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?
Traudl: Freedom is a duty One night, someone knocked at the door, but by the time my father got to the door, a blood-stained Russian man had already climbed through the bedroom window. “Where is the woman? Where is the woman?” he demanded and looked at me. But I was only ten years old and such a scrawny thing that he fortunately let me be. My mother had already escaped through the back door and hid outside. My mother once disobeyed a Czech man. He then accused us of having weapons in our house, which equalled a death sentence. My father could speak Czech well, because back then it was common in the Karkonosze Mountains to exchange children between Czech and German families for a while so they could learn the language of the others. That rescued us. A Czech friend gave my father a tip and we were able to flee. I always had to weed our vegetable garden. Whenever I finished the back of the garden, I had to start from the front again because the weed grew so fast. I always had a lot of work, but this is home. These experiences, the environment, the friends, the school, the place where we lived, how we collected blueberries. I only had to go out to the garden and across the fields into the forest. The landscape is home. Here it is like home, but home is where one loved to be as a child. The feeling in our chest is home. I’d say the greatest good you have is freedom. To be able to shape one’s destiny. If there is war for example, you can no longer decide what you want. In the “Third Reich” we were not free either. We had to keep our mouth shut, we had to march along. I don’t have to keep my mouth shut here. Well, to some extent I do, because one needs to integrate. But that is not as painful as it is under dictatorship. We are in a democracy now, but many people do not use it well, because they have never experienced it differently. They don’t vote, they don’t participate, they just think of themselves and don’t care about anything else. Only when it comes to restrictions, then they cry out! Freedom is a duty too. A duty to behave in the state in such a way that I am a serving member of society. That already starts with neighbourly help and respect for my environment. One cannot just take, one must also give. Traudl, 80 years old, born in Czechoslovakia
Redini: To say what I want and who I am The region where I used to live was Kurdish territory and the Arab government was very racist against us. My mother didn’t even have a passport or ID-card. The government just said Kurds were foreigners, not from Syria and therefore we don’t give them passports. If you don’t have an ID-card, you can’t do anything, you can’t even study at the university. When there were disputes between Kurds and Arabs, the government came and imprisoned the Kurds, not the Arabs. In 2009, when I was 16 years old, I was in prison with my brother and my cousin – because we are Kurds. They treated us like animals. They tortured us and hit us. Everything was bleeding and afterwards they made us walk on salt. We were children and had done nothing forbidden. They had just seen us three on the street and took us with them. My father came and begged them, “Don’t beat the children!” He paid a lot of money, but they kept beating us for one week. Those policemen were Alawites, the Arabs that lead the government. One time, one of the Alawites brought his son to the prison. He told him, “Those are Kurds” and then he gave him the bat. We weren’t the only ones; they did this with many children and young people in our region. If I could, I would remove all borders between countries, I would defeat the bad government and change everything in the government. Everyone needs to be able to voice his or her opinion! The European governments are good governments. They are treating the people well. They are friendly to the people, aren’t they? That’s what I experienced. But in Syria, police have the right to kill. If a policeman kills a person, he can say that he was armed and nothing will happen to him. When the revolution started, I didn’t want to carry a weapon, because I didn’t want to kill anyone. I just voiced my opinion, “I am against the government.” And they tried to kill us. That’s why I fled. I never want to carry a weapon, because nobody can know who is innocent and who is guilty. Whoever carries a weapon also kills innocent people. A weapon is no solution, but the people there don’t understand that. Freedom means everything to me! I couldn’t say that I am Kurdish. If I had had a Kurdish flag, I would have gone to prison. Freedom for me is that I can say anything I want. Who I am. Why can I not say who I am and what I want? Redini, 21 years old, born in Syria