Genevieve Soucek
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My name is Ahmed, I am originally from Afghanistan and currently, I am living in the city of Potsdam. I was working as a lecturer at Balkh University. I have completed my education in India. I have worked as a lecturer for one decade at Balkh University.

I am married, I have two kids. My first kid is seven years old, and my second kid is five years old. And also, my wife is pregnant, she is going to deliver our third kid in July. I came to Germany on July 20th, 2022. Despite the recent political developments in Afghanistan, I was not able to come to Germany together with my family, therefore, I came to Germany separately from my family. I was in touch with my colleagues, and asked them if they could help me so I could meet my family in Germany. All in all, on July 22nd, 2022, we met together here. Let me take this opportunity to thank our professors at Potsdam University, GIZ, and friends in the foreign affairs office who cooperated and supported us in the evacuation journey.

We were in Eisenhüttenstadt for 40 days, then we were transferred to the Heim. We have been here since then. But the problem is that there our family of five is living in a single room. Honestly, I did not expect that we would come here and have this single room. I had everything in my country, I had my house, and I had my job. I had everything else, but unfortunately when the Taliban came into power on August 15th, 2021, I felt that I could not stay in Afghanistan.

We are living in a Heim, so there are different people from different countries there, from Afghanistan, from Ukraine, from Somalia, from Ghana, from Nigeria. All in all, that is good. With the culture clashes and differences, sometimes it creates some problems. There is a common kitchen that everyone should use. The cultures and ways of thinking are different, sometimes it is the source of the problem. I hope it will be a short-term problem having to use this shared space.

I do not have any problems here [Germany], but also, since I am from a different continent, I have experienced a lot of differences, so I need a little bit of time to get adjust myself in German society. What I mean by differences are the cultural differences and societal differences. In Germany, sometimes I do feel quite alone, because I am far away from my friends, my family, my colleagues, from my work. So sometimes, directly or indirectly, it makes me sad. But I did not have any option to stay in Afghanistan, because staying in Afghanistan was very tough for me. After the Taliban came back into power, for me, I had to choose whether to live or to die. Therefore, I decided to come to Germany.

Nowadays, I am busy with learning the German language. Other than that, I am reading books, articles, and sometimes I write about the issues and challenges in Afghanistan. Indeed, I have then energy and potential to work, so, I would like to work, because I love to work, because I define work as entertainment. But there are some rules and regulations here. I have to act according to these rules and regulations. For example, if I want to get a job, I have to pass the language exams. For the work that I would like to apply for, I must have the C1 certificate, but it takes time. So, I intend to get that. At the moment, I have completed the B1 course, and then I have to start the B2 course, then after that I will need to complete the C1 course. So, after that I will seek to find a job.

Theoretically, I had a lot of information about European countries and the Western countries because I have taught about different thinkers at the university level. But practically, I didn’t have much experience. However, at least here, we feel safe and that my kids will have a good future here. I am sad to say that if my kids were to grow up in Afghanistan, what would be their future look like? Would they be fundamentalists? So, in Germany we feel that my kids will have a good future, but we need time to adjust because of the differences.

When we were in Eisenhüttenstadt, the food and shelter were provided by the German government, but after since we have been shifted to the Heim, we are receiving money. Economically, we don’t have problems because we are under the coverage of the government. So, our insurance, the Kita my kids are in, and the good language class that I participate in are paid for by the government. Even when my family moved here, they were under the financial support of Germany. Also, when I came here, my tickets, flights, and everything were paid for by the German government. I don’t have any problems [with the support]. There are different laws that dictate what the German government gives refugees. Therefore, the amount of money that I am receiving, the support that I am receiving, is quite different from those people who are not covered by this law. Financially, we haven’t had any problems so far. The only problem is the shortage of the shelter. Other than that, we don’t have any problems honestly.

Health-wise, I am able to work, so I don’t want to rely on the Job Center. The only problem that I see in getting a job is the language barrier. The moment that I learn German, then I would like to apply for a job. So, the money that I would receive would be much greater than what I currently receive. This depends on the type of job that I want. For example, because of my qualifications, I am in touch with some institutions. I think it was yesterday, or the day before yesterday, I have a phone call with one professor. I asked if I could work on a certain topic in the context of Afghanistan. He is a well-versed expert on Afghanistan. He really appreciated me, and he asked me if I had any funds for this project and I told him ‘no.’ I am quite new here, so I don’t have any funding and he told me that I had to give him a little bit of time to seek out funds to cover my project. There are number of opportunities in Germany, it depends on the refugees. So, if they seek more, they can get a good job, they can find a better job. The only problem I see with the refugees is that they think they have to rely on money from the Job Center to provide for them, or rely on the social institution to provide for them, rather than seeking a job. As far as I think, it is not a good decision to rely on the Job Center for a long time. Since we have the energy, capacity, and abilities, it would be good if we could go and find jobs.

The social workers in Germany are helpful. Whenever I have any problems, they can help me. When I came here in 2022, they would help me with any letters that came from the various German institutions. Other than that, there are some other institutions, for example, ones I can go to if I need information. There is an institution called the Diakonie, so if I need information I can go there. All in all, whenever I have a question, I can openly ask the people on the street, and they can guide me. But even in the course, I have learned a lot of things about German culture, ways of living in Germany, and even the rules and regulations.

Integration to me means if that one should be culturally, politically, and economically, integrated. Even I have the plan to work on that. I have seen a number of refugees in Germany who have not been integrated properly. And there are a number of questions; if it is a problem of the government or if the problem is with the refugees. Because if you go to Berlin, you can see small communities, you can see the Turkish community, you can see the Afghan community, as far as I know, these refugees have not been integrated properly. In short, integration means that one must contribute in a proper manner to their host society.

There is an expression, ‘East, West, Home is the Best,’ so even though I feel safer here, I miss my home. There are obstacles, challenges, and problems, and there are differences between them. In life we face a number of challenges and problems, but obstacles are different. Right now, if I want to get a job, I must first pass the language courses, so I don’t define it as an obstacle. The language courses are like challenges that over time, I can manage. By an obstacle I mean it’s like a wall that will not allow me to move, so I have not faced a situation in Germany like that so far.

The German language is very difficult, very tough, but I will try to learn it. Hopefully English can help me to learn the German language. In short, German is a very tough language because there are different Cases, which are not present in English, like Accusative, Dative, Nominative, or the rule of prepositions, sometimes the preposition acts as a commander and it totally changes the structure of the sentences. We have an expression in my mother language, if you speak one language you are one guy, if you speak two languages you are two guys, if you speak three languages you are three guys. So, I really love this language, I really like this language because I do think that the German language is the language of thinkers and the language of philosophers. If I learn this language properly, I will be culturally and socially integrated because I will read a number of books and articles that will help me. In integration processes, learning the language really helps. If we do not learn the language, we cannot have the feeling of belongingness in a community. So, if I learn this language, I will find more opportunities and it will help me in life.

I have participated in two workshops in Potsdam. The first was a workshop entitled “Living in Deutschland,” the second workshop was about the German institutions. I found these two workshops very fruitful; we had meetings in different places. But all in all, if there were a number of workshops, it would really help the refugees to understand the context of Germany. I have not heard of many other workshops regarding refugee issues or regarding the integration process. Also, there is a Café every Thursday, and I go there to learn the language. It supports me because a number of people will come from the different countries and places, we can sit we can talk, that is also good. I have learned a lot of things from the integration courses, so it has really helped me. But the only problem I see is that it is tough to find German courses. For example, I had an exam on May 27th, and the results will be released after four weeks, then I have to seek out another course for B2, but the certificate of the integration course is only valid for six months. If I cannot find any other language courses or any other education opportunity, then it would expire, and I would have to take another test. The time that the certificate is valid is very short.

I have a question, there are a number of refugees in Germany, so why have they not been integrated properly? So, if you see, they are living in a community, they speak in their own languages, and there are a number of people who have been living in Germany for five years and they cannot speak German properly. There is a question, why have they not been integrated since they have been here. So, at the end of the day, who is to blame? Is the problem with the refugees or with the policy makers? So, they have to find out a solution for that. The policy makers have to shift their perspectives and re-examine their ways of thinking about the integration process. For example, the courses are just for a short time. So, after I finish the course, should I just stay home? There should be some other programs to help refugees be integrated smoothly. In addition to language courses, there should be other programs for integration, like the language Café. But the problem is that it is only on one day of the week. There are a number of other programs that they can conduct because financially they don’t have any problems, but I do not know why it has not been implemented properly.

Honestly, we don’t have many problems with our life in Germany. I have worked in academic institutions, so that is my intention to spend the rest of my life in academic institutions. If I get a job in an academic institution, then I feel that I would feel happier. I would like to share my knowledge and continue to learn new things. So, if I change my career, if I go for another job, maybe I could find a lot of money, but that will not make me happier. Maybe for some other people it would be good to have a lot of money, but for me if I get a job in an academic institution then that will be very good. I will try to be rich with knowledge, rather than with money.

We are almost receiving the same rights and public services as German citizens. For example, my wife is going to deliver our third child, and that will be covered by health insurance. They also have policy called Kindergeld, money for children, and we are receiving that. We are receiving support for the house that we have, so we don’t have any problems. I do not know where I will be in 10 years. So, if I get a job in an academic institution, I will be very happy, and I am seeking to find that out. That would definitely change my life. Because right now, financially I don’t have any problems, but I don’t want to spend my energy at home. I have to contribute to the betterment of society.

Thank you for taking the time to interview me this afternoon. I enjoyed our conversation about the life of a refugee in a new environment.

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