On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, three women from different countries hosted at the “A Step Forward” Open Accommodation Center, talk about the reasons why they were forced to leave their country, the conditions they face and their dreams. Three women, from different countries, show us that wherever you come from, seeking safety is a human right.
What was the reason you decided to leave your country?
Zahra (Afghanistan): Things were very bad in Afghanistan. There were no jobs for anyone. My husband was working, but we couldn’t make a decent living for our family. We were very afraid of the Taliban regime that threatened our lives every day. We were raising two girls and we were very afraid for their future. I want my children to study and work like women in Europe. I cannot imagine being forced to marry off my children at a young age, as I did, without them having finished school, without them having decided for themselves. Also, I believe that if I had grown up in a free country that treated me equally with any other citizen, I would have been able to choose for myself if and whom I would marry and I would never have been in such a difficult situation. That was the most important motivation for me to embark on this journey.
Rosie (Congo): from an early age I was subjected to violence because of my gender, which I became more and more aware of as I got older. I decided to leave when the situation became really dangerous for me. My partner worked for a public institution and his manager asked me to engage in indecent acts, threatening that if I did not agree to it, his job would be affected. I refused, and a few days later strangers broke into our apartment and attacked us. That’s when I knew I couldn’t stay in my home country.
Katerina (Ukraine): I left the city where I was staying in Ukraine when the bombing started. At first we went to a mountainous provincial town, hoping that the fighting would soon stop. When we realised that this was not going to happen, we decided to leave for good, looking for a safe place.
How is your life in Greece today?
Zahra: I am currently recognized with refugee status and reside in the Open Accommodation Center. In a few days I am going to receive the residence permits for me and my children. My goal is to get passports issued so that I have more options. I do not know whether I will stay in Greece or not. My first goal is to start working. If I am not able to work in Greece with decent conditions, I will travel to Germany, where I know there are many factories and opportunities for women to work while taking care of maternity.
Rosie: I am in Greece with my daughter, who is one year old. Things are good, I feel safe, but inevitably I am reminded of scenes from the past that make me bitter.
Katerina: Things are going well. I have started to take my first professional steps in Greece, as a dance teacher, which is my specialty. Day by day I am settling the rest of my issues, medical, legal, bureaucratic, etc.
What kind of help do you receive from the Open Accommodation Center?
Zahra: The stel staff is very helpful to me and I thank them all for that. I have professionals who do a very important job and it has helped both me and my children who are taking classes and constantly evolving. Although I have not yet developed special relationships with the other guests in the accommodation center, I have a very good relationship with my roommate, who does not speak the same language, but we are not friends. I have been through a lot in my life and find it hard to trust other people. I think it’s difficult to meet people who have our best interests at heart.
Rosie: My relationship with other women is very good. I feel safe here. The common activities we all do together (painting, going outdoors) have helped a lot with this.
Katerina: My relations with other women are friendly, I feel a connection with them. Activities such as visiting the Acropolis and the zoo have helped to bring us closer together.
How is your relationship with other women in the Center?
Zahra: Inside the centre I have my psychologist. I don’t want to have individual meetings with her, but we have a group that helps me to relax and rest. She shows us ways to deal with everyday problems and to be stronger. I really appreciate her and I will miss her if I leave here. All of our appointments are scheduled by social services. My children have not missed a single vaccine since we got here. Thank you so much to the staff of the entire facility for their support and help. They work with us, take care of us, give us lessons, take us on field trips. They are all very helpful and take good care of us.
Rosie: I get psychological help, which helps me a lot. In addition I work with the social worker for other issues. But the most important thing for me is the support I receive in relation to my child. Our stay in the center provides a safe environment, and my child socialises and plays with other children.
Katerina: Whatever help I have asked for, I have received. Whether it’s in scheduling medical appointments, bureaucratic issues, material goods and of course housing.
What do you dream of your future?
Zahra: I would like to get a job and be able to live alone with my daughters. I would like to have my own house and be able to pay for my food, my children’s schooling, our clothes, our medicine, everything. I wish all women in my position could manage to live alone, peacefully and work to raise our children well.
Rosie: I hope the future is better. I want to turn out to be a good mom, to raise my daughter right, to have a good education. I wish to work to give her the opportunity to be free to do whatever she dreams of!
Catherine: The main thing for me is to work. On a professional level, I would like to organize an international dance tournament, with choreographers and teams from different countries, and I’m already working towards that.