About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Serken Kilic wearing a mask and folding his hands against a graffiti background

Serken Kilic

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:




Belal Darder Mohamed

“My dream now is to have a residence permit,” says Serken Kilic (pseud, 28). Originally from Turkey, Kilic left for Europe in 2016 for political reasons and is currently appealing his asylum claim in Madrid. He misses his family: “Two nieces of mine were born and I haven’t seen them. Only from photos and videos…they look at me differently. ‘Who is that guy?’” Having patience and belief in himself has helped, he says—so has traveling, which relaxes him. “You listen to people passing, you feel everything, you’re very connected to that moment.” Today, he says, his goals are clearer. “Being alone is also a good privilege because you focus better…The importance of family also makes you more aware when you’re apart because you want to help them more… Those things have helped me grow.” It saddens him to know he won’t be able to return to Turkey for a while, but Kilic remains hopeful. “I’m enduring some things, but in general, I’m happy. I think I’m going to fulfill my dreams soon.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Ok, tell me where you live now.
I live in downtown Madrid, with a family, I have two flatmates. I have a room. I think it is cheap for being located downtown and I just moved in 2 months ago. To experience life in the center of Madrid, what it is like [to be here].

And do you like living downtown?
Yes, the truth is I do. You can go everywhere on foot. I mean, you don’t have to get on the subway or bus. Yes, I like it, especially now, because since there are no tourists within the city, it is yours.

And where did you live before?
In Móstoles.

And where exactly is Móstoles?
In the southwest of Madrid. It’s a little far away because you have to catch two or three different transports and that’s going to take you [time] to downtown and back.

And during your day, during your day what do… What do you do to feel better? To have, to have fun?

Which? Which things do you like to do?
I tried to start with exercise because it reduces my stress and helps me sleep better. And later, after showering… Eating a good breakfast, I try to eat a good breakfast. Not silly things or things like that.

Yes, fat.

Pastries, buns, et cetera. I try to cook well and then I’m browsing the Internet. About emails, a little bit of social media and social networking, and then I try, especially these days, to walk under the sun because walking helps me too. I love to make the most of autumn. There’s still sun and I love that, and what I do later depends… If I have to meet someone.

But it’s a little difficult to meet someone because I don’t know many people around downtown, that’s why I’m looking for new environments. I’m looking at some applications, Meetup… I think I found something for the weekend. It’s like practicing English in the Temple of Debod Park… Yeah over there. Yes, more or less the things I like to do consist of these things. I watch YouTube sometimes some videos, I try to listen… Or look at the news channel 24 hours as I want to be up to date about what happens in Spain, even though I don’t understand many things yet in Spanish, but I try to watch what is happening. What do they think about COVID? What are they going to do? How are they going to act? Yes, more or less some of those things.

And how…  How do you describe your life in Europe?

Or in Spain.
In Spain, in general, I am happy because since my country is doing badly economically, I do not see a promising future. That’s why I feel good, but I feel lonely also because even if you speak Spanish, even if you know a few people, but, in the end, you’re looking for your, like your race, aren’t you? I mean, your environment, your friends, because you have humor, a way of looking at some things, or some, I don’t know, some gatherings. Yes, in general, I’m happy. I have hope for the future. So now I’m a little bit… I’m enduring some things, but in general, I’m happy. I think I’m going to fulfill my dreams soon.

And can you say to me ‘my dream before coming to Europe,’ but like this: ‘My dream before coming to Europe was, before coming to Spain was…’
My dream before coming to Spain was… To work wherever I want. And…

Can you elaborate? Work wherever you want, like where?
I wanted to work on events and organizations. I wanted to be in that environment because since I worked in Istanbul, in my country, about this and it would be good because it is a job, I think it fits with me, it is very dynamic, very interactive. And you meet people…Yes, and traveling more to all countries. But since I don’t have license papers yet, but well I’m only missing a little, hopefully. Yes, my dream was to have more environment, more, more similar, right? Now I feel a little missing. I don’t have, I don’t know, I don’t have much visibility. I feel a little like that.

Okay, then you can say it: ‘I dream before I came to Spain…It was to work in organizing events and be more present, and have a more dynamic life.’ Can you say it? 
Yes. My dream before coming to Spain [was] to work where I want, it’s like in events and organizations. And be more present in Spain and have a better environment.

And your dream now. Can you say: ‘My dream now is…’ You tell me your dream now.
My dream now is to have a residence permit. That is crucial. 

And then find a more stable job.

And have a Spanish girlfriend. No, no, she doesn’t have to be Spanish, but a good girl. And beautiful. 

The most important thing. Good and beautiful. Being away from your family, right? How does it make you feel? 
Mmm… It, it makes me feel bad sometimes because I think I’m missing some things. For example, two nieces of mine were born and I haven’t seen them. Only from photos and videos. Sometimes talk through video call, but it’s not like real. I mean, they look at me differently. “Who is that guy?” 

Of course.
I see them every time, they are growing, it seems different. And [I] wanted to help. I want to help my family more too, with the move, they are moving and for other things. See, I’m used to living here, but you know? Sometimes, I’m sad for not being there with them, but in general, we have contact and I like that.

Do you regret coming to Spain?
No, but like a little lost time in working life. That’s why I feel a little wasted of time. Because waiting three and a half years, more or less, is not easy. Let’s see, of course, I worked on jobs, but it has always been two or three months. It’s not something…


Then, I imagine you had a lot of challenges in your life here in Spain, didn’t you?

And what helps you to face these challenges, in yourself, as qualities of your character, that helps you to face these challenges.
Patience, I think I have good patience and I believe, I believe in myself too, that it is very important. 

You have self-confidence.
And I think that instead of repenting not trying, you have to try in life always. Of course, you’re going to lose some things, but you’re going to have a very good experience. You’re going to know yourself better, you’re going to be alone, you’re going to face some problems, but you’re going to feel a lot better and I don’t, I don’t see well being with the family until many years. You have to go out and be alone and look for life. And that helps me because I’m growing, 100 percent.

And patience, believing in yourself. You had all this before? Or did you, or did you get it when you got here with the challenges and all this? I mean, these qualities, did you have them before? Or…
I understand the question well.

Or have you developed them here?
Okay, I get it, right.

Are you thinking, aren’t you?
Yes, I think I had it in me, within my character.


Is there any activity? You told me you’re doing a lot of exercises and that you’re doing a lot around the city under the sun and all of all this. Is there any other activity that helps you relax the stress, that helps you?
When I have time, traveling helps me a lot too because I feel [like] discovering where I live and gives new places always. It’s always good for me because… How can you say it? Yes, it’s good for me.

It’s good for you, it helps you, it relaxes you.
It relaxes me. And it always makes me more want to travel more. Discover, see, feel, smell also, because all cities smell different. I like that. And since I worked on the last project on maps I have seen many, many new cities in Spain and feel them because I walked the streets and saw people like they are living. I had time also after work. I mean, my job was simply on the streets. 

And you like this?
Yes, I liked it because you feel the city while concentrating on your work, you listen to people passing, you feel everything, you’re very connected to that moment. Yes, that helps me too.

And you can tell us a little bit why you left Turkey?
Okay. Politically, the government.

Oh, that’s nice.
Well, if you want to, if you want to repeat that question.

Why you left Turkey?
I think I don’t, I don’t fit well with the state and with a state structure. I don’t like it because…

The government?
Yes, I just don’t like it and I think it, their thoughts are not adequate. What we are living now… Because they are always in trouble, and they are a little… They’re a little… Can we stop?

Yes, yes, yes.
Hello, good morning. Can you call me after 2, 3 hours, please?

[whispers] Hey, you can talk.
Yes, okay, thank you, bye.

If it is important, you can…
No, they’re going to ask me a few things, I don’t want to. Excuse me, I forgot. Yes.

We were talking about why you left Turkey, you said you have problems with the government, with the state.
Yes, I don’t like it, because politically they don’t act well, always with messes with other countries. And that has brought some problems. For example, their policies. They are not peaceful, always with problems. Of course, Turkey is a [unintelligible] country, it is a bit difficult because at the border there are always messes and that will bring you problems too. But they could handle that situation better. And I want my country to be more transparent too because I don’t trust, I don’t trust its future. No, I don’t trust what they do. There’s too much corruption. I think there’s too much corruption. And finding a job either, it’s not easy because with the euro and dollar for example the Turkish currency, it is losing a lot of value than even countries, even currencies from African countries. I don’t understand how this works, but I think they’re implanting, implanting money. But that money doesn’t have… How can I say this? I mean, just make money, Turkish money.

Print money.
Yes, print money. But it doesn’t have… How can I say this? It doesn’t have…

A lot of value, isn’t it? Because when you print the money, then the money or the currency starts to lose its value.
That’s it. Certainly. And since those things I saw are not going to go for the future. I’ve decided to come back here, come here.

And was it difficult to make this decision or was it easy for you?
Yes, it was hard, because before I came here, eight months ago I bought a ticket. Because I wanted to… I wanted to think about coming. I think that buying a ticket is always like starting a journey. But I left it because I didn’t feel ready. And after the attacks that happened in Turkey, in Istanbul…

Terrorist attacks, right?
Terrorist attacks, yes. And I started not to trust much. And then it was a strike… a “strike”?

A strike.
A strike, yes, which is not transparent either. We still don’t know who has done it, why did they do it, we don’t know what happens later with those soldiers. Where do they come from? Who? Who are they serving? We don’t know. And… After 8 months of thinking, I planned to come to Spain, since I felt more prepared later. Yes.

Yes. And let’s see. Do you feel… Do you think a lot about the period before you left Turkey? Or your last few months in Turkey? Do you think about it?
Do I think? In what sense?

I mean, do I think? How do I think?

I, for example, think before leaving Egypt, I think a lot about the time when I was convicted and I think how I’ve made the decision, it’s always something I think. I think of my mother, how I left her there, right? I think about the last time my father prepared my food. I think about the last hug, don’t I? Before you leave. I think about this period. I think about my last moments in Egypt. Probably I won’t come back again, right? I think about this. Do you think about this?
Yes. Let’s see, last few months I was just focused on Spain, what to do, think about what can I do? How am I going to do? And I was excited, right? But last few days I realized that I may not be able to return to Turkey for a long time. And when I realized that, I realized it…

Yes, you realize, it may be that it will take a long time to return to Turkey again.
Yes, that was sad since how could I not see my family, my environment, my friends, and I felt sad, of course. Especially after I say goodbye to my family. That morning I felt sad. Sad with hope. It was very strong feelings, very different, that I have never lived in my life.

And was your family approving your decision to go to Spain or was it against this decision?
My mother told me to stay, my father said: “Go to a better country like England, Germany.”

Don’t go to Spain.
Don’t go to Spain, to find the best job, and to make a better life. Like with more, with better structure, right? But my sisters always supported me and believed me. As they are…

Of your age, isn’t it?
Yes, my age, I mean young. They supported me.

Why did you choose Spain? And not Germany, France, and England…
I think first because of the weather.

Because of… because of… because of the weather.

Because of the weather, because you like it?
Yes, the weather. Yes, yes, yes. I like that first. I think that helps me a lot.

The sun is very important to you.
Yeah, yeah, because since I come from a country…

Can you say it? Because I can’t say it, because you…

You say ‘the sun is very important to me, because…’
The sun is very important for me because I like to, I like to be with more light, and as in Spain, especially in summer and spring, it is sunny until very late and there is always light… That, that gives me life because I feel more, more alive. And then I think Spain has a very good history. And since it is a very old country, it’s a lot of years old. And then I think the food also looked like, yes. Let’s see, that hasn’t influenced much, but at least as it is familiar, as it’s Mediterranean food, it’s familiar to me. And then, I don’t know. There are too many Turks in Germany. In Holland, I do like it. I’d like to be there for a while, but to live I’ve never thought. And of course, making money is very important for your future. For you to find your dreams easier but I believe in Spain I can also have a good future, it’s up to you, if you fight hard enough. You can have a stable life because life is not very expensive.

And Spanish, the language, I imagine it’s very different to Turkish, isn’t it?

How did you learn Spanish? How…? How have you faced this challenge? Right? Because it’s also a challenge. Not, not knowing the language it’s a challenge too. How did you face this challenge?
Okay, first I’m going to tell you how I went out to learn. I have a friend who worked with me in the same environment, in events and organizations and he told me to learn a language before English and he told me to learn Spanish because it is very useful. And then I downloaded… I looked a little at its grammatical structure and saw that it has the same alphabet.

As English, right?
And Turkish, too. Yes, yes, I thought that could help me.  And how do you write and how to read it is the same, I thought that although you talk very, very what is it called? Very fast, but it can be pronounced well. I thought it was going to help me.

I mean, it’s not French.
No, no, no, you don’t have to use too much your throat.

Well, except for some letters, especially the ‘j’. That is still hard for me. And first I started downloading some apps and then I’ve seen that little by little I’m learning words, small, short phrases that can be used daily. Then I started looking for a course. I found it. There was from a city hall that lived in Istanbul, take out there. And I went. But I think I’m learning a language while living, better. I didn’t fit well just with books. But well, something’s good for me.

And then I started…

And when you came, did you speak Spanish well? 
I spoke very little, very little, only ‘where is the subway?’ etc… You know? I didn’t understand well, because of Spanish, what do I know? It is spoken, after Japan… Well, I’m not sure…

Yes, it’s the most spoken language or what do you mean?

Faster, I don’t know, I don’t know.
And that was hard for me, but I made a lot of effort especially the first six months. I went to the course, the day I arrived in Spain I went to sign up for a course.

Oh, that’s good.
And then I started talking, using it. After the course, I tried to have a coffee with the friends of the course and with the roommate speak Spanish, think Spanish, see things in Spanish, content. So, little by little I improved, because when…

Do you like Spanish, the language in general?
I do like it, I like it.

Do you like it?
Yes. Because, the truth is, it’s used a lot in the world. When you learn it you realize that many people from other countries also want to learn it. Since, since it has a good history and then there is part of South America. That will also attract a lot of attention to learn and speak Spanish. The songs, the culture there is a lot of fun, it caught my attention.

And after all this, after three and a half years, almost four years in Spain, do you feel that you have grown like a person during this period of time?
Yes, a lot.

And how? How? In what sense?
At least I know my goals better now, they are clearer and I don’t care about being alone, because being alone is also a good privilege because you focus better, because you don’t get…

Don’t get distracted by things. And that, that helps me. And then, the importance of family, also makes you more aware when you’re apart because you want to help them more, economically or I don’t know… support on a topic. And those things have helped me grow.

Oh, good. Let’s see if we have any other questions.
If the sun bothers you, we can sit like this.

It’s okay. Okay, is there something you want to add? Is there something you want to say? I don’t know, a message, a dream, an ambition, a recommendation. I, for example, have given advice to other refugees. It was advice to others, I said: ‘don’t,’ my advice was ‘do not live, live only with people from your country, in your new country,’ right? Because, for example, I see many Egyptians living only with Egyptians in Spain, right? This is my advice, try to connect with the people of the new country. So, if you have something like that, a piece of advice, a recommendation, a warning.
Yes, yes, yes, good question. Of course, I have. Okay, I have some things, but which is better. Okay, learning the language is very, very important, because the importance is to speak and speak Spanish, it brings you a lot of opportunities and then, never, you never lose your hope. It is true that there are difficult days as we are now living in a very complicated world. A lot of mess. Many people have lost their future, unfortunately, they invest a lot of money, but they lost it, life is so right? It teaches you because you are going to waste time when you are a refugee in another country. And the politician of the country or European Union, I don’t know where you are, depends, maybe it does not allow you to establish your life very easily, but never lose your hope. Because there is always and always believe in yourself, you will always have new opportunities. And you never have to waste time on anything. Being every day helps you grow. Because when you speak better Spanish, people are going to give you more opportunities.  When you are, you have better opportunities and, sorry, skills.  People are going to treat you much better. That counts, it is counted. ‘Hard work pays off.’ ‘Hard work…,’ ‘hard work pays off’ in English how do you say?

Hard work pays off.
Pays off.

I think that is very important in life and when you have a lot of work, you have to work hard, yes, when you arrive in a country you have to work… 

Contribute to something, right?
Yes, at least five years you have to fight very well to establish well in that country.  It is very important.

Perfect, that’s all. You’ve done very well, man. Very good.
Thank you. I’m trying to be honest. I mean, it’s hard to talk because…

I imagine.
You know?

It was very difficult for me when they did my interview. It was very difficult for me to talk about my mother, about me. I was applying for international protection programs. Let’s move to the shade a little bit because I’m already burning. You drink beer, don’t you?

I’m gonna buy you a beer. Let’s see, let’s have a beer.
To the…  Ibiza, over there.

Yes, there are 100 montaditos in Ibiza.
Oh, cool.

We can go have a beer. Then, it was for me… I was applying for international protection programs, okay? And yes, they accepted me in Australia.

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.