Elke and Rama
photo credit: Christine Strotmann
Rama from Syria and Elke from Germany have been housemates for a year. They both live in the Sharehaus Refugio in Berlin. Elke and her husband started the project where Locals and Newcomers live and work together.
Elke: “I remember Rama, when I first saw you. You were visiting your brother, and I saw you in the hallway. I just thought to myself: ‘Who is this sad little woman?’”.
Rama: “Yeah, at that time I was so afraid of everything, I had fled from Syria, and then even had to leave a few other countries I lived in, because I didn’t have a visa. And when I finally arrived in Germany, I was in a refugee shelter in the countryside, where I was the only woman. Somebody tried to enter my room at night, and I was just in a bad situation, I was scared of everything then.”
Elke: “But then you decided to move to live with us, and I at first did not even recognise you.”
Rama: “Yes, I felt better, less scared, and my brother is also here – he’s the only family I have around me. My whole family fled Syria, after we had been arrested for our political views. Now my sisters live in different countries, and my parents went back to Syria – we hope they are now old enough not to be arrested anymore. So, now here it’s my brother and people like Elke and others, who are my new family.”
Elke: “Here in the Sharehaus we are trying to live together as a community, but also to give newcomers the opportunity to start a new life, to make the connections and build networks for life.”
Rama: “I need that support. Our country has been at war for nearly six years now, and when you have to leave, you leave behind your elders, the wise people. Now I have Elke and her husband, they support me so much.”
Elke: “And I feel grateful and honoured that Rama comes to me when she wants to speak about her problems or just to share her thoughts. Rama’s story and how she has changed – that enriches me! Also, I learn about her culture a lot and at the same time about me and German culture: I now think differently about some things. For example in the German culture there is this idea that we do everything right. That we just know better. I had to think about that and reflect. Also in comparison to the Syrians, we can really work on our hospitality.”
Rama: “What we do here, is integration. We both are overcoming prejudices, we learn about each other. It’s not so much about cultures though, more about people, about being kind and not to judge them.”
Elke: “But also Rama and I, we discovered we already had a lot in common. We both believe in God, we believe in that universal love. We also share some values like commitment to other people and relationships.”
Rama: “Yes, we both believe in God and God is love, no matter, how you call him. Superficial things shouldn’t matter. And I think we have the same kind of soul (laughs). I think Elke is pure.”
Elke: “And I like the way Rama thinks. You are so bright and open and share so much!”
Rama and Elke were strangers a year ago. They are now friends. To learn more about the Sharehaus Refugio and its aims go to: https://sharehaus.net/
This is a story by Christine Strotmann,