a role which you are not connected and you are still alone with this role, all of it. So and yeah, in

country name redacted
also there, there was LGBTQ+ member which was twenty years old and had to do suicide. And many other people who. Yeah, either you have to, yeah, uh to suicide or someone will kill you or you have to run, so there is not so much options. 

I see. And how was your journey to Europe? How you were feeling yourself when you left the country and when you left how you were feeling? Like really happy or like were you looking forward? Like what was your feelings when you when you left your country?
Uh, yeah, of course. When I left the country, I was feeling happy and scared at the same time because I was scared that I can catch and I can send back and, uh. Yeah. And, you know, if you got deportation, you cannot enter a country the next five years, stuff like this. So there was always fear. But also I was happy that, OK, I’m leaving and I’m going to a place that I can be free. So, yeah, I was happy and scared at the same time. 

Yeah, and, um, do you think about it often?

About these feelings or, you know, like you said, like you were feeling happy and scared at the same time, it’s like a mixture of emotions. Do you think about, like your past and now and the switch between leaving and coming here, do you think about this stuff like often or, um, you already forgot about it?
Uh, no, I didn’t forget about this. Of course, I’m thinking a lot because you cannot forget your also stuff which happened in childhood. No, they’re unconsciously coming. It’s like trauma that you had been through. And still, uh, I’ve have, uh, feeling yeah. I’m feeling down when I think of it, but I am also not in the position that to say now it’s perfect, it’s so good. So, uh, yeah. When I, uh, think, I think it’s, I’m also thinking in a peak level, like what kind of people, what kind of society exist like Bosnia, country name redacted and Germany. So I’m feeling mad about the world. I would say it’s also I think of myself, my feeling, and yeah. Yeah, I think it gives me so much also anger when I see a thing of the past and yeah. 

Do you think what you went through there and is like um affect you today? Like, um, you said like you were playing a role there. Do you think, like this was a mechanism you created there and now you somehow use this ability here also? Or like that’s what you have been through, um, it’s like affecting you now?
It’s psychological question [laughing]

I mean, it’s like in your past, you were, you said like you were role playing. So it’s like a, um, thing that you create yourself to survive. And do you think it is a skill that you do you have it still here or?
I think I still have a kind of mechanism here, no? If I, I if I can live, maybe it’s not role playing, it’s maybe another, um, another form, shape, something. Yes, but of course, I think the mechanism which I have maybe through all the life, I have to protect myself. So this mechanism still working here. I have to protect myself from racist people, from sexist people, from, uh, transphobic or homophobic people. And the mechanism works maybe another shape. Now, I don’t have to hide and run somewhere else. Now, I can stand and face with this because I’m in the society that I can speak about this. I can have argue about this and you know what I mean? But it’s also not role playing. It’s, um. Yeah, yeah. It’s different things. There it was some different mechanism, here it’s another mechanism. Which also here I don’t have this fear that I go out somebody can kill me, that they can stab me when I see it. I know that they can’t say “No, we don’t give you a visa to go back” which they say since five years. But at least maybe I, nobody will kill me for this. So. Yeah, yeah. Maybe I don’t know, maybe somebody will kill. 

And so, um, did you have dreams before in your past?
Uh, uh, my dreams before. I say my dreams always was of being free. I wanted to be free all those fears and I want, I want my dream was to be a hundred percent me and, uh, comfortable not hiding my identity. And also, it’s not just about identity, it’s just being free. Freedom of movement, like as a human being, I want to be free to, uh, to live where I want, to go where I want. So I think I never had this big dreams to have a house, family, I don’t know, traveling, blah, blah. And I had all the time dreams to be free and. Yeah. Not, yeah. 

I will have some wrap up questions like, um, briefly. So and it’s, again, a little bit repetitive. Sorry about that. Um, before you, your, your home country, um, what do you think were your strengths? Like what, what made you, like, resist or like, um, go, go, go through hard times in your country?
What made me resist in my home country I think was the idea that leaving the country. 

To leave.
Yeah, not to live, but to leave, to go out from the country, to go out from the danger. So in this way, I had to keep on this and try to study and stuff like this and to find a way to go out. 

Yeah. And, um, you know, like what, what you have told us in really difficult, um, but, um, do you think, um, like, like all these experiences, uh, out of it comes something positive? Can, do you think there’s something positive outcome? Can you think of it? Like is there anything that is positive?
Is there anything positive…there is a positive outcome. Like as maybe idea. Uh. Yeah, there is, there’s not so many positive. Most there is many negative items, uh, negative outcome. What was the question? 

Like throughout your experience, like in your past, right now, is there something that it’s good? Like is there something positive that you would say, OK, I have been through all this, but at least or I don’t know, now I have this or I am doing this more time and something good like, uh, came out of it.
Uh, I’m not so many positive daily stuff or for my living, not many positive stuff came out. Of course there is some few positive stuff came out. Let’s say I can meet some people here and, uh, be comfortable and free with each other identity, stuff like this. And, uh, but generally, uh, since five years that I’m in this struggle, it kind of blocked me to have many positive outcome. For a positive outcome I had many ideas, plans, hobbies, study. Everything, they all blocked or stopped my life. Since five years it stopped. So it’s such a huge, big negative thing. But I also positive thing that I learned a lot. I developed my analytic skills in a way that how like this European or German, let’s say state, how it works, how people, uh, can be like, let’s say how they are racist, sexist and many other. It is, uh, bullshit. And I feel when I see this, all this like two society, which I lived, uh, I feel more powerful than them. I feel more stronger than them. That I am not, uh. I mean, I see that, uh, how they evaluate, value me and actually uh, yeah, actually how they value is super, uh, not right. It’s, yeah, I think I developed many analytical skills and also I learned of course it’s yeah. I also learned that um this human rights in European, you know, concept, actually they are not working, so I don’t have any hopes anymore. I don’t believe this. I believe that what we can do, we can do on our own. We should do something. The state is authority judge. They are not really helpful politicians. They will not help us. So I think I gained many positive power out of it. Of course, it’s not a positive thing and then you see that how mad is the word, but, you know, you see how simple minded people deciding for your life and how racist people deciding for your life. And you see that I don’t have any of this racism, anything. So how, uh, how I’m stronger, beautiful, better than these people. So this is, I think, something positive to be aware about this. 

But, uh, you said you’d lost your hope. Is there any, is there a time in life, like do you have any dreams for the future?
Uh, uh, I, uh, I don’t have any dreams for a future. As I said, I, I don’t see any future at the moment. So maybe I just live for present for the moment. I don’t have this big time, future time. I have three weeks. Then I go. They prolong my Duldung next three week . Like so I live, I’m kinda uh, um, what’s the name, stuck in the present. So I cannot go out from this line to think about the future. But if you ask my future dreams, I think it’s the same. I have the same dream still, which I was in

country name redacted
. And here I just want to be free of these fears and I just want to be free with my being a human being. Like, let’s forget about everything, identity, stuff like this. Just as a human being. I don’t want to face every week, every month this state fears. 

We really appreciate you answering all these questions. And, uh, we are almost done. Is there anything you want to add?
Uh, yes. 

To like, to help people in Europe actually like, this is about, um, how Europe is, um, how Europe’s perceptions about refugees. Is there anything you want to add about this? Like it’s also about to change their narrative, like I told you before also. Is there anything that you would like to add.
Uh, yes. I would like to add actually many stuff, but maybe we don’t have so long time. But, uh, yes. Yeah, I would say that in Europe, uh, in Europe, uh, you know, uh, people have mostly right wing. I would say people have really a negative approach to the refugee people. Even in the court, like, uh, the lawyer from Immigration Center, Auslaenderbehoerde, me that yes there is people coming and making terror, stuff like this, which is, uh, bullshit. And, uh, yeah, they have really negative approach to the people. Uh, but the main thing is actually they block these people life and they make them stuck there, I don’t know, five years, ten years, thirty years and giving so much psychological pressure to them, so much trauma to them. And then they like, they, then they expect them to, I don’t know, how to become someone, which actually it’s like they actually block them. They put them to the cave and never let them go out. And yeah. They have. 

[laughing] Yeah; And and yeah, they have really bad negative ideas toward these people. And and yeah. I would like to actually say that also for this, uh, all uh, like, uh, at the end also, uh how what I experienced, I, I saw that, uh, all the politicians, all this, uh, state cover organizations and I don’t know, judge, court, Immigration Center, they all systematically against to have any people here. So, uh. And, uh, yeah, I’m super critical about this. I would like if you right intervene not to focus that or how is depressing, how is bad refugee immigrant’s life, but more to focus on how actually in Europe state is behaving with them. Because if people are coming here with the hope or to be free, but actually there is no freedom here for these people. So I would like to be helpful. What we can do, like how we can effect, is to, for people mind, in a way, not to focus on depressing. And also, I really would like to add something. I, I would like to say you may be, are the channel somehow. Because, you know, I don’t also like to use the names refugee and immigrants, because they are such a label that people created this label and so much negative meaning in it; like, as I said, terrorist, or not integrated or, I don’t know, violence, stuff like this. All, they all have these ideas behind these names. So I would be more to say there is no border. And you know, we all human, we should be free to live wherever you want, but not the name of refugee and immigrants. To say that, yeah to find some other words or not to focus this name and play with this name to as a label like. And, you know. 

I think I will stop it now.

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.