About Refugees, By Refugees
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Photo and interview by:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
“My dream is to have a great job and be able to run my life well and take care of my family,” says Mike Ndikumana (18), who left his birth country of Burundi to escape conflict and seek a comfortable and safe life. Traveling through countries like Ethiopia and Turkey, he had to work along the way to fund his journey to Europe. Away from his family and home country, Mike says, “I don’t feel quite good, because I was born there and home is always home.” But, he says, “That is how life works, it goes with problems and we need to go out to earn life.” His experiences have also taught him how to survive alone without his parents: “When you are around your parents, they sometimes help you. But when you are far from them, this forces you to become responsible.” Although tough, Mike feels his circumstances have made him mentally strong and mature. Now in Sarajevo, he still dreams of finding a job and supporting his family: “My hope is that I will be able to have a wonderful life.”
Trigger Warning: Violence/murder
Yes euh, hello to you.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us what was your occupation the time you was still in Burundi?
Yes. My name is Mike, Ndikumana Mike.
In Burundi, I was living in Kanyosha. I was a student; I was a college graduate after finishing secondary school.
Euh, can you tell us about your life in Burundi? What was your occupation?
After college graduation in Burundi, I was doing restaurant jobs, serving, and so on…, yeah.
What would make you happy or sad when you was still I Burundi?
The thing that would make me happy back in Burundi was that I was able to work and be self-dependent. What made me sad is the way I left the country because of a lot of chaos there.
What happened that made you decide to leave Burundi? How did you come? Did you arrive here by legs or your family helped you with your journey?
Ah, I left Burundi because of what happened in 2015; a lot of chaos, disorder, really hard.
So, I came up with a decision to leave the country and go see how life is away and what to do with my life, because you see, things are generally tough in Burundi.
Ok, can you tell me how it feels being far from your family?
Ah, I don’t feel good. But you know, that is how life works, it goes with problems and we need to go out to earn life.
How do you feel being in Europe?
So, because I have not yet gotten a job, I don’t feel anything special. I would feel great if I get a job.
Uhm, ok, coming from Burundi to Europe, what are the challenges you have been facing?
Uhm, I encountered a lot of challenges.
Because when I arrived in Ethiopia from Burundi, my passport got lost, and then I had to stay there to work for the money I needed. I was working as a barber there. Once I got the money it required to resume my journey, I moved to Turkey and other countries. I even did some journeys in ships, till I make it to here in Europe.
Uhm, eh, do you think you are strong enough to overcome challenges you are facing?
Yes. Uhm, I can have capacities for that, like if I get a job, or money, it would be great.
Another question I would want to ask you; from your view point, how was Covid-19 in Burundi? Did it ever affect you?
Uhm Covid-19 caused a lot of trouble.
It stopped people from working. That means it was hard to earn money because there was no good economic dynamism with people in lockdown and quarantine.
Going back a little bit, can you tell us why you left the country of Burundi?
Uhm, the reason why I left the country is the living conditions there.
The additional and main reason to leave was the war that was going on, shootings and killings, and then I decide to take my life out of problems and move to other countries.
Uhm, how do you feel having left your mother country?
I don’t feel quite good, because I was born there and home is always home.
Yes. You came from Burundi, now that you are here in Europe, what is the special experience have you had along the journey, a great lesson you learned from all that journey?
The lesson I got from that journey is that when you are away from your parents, you learn to survive alone, to cover your needs on your own, whether you are a guy or a lady. When you are around your parents, they sometimes help you. But when you are far from them, this forces you to become responsible.
Ok, euh, do you think you can manage this situation you have been through?
How can you manage it? Can you explain a little bit? That means, is there any lesson you can get from all the circumstances you have been through, bad and good?
Uhm, the lesson I can get from them, euh (interviewer interrupts)
They make you mentally mature?
Yeah, they make you become mentally strong.
They make you become mentally mature and capable of surviving alone when away from parents.
All right. Euh euh, the life you live chocked you; do you think that will help you in the afterwards life?
Yeah, I got chocked because I left my parents and the country that I love. But now that I am here, I thank God for that, yeah.
Uhm, and did you receive any financial support from your family in order to be able to come here, or you did it on your own?
Uhm, I got able to come here due to the family support, not only my parents. My family members contributed some money and my parents gave some money too, so that I could move forward.
Ok. Before leaving your country, which dreams did you have?
Uhm, my dream was to land a great job, found a wonderful life and have a good life.
Uhm, euh, what is your dream or you hope in the future?
Uhm, my hope is that I will be able to have a wonderful life. My dream is to have a great job and be able to run my life well and take care of my family.
OK, euh, we thank you very much for your responses. Is there anything you would want to add to help Europeans understand refugees’ living conditions? Something that you did not say that you would want to add.
Ah, something I would say to them is to help us because life is tough in the place we came from, to support us so that we can make our dreams a reality, yeah.
Yes Mike, what happened for you to leave your mother country and come here in Europe?
Uhm, what happened is that in 2015 with the political situation in the country, a person would be forced to join the political party that was dominant there. So, the best choice for me was to go away, where I can feel comfortable and safe instead of joining the political party, so that my life can be improved and have a great life, yeah.
Yeah. Yes, thank 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.