Nadia Lejaille
Latest posts by Nadia Lejaille (see all)

Five years ago, everything was normal. My mother was a history teacher and my father a chemistry teacher. We lived in Ankara. They passed an exam and then they could work for the state (Ministry of Agriculture and Sports, and Ministry of Youth) as civil servants. The living conditions then became much better because they earned much more. I attended a private school.

In 2016, a kind of coup happened in Turkey and the situation became bad after that. All the people who were for the opponent of the current president, so Gülen, were persecuted. I went to one of his schools and because of that my parents were denounced.[1]  They were fired. I first moved to our hometown Tokat where my grandpa and grandpa live and went to a normal school. My parents tried to clarify the situation in Ankara and to explain that they were not guilty but nothing was clarified and they also came to Tokat. We bought a house so that we could live there. After seven months my father was arrested and he stayed in prison for a year. After two or three months the policemen came for my mother but she ran away because she knew that the conditions in prison were bad. People were oppressed and threatened. I was also followed on my way to school and they asked questions. I was bullied by my principal and classmates because they knew my father was in prison.

My father was released. After that, they found my mother and arrested her. I was there and they threatened my mother. Fortunately, she was not sent to prison but was released after only a week. My father then got a sentence of 6 years in prison. We decided that there was no future for us in Turkey and we should flee.

We talked to friends about how they fled Turkey and went to Istanbul. We had hardly any money left. We sold everything we had: House, car, everything. From Istanbul we went across the river to Greece. It was not easy; it was really cold in November and we had to walk three hours at night. We were on the boat with three other people and the boat broke down but we were already almost on the shore. On the shore we waited for Greek policemen for two hours. We were arrested and sent to prison. Until then I had only heard the stories from my father but then I really experienced it.

It was not nice: we couldn’t go to the toilet because the doors were locked. We didn’t have real beds, it was very wet and we only had the clothes we wore. After four days in prison, we were taken to the refugee home. There we were put together with other Turkish families. Twenty of us had to sleep in one room. I couldn’t go to the toilet properly, I couldn’t take a shower and for me as a girl, I have needs and it was really bad. Somehow, we got through it. We then got discharged and we thought we’d do something nice. We had a little money and we went to a hotel. Nothing luxurious but with a shower. We only had enough money for one night but it was very nice.

We stayed in Greece for two months in Athens with friends of my mother. They had fled two or three years before. It was very boring. Then we decided to go to Germany. I wanted to go back to school. We wanted to go to Germany as a family but it didn’t work out. My father came to Germany only three months later.

Actually, we fancied to go to Finland because I had researched that education is much better there. We didn’t plan to go to Germany. We bought the plane ticket and thought that we would stay only one night in Germany and then go on. But a Turkish family – a friend of my father – had told us how it is to live in Germany. We thought that maybe it would be better to find a job for my parents. And we thought it would be easier in Germany because there were so many Turks in Berlin we could ask if we didn’t know something.

We had no idea at all what it would be like in Germany. For Finland, I had done a little research for education. But for Germany, I think if we ask the Turks in Turkey, they would not tell good things. Many speak badly about Germany so that the other Turks don’t go to this country as well. I still have contacts with a friend in Turkey and he told me that the teachers in Turkey also tell that it is better not to move there.

We first arrived in Eisenhüttenstadt and were then transferred to Doberlug. We stayed there for almost four months. It wasn’t so nice because the security didn’t treat us very well. We were somehow subhumans to them because we were refugees. We were sometimes treated in a racist way but I couldn’t defend myself as a 12-year-old with no knowledge of German. I went through a phase of depression. I was often sick and I couldn’t do what I wanted.

My father joined us and we were able to move to Königs Wusterhausen as a family. We stayed there for seven months. It was terrible. Fortunately, we had a bathroom and a toilet in our room. But I lived in the same room as my parents and the kitchen was outside and shared by several families. And I started to study. I always wanted to go to school, study properly and make friends. But I was really disappointed because again I was treated differently than other kids. I was in the welcome class. In the beginning it was very difficult for me not to be understood and not to understand anything. I was a little bit underestimated because I was a refugee. So, I decided, I’m going to prove myself. I sat down and I studied: in one year I learned the German language.

After one month in Königs Wusterhausen, my parents got German courses.

We get help from the job center. We are really happy with it. It is enough for us.

When we were in the refugee home, we received our residence permits and our identity cards. After that, it was a little better with the money. We waited four months for this residence permit. That was really fast! We were really lucky that the woman who was responsible for us helped us a lot. So it’s a matter of luck: if you have a good social worker, it can go fast. If the social worker is bad, then you have to do a lot yourself.

Then we found the apartment in Potsdam and moved. From then on, our life was much, much better. To find the flat, we didn’t get any help. My father sat down and searched for an apartment for hours. There are social workers but I don’t think they could help us. There is one woman who helped us a little bit. But I think finding an apartment in Germany is not easy. You have to work really hard to find one. I don’t think the social workers have that much time for it. You have to sit down and search a lot. Some people say if you’re not German, you won’t get any apartment. We waited seven months for it.

With the apartment we are relieved: finally, we have a home!

And then Corona started. It was difficult to find a German course again. I wanted to go to school and learn but the school was closed and all the students were sent home. It was difficult to enroll in school. They told me that I should first go to the hospital for a health check. I said that I didn’t know how to do that. And I was snapped at for going to school without having a complete vaccination record. Behind me was a German family and they didn’t have a vaccination card either but they were treated really well and helped. I was really pissed off and that turned up my ambition. At home I started to learn properly. For five months, I was home with a study plan that I had developed and I made up 7th grade and prepared for 8th grade. Finally, I could go to school! My parents went to the German course to take the B1 exam.

I started 8th grade in August 2020. That worked out really well. The teachers noticed that I could do more. I had the goal of going to high school. Within five months, I was at the top of my class.

When I started 9th grade, my parents started with B2 in online classes. Two months ago, they passed the exam.

It is not so difficult to get used to life here. If you have a little money, the living conditions are good. But what is difficult for us is that people have prejudices. I also experienced that in school: when I said that I was a refugee, they treated me as if I was an alien. People are not taught that refugees are not sub humans or that other people can live in bad conditions. But I can also understand it: some people come here and fuck up.

To be able to integrate here, we have to do more than others, make an effort to prove ourselves. But this is not right. People from other countries should not have to prove themselves. One should rather take time to get to know these people and not immediately think, you wear a headscarf, then it means so and so, for example, that you are beaten up by your parents and have twelve brothers and sisters. It should be easy to understand that not everyone is the same. If people didn’t have so many prejudices, then it would be much, much easier for us to integrate here.

My father would like to have more options when looking for a job. Some say he could work at Burger King, for example. But no, he studied and he would like to have a better job. And the fact that they don’t know German that well doesn’t mean they can’t work well. But they should be able to show their abilities.

I have the same feeling in school: you have to prove yourself all the time. And that didn’t work out so well because my health is not so good. That’s why I decided to go back to comprehensive school and not stay in high school. In the comprehensive school there are more foreigners and I felt less like an outsider there. The school system is good, but people don’t know how to help. For example, sometimes I have a different opinion and when I speak up, they sometimes look funny at me. Maybe there should be a class or a project in school where people could learn to deal with different opinions.

We would like to stay in Germany. I want to work for the government that took me in.



[1] Muhammed Fethullah Gülen and his movement run schools and universities all over the world, including in Germany. See:


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.