I am not able to dismiss my homeland

We met with Mrs. Gharam, a teacher from Syria, in Dresden, and she told us her story, explaining why she left her homeland and how life was after coming to Germany.

Photo Xenie Biazrukaja

18. 10. 2016

Thank you to agreeing to the interview.

It is my pleasure.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us where you are from?

My name is Gharam and I am from Syria – from Salamiyah in the Hama Province.

What did you do before the war?

I studied at secondary school and taught children at primary school after graduation. I also occasionally taught the Arabic language privately.

What are your hobbies?

I like taking morning walks; that was my main hobby in Syria. I like reading in general – I like reading novels, history, geography, anything…

Did they change after the war?

It did not change, but it tempered down. For example, it become unsafe to do sports outdoors in the morning because of kidnappings. But I did continue to read until the time I set out on my journey.

What do you look forward to the most?

To reunite with my family – with God´s help.

Tell us something about your family.

It is normal for every person to idealize his or her own family. I love my family as well. I see my family characterized by mutual love. I feel homesick often even though I speak with them continuously. My family is – as the Germans would say – very numerous; I have 12 siblings . . . our parents have passed already. I personally see them as good people and I love them very much.

How was your life before the war?

My job consumed 90% of it. I had a job and was a small entrepreneur as well. I had a business buying and selling bed linens. I sometimes gave lessons to my relatives in the afternoons. So I worked most of the time; my life equaled work for past 20 years.

Why did you leave the country?

Well… the war is definitely the main reason, but I want to be sincere with you. I don´t like lying. The war hadn’t reached the place I come from, but I wanted to leave to find work and support my family, because the financial situation had gotten bad mainly due to the war.

We also had people who were killed by grenades during the shelling, but the main reason was to help my family get out of there. I am the only unmarried person; the others can´t leave their families and children during war. If they were hit by shelling, then the males must be at home to help, so women with children can´t stay alone.

How did you get to Europe?

I flew to Lebanon and then Turkey and then I went on a boat from Turkey to Greece. Thank God, the journey was alright, even though a huge number of people were on the boat. Then I took the train from Greece to the borders, and then I walked around 20 kilometers in Greece and Macedonia, and took bus through Serbia. In Hungary, a trafficker took us by car to Austria where I rested for two or three days at my relatives. Then I went to Germany by train.

How do you spend your days in Germany where you live and what kind of people live around you?

I was at a camp in Germany during the first month. And you know, you can´t expect to meet likeminded people in the camps. The conditions were bad. We were granted accommodations later that were even worse than the camp, mainly because there were non-Arabic families – but even if there were Arabic families – they drank a lot and got drunk. They received visitors and caused problems until I was not able to stand it – and not because I was veiled. They went too far with their drinking and insinuations, and they threatened to dishonor and take advantage of us. Fortunately, one German woman helped me find a different accommodation with only women, thank God.

As for the rest of the day, I do housework in the morning and then going to school, and then do various activities with the Germans in the afternoon. For example, I meet a German friend in a coffee house every Monday and he teaches me German for two hours. I teach German women belly-dancing on Fridays. I am glad when they encounter our culture, and I want to meet more Germans, integrate into German society, and learn the language.

What do you do in your leisure time?

I have not mastered the German language enough to read yet, so I have been working on one German novel that I would like to translate into Arabic with the help of a translator to help me learn German. I have few friends; most of my time I spend at home, reading or talking to my family via the Internet.

What do you feel now about Germany? What do you consider pleasing, or find irritating?

People who love or hate us will exist in every society – even in an Arabic one. I am really pleased that German society has accepted us. And there are people here that empathize with our inner pains and difficulties we are experiencing in our lives. What I do not like … no, there is nothing, but it is really difficult to learn German; it is something new for us.

Is there anything else that makes you worry?

My family’s situation, nothing else.

What is your religion? If it is not too personal.

No, it does not. It is obvious that I am a Muslim. I am not ashamed of it.

Can you practice your religion in Germany? Are there any cultural differences you find difficult?

As a Muslim, I see no problems or limitations in people’s acceptance of me; I do not see this as a problem here in Germany. When the local culture is concerned, you know… there are places or towns in Syria where manners are “freer,” where a woman can meet with a man in a public place or cafe. That is not even a problem in my own family and I am ok with it as well.

What are the main obstacles to integration, and what helps it in other ways?

The German language, but when people see that you are trying to speak, they help. Many people help and teach us. There are no other obstacles with transportation or life itself here. I do not suffer from anything, except waiting for my residence permit. But I understand that it is a necessary procedure.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Working here? Travelling elsewhere or going back home?

Of course, men cannot live without their country of origin. If the war ended and security was restored … my country has my people, my family, my memories. Despite the fact that many things are easier and better here, I will always miss them. I am not able to dismiss my homeland.

What does happiness mean for you?

Happiness is a symbol conditioned by the people with whom you are experiencing it. I have a friend who empathizes with me, thinks about me and wants me to be happy. At hard times when I miss my family and cry my heart out, he helps me. Now I can´t be happy. I lost my father and I am far away from my siblings, so my happiness depends on other people.

Do you feel at home here in Germany? Do you think you will return back to your homeland sometime?

I do not feel at home here for now, because I have not received my residence permit yet. Whether I go back or not depends on the future. I am not able to evaluate – let´s say – whether the German state will give us a permit for three years or if we will have to go back… As you know, not only Syrians are here. As far as I know, there are people from approximately 16 states. If they order us to leave, we will either go back or seek another country.

Thank you for the interview.

Thank you too.


Blogs and interviews were produced within the project “Refugee stories, to which the volunteers contribute in their free time. The core of the project is build upon the We Can organisation, cooperating with the organisation Umweltzentrum Dresden. The project is supported by the Czech-German Fund for Future in 2016.