[i] Welcome. I am [name] , your interview partner in the Oral History project. Here in the city of Bochum in Germany. Today is Mtitwoch, the 07.11.2018. We are in the premises of the association “Humanitäre Soldarität Middle East e.V.”, in the Westenfelder Straße in the district Höntrop in Bochum. Welcome. I thank you very much for your participation in the project. Please introduce yourself, your [dear?] name.

[r] I am [name] , Syrian with Palestinian roots. I live [lived?] in Syria in the Yarmouk camp. I am 40 years old, married and have five children.

[i] They told me, Palestine, respectively Syrian, were you born in Syria?

[r] Yes, in Syria in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus.

[i] Yes, your father. Does he have a root other than Syria?

[r] My mother and father were [born] in Palestine. And my grandparents were born in Palestine.

[i] But you are […]

[r] Syrian.

[i] Syrian citizenship? And your children?

[r] Syrian, Palestinian Syrian.

[i] In which place were you born? [R Yarmuk camp.

[i] Where is that?

It is for the Palestinian refugees in Sham, Damascus.

[i] Damascus. Welcome Mr. [name] , tell us [about you?] . How long have you been beautiful in Germany?

Three years and two months.

[i] Three years and two months, you came with […] ? As a refugee or tourist? Or are you here to study? for what reason did you come to Bochum?

I am here as a refugee. I fled from the war and came to Germany.

Yes, tell us about yourself, about your person, what you like. Catch with your childhood.

I grew up as an orphan, without a father. I am from a family of nine persons. And so my mother was both mother and father to everyone. My oldest brother was about 16 years old, he was learning, after two years he joined the army. The most important thing I did not learn, everything with us was difficult. Nine people at home, what do you want to create? The most difficult situation for me was at school when my teacher beat me, I bled. We had learning in Syria – a big difference to Germany – with the stick, there is beating. Yes, I remember when he hurt me when my mother came home and found me. So hurt, she researched where the teacher lives and we went there. She was very angry. Very much.

[i] She was angry.

Here was the end for me. When I see my mother fighting. I was very overwhelmed with it. We survive, was not in my head. That we would survive didn’t come into my head?] Learning. I was responsible. I didn’t get [get?] many things, everything was hard. I left. In my childhood I was looking for plastic or copper to sell while I saw my friends going swimming. I don’t dare tell my mother that I want to go, too. If they bought something, there were so many things, it wasn’t possible for me. I have sat in my head to work.

[i] At what age did you start working?

I was about twelve, but at the age of eight I sold cakes. I go to the store to buy [cake] and sell it on the street. We sold cakes. I preferred work to learning.n The thing is, at the age of 12 I was full of work. Every day 12 hours. From 8 o’clock in the morning until 8 o’clock in the evening. Until the evening [?] .

[i] You help your family, your mother?

[r] Yes, sure, because we were at home with eight people.

Are you the oldest?

[r] I am the middle one.

[i] You helped them.

[r] Yes, of course, there are things. Imagine going to the swimming pool, I don’t dare ask my mother for money. I had to look for plastic, dry bread to sell.

[i] Yes.

[r] [So that?] I can go swimming.

[i] It’s very much ingrained in your psyche, but is there anything positive? From your childhood, how did you grow up, did you grow up in the camp? [Were you?] in the camp? How was life in the camp?

Life in the camp was perhaps the most beautiful thing about my life. That I had my childhood in the camp. What you achieved was not easy to get [?] . You won’t find the taste of it great, but if you work hard on something, if you did something for it, it’s especially nice.

[i] It has a special taste. Yes. Then you grew up in this camp. Did you get married? You once told me that you were married. Tell me about your family. Your little family, then the big [extended] family.

We, these were my brothers and sisters, my mother. That was, the child who wants to learn [?] , she sacrifices everything for his education, but […] At the same time, who doesn’t want, [he?] he is bad. They were as afraid for girls as they were for boys. And more, the reputation, the concern for boys, which was more. “Enough, you don’t have school anymore, go to work.” Even before he [goes] to the army, before he goes [goes] to the army, he gets married. In our family, they love to marry especially. My older brother got married before he joined the army.

Is marrying a tradition or a must for you? The boys have to get married.

Yes, they have to get married.

[i] Nobody stays single?

[r] No, nobody.

[i] Special your family?

Yes, with us, the El Shehabi family, as soon as you are 18 years old you have to marry, that was our law.


Most of the time we marry relatives. It was a coincidence when someone married someone else. The cousins have priority. It’s forbidden to marry your cousins of a stranger. When a stranger comes, you have to take them. [can’t you take them?]

[i] Oh. Do you still have this tradition?

[r] Yes. It’s the law for someone to come and take a stranger, it’s impossible.

[i] Yes, at what age did you get married?

Maybe I was a little late compared to my other siblings. Because I didn’t want to get married at all. Flying used to be my passion, I loved to travel. But then the right one came and I got married. Thank God, I was 21 years old, about.

[i] How many children do you have?

Five children, I have four girls and one boy.

[i] Yes, do you live here alone?

No, I live here with my wife and our children.

Yes, you live with your wife and children. Tell us a little about your life in your country, what was that like? You got married, you started a family, a future.

So I worked at the bakery. At the Abu Al Heja family, they are now in Holland, I still have contact with them. They trained me, we had only baked cakes, I had more ambition. I wanted more, not just cake. There was something new in our industry, I started with sweets. Cakes and much more. In the old ovens. At that time we had baked in stone ovens. Now everything works automatically. Evolution, I have also worked with others. And thank God, here I put my feet on the first flight of stairs and started to increase [myself] . I worked with my cousin, but he has another factory. He gave me the factory, and so, thank God, I worked in the factory. I was responsible for it, I was about 19 years old when I came here, the factory owner. He raised me [?] , imagine, I went to him as a child, he trusted me, I worked with him for four years. In the end he was wealthy and he leased it to me. I took over a factory, that was a big deal. But I wanted to risk that, I’m still young, if I lose, I can compensate [that] somewhere else. Here, when I told the boys who had taught me, [?] there was a war going on. They wanted to take over the factory. They have more rights, they told me, “What do you want with this [factory] ? My family, when they realized that the factory was very expensive, they kept saying “no”. I wanted to buy it, that was a challenge. Also towards my family. Then they said: “God be with you”. My mother played the biggest role here. The factory owner wanted a deposit. She had a gold bracelet. Then she gave it to him as insurance. As the first insurance, thank God. I bought the factory. And I kept using the system the way I learned. At the end of the month my older brother came, he wanted to do the accounting, the profit and loss account. Thank God, we were lucky, after that month I hadn’t written anything down. Nothing what came in or out, I had left everything to our God.

Were you married at the time? Or were you still single?

[r] No, I was still single.

In this period?

Single, this is where my mother started to put pressure on me to get married. Thank God I was [_?] . I hadn’t thought about it, I got married. And during that time I developed, more and more. I also deserved more, thank God.

[i] Yes. Tell us, how did you say, get married and start a family? You are very ambitious and have been a fighter from the beginning. Tell me a little about your closer and wider family circle? Your situation, you have fought, worked and you have achieved a lot in your life and in your work.

Thank God I have worked, as you already know, in our family when one gets married, it is possible to live with one’s parents, thank God. My older brother, he told me: “A lot is being built. What do you think about buying a condo together?” We bought property together, after some time, after one year. He wanted to sell them, then my mother came and told me: “You are right here with us [?] , come and take your share”. And with the other money from the property I did another job. I bought a car, thank God, I was fine.

A house, a car, that was significant.

Thank God, it was good, my work was good.

[i] Your situation was very good. I wanted to achieve [something] , how can I tell you that? Everything I needed to survive, I had to have. I didn’t want to be a failure.

[i] Yes. No certainly, the way you say that, you count [say?] everything. You’re a fighter in your life, even a lot, you’ve started a family and you own a car.

[r] Absolutely.

[i] You did. Tell us a little about your country. Tell us something about your homeland, tell us about Damascus. You were born in Sham, in Damascus?

It is the most beautiful thing when you say the word, Sham. [?] You have the feeling that everything there is beautiful, especially the old city.

[i] Yes.

I’ll tell you about the capital, not the camp yet. Especially if you go to the shopping center, to the Hamidiye market [i] . The Umayayad Mosque, you go to the Resatuarant of Bogdash, whose ice is famous. If we say that we are going to Damascus, then each of us has to go there. Or the camp is a story, that’s where I spent my childhood. And my life, everything, you feel [none?] boredom. One second, you don’t feel bored, everyone works, everyone loves each other.

[i] Tell me, how did your parents raise you at home? Mama, how did […]

My motherly upbringing.

[r] [How did your mother treat you?

As she educates the girl, so she educates the boy, don’t worry. For boys, so that you would be more afraid for girls, no, the girls get an education. The boy [can] also make the mistakes the girls make. It’s the same as with the boys. All the same, our reputation is the same.

What is the role of religion in your country? Does religion play a role in you?

In what way?

[i] In education, in school, in the state?

In any case.

[i] It plays a role.

Yes, because our Islam is a conservative religion. There is no such thing as: you have Muslim and you have another tradition or ritual. That’s, that doesn’t fit.

[i] There are restrictions?

[r] Yes, definitely.

[i] Yes, how did you spend your time? How was family life at home? How was your daily routine? What was the atmosphere like?

You don’t feel bored. You get up in the morning, get dressed, and go out to work. With us, the man has to take care of everything for the housewife. She is at home. If she likes to work, if she wants to work, then she can do that. There are women who only raise children. The most important thing when we leave work, the most beautiful thing my mother sees is when we wear our work clothes. That is the most beautiful thing for her. That is their jewelry and their pride. That is the most important thing, as my mother sees us.

[i] Yes, tell us about it? About the familiar example of what older people love, what is very familiar?

They say your work things are your pride.

More beautiful for them than when you’re in your suit.

That’s when you go out on the street, of course. In your village, your people see you in your tools, that’s a difference. When you’re shaved and you’re standing somewhere for someone. There’s a lot of respect here. They respect you in your work.

Yes, and how was it at home? Tell me about your apartment.

[r] The […]

[i] How was your childhood? Something like that, what do you remember from your family home?

Thank God, in our house, all the brothers and sisters lived on the same floor. We were the older brother and the other. Thank God, our Father, God forgive him. He built us a big flat and we went on afterwards. Our mother wanted us to live [there?] together in one flat. We built, first my two brothers. One of them lived upstairs and the other one lived downstairs. Then we went on and everyone built a floor. The beautiful thing was our neighbors, our aunt was opposite us. Our uncle, in the evening being together, the most beautiful thing was in the morning. Do you remember the women from the village drinking coffee?

[i] In the morning?

The most beautiful thing about us in the morning are the women from the village you see. You see something going on outside, some come from the market, others leave. You have the feeling that it is the most beautiful hour in the morning. They taught us to love [it?] , my mother taught us [that] , just like [she?] told me. Like the son who cares about me, the neighbor, you should feel the same for the neighbors. I can’t make any mistakes in the settlement.

[i] Neighbours play a [big] role in our countries? In the Arab countries?

The neighbour? In any case. So if you see your aunt buying bread or she comes back from the market, she’s wearing something, if you see that, it would be a shame if you don’t help her if you don’t help her.

[i] This is determined by our culture, which we should cultivate.

[r] Yes, sure. […] You are new, you want to know who comes to whom. Our house is like the neighbouring house and vice versa. Special in Ramadan Month [Lent Month] . When the [neighbor?] comes, when he calls for prayer, you only see the plates fly. On the table you’ll see twenty kinds of [different dishes] .

[i] And you send what we cook. We take a plate and the rest is distributed completely, and the neighbors do the same.

Who was in your settlement with you? What else do you remember from your relatives?

[r] All the neighbors [thank God] , the uncle, the family. [the uncle’s family?]

[i] Relatives?

[i] Aunts and uncles.

[i] Who did you have as a relative? In your settlement, where you lived, was there a place that meant a lot to you? Something you loved when you were little?

Most of the time when we were working, we were still small. On Thursday we finished and got our money. We went to Yarmouk Street, to the cinema. It was still called Star Cinema and is still there, those are nice memories. In the Yarmouk-Street we always went to eat Kounafeh [sweets] , bought clothes. In summer we went to the swimming pool.

[i] You had swimming pools?

Yes, we had the Bahrain swimming pool. That’s what we called it, there’s also a swimming pool in the city. In the sports city, there used to be an organization. The PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] rented land for a football stadium and a swimming pool.

[i] That’s very nice. In your spare time you had a hobby that you could practice?

In the camp itself we had no free time, after work your friends waited for you to go out together in the evening. There was no boredom. There was no free time. [There was no boredom in your spare time?] Your time is filled.

[i] We talked about school, about education, your childhood, your development, your free time. But we haven’t talked about love yet.

Love is another story.

[i] Did you love? Have you ever been in love?

There is no tree that is not shaken by the wind. Every man goes through this circumstance.

[i] Tell me about your wife. Did you choose her or were you obligated?

No, there was when I was working, my sister was already married. Her sister-in-law has a daughter who sees us passing by. Where I work, they said, “Well, don’t you want to get engaged? You’ve grown old.” There I was. I was about 20 to 22 years old, they made allusions to the girl. My cousin had a truck, he had sold water, Fiege had water [?] . He sometimes took me with him. I became curious to see this girl. I told him, “If you go there, take me with you. I want to go with you.” I took the can of water and we exchanged looks like God wanted us to. The wife of my brother [Allah Yerham[r] , the older brother. My secrets were with her even though my mother was there, but I feel my brother’s wife is. [?] The heart was very close, she was a teacher, she had understanding. My mother [God help he[r] , what should she do, our bread, our drinking. Yes, I told her my worries: “What do you mean? And so it was. She was my first aid. Here, as God wanted it, I got engaged to this girl. But there was a problem. I argued with her father about one thing. They don’t do that with us, there was Ramadan [fasting month] , they visited us in the evening. I was working, at the candy [bakery] . To Ramadan it is harder to work. There is no time. My cousin came to buy clothes, he was in Moadamiah. He came to our camp to buy clothes. I told him: “Please come.” Why did my cousin look at her? In any case, we had a fight. He said her mother tried to calm me down: “We older ones, we solve the problem.” He said, “No,” I said. “My cousin is more important to me than any girl.” In the world I have my cousin who is much more important to me. I find a girl every day, but I don’t find a cousin every day. My aunts played a big role here. They said: “Do you see what happens to the one who doesn’t marry from the family? And something like that, here they were after my mother. So that I would leave her and marry another and [subhan allah] fate. The cousin of my wife had lived in the settlement persuaded my mother that I should become engaged again. At that time, when I was no longer engaged. I didn’t want to get engaged anymore, that was enough for me. Another engagement. I had decided to go abroad and my mother said, “Okay, you can go.” Allah is there, at the end she said: “No, let it be with flying. We want you to get engaged.” In that period, I wanted to trick my mother. On the subject of getting married, I told her, “She’s [too] big and she’s too small; she’s ugly.” Something like that. I wanted her to marry my bedroom, I want [he[r] special. [?] Fate, I got married.

[i] With you boys and girls are treated equally?

[r] Yes, the same. Just as the mother is afraid for her daughters, she is just as afraid for the boy, for his reputation.

You got married, you started a family, you have children. We talked about your family, about many issues that concern you personally. After that, what is the reason that made you come to Germany?

Thank God, if it weren’t for the war, I was happy in Syria.

[i] You hadn’t thought about migrating?.. I was ambitious, thank God. I made myself, worked and built my life. I did a lot, you remember the days. You have put your feet on the stairs, you have goals that you have realized. My dream was to finish my apartment, that was my priority, thank God. I built a beautiful apartment, regardless of my profession as a confectioner. I also did the work, plaster decoration, I built a house, I was fine. Every day, almost every day, in the evening we went for a walk, after work. Every week we went out. My life was happy, but the circumstances of war forced us to, we were afraid, there was no security.

[i] Right.

In wartime, I experienced nine to ten months, in the blockade, in the Yar Jewelry Camp, those were the most difficult days. Regardless of what I had experienced in my childhood. But here, that was the hardest pain.

[i] What can you tell us? What can you remember?

The hardest thing was when the son of my brothers said to his father, “I am hungry. Imagine your son saying to you: “I am hungry”. And you can’t give him anything.

[i] You didn’t have anything to eat in camp?

No, it was hard, hard, we spent most of the time, the flavour enhancers, what they do in chips and derby. We had cooked and drunk them. Everything was expensive, heavy, a piece of bread. We didn’t know that!

[i] You talk about a long time, ten months, how did you overcome time? Ten months, how did you get support?

We didn’t get any support, nothing could come in. The people who had reserves, we opened the apartments. People go in and take something, like here, an apartment. If there was anything inside, they sold it, a kilo of rice. It cost [usually] 25 to 30 Lira, it costs 5000 Lira, it was sold for 5000 Lira!

That was a black market.

[r] Yes. The cigars, that was forbidden. The most expensive ones in our country were the cigarettes. A Zigartte cost 2500 Syrian Lira, the package outside otherwise costs 25 Lira. So it was, we had no electricity, we had [[r] generator. We bought one empire, two empires [?] . We heated with coal. Sometimes it was necessary to break his own bedroom, to burn it so that it would be warm.

[i] Did that happen?

[r] Yes.

[i] And the children? The medication, the medicine, you’re talking about ten months?

Ten months. Once my older daughter suffered from anaemia. The most important thing. Okay, thank God there was a health center at the PLO in the camp. There was another cadre [?] . We are very grateful for that, they fought to the end. Thank God, when she needed blood during that time, we could give it to her. People came and gave blood. The most important thing in this siege was that people loved each other. People liked each other. For example: One had diabetes, imagine a robber when he hears something like that. He would help you, that’s a nice thing. Everyone would help you. That was special in the camp, but life, we had no life. Imagine to warm us we bought diesel for 700 Syrian Lira, outside there was that for 25 to 30 Lira. How do you want to get warm? The communication was difficult. You run about a kilometer to find a network so you can call. I […] I was different than the people there. My family was half inside and the rest outside. My wife and kids went out the day before, my mother and my older daughters stayed in. You get desperate in between, you have to keep balance. How will the money be enough for both of them?

[i] All alone?

I couldn’t have done it alone. My sister was in Sweden. She helped and supported us. Your son has been a migrant there for a long time, he has helped, for example. The Onrwa helps us Palestinians [UNRWA? United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East] . In the camp, they paid us money to survive, the work. How did the people survive? I told you, one kilo of rice cost 5000 Lira, I go shopping. And then I sell it for 8000 lira, all at once. There is a beautiful story happened in the days of the siege.

[i] Tell us about it.

A reconciliation delegation has come because of the PLO. They came to the camp to see the situation so that the militias would leave the camp. One of them had brought cigarettes, he knew people were smoking. He gave four men a box to share. In the end he gave me a box for me and another person, my mother, in the morning every day we had to go to Regaa Square, that’s between the fighters and the government, you know what happened. He had given me this box. I had ten cigarettes, at home we had nothing to eat, nothing to warm. Nothing, as she came [was it] as if something had fallen from the sky. Ten cigarettes, one cost 2000 Lira. When I sold them, I went home, said to Mama, “What is it, we don’t have diesel. I said don’t worry with the money from the cigarettes I sold. I bought some food and drinks. She asked me and I told her everything. I was, thank God, the gunmen were always looking in the houses. They made markets, you are obliged to buy from there. I bought, I knew that the stolen goods were, I was forced to buy them so that I could sell them again. I had to survive, there was no other way, most of the apartments were affected. There was nothing left to eat and drink. How much reserve you have at home, a month or two, you can’t get [that] . Even [_?] .

After that, how did the decision come? The decision to go.

Here the PLO said that we have to get the people out of this humanitarian situation. And [they] brought boxes of [aids] . The PLO and UNRWA had brought the boxes of aid to the camp. One of them takes one box at a time. I was the first man to receive a box. I was the first man, it took me a lot, I had no sugar for a long time, no rice, nothing sweet, here my mother and my daughters, who, on the other hand, said to me: “Don’t go out! [?] They were afraid for me. A man who fetches something, I was worried. I couldn’t see them starving and my mother went to get it. The first time, I risked my life and went there, to the government People frighten you, but you have to go through. Whatever happens, I’ve put it in my head, I’ll come back with the box or I’ll go. An officer of the army asked me: “What are you doing here? I said I wanted to get a box.” He said, “Stand here.” I stood there, he said, “Do you have the family card? I said, “No, I only have one picture of it.” The family card was outside with my wife. He said: “Okay”. I went to the registration. They’re checking to see if anyone’s in the credit bureau. He wasn’t okay.

[i] Mr. [name] , we’re still talking about what we started. Tell us about this difficult situation, the wartime, […] the annihilation. […] [Long pause]

[i] Mr. [name] , we continue with this hard time, with the war. The survival, the decision to make, stay or flee? How did you decide why Germany, [why?] leave the country? Why?] to Bochum of all places?

[r] Because of the circumstances that have happened to us. The war, there was no more life. Everything became difficult. Killing, kidnapping. No more security. Everything was very difficult, everything was expensive.

Was there no hope anymore?

There was nothing left to live on, unlike before. No, before the war, people loved each other. The people changed, the neighbours. When I was in the camp in Karatina, thank God, they had opened the way. The PLO came and helped the most important cases to leave the camp. Thank God, we didn’t do anything bad, we made an application, we got a promise. The government said, go out, go out to Damascus. I was there for a while. I found the situation even more difficult, every day it increased. Here I had the phase where nothing works anymore. Then I decided, I flee, like all other people. Every second day I missed one of my friends. [He?] traveled. Then I said to myself, “I’ll be like everyone else.

[i] Yes.

We decided to fly, thank God. In the beginning, when you want to leave the country, you can’t tell anyone about it. The most difficult moment was not telling anyone about it. Because maybe someone is telling the government. That’s a big problem. And the way, you will survive a lot [experience?] , have a lot of difficulties [have] . You don’t know what to expect. There are many barriers, government controls. The [here?] are lighter than the IS and Nasra checkpoints. You don’t know what they’re up to. The last power of my brother, twelve years old, imagine you have to put on the Abaya [traditional Islamic garment] . I went in the morning. The last thing before I left, I said goodbye to my mother. I said to her, “Are you satisfied with me? She said: “Allah protect you and open your way. I am proud of you.” Here one is satisfied because the mother is satisfied, thank God. I left at half past nine, took my sister’s son, my brother’s daughter and my brother-in-law’s son [_?] . They were small, we were through with the government checkpoints. Now you have to go to the IS and Nusra Front Countryside, Tadmur, [_?] [by] . Until you arrive in Rakaa, there should be a smuggler there to get us out. When we arrived there was nobody there. We are back, stayed with people and went back to Hallab, imagine that. You get up at six in the morning, drive to Hallab, from Hallab to Idleb. Here the road became more difficult. It got harder and harder. I wanted to cross the border. How I can go to Turkey, someone had recommended us [that] . “Why do you want to go through Hallab, come to Karbet el Jozz.” Wallah, I have the children, I can’t go alone, others say you have to insure [?] . We saw three other men, we left, thank God. We arrived in Karbet el Jozz at 23 o’clock. We saw the first smuggler. He wanted 2,5000 to take us with him. The first night we couldn’t get in.

[i] 2,5000, what kind of currency?..

[r] Syrian lira.

[i] Per person?

[r] No. For everyone.

[i] Just so you cross what border?.

The Turkish border, so that we can get to Turkey.

[i] The border between Syria and Turkey?

Something went wrong here. There was a collision with the Turks. Another had told me that there were smugglers who had bought the border points. But [that] was expensive, but with a guarantee. I didn’t have any problems with that because I have children. Hamdellah, on the second day we came in.

[i] Your whole family was there.

No, the son of my sister, the daughter of my brother, and the daughter of my brother-in-law. I didn’t bring my family.

[i] You escaped alone.

I told you because of the circumstances. It was enough, I had to leave, that was no life anymore. When we came to Turkey, we crossed the border, they took us to a school, then at night they took us to a mountain. Imagine you have been awake for two days, at the end you go to the mountain until the early morning comes, at five. Until we have reached Antakia. Then we had to buy a ticket to the garage [?] so we could go to Izmir. We waited until 5 p.m. until we bought the ticket to Izmir, thank God. We sat on the bus for seventeen hours until we arrived.

How many people were you? Those who were with were the daughter of my brother, the son of my sister and my brother-in-law, the three. Until we arrived. We arrived in Izmir, you know, first of all, when you arrive, it is very well known, the Basmala Square, all the smugglers are there. And the Balamann dealers. Here you have to be smart to find one that is cheaper and better. We arrived in Izmir and we stayed there for about three weeks until we got there. It was full in summer time. You could leave on the same day, but that was expensive I didn’t have the money to leave immediately. Thank God, arriving in Turkey was the first sure thing. That I could leave Syria, that you survived. The second, you have to go by sea in the Balam [boat] , that’s the second journey. Imagine 72 people sitting in a Balam.

[i] How long was that?

[r] Nine meters long. The width was about two meters. Inside are 72 people, children, women. Here the smuggler brought us together and drove us to the meeting point in a large closed car. We sat there for about an hour and a half. After that we had to go down. We had to go from the mountain up to the meeting point. The Turkish smugglers wait there, take you to the Balam without a driver. They’re looking for someone, the smugglers, who drives this Balam and they don’t take any money from him [then] . We sat in the sea for nine hours. You don’t know if you’ll arrive. You left everything to God. The good Lord.

[i] Certainly.

Here only God and the prayer of the parents can help. After nine hours in the water we arrived on an island, Samos.

[i] Yes.

Here the joy of all people was very great. You feel a celebration, you are reborn.

[i] That was a victory.

That was a great success. 72 person in Balam, it’s not an easy thing. You are the grande night in the water between babies and children. You don’t know what’s hidden in front.

[i] You ride in the dark?

In any case, under the moonlight. The smuggler said, “Opposite us, this light, you must go.” We thought it was close. Instead of going to the destination island, we went to another island. Thank God, we arrived in this corner, on the island of Samos. There the Greeks came and helped us. They showed us the way until we arrived. At that time the International Cross [International Red Cross Movement?] , they examined us and so on, gave us food. After that they gave us a map so that we could go by ship [to that?] . Here we were lucky to go on the same day. There were people who had been waiting on the island for three [_?] and two weeks. Thank God we left the island on the same day. We went to Athens, the capital. After Athens we went to Macedonia. In Macedonia you should cross the border [that is?] how to get in. […] We are between the people, traders, nobody knows the way, they show each other, we have divided into groups. [?] Thank God, we arrived, the police came. They had heard about kidnapping cases and selling human organs and stuff like that. The governments have cooperated, one country gives people to another. They had secured the way for us and take the people in groups in buses, thank God. We went to Serbia, stayed three days in a garden. When we got there we bought bus tickets and went on to Hungary. The most difficult thing was [_?] , running didn’t bother us, we were happy to make progress. We had heard how we could cross the border in Hungary. We were a group.

[i] Where to? To which country?

To Hungary, we came from Serbia [r] . You had to go in to Hungary, to a village, that’s the hardest part here. Those before us called and said that we should take something with us to cut the barbed wire. Take tools with you to cut, we were 90 people. We had agreed in the groups, we cut three holes for the people, so that the people can go through. Three holes so they can go through. Here we warned the women with small children. That they should make the children sleep, calm them down, give them sleeping pills. As you already know, the Hungarian police are very tough. They take your fingerprints. There are people who don’t want to come to Germany. They want to go to Sweden, to Holland, they want to change their direction. A child screamed here. Everything went wrong. The Hungarian police came, they spoke in English. “Come on, it’s no problem, fingerprint it.” I didn’t leave, nor did my aunt’s son, his wife and brother. [?] There were six of us, seven people who didn’t want to go. My brother-in-law went alone. The people were apart. Everyone had a different opinion. I didn’t want to give [the fingerprints?] on the first try. I try it two and three times. Why, from the first adventure, all the people were gone, we were only six or seven. What’s important is that after three quarters of an hour everything was quiet, we went in. You run in cornfields, you don’t know the direction, imagine that. All day long you run in corn fields that are higher than you are. But, thank God, there are signs where the loud [people?] have stepped, you can see that. [?] We arrived in Hungary, here was the first village in Hungary. You know, everyone who flees tells others what happened on the way. We had seen a taxi. They take 200 €, at the beginning we had seen a taxi. He took 200 € per person and drove us to the capital of Hungary. Here was the hardest part. We were surprised. We thought [it was] like in Macedonia and Greece, here nobody is allowed to leave the train [and the] stop. People slept there, imagine 25,000 people sleeping on top of each other in the train [at] the stop. It was hard, very hard [in] the village, people were looking for cars, for smugglers. They took 400 € per person, here after three days the men came and asked why we stayed here. Sitting, people had to make all the fingerprints in Hungary, they said let’s all go together and run to Germany. People said it was hard, very hard. [They asked?] Why do we sit here? Here we sit and on the street we will also sit, they have encouraged the people. Everyone went out. When people walked together, imagine 25,000 people walking together, we walked at about 12 noon, we walked for two, three hours. Then a police car came and stopped us. We pushed their cars and didn’t listen to them. We walked on, here [the interest?] of the world press and the media increased. When we saw that, between us, we were relieved. You have some protection on your side, the press, the media. Although when we were in Hungary the press came every day, every day there was a demo. Do demonstrations, [were?] slow, slow. The Hungarian people, you have to be honest, you find older people who get a rollator or a wheelchair, for example children. You find one who throws water bottles or bananas [ove[r] from his car. That’s how it was until we arrived. Here are the people who have children, little girls, we helped each other. When the press arrived, the last day, we took breaks, we ran for an hour and took a quarter of an hour break. By the time we arrived it was already half past eleven in the night. Here the people were tired, running since ten o’clock in the morning. You run until ten o’clock in the evening. We are perhaps before the border of Austria. The people wanted to spend the night there, on the street and later we walk on. Here we saw only rain. A little later people said there was a bus that takes people to Germany. Here the people found it strange. They thought maybe the Hungarians or Germans. Maybe it is a lie and they bring us back to the camp. Here we were not sure, we tried it with the first bus. The first group should go, if that’s okay we continue. Actually, I didn’t tell you that when we were on [[r] demo, they had shown the poster of Merkel, the flag of the EU. Here people were relieved, here they were happy, nothing happened that scared us, you walked [were?] happy when you saw that. The matter is serious. When the people arrived in Germany, when the buses came, the people were motivated. Yes [that] is Germany. Here you went by bus [?] . They had taken us to Vienna, to the train stop. To the central stop, that’s where we arrived at seven in the morning. They treated us, treated us medically. From the human side everything was very nice on the way. They were very human to us, [to] the sick or something. They started dividing people into groups. We didn’t know where to go. That’s their group. They had put us on a train. We thought we were going to Munich. We went to Munich, we knew nothing. We landed in Duisburg. I can remember that the Minister of the Interior [?] received us. We had breakfast, then they started to sort the people. That was the most beautiful moment how the Germans received us. They were on two sides, we refugees, this scene took me so much with it. I felt you were still in your country, there were still people. It may be that people want us. Here we were even happier, [we were] relieved. Psyschich [relieved] . The worry on the way, the tiredness, you forgot everything. With this view, you see people clapping for you what you want. After breakfast they sorted us out.

[i] That’s interesting.

Very interesting, yes. This is where they sent us to camp. That was a hospital or something, in Duisburg. We stayed there for about ten days, then they sent us to Hemmer. Heimer? [Hamm?] I [don’t know] exactly, about two hours from here, it was nice there in the home. The home was beautiful. There was [just that?] Fest. The first party was very difficult for us here. Here I cried, we cried during the feast, we heard the speech from the mosque. Here you can feel something in your heart.

Did you feel strange?

Here it was the most difficult moment.

Without family, without parents.

[r] Yes. The feast has come, for us the first is prayer to the feast. Visiting the graves, it was hard here. I couldn’t show the people [?] , everyone [was] alone.


[r] Yes. A little later I thought about it. The children, they know we have the party. Here they were in the home before us, they told us [that] . There’s a town, you have to walk for half an hour, because fate wants it that way, there was a party in the town, I saw a carousel. Thank God, the festival was double [that big?] . I offered them [the children?] a nice atmosphere for the festival, I took them there. I rocked, played in a merry-go-round, and went to the restaurant with them. Thank God, in the [Home?] camp they themselves had, how shall I tell you, [it was] a good thing. In this camp it was rd beautiful, they have something like a hall. A small hall, [there is?] are songs for everyone, for Africans, Kurds for Arabs, Serbs, for everyone. Every hour they play a song, it wasn’t boring. There was a huge screen. We stayed fifteen days. After four days they had us sorted. There were names on a list. We knew of nothing. We were supposed to leave our fingerprints. Here, when we arrived in Germany, the joy was great. We didn’t think of anything anymore. What is important is that we arrived in Germany. We should give our fingerprints, that’s what we did. Thank God, here you think, if you gave your fingerprint then there is a stay [residence permit] . You are thinking of family reunification. After two weeks they transferred me to Bochum.

[i] Let’s talk about Bochum. The last one was […] ? […] The arrival in Bochum.

Here, when I came to Bochum, they transferred people in a car, in a bus. Everyone comes to a different corner, not all were in Bochum. Our luck was in Bochum. We didn’t know about anything. He dropped us off in front of the town hall and told us to go in. Where should we go? We asked about four hours until we knew where the social welfare office was. After the social welfare office they drove us in the car to the camp. This camp was newer. The first people who lived there were us. That was a sports hall for a school. Families went there as well. Slowly, slowly the camp became bigger. Everything was there. There is a woman Susanne, she is a German. She was a very noble person, she did a lot. She has done many good things. Imagine when we met her when she came to the camp, we felt “the mother” was there. Everyone goes out to see you.

[i] Susanne was a nominal German citizen or did she work in the camp?

[r] No, volunteer, a German. She leaves her apartment, her daughter because of us. We didn’t feel strange there. Whatever the problem, you are sick, she takes you with her, whatever the problems, she solves them. You get mail, she raises, slowly. Slowly, she knows we are Arabs, she takes us to the camp. That was the first [camp where we?] got the Arab bread, we had [otherwise?] toast. Slowly, slowly she had a lot of understanding. Next to our camp is a school. She asked the teachers there to support us. We should help them [They should help us?] . Every evening from 18:00 to 19:30 in the evening someone taught us the language. Everyone should participate, big and small. We could not say no to her. Even if someone was sick, we all left because of her. That’s what she did for us, we made such a big round. They had taught us how to imagine and the simple things. We had learned that for two weeks. After two weeks she checked the level. You have an education, you need another teacher. You don’t know, okay. She sounds people every day. She did something nice in the camp. For example, if you want to eat something, go to the kitchen. You tell her you need four pieces of bread. If you don’t speak German, she won’t give you that. Just so that you love the language. Here people started to love the language. There is something that motivates you. You get in shape, the best days were in the camp. Here I had visited a school, where I learned a lot. In the camp I profited a lot.

[i] What impression do you have of the German people?

The impression, right at the beginning, was that they were very human. The humanity of all the Germans I met. They are human, they are honest. But the difference between us is that their culture is different from our culture. That is one thing. But it is beautiful. If you have a culture and you get to know another culture and [they] are civilized. That’s the difference between us, whose work is sacred, whose work is faithful. With conscience, if they have holidays, then they have holidays. And the law with them is good, the system. Eight [o’clock?] must be eight [o’clock?] .

[i] There is respect with the appointments? Very much, they respect that very much.

[i] What is your picture of Bochum? You told a lot of good things about Susanne. You have a good impression of the people?

[r] There are […]

[i] The German people, what does Bochum mean to you?

It’s […] You should see it this way, for me it’s like the Yarmuk Camp. Where I lived and grew up.

[i] To that degree?

[r] Yeah, sure, you’ve been in this town for three years.

When did you come? My first day for me in Germany was the 6.9.2015. That was my first day, I won’t forget that. I have been in Bochum for three years. I am, I know three quarters of the people, leave the Arabs aside. I know many Germans, many Germans here.

Do you have friends, contacts with the Germans?

[r] Yes, I do. Thank God, when I visited the measure I got to know many of them. There is one, I thank her very much, her name is Izmehir. I can’t pronounce it well. She is Turkish. She is sweet. When I was there at the beginning, in the measure, three months, the men were there. Her task was to find apartments for the people. She helps people. She was very human. With everything, I go there, can not profit [?] . They had put me in a school that was just for nothing. I go, don’t profit but this woman [?] makes up for it and thank God there is another woman named Gabi. She is wonderful, she helps people. If you take an apartment and what you need, she helps. Maybe Arab says, “I don’t have time today.” She says: “You have an appointment. She gives you her time. That’s great when you find something like that. Here I had the feeling that Bochum is like the Yarmuk camp. When I go to the town hall go for a walk there I feel like I’m in camp, on Yarmuk Street. I feel the same special zn their current Easter. Mid November to the beginning of the year, you see the celebrations, the lighting. The world.

[i] Christmas?

Christmas at those is very nice. You don’t get bored. Every evening you go out for a walk, the alternation, these two months, I wish Bochum would stay that way.

[i] Where exactly do you live in Bochum?

[r] In the [am?] Schauspielhaus.

[i] Tell us about the Schauspielhaus? [Tell us] about the place?

In the beginning I lived in a village, I felt like this. [It was] a bit demeaning. Maybe it’s nice for the older people because they’re used to this atmosphere. But I was used to noise and movement in the camp. I felt the same, especially in front of the playhouse itself, when you see the people. In the evening, at night on Thursday and Friday, Saturday you find the people. I am happy to see them at the window. I watch the people. It is near the city, everything is beautiful.

Are you happy there?

[r] Yes very much.

[i] What do you do in your free time in Bochum? How do you spend your free time? How do you spend your free time, if you have any? You have a family? Do you have a wife and children?

There is no free time in that sense. Maybe a little. You know Germany, the many appointments, post, you don’t come to [_?] . You got mail, despite the three years here, no matter how much you learn. He won’t be able to translate that. You have to get help. You have to wait for him [the help] . If that’s at 10 o’clock, this mail binds you, for example. On the weekend, Saturday, Sunday, I meet with my friends. We go to the city, to Dortmund, to Gelsenkirchen. The more cities you visit, the more you will learn. You will become more educated, you will get to know new things from the Germans.

Do you have hobbies?

I have hobbies, I love football, very much.

[i] Are you following this?

Very much. I’m waiting for it.

Is this where you can pursue your hobby more than in your home country?

Here, maybe. I couldn’t. But here I can offer that to the children. It was hard with us. The means for it were not available, in the sense that if you have money, then you can practice it. Those who have nothing have had a hard time.

[i] Which places in Bochum do you like?

The town hall, the town hall reminds me of the Yarmuk camp when I go there. Maybe I can’t find all the Arab friends [here] , but I can find the Germans I like, mostly they’re there.

Does your education [play a role] ? Does your culture, what you brought with you, [play] a role in your life here in Bochum?

In any case. Most importantly, when I get up in the new apartment at the [am?] Schauspielhaus, I hear Fairuz [Lebanese singer?] drinking coffee at the window. That’s in the morning, not to forget whether we want [or not?] , our parents are like that and we did [that] . The social life, unfortunately it is difficult here. In Germany you have to pay attention to everything, the time, the situation of people. There is no time like with us.

Yes, you told us something beautiful that you experienced in Bochum. Is there anything negative you can tell us about? Did [something negative] happen to you in Bochum? Your children? Have you experienced something like this?

I experienced a difficult situation. I was when I did the family reunion; the most difficult was my daughter’s problem. When I did the interview in Lebanon, she was 17 years old. After 18 days she would have turned 18. Here [at that time] we did the interview, thank God. Everything was okay, the papers were right. I sat at home, then I got mail from the foreigner [amt] , because of my daughter. I went there, she says, “You can’t get your daughter.” I couldn’t think here. What should I do? I was tied up. There was a Moroccan who helps Arabs. He saw me and he asked me. I told him. He said it was okay. He knew something about me, his name was Elias, he was great. A Moroccan is helping the refugees. He went to the clerk. He asked if my papers were complete, I said yes, he told her: “What right have you to tell him that he can’t get his daughter? What is that? I had the most important document that I could get my family. This is known when you give your fingerprints [do you have the?] family reunion, the others explained. The whole time we had asked, “What about the family reunion? Man knew something about it. He showed her that. When she saw that, he told her that it wasn’t my fault that the interview was so far away. She sent us to the boss to see the original birth certificate. Here I requested it from Syria. He said: “Everything will be all right”. Here I was relieved. They sent me to the measure. I stayed there for eight months. On the first day I was interviewed. There the telephone from Lebanon went. They told me that the visas had come. Thank God, they were friends here. At the same time I asked about my daughter. She told me that I could not get my daughter. Here the joy and there the shock. The Turkish woman saw me, she is very good and asked what is going on. I told her that. She closed the door and called the boss. In fact, I felt something, she was more angry than me. She clarified, I don’t know who [?] has one over the top, [she] talked to the responsible [persons] . They called the embassy. Thank God, three quarters of an hour later the promise came. Your daughter may come, here, thank God. I was overjoyed, that was the most difficult thing I experienced in Bochum. Everything else [was okay] , God be thanks apart from the language and so on. What is a burden to us is the stability. You want to do something in Germany. If such a law comes, what is according to Merkel, what am I [then?] in Germany? Maybe they’ll send me back, that point. A problem that burdens us. Most people. I say okay, I go to work. But] in Germany my language isn’t enough, it’s hard. This is the biggest problem, the other, thank God, everything is okay.

[i] Are you happy in Bochum? Are you happy that you decided to leave? To Germany and Bochum of all places?

[r] As God wanted, maybe. I didn’t know my way. The important thing was to come to Germany. My sister wanted me to go to Sweden to see her. But I stayed here. All people advised me. What is the difference between here and there? Although you will be naturalised there after [three] years [?] , but here, thank God, in one month I got the residence [permit] and did the family reunification, although here is an industrial country. That’s the nerve [nerve? vein?] of the EU, there’s work here. There isn’t much work in Sweden. For me it’s important to work. The country here is culture, civilized, the European nerve [vein?] , I want to stay here.

[i] The future of your children?

The future is the most important thing I couldn’t [promote] do in Syria. I left school because of [_?] […] . Here, thank God, their future, I want to offer them what I could not do for myself. They should do that.

[i] A big gain that you got your family and that you brought your family. You didn’t tell me what it was like to say goodbye to your mother. She raised you alone. You helped each other? How was the decision with your wife to go alone?

That was hard. I thought about it a lot. Everything is burning, you want to go to Damascus. No matter why, for example. A bomb can hit you.

Mr. [name] , in conversation you talked about the family reunion and the difficulties in Bochum. You came alone, without a wife and children, tell me, how did you come alone?

In the beginning I brought my brother’s daughter and my sister’s son with me. The decision [was] : I fly [flee] . In Syria the situation was zero, I was desperate. There was no life, everything became more difficult. If a bomb comes, you’ll survive or not. I talked to my wife. One of us has to leave because of the future of the children. We agreed that I would leave. The most difficult moment was when I wanted to leave. I said goodbye, my brothers and sisters didn’t know that. I called the rest of them, said goodbye, everyone was surprised: “How, you are going? Spontaneously, I said everything went quickly. That’s how it happened, my mother gave me a souvenir. She said, “Leave that with you on the way, think of God.” That has always accompanied me. I think of God, [I think] of her. [Starts crying] . Thank God, everything went well. All the difficulties, on the run, on the way. You know, smuggling isn’t easy.

Does [i] [Souveni[r] mean a lot to you? This chain?

[r] [_?] [It reminds me] of my mother. Because she said, “Take it with you.”

[i] Did you take care of it on the way?

[r] Yeah, sure. I’m not letting this [go] , it’s always in my pocket. If you forget to mention Allah, that reminds you. You pray in the Balam [boat] . We sat for six hours, it was too much for us, the screaming. I touched it [the souveni[r] , said Allah is there. We can only pray when it is written we will survive, thank God. People have prayed, in difficult moments you can only pray to the dear God. Everything is good.

Your mother is satisfied with you?

The most important thing when you go is that no matter what you do, you have the satisfaction of your parents.

What was the last word she said to you?

The last one was: “Are you satisfied with me.” She said, “Yes.” I left, I was with myself until the end. […] At home, I didn’t want anyone accompanying me.

[i] You still have family contact?

[r] Yeah, sure, we talk every day by whatsapp. My brothers and sisters are in Damascus. I have my sister in Sweden.

You maintain the relationship?

[r] Yes, of course, we were raised that way. We teach that to our children and grandchildren, that’s our culture. Hard, you’re leaving your rituals.

Do you think about going home?

Not now. I am building a new life and a new future in Bochum here. I think, thank God, I got the family, I have an apartment and I’ve gained a foothold. Everything is getting better, my children are going to school. I have learned something. If you are twenty, you are different from if you are forty. It takes a while to learn the language. I am now looking for work.

[i] Certainly.

When I would experience [?] . I love to work, learning is beautiful. So that you educate yourself more, but for me work is more important. Education is for my children. Bochum is now for me [_?] Everything that means [something?] to me, I got to know the Germans. I have contact, the teacher of my son. Because he has a deficit. She comes to us to give him tutoring. Free of charge, she comes for two hours, honorary. We in Syria don’t have such a thing. If you have an exam, then you buy a tutor yourself, against payment. The difference is big.

[i] What distinguishes the European from our nation?

Maybe there is such a thing with us, but here it is better. The pupil, you are a teacher. […] You have examination, they don’t do that for God, the teacher tells you is my right. [?] He only gives help for money. Here this teacher is obliged to help you at home.

Certainly not.

She comes because she likes the child, she supports it. So far I have been cultivating my relationship with Germans. I invite her. They call me at regular intervals to see if I need anything? Since I’ve been in Germany, no matter what happens to me. I seek their protection.

[i] Tell me about your relationship, about your countrymen here? You are a Syrian man, are you involved with them here? With the Syrians? You are many here, do you have an Association?

There are relationships, if that arises. We visit each other, at the same time I leave time for my German friends. You can’t forget the good they’ve done for us. I try to have time there, at least you invite them. Without them we wouldn’t have achieved that and couldn’t get the [family] .

[i] Now to the subject of integration. We want to talk about it. You have made a decision, now is the time, at the moment you want to build life and a future with your children here in Bochum. How do you realize that?

The first one, I went to school, drove a bus. I listen to what they say, I like to hear what they say. I remember a word. I get new. I keep that. I like that the Germans visit us so that we can hear the language, that helps us. If we didn’t have the contacts, we wouldn’t have profited. That’s very good, I learned in a school. Thank God, we are learning, but now the most important thing is the children to start here.

Did you try to eat? The German food?

That happened in Langendreer. When I went home from camp, there is a church that helps refugees. Once a month everyone meets and gets to know each other. He is from Serbia, Afghanistan, Greece, all countries. So that we get to know each other better. One is from Serbia. I don’t understand his language, we speak German. Here is one, she [cooks] once a week where we lived, a dish, what you want, someone has to cook. They cook, we go to visit each other. It wasn’t just the visit. The theme was food. The cooking a dish and for example this week it’s my turn, next week it’s Jihan’s turn. Next week is the neighbour or it is the Serb’s turn. Everything was, we felt so much abroad because [something like this] exists. [?] [Something] that brings you together.

[i] There’s a connection?

[r] Yes, exactly.

Have you tried the German food?

[r] Yes, I did.

[i] Did you like it?

That’s far from our kitchen. Sometimes they mix lemon with sweet things.

[i] Is strange to us.

The Germans love our kitchen. More than we love their food, they don’t have a kitchen. Maybe because of their work or time. I often see them at the bakery, I am, God bless [_?] . I like that because it’s my job. I watch what happens there. Sometimes I don’t want to buy anything, but I’m curious. Curious to know how to bake it, what the oven is like. It’s your hobby, you love it, you want to touch it.

[i] Are you sure you cook Arabic?

Yes, in any case, we only cook Arabic.

[i] Yes.

Even the Germans know our dishes by heart. The Arabic food.

Do they like Arabic food?

Very much.

[i] That’s culture, too.

Now, when they come, taboulé, falafel.

[i] Oh. They love that.

[r] There’s something [someone?] too, she heard German music, we thought it was good. We wanted to hear it again and again, even if we didn’t understand it. I liked her.

[i] Very nice, including the music? That’s important for cultural exchange. Because music has no status. Everyone can listen to world music no matter what.

Yes, you come and you want to learn the language. We do [read?] cartoons [comics?] in German because this is the first step to understand the meaning. The cartoon movies.

[i] Tell me about your friends here in Bochum. Your relationship, you Syrians meet? Do you have common activities, are you organized? You? How do you describe your relationship? Are you many here? What are you doing? Tell us about it. How are you organized?

We live approximately the German culture, since we live here, we have to take part in it. Their atmosphere, their lives, like you. Approximately. But our culture, our education and values [will we?] not forget. Our tradition. Here I also have to experience the other tradition. The rituals, living culture, time culture. I have to come to terms with it. I live here in this country I have to live as well as you do. But in our life [there] is, for example, the feast of sacrifice. We all meet, go to the mosque together, visit each other. We make our candy and offer it just like at home. We have created an atmosphere like ours, we don’t forget this tradition.

This makes people happy, it allows them to develop further in the life they live.

In any case, the Germans in Ramadan. Imagine, they help us with things we know to fast, they have respect. They have a different religion. He has respect for you, you are forced to respect him, each other. We celebrate with them. They with us.

In any case, this is beautiful. You talked about Christmas, how much you like it in November and December, the Christmas atmosphere in Bochum. The Kultu, the children, how do they feel about it?

The children, in the beginning Bochum was quiet. There’s more going on in Berlin, more Arabs, more going on. I just wanted to stay here. You can’t get a Fissh out of the water. I am like that. My wife wanted to go to Hamburg to see her uncles. They have been there for 30 years, I said no. I got used to it here. She [here] also has acquaintances and Syrian friends. Not only Syrians, also from Serbia. We have lived together with them for a while and have contact.

[i] Yes. You live in a democratic country where there is peace. In Europe. Are you staying in Bochum? Because of security, too. You have your country, what you love, where you come from, where you grew up. Do you have conflict between past, present and future?

In any case. Everyone has a conflict between [with?] the past. You remember your childhood. The thoughts of the past, your beautiful days, now you are [here?] . You fought in Syria, the circumstances of the war, your dreams. [Your dreams] have collapsed, you start here from the beginning. We’ll work on it, if that’s what God wants. First the work, the future of the children.

[i] Because of language barriers? You registered the children in school, you went to school?

[r] Yes.

[i] How do you see the authorities in Bochum?

[r] The topic is […]

[i] Is it easy or difficult?

It’s hard until you find a place. No place, imagine, in the beginning, when I came, [was it?] fate. Chance [?] , after me came a family whose children were registered before mine. I didn’t like it here inwardly. No place for my [children?] . After four months they were registered. You run every day. Thank God, they are registered, go on to school. They talk beautifully [already] .

[i] They speak German?

[r] Yes, thank God.

[i] You feel safe here.

[r] Absolutely. Certainly, that’s a difference, you live in war, you live in an apartment. You hear he was missing. One wanted to get something and was hit by a bomb. You can’t find the [othe[r] anymore, kidnapping, what can I tell you? No security.

[i] Tell us about a story that happened to you during the war. You can’t forget it despite the fact that you live here, what’s on your mind?

When my sister died. That was a hard moment that I can’t forget. Because I was in camp, wanted to go outside. Important is because of fate, has come in. [?] She called me: “What, when I came, you left. Don’t you want to see me? I said, “Yes, I’m coming.” She said, “Wait two days, I’ll be back.” She spent one night with my mother. She said to her and my mother-in-law: “Buy me some black coffee. If I die, you can spend [_?] .” She had that feeling. She spent the night with my mother, didn’t want to sleep with her parents-in-law. I miss my mother, she stood strangely tomorrow. [?] [She?] my mother asks: “Do you want something, should I do something for you? Everything went so fast, my mother told me. They left, came back. On the way back she was hit by a bomb, that’s something. I left to meet her. She came to see me.

[i] Destiny. Was your mother with her too?

[r] Yes.

[i] She saw her when she was hurt.

[r] Yes, she was hit in the heart. Very quickly, she didn’t die so quickly, she was taken to the ambulance, for medical help there [r] . Only first aid, there is no operating room, she had to leave the camp. You need a car to drive between the IS and Nasra militias. Then the controls, there were obstacles. Maybe she would have survived. She sat a little on the chair. No one noticed that she was hit. She didn’t make it to the hospital. Here I left everything.

[i] You didn’t realize she was hurt. In her heart, you can’t tell.

Even she, all people say that [would] have no pain.

May she rest in peace.

Live and be merciful. That was very difficult. She was my older sister. She was our mother, very sweet home. You feel everyone has a strength, she was the dearest one. She could cook so well. What we wanted to eat despite the fact that she was married. I tell her [_?] .

[i] She could cook well?

[r] Very good.

[i] Who is your mother living with at the moment?

With my older brother.

What’s the situation now?

Now the situation, tragedies, is from one tragedy to the next. Survival is hard. When I show you what my apartment looks like now. I can show you a video, my life is destroyed. Now, people are renting [an apartment?] outside. The rents are very expensive. Everything is expensive, food, drink, everything is expensive. You are sitting here in Germany, what are you thinking about? Of the [_] ?.

Do you want to bring your mother here?

In any case. I would pay half my life to get her to come here. If I had to sell an organ of my body so I could see it.

[i] Tell us something funny so we can get out of this [difficult?] atmosphere, the missing. Love? Mama? Tell us something beautiful.

The most beautiful thing is the weddings at our camp. These are beautiful memories.

Is the wedding still worth it? [Is the wedding still worth something?]

[r] Very much. You can’t imagine if the groom wants to get married three days before, showering, bachelor party, lunch, giving it away. A lot happens, so we argue. A family to invite the groom. One invites the other. For example, the wedding was of my relative, we were the same age. Me and my cousin came. I invited you to the restaurant for dinner. My cousin drinks alcohol, he was very happy, very. Very much, we walk on the curb, there is a slide, next to it is a dumpster. He was so drunk that he didn’t see her. He was already in there, that’s a memory. So far we haven’t forgotten [that] , those were good times. The weddings, that sort of thing.

Did you experience a wedding in Germany? Did anyone get married?

No, I attended a wedding of my sister’s son in Holland.

Did he have a wedding like the one we know?

But not like our wedding. Hard, you experience those moments. No matter how much you do here, the loved ones won’t gather around you. All my friends are in Holland, in Sweden, everywhere. In Syria, heavy, or in Berlin. Cologne, hard that they all come together. I celebrated my daughter’s wedding. You can’t blame people why they don’t come. I wanted everyone to come.

[name] , you are still young and have married your daughter, how old was she?

She was twenty.

[i] Twenty! Here in Germany?

[r] Yes.


[r] In May.

[i] This year?

[r] Yes.

[i] In the month of May 2018?

[r] Yes.

[i] I hope she’s happy.

Thank God she has a young man who can appreciate her. Very much.

[i] She is happy with him.

Very, very much.

[i] You don’t [regret] that you let her marry young?

No, on the contrary. On the other hand, the most important thing here is that she gets into good hands, after which she can lead her life. She decided, she chose him, you can’t [do that] [_?] .

[i] Tell me about your family. You love these traditions and rituals, everyone has to get married. Which is positive, of course. You’re married, you have children, and you get along well in life. That’s nice, you’re continuing this? Three years [are you] here, you do that with your children?

Nothing is the same here as it used to be. In the beginning [was it like that?] , you marry your cousin, you can’t say no. If you say [something? that?] to your father, never in front of people. Then he has no value in front of the people, only when he dies. [?] Okay, okay, here, no, [here] is different. You evolve, you get older, you have more education. Our children can’t experience the oppression we’ve already experienced.

[i] 100 percent correct.

It’s okay if you want to get married, I don’t have a problem.

[i] You think that’s good. You want them all to get married.

[r] At the end. Everybody has to get married. No matter how much she learns, in the end she has to get married. She is a human being.

Of course, she can combine, marry, and work.

She can form herself.

[i] Grows up with her children [?] , gets education, works, everything is allowed. They have grown older. I’m sitting with my son now. When your son grows up, he becomes like [the] brothers. In my spare time, I feel he is my friend. I don’t treat him like a father. Like a friend, all my children.

Was your mother happy that your daughter got married?

So she said to me, “The worst thing is that I wasn’t there.”

[i] Oh.

[r] We should make her a video. Although she has nothing.

Did you make her a video?

Yes, if we don’t talk for two days, she goes crazy. She calls all the relatives to ask what’s going on. The main thing is that she can reach me.

[i] [name] , you’ve achieved a lot. From childhood to marriage. You are very determined, a fighter, you have mastered everything well. You started a big family, you saved them from the war. You brought them here among the most difficult situations. You are very kind to your fellow men. What else do you have to achieve? What do you dream of? What else are your goals? That what you want to realize here in Bochum.

[r] How can I say that? Everything I didn’t do in Syria [?] I will do here. A bakery that I love out of passion. How a man loves a woman, I become sensitive when I touch the flour. The butter, the flour. I want to do this here, you know here. It’s not like that here in Syria. There are strict laws here. A second thing. I want to get my mother.

You will realize the two goals. I hope that very much for you, you are ambitious. You will achieve that, thank you very much for. the exciting story. We had a lot of fun. We learned from you. I wish you good luck and success, safety for the children. You live in a most civilized country, Mr [name] . It honours us, welcome here in Bochum. I would like to thank Mrs. [name] for her work with the refugees. She has achieved and done a lot for them, thank you very much to you and every German who helped us. A warm welcome.