About Refugees, By Refugees
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Photo and interview by:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
“When I was in my home country, my dream was to become a medical doctor,” says Tanguy Irakoze (pseud, 24), who fled Burundi because of insecurity in the country. With friends, Irakoze journeyed to Europe on foot. “You ask yourself if you will be able to resume the journey the next day. But you wake up and keep walking…Remaining alone in the forest would mean death, the only option was to keep walking despite the hunger and torn shoes.” Memories of the sojourn make him feel sad, he says, “but…when you remember that you arrived safely, it gives courage to keep moving forward.” Now in Sarajevo, Irakoze misses his family and hopes to see them again. The challenges have made him mature and inspires him to help others, too: “I will help people when I have something to help with because I understand that life hurts.” He still dreams of becoming a doctor: “That dream still holds because I saw that refugees do study here in Europe…I strongly believe that I will make that dream a reality.”
What is your name?
My name is Tanguy Irakoze.
How is the place you live in?
Here in the camp?
No, the place you was living in when you was still in your country.
I was living in Bujumbura.
How was the part of Bujumbura you was living in?
In neighborhood in Bujumbura.
Who was you living with?
I was living with my uncle.
What was your full time occupation in Bujumbura?
I was mostly doing nothing.
What brings you happiness?
Yeah. Can you tell us how is your life since you are here in Europe?
People eat well here in Europe.
Um, only that?
It is also a nice place for sure.
What has been good to you here?
Food from here.
Can you briefly tell us about the feeling you have now that you live in Europe?
I am happy that I a diaspora member.
Can you tell me how you feel being far from your family?
You really miss them, but it passes since there is nothing you can do about it.
Have you ever thought of living the type of life you are living now?
No. I never thought of leaving my family.
What made it go away?
To no longer miss them? It really didn’t go away. I still aspire to see them again, your family cannot be out my being.
Yeah. And do you estimate yourself strong enough to overcome challenges you are facing?
Only God will help me.
Did Covid-19 impact you emotionally?
No, it didn’t.
Yeah. And why did you leave your home country?
Because of insecurity out there.
That is the reason why you left the country?
Yeah. And uh, how was the journey to Europe?
We crossed forests. We came by legs, just walking. It was pretty hard.
And does it happen that you think about what happened to you, or is there anything special you think about?
Yeah, you think about the journey you did.
You always think about forests you crossed.
And how do you feel when thinking about things that happened to you?
Eh, you really feel sad, but again you tell yourself, “No big deal since I arrived safely, God will take care of the rest.”
All right. Ok, and uh, how do you feel when you think about what happened to you?
Actually, when thinking about it, you feel sad, and later it goes away.
But again when you remember that you arrived safely, it gives courage to keep moving forward.
And did the challenges you faced change something about you, good or bad?
Challenges I encountered made me mature.
To be mentally tough.
Yeah. Have you ever thought before that you could possibly go through challenges you are facing today?
Not at all. I never thought about that. It just surprised me. How could I imagine that I would cross forests?
All right. And about how did you get out of the challenges of crossing forests? What did you do about it?
How did I overcome them?
I overcame them the time I arrive in Europe.
Reaching to Europe was a sign that I am out of those problems of crossing forests.
Which techniques did you use?
Just praying, no techniques.
Ok. Uh, before fleeing the country, what were your dreams?
My dream was to become a doctor.
But it failed because the insecurity in the country.
I am going to ask a similar question. What was your dream before living your neighborhood? You already told me the dream to had before leaving the country; to become a doctor in order to help people, children and the country; now, what was your dream before leaving your family?
To become a doctor?
All right, we are towards the end, I am going to ask you the last questions.
The life you have been through hurt you, do you think that will help you in your future life?
Yes. I will help people when I have something to help with because I understand that life hurts.
Ok. What is your aspiration or dream for the future?
I have hope that in the future, here in Europe, they will give me— (interviewer interrupts)
Say “I have a dream to…”
I have a dream that I get a way to study here in Europe and become the doctor I wanted to become to treat people.
We thank you for your responses. Do you have anything you would want to add to what you said, uh, so that Europeans understand the living conditions for refugees?
When you arrive here, you feel like you are living well because you have access to food. But when you are still crossing forests, it is a real trouble (both interviewee and interviewer laugh) because you tell yourself, “I may come across rebels or even animals.” You thank God when you reach your destination.
They should know that refugees have been through a lot.
Um, so, let’s discuss a little and you will be able to go.
Because this one said we will discuss for 30 minutes (interviewee laughs). Let me talk with you for another short time and you leave. So, to be able to come here, how did you get means? Did your family help you or?
You see, my family was not in a good position to help me, because they are not capable of taking care of themselves, first.
I just took the journey and I met other Burundian friends who were fleeing.
How did you get money for that?
I did not have money at all.
Mm, did you come by legs? Did you come by car? Or did you come by plane?
We came by legs, we were repetitively stopped, fed and released to continue the journey. We simply arrived here by grace of God.
Spending nights in forests and so on.
And when on way coming, what are the problems and challenges you have been facing?
Problem I have been encountering are hunger, legs swelling because of tiredness to the point you ask yourself if you will be able to resume the journey the next day. But you wake up and keep walking the next day so that your journey mates don’t leave you behind. Remaining alone in the forest would mean death, the only option was to keep walking despite the hunger and torn shoes sometimes.
Yes, for sure.
Ok. You told me about your dreams, I don’t know if you mind repeating it for me.
I told you that when I was in my home country, my dream was to become a medical doctor. That dream still holds because I saw that refugees do study here in Europe. Therefore, I will apply for school and do the medical studies. I strongly believe that I will make that dream a reality.
Ok. Thank you for this interview, and I hope we will meet again.
Thank you, and see you again.
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.