Dear Germany: An Ex-Refugee Shares His Story About Growing Up Without A Place To Call Home

September 10, 2015

With the current migrant crisis taking place in Europe, an ex-refugee felt the need to write this open letter to Germany. the country that saved his family when they had to leave Bosnia during the Bosnian War in 1992...

open letter to Germany by refugee
The author of the letter pictured as a child with Russian friends / imgur

Dear Germany:

This migrant crisis in Europe has got me thinking a lot about you again. After many years of bittersweet memories and pent up emotions (I can't decide whether it's nostalgia, sadness, or anger) it's time I let them go.

The war started on my first birthday. Four months later I officially came from a country that no longer existed. It was a civil war and things were too messy with neighbours turning on one another, and with my mother being a Muslim and my father an orthodox christian we had no other option but to get out (neighbours constantly threatening to behead their children wasn't their cup of tea).

So we somehow fled to Slovenia. But they didn't want us. (Though it would have been perfect since we would've been so close to all the family that we had left behind).

And then we moved on to Austria; where we were taken in by an Austrian family (who already had five kids) and they lived high up in the hills and became our second family. We were allowed to stay there for 9 months before Austria told us that it was time to go.

But the war was still raging on back home. Where to actually 'go' was as much of a conundrum as ever. But that's where you come in Germany. You allowed us to cross that border.

And you placed us in a refugee camp for a year (which was amazing because we had a whole bungalow to ourselves!). The town was called Braunlage and it was in this scouting / ski location that you allowed us to call home for a while, and the place was filled with Balkan and Russian refugees where we all actually had a great time and all us kids used to hang out and we'd come home at 2am (including us rebellious post-toddlers!) because the parents were in too debilitated and depressed of a state to actually care.

And then Germany, you tell us that we're allowed to stay for even longer, years even! And we're all ecstatic, and slowly my mother tongue (which was Russian) slowly begins to transform into German, and then an Egyptian landlord contacts us and tells us that he's heard about our situation and how the kids were riddled with PTSD, so they've got an apartment for cheap and it's up north in a town in Braunschweig ready for the taking. So off we went.

That's where we spent the next five years. Where we were given 400 Deutsche Marks every six months to go to C&A and buy ourselves clothing; where my best friends were called Lisa, and Werner, and Otto; where our neighbour gifted us a used radio so we could listen to some diaspora recall the dead for the day; where random German strangers would knock on our door and offer us food and hand-me-downs; where the local Toys 'R Us fooled me into thinking I had won a competition and handed me over with a gift card; where my nerd of an older sister was refused entry to the best gymnasium (because she was a refugee) but then the whole town rallied against the decision. They were good (occasionally hard) times - but the good definitely surpassed everything.

But then we got a letter in the mail. It was time to go, they were getting rid of all of us. In hindsight, I guess it makes sense. The war had ended, no more excuses. But you never considered that our dangers didn't end at that time (people had done ugly things in that war), where after six years I might've considered you my only home and that it was going to take me some time to comprehend that you no longer wanted me. I remember my mum tucking me into bed as I cried to her:

"Why doesn't my country want me anymore?"

"This is not going to be your country for much longer."

"Which place will?"

"I don't know."

"Then where am I from?"

And she told me and I cried even harder because I couldn't even pronounce the name of the place let alone speak the language.

And I re-read all those newspaper clippings from back then, how we were told that we were detrimental to the economy (which we were), how we provided no benefit to the country, how they wanted us gone, how we were humans they no longer wanted to have responsibility for (and they were right). Didn't mean that we didn't take it hard. So you stripped my parents of their working rights; my engineer of a mum and my professor of a dad became cleaners for the disabled before that too was put to a hold.

Mine and my sister's classrooms came to see us off at the train station. I remember the teachers crying, tissues in their hands as they waved us off. That was that.

We soon (and finally) found home somewhere else. More than fifteen years later and I'm finishing off my postgrad at Oxford Uni when I'm approached by a German professor, there's a bit of talk when he finally says, "Why didn't you stay in Germany? We would have loved you and your family there!", and I think that I just laughed and responded with, "It was too cold!"

I get that you didn't want me Germany, even though at one stage in my life you were the only thing that I knew (I thought I was you). I get that at the time you saw no worth in me, even though your citizens disagreed with that. But this was a little child's grudge that I couldn't let go off.

But in the end I just want to say thank you, God knows where I would have been without you. I have no idea how many debts I'll have to repay until we're even. Danke danke danke (I'm over it now).

The anonymous author added that this was not an attack on Germany, but instead a thank you - an open letter to get the childhood grudge off his chest.

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