We conducted this interview in Farsi with an Iranian woman, Sahar, and her daughter, Baran. They complemented telling their life story together. However, for the ease of reading, their comments have been put into separate sections.
I am 43 years old and it’s about four years and a half that I am living in this Heim with my family. I have been to a course of B1 German lessons but did not pass the test. Right now, we have requested for a new course but the letter has not arrived yet and we are waiting for now.
I live here with my husband and my daughter. We were living in Tehran before, and I was a housewife. My daughter was at school and my husband worked. We were renting a flat there and then because of some problems my husband had faced we were forced to immigrate and come here. We first arrived in France. The smuggler took us there and from there we were sent here. I think this is the fourth Heim we have been to. We first introduced ourselves somewhere near Hamburg, but they sent us here. We spent two weeks in Eisenhüttenstadt camp and from there we came right into this one. We have had an interview once, but our case was rejected. We are still waiting for a letter to tell us about the next interview and what will happen next.
I don’t remember how we really decided to come here. My mind is too overwhelmed with the problems here that I can’t remember. My brother-in-law lives here too. Perhaps we did come here so that he would be of help to us if we faced any difficulty. But we didn’t know anything about Germany. We just wanted to run away from the trouble we were stuck in.
My husband went to work for about eleven months in a company in another town but unfortunately, he was sacked. Now thankfully it’s been two months that he’s got a contract in another place.
We know people here, at least we do greetings with everyone here. There are new people coming and going. But then I don’t know, I have to say this I guess, living in the Heim has become very difficult and the number [of residents] is too hight, and the noise from the children. My husband has to wake up at 5 am and the children here are running in the hallway until 11 at night.
They all just tell us to wait. There were people here who came after us, and has already left here, very easily and this [thought] has occupied our minds. It’s just made us so tired. Now my husband goes to work, and we have sent letters to the social office (Sozialamt) that we just want to leave this Heim, we don’t want the residency anymore, just give us the housing permit, so that we can find a place and move. My husband has to go to work for three months, and then we send the payslip to do the process.
In the Heim, we discuss things among ourselves, like the women here, the ones who are with family, we talk of our problems. But then when we go down to the office here and talk about them, they don’t really follow up on the issues. They act as if they say “this is what it is, just deal with it”. There are several families here, and for some things like cleaning the toilets it’s normal that it should be divided among the women here, and everyone has a key to it, ok that is fine. But then for some issues here, they don’t really act to do anything. The woman who was here the chef before this man, she wouldn’t look if the cleaning person came or not. Believe me she would roll up her pants, turn on the machine, and clean all the stairs and hallways. She didn’t care that she’s the Chef or whatever. I really enjoyed her attitude. But after she was gone, the hallways here went terrible. She (chef) wanted to come here a couple times because we had made friends and we’re in touch. When she was here, we had parties for any excuse, everyone would cook something and bring. This was really good for the refugees’ moral. She took great care of everyone, not just us, she liked everyone here. She would come know on the door and ask if everything was going fine. I really wish her health wherever she is. She would help with any personal thing that we asked help for. She called and said that I have time now, we can do it.
There used to be an event here every Saturday with German people. They had got a place for refugees and we would go there and meet people from different cultures, all around the world and made friends with them. Then after the Corona it got all cancelled. We have been in touch with them a couple of times through internet. We also started making masks then; me, my husband and one of our friends. They asked us to help with this charity thing. They gave us a place and the three of us started sewing face masks. We did it for a couple of months and distributed it everywhere for free. Then they thanked us from the Luckenwalde municipality. Our names and photos got printed in the newspapers.
I think the relationship with people here depends on every person. I try to greet people, whether they are respectful or not. There have been many nice people and many who have treated badly. And I understand them personally if they do that. But then I have not seen much bad behaviour personally, if I’m honest.
We had many plans for the future, but then we have stayed here for too long that we do not remember them at all. Now our biggest goal is to get out of here. And with Corona, everything changed too. Before the pandemic, we had many plans we wanted to do, with God’s help. But Corona restricted everything, we weren’t allowed to go anywhere, even to visit our relative, who lives close to Hamburg. We had fear of course for both ours, and their health. Now the Sozialamt has just opened and we would make appointments if there’s something to be done. My husband has just started a job, and me myself, I have sent letter for many jobs but there was no reply.
Of course, anyone would like to be friendly and familiar with the society they live in. One would like to live like them, be like them. The interaction with people happens mostly in the work environment. I like to be connected to people, and not to be isolated or separated. I’m thinking of this difficult language all the time. When I know the language, I can be in the work environment or in the society among people. It’s very effective. With language learning, I think you can get closer to people. Now if I talk to Germans sometimes, I tell them at first that I know a little, and they say no problem and talk more simply. People’s attitude is very important to me too. I’m personally a patient person, and I can deal with all types of people. But it all depends how that person treats me, so that I can or can’t continue interacting with them.
We have had many experiences here. It is a new county, new rules, and new people. What Germans should know about us … I think they should know that there are good and bad people everywhere. There are many Farsi-speaking people here. Since we have been here, the Afghans have been really helpful to us. I used to live in Iran, but had no idea about an Afghan’s life or beliefs or about a German’s. I have gained this experience from the four years of living here. I had not experienced any of this in the 18 to 19 years of living a married life in Iran. I did not care at the time why Afghans were coming to Iran to work, because I thought they were like us and had no problem with them coming to my country, I never thought of this stuff. And since I have been here, I have known how many cultured decent people are among them. Before that, I had no contact with them. Maybe I would see them as just construction workers and make some distance too. Or I never had contact with an Afghan woman. But since I have some here, I have seen many different people that you can make friends with and have relations with.
Germans have this trait of being a bit cold, I think. But then there are many sensitive emotional persons among them too. I think they should come to realise that there are good and bad people everywhere and to improve their ideas towards the refugees. Not everyone is a bad person and people are not born evil out of their mother’s womb. People have different situations and different lives. In the end, everyone who has come here has had a problem. Perhaps a small percentage have immigrated just for having more fun, or out of wanting to live a more luxurious life, but for many, they have had a problem that made them immigrate here.
We did go to German class before Corona. I got my B1 and I think mum got the A level. For the class we had to go to another town to. In this town is no course for people like us. There are usually people from all other cities coming to that class. The German course was for six months. We attended it together. Mine got even longer than that, because the class had off days in the middle. And then the teacher didn’t come for a month or so, I don’t know if they were sick. My first class lasted about eight months and then I had a revision (Wiederholung) which I think it lasted three months.
When we first came here, I went to school for a couple of months too, in ninth grade. The school was too difficult that I didn’t go anymore. I think I went for only two three months. At school, I only went to a Welcome class there, because at the time I didn’t know any German and had just arrived. I registered there early on. We had an Arab teacher and a German one. The German teacher was there maybe once a week, and it was mostly with the Arab teacher. Most of the students in the class were Arabic speaking too, and this bothered me that more than German, there was Arabic being spoken in the class. And there was no teaching happening. I don’t know if this was the rule or the teacher wanted to just pass the time. They would bring arts-craft stuff to make, or like making a wall-newspaper. I thought to myself that I was learning more Arabic than learning German. And our teacher wasn’t really Ok, and the children in the class were not really well-behaved, and it was difficult.
The most difficult thing about living in the Heim is the cleanliness that’s not taken care of. Before, there was someone who came and cleaned all the bathrooms and showers on a daily basis. But now with this chef nothing is working as it should. The lobby is out of order. There used to have a lot of chairs and tables we could go there, sit around and we would have tea and talk. The person in the office wouldn’t let anyone go there now and nothing is in its place. And the cleaning is now happening every two weeks. It’s really horrible. Sometimes nobody comes to clean and we do it ourselves.
The Heim’s condition is now that, we make any objections about the issues here, the Chef gets irritated with us, to a degree that he wouldn’t talk to us for some days. There are groups in this town who help immigrants. There’s a German group and they come and ask if we have any problems. We tell them, and they go and talk to the Chef telling him why there is no work done about this and that problem. The immigrants here say that these are our problems, and you are the Chef to deal with them. He gets upset and says “why do you go about telling people outside about the issues here?”
It’s difficult to get a job here for immigrants. The job my father got, he found it out of sheer luck. One day the priest of the church came and said that a company is looking for workforce, and the manager there is nice person. They went and talked and he did an internship (Praktikum) and then got a contract.
Myself, I do not know what field to study yet. It is a big decision and I am thinking about it. I mostly like artistic fields but it doesn’t seem to work here. In the beginning, I wanted to study hairdressing hundred percent. But later I did some research about other Apprenticeships (Ausbildungen) and changed my mind a bit. I don’t know what to do for sure yet.
I think it’s better if people don’t enter Germany at all. But if it was up to me, I would tell them not to listen to anyone’s advice and do what they consider the best for themselves. This way, whatever that happens to their [asylum] case, it’s been their decision. There was so much advice first when we had some here, that hindered our case. I think they [immigrants] should not listen to other people and do what they want. There are people here who want to feel superior in relation to the newcomers. They want you small and don’t want you to progress. And a person who is new here does not know about this stuff.