About Refugees, By Refugees
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“I live here, but my heart belongs to Afghanistan,” says Mark (pseud, 54), who has lived in the UK for the last 35 years. He arrived in England at a time “when there was not that much asylum seekers” in the country. At first, he didn’t plan to stay: “When we came here, I didn’t have optimistic thoughts about England, mainly because of the history that I studied about the UK and Afghanistan’s war.” But after meeting people, taking English language courses, and considering educational and professional opportunities, he changed his mind. “I need to accept that I am a part of these people, else life would have become bitter for me.” Today Mark runs a business in the real estate sector and sends money back home to help his family. Thinking of things improving in Afghanistan gives him motivation. “Being hopeful about the future always makes us powerful,” he says. “I personally believe that one day our country gets better. One day will come that all of us can return back to our homeland.”
Could you introduce yourself?
In English or Persian (Farsi)?
No, in Persian. Let’s start with where are you from originally? And where do you live?
My English name is Mark. I am from Herat and I was born here. It has been around 35 years that I have been residing in this country. My life, job and education have been tightened up here. I named here as my second home. I am here as well as I live here in New Malden and somehow manage my life. My job is to rent houses and help people find houses. From the beginning, I started running this business and I continued.
Do you live in London?
In London, yes. In Kingston. Brian Kingston. An area called New Malden in London.
What were your dreams when you came here in these years? What achievements have you received? How do you feel coming to Europe?
So, when my brother and I came here, there was not that much asylum seekers here. The minister of interior of England said to us that we had been the first refugees that traveled there in the UK. And at that time, they came and brought us on TV. In a nutshell, when we came here, I didn’t have optimistic thoughts about England, mainly because of the history that I studied about the UK and Afghanistan’s war. I always thought that all the wars were declared on by the English government. I didn’t plan to live here. I decided to stay here temporarily, and then leave to Germany or the USA. After being here for a few days and meeting a lot of English people and starting my English language courses, I realized that the people were so companionate and nice. Indeed, after considering the educated and labor stratum, I realized that the people are really good. This made me stay here.
Then I thought in order for me to stay here, I have to do two things. First one was to study the language and the second was to adopt myself with the environment. Then, in order for me to make a family, I need to accept that I am a part of these people, else life would have become bitter for me. Then I started to work.
At that time, I remember that I came here as a Muslim teenager, and I got my first job in a pub. At that time, they paid me one pound and 80 pence and I was very happy. I worked in Silverton and the owner of the pub were Scottish people. My job was to collect empty glasses and clean up the tables and the leftovers of food from the table. I was happy about that.
After some time, I thought about going to school then I joined a school to educate. Some time passed; I went to college. Luton College. First, I had started from Kingston College and I continued in Luton College. I got some diplomas from this college. I passed GCSE of English, math and computer. The computer filed was called RSA, a department of art, but I didn’t remember exactly the name. At that time, the field of computer was less. I studied my lessons at Luton College. I went to a polytechnic university and studied a course called ACCESS. I went to the university that was called City University.
During these years, were the problems and challenges that you faced related to you being an immigrant forever? From Afghanistan to Iran and then from Iran to Europe and then to England. Do you still feel homesick? Do you still remember Afghanistan? How do you feel living this time in Europe?
A very good question. Yes, definitely when you call the name of my homeland Afghanistan, I feel sentimental about it as it is said that our homeland is the place where our hearts were born. Even though I was 16 or 17 years old when I abandoned Afghanistan and came to this country, I still have a lot of emotions towards Afghanistan. I still don’t have that much emotions for this country. My country is Afghanistan. I cannot replace this country with anything. Even I went to Iran, where their language, food and culture were the similar to that of Afghans. I still felt homesick. When I came to England again, I felt the same. I still felt homesick. Still, I believe Afghanistan is my homeland and one day I will return back to my country. Now that I reside here and my facilities are more, I call this place as my second homeland. I live here, but my heart belongs to Afghanistan. No doubt that people of England helped me a lot, they were kind to me and didn’t have stereotypical ideas about me. So, the feeling I had for my country, I cannot have for any other countries.
Do you still follow the news about Afghanistan, especially the news about Herat where you come from? To overcome these feelings, what activities do you do? Do you help anyone? Are you in contact with the organizations which send help to the people of your homeland? What do you do? How do you keep your relationship with the country to have a stable mental health?
By the time we came here, some of our family members migrated to Iran. In the time of peace, our family members went back to Afghanistan. However, for me Kabul, Herat and Kandahar don’t matter, I prefer Herat because I used to live and study there. Also, my family members are there and I am in contact with them, I struggle to help them through charity organizations. I send money to my (mumbling) … sorry, my family members via Western Union. My family needs help. They are not wealthy. All of them were farmers and now some of them are government employees.
However, when I was in Afghanistan, no one was a government employee from our family. And our lives were simple. Still, they are in need of these sort of aids. I have never banned my aids to them and I will not. Now I am a member of Water Organization, through this organization I send my helps to them. The aids are sent to throughout Afghanistan to the flood-affected and hurt people as well as orphans. Actually, I don’t have any discrimination. For me personally, it doesn’t matter that here is Herat, Kandahar or Kabul. It is not important where there are Pashtuns or Hazaras. It doesn’t matter to me.
With the consideration of the situation you had, the situation you encountered and all the things you have explained like immigration, poverty and now a constant situation. What makes you happy and gives you positive energy? What are your dreams?
Being hopeful about the future always makes us powerful. It gives us hope for stepping a better future. Hope always keeps us alive. I personally believe that one day our country gets better. One day will come that all of us can return back to our homeland. The things that we learned from other nations can be taught to our compatriots. This always gives me motivation to think about them. I always watch TV programs and follow the news about Afghanistan. I am always up to date with these things… this is one thing. I personally cannot dissociate. … This is a hope for me.
Thank you very much. To this interview what (inaudible) name, which name do you like to be called?
I think I wrote my name Mark. And the name that should be used is Mark.
Now Mark is one name that at first, I came here (inaudible) I used it. Not for my documents. It is not a real name. They said one name you had to have and I chose it.
Thank you very much.
You are welcome.
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.