Sep 16, 2022

I made my first application for attending a conference outside Finland in this year’s spring term. Actually, when I applied, I never thought I would be able to go there because I thought the conference would be online and Edinburgh was too far for me. Afterward, I learned that I was accepted to present at the conference and that the conference would be in person. On the one hand, I wanted to go very much, it would be an excellent experience for me. On the other hand, I was terrified, I had never been abroad alone. Actually, we visited Bosnia once as a family in 2016, but we did not need a visa for that trip, and my husband, who knew everything very well, was with me :) Unfortunately, most of our generation in Turkey does not have much experience abroad. Now, this situation is changing and young people have the opportunity to go abroad with different programs. Although, the value of the Turkish lira against the euro and dollar is decreasing daily, making it difficult for people to go abroad financially. In short, the trip to Bosnia would be a milestone for us and we would visit another country every year afterward. Of course, even though we went outside of Turkey and even started to live in a country quite far from Turkey, this dream of mine came true in many different ways.

After going to Greece with many difficulties, I never wanted to leave and go to another country and stay in refugee camps. I had neither the excitement nor the energy for a new beginning and a new journey. I guess we were not very aware of what we were trying to do because of the adrenaline we experienced before we crossed to Greece. And of course, this was our first escape experience:) But after crossing the border it didn't take me long to realize that everything was just beginning. In addition, after we crossed the Meriç (Evros) river, I saw the same river swallowed many families before and after our journey; and these families could never reach their desired destination. Perhaps for the first time, I became so desperate for life. Every night I saw my children fall into the waters of the river and I could not save them in my nightmares. I think that's when I started to understand what depression is. That's why, while looking at the refugees around you, now they have built a beautiful life in a beautiful country, let's not think about what more they want, please. Because the things lost are never replaced, and the wounds we receive on the way never heal, even if they crust over. With the daily rush of settling in a new place, it just seems like everything has been forgotten. But at night, I find myself having nightmares about being in my home in Turkey, and thinking about how I can get out again. Sometimes these nightmares are filled with screams of not being able to save my children who slipped through my hands into the cold, wavy waters of the river. The only thing that makes me smile in these nightmares is the thought, ``We learned Finnish all that time, is it wasted now?” :)

We have very good memories of Greece and its people. However, the most important enemy we have been told since elementary school history lessons were Greece. Because they always wanted to take our land. In fact, there are many Greek-themed curses that many people use in Turkey. That's why I was nervous when I went to Greece. I had a question in my mind if they see us as enemies just as we see them. But even the border police, who heard that we were Turkish, suddenly started to feel familiar with a few Turkish words they knew. The officials who heard that we were Turkish in the refugee camp made positive discrimination and put us in a separate ward from everyone else. When people see headscarves on the streets of Athens, they get nervous, I could tell from their eyes. But from the moment they learned that I was Turkish, their facial expressions immediately changed and they treated us very friendly. They always wanted to talk about Turkish TV series that I had never watched :) Moreover, the weather and food were amazing. However, the lack of security and the fact that they gave the interview date for Immigration two years after our application date drove us back on the road.

I don't want to go into detail about our Greece exit adventure, but in a word, it was very exhausting. We were pretty sure we could flee from Greece on our first try. We came to the gate without any problems, but at the gate, the flight attendants realized that we were not who we claimed to be, and set us aside in public. My God, how embarrassed I was. Then the cops came and took us and locked us up with other people they caught in where everyone outside could see us clearly. I literally felt like a loser for the first time there in my life. We decided to stay in Athens so that we would not experience such embarrassment again. But this was not possible due to the reasons mentioned above. And we kept trying. We were taking on a different personality each time for our escape adventure. Not just us, also kids experienced the same thing over and over. Again, after being caught one time, my younger son said, "Mummy, Can I call you Anne (mother in Turkish) now?" it made us laugh a lot. Of course, it was a tragicomic moment. How sad it was when one of my friends’ kids thought that his family had been caught because his skin was not light enough and the little boy blamed himself for it. When we first came to Greece, the children were excitedly telling each other how they had crossed the border, while the adventures of escaping from Greece were narrated with exhaustion. Families who passed in their first attempt were told with great admiration, and which road they used was immediately investigated. The events that I have briefly mentioned here, of course, were experienced in a very painful way. Doors that were open to everyone were closed to us every time. One day, at a time we never expected, God opened doors for us that we thought would never open. As a result of the events, I still do not understand how we found ourselves on the plane. The children were overjoyed. Even though they didn't know exactly what it meant to run away, they asked, 'Mom, did we escape?' But I was telling them not to make a sound before the plane takes off. Because it would be very painful for me to be caught in the plane when I was able to pass the flight gate. I can't thank God enough for opening doors for us.

These events, of course, left traumatic effects on me, as did many people with whom I shared the same fate. Since our arrival in Finland, we have not been able to go abroad for different reasons. The trip to Edinburgh brought me back to the gates we had worked so hard to get through in time. Even though I have my passport and 100% original visa for the trip, I always had the fear of being turned away from the door. It was as if there was something on my forehead saying, "This woman cannot get on a plane." Every time I was handing out my passport, I was worried that they would say, 'The door is not open for you, you can't enter'. But after passing the first gate, the self-confidence of 'wow, I'm normal, I'm not a fugitive anymore' came. Of course, I was treated differently from time to time because I do not have a passport from European countries. The joy of passing through the gate and boarding the plane allowed me to ignore situations that we would normally consider humiliating. I hope that one-day peace will come to every corner of the world and the crossing of borders will become free for all. Hoping that one day no one will have to apply illegal ways to get from one country to another...

Written by: Emine

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