BEFORE BECOMING A REFUGEE
In Turkey, my parents were accepted as middle-class. We were not extremely rich, but we had what we wanted anytime. We had never thought that we had something to eat for the next day. I thank Allah (God) for this and what we have now. My parents always give a certain amount of money from their income to people who need it. Especially, they help students to get their higher education. They have participated in a lot of charity events.
Even though Turkey has a lot of state universities, it is still expensive to study in different cities and the cost of accommodation. Me and my siblings were raised in this way. So, after marriage, my husband and I have the same idea and view of the world. We should help others because we have more than what we need. We do not like luxury and ,honestly, we cannot manage to have luxury things or being rich:) We tried to help students, especially girls.
After the launch of Syrian refugees arrived in Turkey, we tried to help them and organized something for them. Because we were used to living in Hatay which is the neighboring city to Syria. We saw refugees in our daily time and every corner. We had an obligation to look after them as guests. Moreover, It is a shame to say that you have helped others in my community and also my religion. There is a very nice saying about this situation: one hand should not even know what the other hand gives.
It is not polite to say what I told you above but it is a necessary explanation to understand me better.
Reception Center of Turku
We arrived in Finland late in June, late in the evening. Before our arrival, we had lived five months in Athens and before that the southern part of Turkey. So, the first day we arrived we were literally frozen. We left Athens with only one cabin baggage, because we didn't want to be noticed with too much stuff because we were leaving illegally. I had two kids at the time, and we put more things in order to please them.
You cannot imagine what is packed in cabin baggage. But, the most important thing is that we put all our legal documents in this cabin baggage.
First, we flew to Brussels, and used a train to Germany. On this train trip, our baggage was stolen and we lost literally everything we had. In other words, we had no extra clothes for changing. We only had a blue backpack which my son used it for school in Turkey.
After staying two days in Helsinki refugee camp, they transferred us to Turku. There was a second hand store in the basement of the center of the camp which belongs to the Red Cross. We got a small paper from the camp officer. She said we could use this paper to visit their second hand store in order to get what we need. Actually, we visited a similar place in Athens but it belongs to our community. It was still difficult but at least we know the people. I hesitated to go down this place because of many strong feelings, but the most dominant feeling was shame.
Firstly, we lived in a refugee camp, I should have admitted this fact. Secondly, I am a Muslim but I asked and received help from a Christian organization.
Moreover, I was never used to asking for help from others, including my own family. Maybe, I was too proud or arrogant.
However, I should have taken some clothes at least for my kids due to the cold weather. I knew it was a temporary situation. Therefore, I decided to go there and take thicker clothes.
The Blue Backpack
My husband was a volunteer to look after the children. I knew it was harder for him not to give but get from someone. When I first went there, My cheeks turned red and a fire filled my whole body. It is still difficult to tell these things now.
When I first entered the place, I did not know what I must have done first. There was a polite man who welcomed me and said I could take what I want. However, I could not even look at the man's face. I saw some women who tried to pick everything and put them into big bags. And I got more embarrassed not only for myself but also for them. I left this place quickly, the man asked me if I could not find something I could come again. I said thank you and went back to our room immediately. Nevertheless, I decided to visit there because I had to do this for my children.
The next day, I went again and the man, who worked there, was very happy to see me again. We chatted about something and he told me he visited Turkey many times, also he knew some Turkish words. After chatting, I looked around and I saw some books and even toys. I was really happy to see them because my children got bored a lot. So, I chose some of them and some clothes for kids. I tried to not take more than we needed. Moreover, I promised myself that as soon as I got my own belongings, I would clean and return them immediately.
UNDERSTANDING THE OTHERS
Now, I am happy to keep my promises to myself. But, I didn't realize what it was and how difficult it was to accept help. I am more sensitive than before and I try to help people before they want to.
Before this, I valued all people, but I had a lot of prejudices in matters such as religion or nation. Now I haven't gotten rid of all the prejudices I still have, but at least I'm trying to get rid of them.
Of course, fleeing from a Muslim country and seeking asylum in a Christian country has a huge effect on this. I can't describe the desperation in which parents need help for their children. I have felt the same feeling for more than four years.
Before this experience, for example, after donating clothes to those in need, I had no great knowledge or interest in what they went through. But now I have the awareness of knowing how even a small toy can make a child happy in a refugee camp.
Written by: Emine
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