About Refugees, By Refugees

Rand Al Nasser

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From:

Nationality:

Photo and interview by:

Sweden

Palestine

Palestinian

Ali Jehad

I had a lot of dreams,” says Palestinian asylum seeker Rand (25). “I wanted to make the world a better place.” But leaving her home, and building a new life in Sweden, has changed her. “The situation and what I’ve been through have, like, shaped me into someone that I don’t like… I became someone I don’t want to be,” she says. “I feel disappointed because I used to be like more joyful person.” Her dreams changed too; previously, she wanted to use photography and journalism to be a voice for people, but these hopes receded as her focus turned toward studying and finding a job in her new home. “I didn’t want to depend on anyone,” Rand explains. The many challenges she has faced have made her grow: “You never know how strong you are until like you until you face, like, a difficult situation.” And slowly, five years after arriving in Europe, things are starting to improve: “step by step,” she says. “As long as you believe in yourself, things will change and get better.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Oh, okay, so I’m sitting here with Rand, Rand. Am I saying it right, Rand?
Yes. 

Awesome.
Yes, you do.

So we’ve talked a little bit before, and I’m just going to ask you some more questions and you can tell me a little bit more about yourself. And my first question is, how do you live? How the, what’s your housing situation.
You mean right now?

Yeah.
Uh, I live in a small apartment with my dog. Um, in a quiet neighborhood. Yeah.

So it’s a pretty nice place to live in? It’s quiet and calm?
Um, yeah, because this is like my first apartment, as I mentioned before.

Ahh, first, first like first time apartment, like a yeah?
Yeah, and like first time to like, uh, get an apartment for myself because I always shared housing with other people, so this is the first time.

First time you live alone?
Yeah.

That’s amazing. Um, so it’s you and you live with your dog?
Yes.

That’s awesome. And how do you spend your time here in Sweden?
Um, Usually, like I spend more time at work than I do at home. Uh, I work with elderly.

Mm hmm.
And, um, I don’t have a fixed schedule, so sometimes I work evenings. Sometimes I work mornings. Sometimes like it’s, uh, both shifts a day and, um. Yeah.

It’s driving me crazy. OK, sorry I just had to turn up, and not fall in my face.
OK.

OK, um, so, you work with the elderly and you spend more time at work than you do at home.
Yes.

Is it because there’s a lot to do at work?
Um, yes. Right now it’s a lot to do actually. And, uh, because of the situation with Corona virus. So it’s, uh, more things to do, like more responsibilities. And, uh, we have to put more effort and more focus into work.

Mm. That makes sense. So you feel like Corona has affected your life, you know, since you came here?
Mmmm, yeah in some ways. Yeah.

Um, what are some things in your life that bring you joy, happiness?
Uh first thing, first uh family and friends. It’s important for me to be close to family and friends because like they are the source of my good energy and, uh, I love traveling. I love like expanding my views, my experiences and yeah. Getting new experiences around the world like, this brings me joy.

Mm. Do you feel that you have access to all those things here?
Uh, none of them.

It’s the family that you don’t have access to that’s…?
Uh family and friends and like also with traveling. It’s really hard. Um, with family, like we keep it on social media. I get to talk to them almost every day. And, uh, friends, like all my friends, are from back at home because it’s been really hard for me to socialize since I left my country. And it was like, um, uh, a social wall between me and people because, like, it’s a new culture. It’s, uh, it’s it’s been hard, like from both sides, my side and, uh, like the society I live in.

Could you expand more? Like why do you think that?
Like for me, I’ve been experiencing a lot of difficulties. I’ve been putting a lot of focus on my situation and like how to stabilize my life. So, uh, I wasn’t ready to make new relationships with people. And, uh, from the other side, like, the society here is pretty closed. So it’s not easy to get to know someone here. Like you have to join activities and, uh, which I don’t have time for right now. And at work, like most people are much older than I do. So, uh, yeah, like the only way I socialize is at work.

How does that make you feel?
Um, like you feel isolated when it comes to social life because, um yeah, because, like, you always need someone to talk to and you always need, like sometimes to get social interact with people to, like, see things from a different point of view. And it’s important, like to have a social life because, like, you need to give energy and you need to get energy back from people. And once you miss that, it’s, uh, it’s really complicated and it affects like your mental health in many ways. Uh, so it makes me feel really sad. But, yeah, I’m trying like now that I have more time, I’m trying to, yeah, get better with it.

Um, so it seems pretty hard, you know, especially if you if you come from a culture where you rely so much on the social aspect of life. What’s uh, since you came to Sweden, you know, Europe in general, what’s been something that’s been good your life?
Since I came to Sweden?

Yeah. You’re pointing up in the air?
No, but to be honest, like, I don’t know if you like looking at the bright side is really hard right now because all I think of is, uh, the situation I’ve been through, which was really hard, which affected me in so many ways. And like all the, uh, all the mental issues, I came out after being done with the process of, uh, fleeing my country. So I don’t know, like maybe the the good thing is, I don’t know, I would say freedom, but I still don’t feel free.

And in what, in what way?
Uh, I don’t feel free in many ways because I still can’t do the things that people usually do here in this country. Like, I feel like, uh, I’m not like everyone else here, like that was born here or that like I feel that people have more privilege than I do because like for them it’s easy to do to get things done. But for me, I have to work like ten times harder to get the same thing done.

How does that make you feel?
Yeah, of course. I feel sometimes I feel frustrated. Sometimes I feel like, uh, sad. Sometimes like it feels like I’m giving up. Sometimes I, yeah, sometimes I just get like energy to fight back, like the system, the, yeah, like the society that I live in and all the difficulties I face in everyday life.

Could you, if you could meet yourself before you left your country, you know…
Mhm.

Um, wait, what year was it that you came here?
Uh, in 2015. 

You were how old?
Uh, twenty.

Twenty? So if you could have met yourself when you are eighteen…
Yeah.

Um do you think the eighteen year old you?
I feel like…

Do you think that eighteen year old you would have imagined that you would go through?
No actually when I think back like when I was 18 and 19, I feel really disappointed because like if you compare myself right now and before it’s like two different persons.

In what way?
Like, uh, the situation and what I’ve been through have, like, shaped me into someone that I don’t like or that like it’s like I became someone I don’t want to be. And it’s, I feel like first, to be this person because like, uh, in order to fit in here, you have to be like, yeah, you have to adapt to things and you have to compromise a lot of things of yourself. And, uh, yeah, I don’t know. I feel disappointed because I used to be like more joyful person. I used to be more social, more adventurous, more spontaneous and like, uh, uh, like a lot of, uh, traits in my personality. It’s like I feel like I’m I’m missing them right now. Um, yeah.

How do you think, how do you think you get the strength to cope to deal with all these hard feelings?
Mmm, like since the beginning, what makes me cope the most is, first of all, like the support I get from my family, because it’s really important that I get to talk to them, that I feel that they are there, that I feel like there is someone who cares. That’s really important for, like humans to, uh, to keep going. They should feel like they should love and be loved in return. And, um, like hope. I have a lot of hope that things can be different and that things can get better. Yeah.

So hope carried you through a lot?
Yeah. Hope and faith. Yeah.

Do you think that you’ve always had these strengths, you know, like hope and faith your whole life, or was it something that you had to learn to be able to?
Uh, not really. Like every person they don’t know, like how much they can cope and how much strength they have until they are put in a situation that they have to choose for themselves in order to survive that they have to be strong for themselves. And, uh, yeah, actually, you never know how strong you are until like you until you face, like, a difficult situation.

A hardship?
Yeah. So, yeah, it’s there where you have to find out. Yeah. 

Um, has COVID made life different other than work, you know, having to work a lot? Has it changed your life in any other way?
Um yeah I think so, like because, um, things that people used to enjoy, like going out like gatherings and stuff, people can’t do it anymore. And that was like one way if I want to like think about socializing, getting better with like going out, meeting new people, that makes it hard right now on me. Uh, it makes it also hard to get out of my bubble right now. And like also with like, um, the stress that comes with it. If like if you think so much about it and you get like paranoia from the situation and you get you always think like, um, I don’t know, like you you go out less. You you have to be careful when you’re around people, and yeah, it makes life a bit stressful.

If we if we look back further back in your life when you were in Palestine, why, how come you left Palestine? Can you describe what happened?
Um, like, it’s it’s not like it’s not an overnight decision. It comes, uh, it comes like from many situations that happens in every days is life. So, uh, in the end, you’re like there is no way out of it. There is a lot of struggles that have been, that have been facing back at home, which made it so hard like to fit in in my society as well. So, yeah, that’s the main reason.

How did that make you feel at the time?
You feel like, you know, like you’re the black sheep, like you don’t fit in and that like no matter how much you try to express yourself, people don’t get it and people don’t understand. Uh, it’s not only about not understanding, like people can fight you back just because of what you think and what you believe in. So that’s what I’ve been missing, like freedom of speech, freedom of movement, like and yeah. That like, it’s it’s hard to live like that. Like when you faced to follow society’s instructions, even though that you don’t believe in them. But you you just have to please your society. So you have to like, pretend that you’re something like that you’re someone that you’re not. Yeah.

How was your journey through Europe? Was there…could you tell me about that?
Mmm. I feel like privileged that I didn’t go through a lot of people did, like I didn’t go through the sea, and the like so I don’t complain about it. But uh I was really shocked when I got into Greece and like the amount of people I saw on the streets fleeing war and, uh, prostitution, it was really hard for me to see, like families, children and old people, like just living on streets. And, um, yeah, it was really hard.

Was there any was there any experience that was particularly, you know, difficult or hard that you can talk about or that?
Like, it’s only like the stories you hear once you talk to people like, uh, I was in a hostel for a few days and there I met a lot of refugees that were fleeing war. So, of course, once you talk to them and about their situation and what they’ve been through, like there’s nothing I can compare it to. Yeah.

How did that make you feel when you were seeing all those things, you know, in Greece and?
I don’t know, you feel like hopeless because for me, like when I hear those stories, it’s like I want to change things and I want like to make it easier for them. I want to give them comfort. I want like to be helpful as much as I can. But at the same time, you feel like really hopeless because the situation is much bigger than you are. And, um, yeah, I just I don’t know. I feel like there is no words to put into it because like once you see like those children and like people who lost their loved ones and they’re just trying to flee to somewhere like where they feel at least safe, like, yeah, this is really hard to imagine.

Do think about these things today?
Yeah, of course. Like till  now I, I watch documentaries and I hear stories. I also like, uh, look up to people who made it through war and came to Europe and like um um, how to say it, like succeeded with creating a life, uh, even though like after that all the trauma they’ve been through, they kept on fighting to get like a life that they deserve. So of course, this also gives me a lot of strength to look up into those people and yeah, take like advice and strength from them.

Mmhmm. Do you think everything that you saw that you experienced on your trip through Europe, do you think it still affects you today?
I think, um, everything that happens in our lives, like since we were little kids, affects us in many ways, even though sometimes we don’t think about it. But it’s it just it sits there and of course, it affects you. It affects like your vision, your decisions, your thinking. I think, yeah, everything affects me, like in ways maybe I can’t, like, explain, but I know, like those situations affect me.

Do you think you developed or you found some strategies or ways of dealing with all the you know, hardships and all the tough things that you experienced and you saw?
Um, yeah, like it’s it’s really sad, but in order to cope with all of like all those things, you have to be less emotional because, like, this world doesn’t work for you if you’re a sensitive person. Like sometimes you have to put your emotions aside and you have like to think you have to like pretend you have to forget things in order not to let it let you down. So, yeah, that’s sad. But I think, like, people do that to survive as well.

Where do you think you find the strength, uh, to not be emotional or where all those things?
I don’t know, like I think like you learn how to cope with it and also like your emotions, like it’s not like the same as before. Like you you get used to like, for example, listening to stories right now, it’s not the same as when I listen to them the first time. So, like your body, uh, learns how to cope with it, how to like you get less emotional, you get more cold.

Mhm.
Yeah. I think that’s the reaction of your body, of your mind just to cope with things.

Where do you get your support in daily life, as I said before, family, friends?
Um…

If let’s say, like, emotions do get to you and you you do feel emotional?
I try to do meditation. It helps a lot and I, like ,I try to get in contact with myself and what I feel and how and why I feel it like I try to talk to myself and, um I don’t know, like..

Is that something you learned recently?
Yeah, that’s something I’ve learned because like as you said, we come from a social community and, uh, just to find yourself like alone, uh, like out of nowhere and like, sometimes I, I don’t know, I look around and I try to find something that I can relate to and, yeah.

Have we, um, before, you know, you left Palestine, what was what was your dream for the future?
Uh… before leaving ?

Yeah like, for example, before I left, before I, you know, left for Sweden, you know, and I was like, my dream was to be a football player.
Yeah. Uh, there is nothing particularly. But like, I had a lot of dreams, like I was I don’t know, like I was full of full of hope, like full of like I wanted to change something. I wanted to make the world a better place. And, um, I was passionate about photography. And, uh, I used to study journalism. I was interested in, um, like, uh, covering, uh, war zones. And my dream was like to get as many voices as much out to the world. And like, the there is so many interesting stories that people can learn from. And I don’t know, I also wanted myself to be like a voice, uh, for the people who who are not able to, like, share their thoughts. So and, uh, I, I was also dreaming about, like traveling the world. That was one of my biggest interests and yeah.

And when you left Palestine, do you remember, you know, what your dream for the future was then?
Um, like, yeah, uh, I wanted like to get, um….

Yeah. So I did stay the same or did it change once you left the country?
Like, before I came here, I was interested in, uh, films, photography, or politics. Like I wanted either to study one of these subjects, but when I came here, it was like really difficult to follow this path because I had to do so many things before I could even start studying. And like the first two and a half years in Sweden, I couldn’t do anything because I was like, uh, I didn’t have papers or a social number, so I wasn’t even allowed to do any studies. So after two years and a half, my situation was already miserable. So I wanted to start a job and, like, get, I don’t know, get the simplest things that someone can have, like a place to stay, like, you know, get like food and stuff like this. So I was put in more focus on getting a job than studying because like, yeah, because I didn’t want to depend on anyone, so I wanted to get things done and so I started like, uh, working instead of, uh, studying and then like time passed so fast once you work. And it took me like now after also like now it’s like four years, two years and a half I got my papers and two years I’ve been working. So now that I like I recently got my place and just like, uh, got a bit things done. So now I have some time to think about what I want to be in the future and like…

What do you want to be what’s your dream for the future now?
Oh, that’s a really hard question, because like as I said, like after everything I’ve been through, I don’t have, like, the drive I had before, you know, like the motive or whatever motivation.

Yeah.
And, uh, but I don’t know. I’m still working on it. Like, I’m still like, uh, I was thinking to start in a film school to make documentaries and, uh, yeah, I’m working on it. So but I just need a little bit of a push.

Mm hmm.
Yeah.

Is there, you talked before about, you know, when you were younger, um, before you left Palestine, about the qualities you had as a person. You know, you were more open, uh, more happy and everything. Are there some things that are still the same with Rand? Uh, some things that haven’t changed?
Of course, like, uh, like no matter what you go through, like there are things that can never change, like things you grow up with and like and of course. There’s a lot of things that I keep the same, like, I’ve always loved helping people. Like it gives me joy and it does until now. And, um, I like, um, like I still go out and try to experience like even if I go out for a walk, like, um, yeah. I still try to do things that I’ve loved and um yeah.

What is something that most people don’t know about?
Huh. Most people don’t know about me. Let me think. I think the like, uh, a situation are like things that people can say can stick with me for a long time. Uh, this is like people don’t know about me. Like if you say something to me, uh, or if like if a situation happens, it can affect me for a long time and. Yeah. That’s one of the things.

Let’s see. Do you think you’re going to you know, do you think it will change in general, you know, you said the hardships that you met since you come here, do you think you know?
That they will change?

Mmmhmm.
Yes, I think so, because, like looking back at my life two or three years ago, it’s like not the same at all as it is now. It’s getting better, like step by step. And like, as long as you believe in yourself, things will change and get better. Yes.

That’s awesome. I believe in you, I think you are going to do some amazing things in the future.
Thank you.

Um. Is there anything else you know? Is there something that, um let me say that like this, is there something you wish people would know without asking?
People would know, without asking?

Yeah, is there something, you know, that, you know, maybe you’ve experienced that you wish people would just know automatically?
I wish people would automatically know that it’s not OK to judge people, that it’s not OK to, uh, racially profile people, that it’s not OK to, uh… Yeah, there are many things I wish like people could just…

In regards to yourself, I mean, is there something?
Mmmm.

From the experiences that you’ve had and?
OK, ask the question one more time?

Is there something you wish people would know about Rand?
About about me?

Yeah.
Something they wish they would know? Um, I don’t know, not really like like, um,.

You seem like a pretty calm, open person, so I think most people probably get a pretty positive picture of you pretty quickly. So..
I don’t know. I think, like, they would I wish they would see me for the person that I am.

Hmm.
Yeah.

Do you feel you feel a stigma like you’re being treated more as a refugee?
Of course.

Than just as an individual?
Yeah, no doubt. Like in everyday life, I am treated as a refugees. Like, yeah, people don’t look you like even like through the process. You always feel like you’re uh you’re a case number. They take you as a case number. You like, of course that’s, yeah. With no doubt I feel it.

Well, I really appreciate, you know, answering all the questions and…
Sure.

And telling me about your story. uh. And yeah, I think you’re going to go far.
Thank you.

Thank you so much, Rand.
And thank you, Ali.

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.