Laila Keeling & Sahba Salehi
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I come from Russia, from Dagestan. I come from a big family; I had 8 older siblings, so I was the ninth child and my parents were already 40 and 56 when I was born. My childhood was quite hard. My mother and all my siblings are still in Russia. I have studied a lot in my life, because I did college twice, university once. It was always my dream to study and work in the medical field, but in my country it is too expensive. That’s why I studied economics in Moscow instead, for 6 years. In the summer of 2016, I took my final exams.

My wife is from Chechnya, but she was also born in Dagestan. I met her on the Internet. We had contact for ten months, and then I asked her to be my wife. At first she said no, she didn’t want that, but I told her I didn’t care, she would be my wife now. So that was it, then she was my wife.

Coming to Germany

In March 2017, we moved to Germany. My trip to Germany was easy, but expensive; we took a plane to Italy, and then a bus to Germany. We got a visa beforehand, so it was pretty easy. I had decided on Germany because I have an acquaintance who lives in Berlin, and I am a very spontaneous man. I only briefly considered it, and then thought, why not? I didn’t plan anything, I didn’t think anything, I just asked my acquaintance how I can come to Germany and what I can do there with my two diplomas from Russia. He told be that there are many possibilities, I should just come, then I can apply to stay in Germany, learn German, and work. But at that time I didn’t have a passport, so I had to get one first. I told my mother that I was moving to Germany, and she just said “Yes, yes, go ahead.” Later she asked me if I was sure, and I told her I was very sure. I was just thinking about my future, and my family. Of course, before I went, I watched a little YouTube and read Russian websites about life in Germany, but that was it. We just came then.

Life in Germany

We have been in Germany since March 15, 2017. The first six months we were in Eisenhüttenstadt, and there it was very difficult and unpleasant. Of course, it was not easy because just everything was different: new laws, new people, new language. After Eisenhüttenstadt, we were sent to this home, and we have been here ever since. It’s been more than four years.

I worked for a while as a warehouse worker, as a parcel delivery person at Amazon. I also attended a B1 German course, which I passed. Since October, I have been doing an apprenticeship as a nurse, and I like it very much. In this apprenticeship, I work for one month in the hospital, then the next month I am in school, then again in the hospital, and so on. I got this apprenticeship because of the organization Internationaler Bund (International Bond – IB) in Luckenwalde. There is a woman there who helps me a lot, and she asked me in which field I wanted to do my training, and then she sent my application along.

In general, I get a lot of support here in Germany. The director of the refugee home always helps me, for instance, he did my homework with me yesterday. At IB I also always get help, for example the woman there helped me today with an online presentation. In Moscow, it was very different; there is a big difference between German and Russian people. I lived in Moscow for eight years, and during that time people kept asking, “Why are you here? Why don’t you go home?” There were a lot of nationalists there, it was a real problem. Here in Germany, I have never seen that. I was never told to go home. I like that very much, and it is the most important point for me and my family. There are no problems for us here. If I need help here, I can always get it.

At the moment we have only a standard asylum permit, so every 6 months I have to reapply to renew this permit. Because of the pandemic, this renewal process is very easy, we can just do it through the mail. But if at some point we get a negative answer, then it will be very difficult for us.

We are currently trying to start an application with the immigration office so that maybe we can move to Ludwigsfelde due to my apprenticeship. We would be happier if we could move. This place is very small, very far away. We are still young and have a lot of strength. My wife would also like to attend a German course, but she can’t because when I go to my apprenticeship, she has to stay at home. Or if she has an appointment in Berlin, I have to stay with the children. So there are just very few opportunities in this small place.

We have three children now, two of which were born here. My oldest child is in school, the second is in kindergarten, and the third is still too small. The children like it here very much, but of course they are small and don’t understand everything. I think there is a good future for them here. I got my driver’s license, so every morning I drive to school and kindergarten with my children. In the afternoon I always do my homework, and help the kids with their homework. In the winter it’s pretty boring here, so we just stay inside and don’t do anything. When it is warmer, in spring or summer, it is a bit more interesting in this place, because of the nature.

My wife doesn’t speak German. She can maybe count to 5 or 10, but that’s it. She has a little bit of a problem with her head, because she has some post-traumatic stress syndromes and she often goes to see a psychologist because of this. She likes it in Germany, but she often gets scared. When she sees a policeman in uniform, for example, or when it is cold in winter, she gets scared and can’t go outside. But she is motivated by the idea that we might move to Ludwigsfelde soon.


Slowly, we are all integrating. The language is the most difficult part, but we are integrating slowly; we have to. I am often in contact with German people, my whole class for my apprenticeship is German for example, and they are all very nice and friendly. When I worked in Großbeeren, my team leader was also German, and all the staff were Polish or German. So I had a lot of contact with Germans, without any problems.

I would like to thank all the German people who helped me. I want the Germans to know that my family and I are not such bad people. We didn’t come to Germany just to sleep, eat, and get the social money. We are only here for our future, to integrate, and to live a normal life. I would like to say a big thank you again to everyone who is helping us. I don’t feel like I’m a true German yet, of course, but it’s coming slowly.

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