By Ina Schebler
Everyone has a story. Everyone has a voice to tell it. And everyone has ears to hear or eyes to read it. Now it only needs people to listen to these voices, to see these faces and to change first their perspective and later the world.
In January 2016, I started collecting stories of people who once fled their homes and who are now living in Germany. They all had their reasons. They all came on different routes and ended in different places. They all had different dreams, expectations and plans for the future when they left their homes.
I departed on this journey because I believed that people who are forced to leave their homes are not ‘just’ refugees, asylum seekers, illegal immigrants or victims of catastrophes. They are humans with individual faces and voices to tell stories.
So, I collected stories of people who have something to share with the world. I created this space made out of words and photos in which voices can talk and in which ears can listen, eyes can see, and minds can understand. Many of those voices tell stories that show that much in this world needs to change. We all have voices and the ability to move not only our bodies away from disasters but also the capacity to move horizons beyond conventions and prejudices. We can connect to voices, connect through voices, and connect our voices. Therefore, voices connect people and maybe one idea in one of these stories will one day be the spark that makes the whole world brighter – who knows
Franz: If you have to keep your mouth shut First, we left with a horse-drawn cart, but then the Russians got ahead of us. They plundered and took our horses. We were walking in a trek of many people from our village. On the way, we were fired at by the English and by fighter-bombers; dead soldiers and horses were laying around everywhere. It was a catastrophe! It was at that time when we lost a child from our village. He just disappeared without a trace. Only years later, the Red Cross found him and reunited him with the family. Then we came to a big farmer in Bavaria. We had a room with concrete floor on which we threw straw to lay on it. The room was mouldy and humid. A married couple lived next door and they told us, “You cannot sleep there! You are already ill, come over to us.” So, they provided a room for us. Upon our arrival, we had caught all kinds of disease and pests in the refugee camps. The doctor examined us and instantly sent us to a restaurant to eat something. She told us she would pay for it. At school, us three refugee boys had to sit separate from the others so as not to infect them. I had scabies, and one of the others was coughing badly. We were covered in sulphur ointments, everything burned and the skin was full of pus. That was the worst time back then. And hunger! We were hungry! You cannot imagine! It was because we did not have bread or anything to eat. My mother always told us, “Lay down and sleep for a bit, so you oversleep the hunger.” When we woke up, there was still nothing to eat. Today, I wish things could go on the way they are now. However, one should not forget to help other countries to get on their feet. Now, there are many refugees coming to us. I can see that people cannot continue their lives there. People are always saying we cannot accommodate the whole world, but where should they go? Where should they go in their destitution? That is the question! Over there, we Germans had no freedom. If you have to keep your mouth shut, you are not free. You always have to think about it: What do you say? Who are you telling? Who do you have in front of you? To whom can you entrust what? There is nothing better than being free. Additionally, you also need to respect different opinions. Some people oversleep their freedom. Nowadays for instance, one can just cross the border to Czech Republic without having to show one’s passport. When did that happen? None of us has ever experienced that before! Being able to move freely, that is a tremendous freedom. Franz, 81 years old, born in Czechoslovakia
Mustafa: If you support the youth I want to help all the people. I want all people to be equal. I want there to be no rich people and no poor people. The main reason for the current situation is the government. It doesn’t help the people; especially not the young people, it doesn’t give them chances. I come from Babylon. Babylon has a very long history. In former times the inhabitants developed so many things. But nothing has remained because of the present policy. Everything is destroyed because of the government and the American army. If you would just support the youth, they would develop and do everything to build the country. But they have no chance to do that. If the young people graduate the university, as engineers, as scientists – they study all kinds of things – then they won’t get jobs and can’t do anything. For example, I’ve only been studying mechanical engineering for a year. Then I switched to biology, studied for four years, specialised in environment and pollution and didn’t get a job. If I were president, I might be able to help. But that’s impossible for me. But I can work in my field, biology. I want to help people and nature. When I help nature, it also helps people, because a clean nature helps people. In Iraq everything is polluted – water, air, soil – because there are no specialists in this field. There is a Ministry of the Environment, but they only pocket their salary and do nothing. The professors at my university have studied in Europe, America, Britain and Canada. They have always told us that there is a lot of pollution in Iraq, but there is nothing we can do for the country because of politics. If I could, I would first change the political system. I would appoint good people who would then do something good for the other people. They would change everything. I would appoint educated people, who are not too busy with money. Mustafa, born in Iraq