A long journey that lies in the past. A future filled with many possibilities and also with insecurity. But for now… it’s mainly waiting. Last week, Medhat from Syria invited us to his home and shared the story about his journey and his experiences in Germany.
My name is Medhat, I come from Syria, and I am 28 years old. I left Syria last year and I graduated from the Higher Institute of Dramatic Art, Department: Dance. So, I’m a dancer. Contemporary Dance, I prefer. I hate ballet. And I came here because of a lot of things. The first one – I want to complete my studies. And the second one – Berlin, it’s a city of art for me. And a crazy city. And also a cheap city. And an international city. I like Berlin until now.
Why did you decide to leave Syria?
Of course – the war. And there is no work there. And no studies. Ok, I finished my studies, but there is no more. I need more. […] I need something important for me. So, I left to make some dreams, […] because of my studies and to be safe. Yes, that’s the important thing.
Can you tell me some more about how you got here, about your journey?
I decided to leave Syria but I didn’t have money. So, I had friends, they got me to Beirut for free. And in Beirut I lived there for three months. I found work there and I saved some money to get to Istanbul. And I also lived there for three months. I didn’t find work there. You know, in Istanbul there is just one company of dance […]. And I know some guys. I’m always meeting people. So, these people helped me to get to Greece without money. […] From Greece I tried walking to Germany four times. […] So, the first three times I came through Macedonia but the police caught me and took me back. The fourth time, I came through Albania, the police caught me and put me in prison for five days. Then they sent me back to Thessaloniki in Greece. After that, I moved to Athens. […] I found some organization that helps Syrian people. I worked with them and then I had food, I had a home. But you know, I’m always meeting people and making new friends. So, there were some friends who helped me to come here. They gave me a fake ID, a plane ticket, and it worked on the first try. […] I arrived in Paris. I stayed there with friends for four days. Then one day in Lyon – I have friends there. […] Then to Brussels to see my uncle. I hadn’t seen him for seven years. After that, I went to Calais in France. This is near London. For six days, I tried to get to London but I couldn’t do it. […] Every time the police caught me. […] So, I came to Berlin.
It sounds like a long journey.
Yes, it was long. It took about one year. I lived in Greece for six months.
Did you face any problems on this long journey?
With the police no, with people no. Just with nature. […] I mean, I stayed on the street for three months. […] I slept on the street […] and it was a bad time. You can’t imagine that for two weeks you can’t take a shower. And also, I forgot about the food – it wasn’t important. […] But I couldn’t sleep, it was raining, and there were no places. And also, I tried to go to the church and asked them if they could help me to just sleep. And nobody helped us. […] We were three people – two persons were Christian. So, we thought the church would help us. […] We slept on the street for three months – together. And after that, a friend of us sent us 600 Euros to buy new clothes and to move to Athens.
So, you also got support from some people?
I don’t ask anyone for help. […] I can’t ask anyone for help. But you know, because the people know me very well. Also they told me: “Ok, you want to go to Germany, you should start from Greece. So, we will get you there if you want – without money”. Of course, I wanted to. But for me, I would not ask anyone for help. Also this friend, the one who sent us the money, he always spoke with us in the internet: “Ok, we are good, we are fine. We just try to find a way to go on”. Yes, but for me, I can’t, I can’t tell anyone “come on, help me, I sleep on the street”. No. I would stay two years on the street and I would not ask anyone.
What have been your experiences in Germany so far? How do you feel here?
Like a new person. Because all my life changed now. Everything. Especially my personality, I changed it. This is a new life. I think, I should use it in the right way. So, I’m very happy here and very excited to start learning the language, and work, and of course to return to the dance.
And here in Germany, did you have to face any problems or difficult situations?
It’s not an important problem. It’s just …, they give us 140 Euros a month. And, of course, we came here without clothes, without anything. And, you know, we have to buy a lot of things. […] So, if you count this in a month, it’s not enough. Also, you have to wait a long time if you want to start learning the language. In the beginning, we can go to the school and just take two lessons a week. […] But I don’t need that, I need every day. […] So, I arrived here, and now I should wait about four or five months to start learning German. It’s five months. And I already lost one year. So now, one year and a half.
So, you feel like you’re losing time.
Just by waiting for the people. Germans are “kings of paper”. Just waiting, for everything I should wait, wait, wait. […] Ok, how much time should I wait? One week, one month? I don’t know. […] Nobody knows.
You haven’t been here for that long, but do you already feel somehow integrated or connected to German society?[…] I want to be honest about German society: There’s a cold feeling. […] All the people here are very kind. But sometimes it seems like homework. It’s just like “I’m human, I want to help, I just came to do that”, after that you leave and there’s nothing coming. This is good, I appreciate that. But they give me a bad feeling.
What could they do differently to not give you such a bad feeling?
I think, they should not see us like “the refugee”, but like “the human”.
Like a person.
Like a person, yes. This is different. […] When I talk to you like “a refugee” the whole conversation is about “I’m sorry for you”. I don’t know […]. But you should come to see us in your eyes and listen. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. When I meet you, ok: “I’m sorry because you had to leave your country and now I’m happy for you because you are here and you are safe. And I wish your family is safe and you can start a new life.” That’s enough. Now, there’s another subject: “How are you?” Yes, I’m a person and you are a person. That’s it. There’s the difference.
Can you think of other things that could or should be improved?
There’s another thing here in Berlin. There are a lot of people that abuse us. Especially when we need to work: “Ok, you’re a refugee, you have the Jobcenter. So, I give you a job for a short time and I give you just 7 Euros an hour. And if you want you can work another four hours illegally but then I give you just 3 Euros.” It’s just – why? Why can’t I find real work here? […] This is the first thing. And the second one: You know, in Berlin there’s a problem with finding a home or a flat. So, if I go to any company and tell them I’m with the Jobcenter, I want to, just give me the contract to show it to the Jobcenter and I will take this room all the companies tell us “no, we don’t give home to people in the Jobcenter”. Ok, why?
Do you have any piece of advice or any message for other people in similar situations?
You are here, you arrived here. So, you have a new life. You should use it very well. And, of course, learn the language. As one of the first things you should do it. […] And for me: new life, I should use it very well. I have goals here. I should run to reach these goals. So, if I stay at home and just take money – I have a home and I have some money from the Jobcenter – and now I live, it’s not like that. I hate to do that. Actually, I hate to take money from the government. I want to work. I don’t need your money. That’s it.
Interview by Friederike Haarbrücker