“I am a beautiful woman to look at.” This is a phrase I hear often, and how most people see me. But they have no idea of the burdens I carry inside, the truth that makes me so much more than just another pretty face. My name is Anita and I come from Uganda, my age is not important – women do not talk about age. I do not want to talk about my country, my journey or my past. It is just too difficult and painful to put into words. But I can tell you that the war in Uganda made me leave my home and forced me to come to Germany in 2004. Today, nearly a decade and a half later, I live in Bayreuth and study Business and Economics with Kiron since 2016.
When I came to Germany, I had nothing and was not allowed to do anything. I felt paralyzed. I was here, full of youthful energy and motivation at my fingertips, a place I could live without war, live in peace and be able to start and do anything…But at the same time, I could not! I was not allowed to do anything, it was like I had been frozen but was still burning inside. The constant fear about my residence permit and possible deportation made me anxious, so I could never hang loose and truly feel home. I was always on edge and did not know if I would be allowed to stay, or if I would be shifted again, like a useless commodity – not a human being. But in the end, home is where you can live in peace and feel secure, where you are not in fear and can live a normal life. Just like every human should!
I believe Germany should give refugees a chance, and believe in us and what we have to offer. Instead of blockading us and not letting us move. After ten years of being paralyzed, this is a feeling I know all too well. Back then, the rules were also very different, we only had forty Euros a month and a paper to pick up our daily portion of food, eating the same thing every day. After getting the Duldung I received no money. I was not allowed to work and I was stripped of my identity. They called me the disguiser and said that, since I had no papers, they could not believe my word to be truthful and honest, claiming I was trying to mask my real identity. This accusation drove me insane. If people did not believe me to be me – and I had no way to prove that I was me – how could I myself feel like this me? This never-ending circle of accusation still pains me today. The name calling still haunts me today. It has taken years and many difficulties in trying to chase down my family and get my birth certificate, that I am now finally waiting for my passport. Without identification, without a piece of paper, everything that you know you are is simply taken away from you. Because of all of this, I have wasted some of the best years of my youth and life – all because of a piece of paper! So much hassle, for so many years of nothing. I never experienced so much stress and so many sleepless nights before, but the nightmare of German bureaucracy made it possible.
Since I was not allowed to do anything, had no money and my hands were tied, I decided to do something on my own. I started to learn sewing…it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I could finally be creative and use my hands…I was beginning to feel like myself again. Making my own clothes that I could not buy and helping others to repair and tailor their clothes – it was so much fun! I even met some fashion designers and started learning from them and was part of a project in which we were sewing handbags to collect money for kids in Syria. Sewing to me is just beautiful! You can design, shape, make, develop and create. I like creating something new for every kind of different character and individual. Everyone is unique and if you create something unique yourself you can help make everyone even more unique, in their own kind of special way! Back in the day, I had no money, so while sewing was initially just something I decided to learn in order to make clothes and I soon realized how much more it meant to me. I started working at the so-called “Sewing and Repair Café”, where people came to get their clothes fixed, altered and repaired. It is a small café in Bayreuth, and I love being there, a part of a sewing environment where we get to help people. I have made many friends here in Bayreuth, who have not only helped me with the Ausländeramt (immigration office) but in life. We like to spend quality time together, sewing, baking and talking over a cup of coffee
My first impression of Germany, was how clean and tidy everything was. Here, everything just seems to flow and work all by itself. It is a fascinating country, one that functions like a well-oiled machine. I’ve particularly noticed this through the German bus system. They are completely contrary to anything in Uganda, you cannot imagine how different a bus ride in Uganda is from a bus ride in Germany. They are incomparable. But in Uganda at least we are never in a hurry. This is something Germans could learn from my people and my culture, to be calmer and let life be easier. And then again, in Uganda they could learn a thing or two from Germans about reliability and work discipline.
Here in Bayreuth, I go to the library every day. I like learning and I like to think of all the people at the library as my friends. Here I can study with Kiron and practice my German for my Testdaf exam. The first time I heard about Kiron was in Munich at an event where I listened to a speech from Markus, the founder. I decided to try my luck and apply. Then I received an unexpected email from Kiron and I could not believe myself. I was allowed to study again! Since then, I have learned so much and have finally been able to do something with my life. I have found the blended learning system of Kiron to be especially helpful. I have met knew friends at the study events and even the Head of Direct of Academics, Manuela, has helped me so much. She even got me into a business entrepreneurship camp..I am so grateful! Also, the Kiron tutorials have helped me to overcome my math problems. My twice a week study sessions with others helps tremendously. It is amazing, I do not feel alone anymore. This is why for me, Kiron is more than just an online course platform, it has enabled me to study together with others, receive tutoring where I needed it and constantly learn new things.
Before the end of this year I will finally receive my passport. Once I have this identity paper in my hand, it will be decided how and if I will stay in Germany. I will no longer have the sense of guilt that was forced upon me, nor will I be treated as a liar anymore. My dream is to be able to study Business and Economics at a university and maybe do an apprenticeship with a tailor and follow my passion for fashion. I love sewing and fashion, I love being a creator, making beautiful things and helping making people look and feel beautiful. I once applied for a position as a costume designer at the Festspielhaus here in Bayreuth. I worked so hard and was thrilled when they even accepted me! But because of rules and bureaucracy, I was yet again held back and not allowed to follow my passion. I hope everything will change, I dream that in ten years I can be businesswoman. I want to look back on all my experiences, no matter how hard they have been, and be grateful for how they have shaped my future and helped me to deal with all the work stress I will one day have to confront as a successful business woman! This is why for now, and every other day, I try to learn and sew as much as I can. Business and Economics is something I will need to build my career successfully, and with Kiron, I can learn to be this successful woman I aspire to be. I do not want to waste any more precious time. Now is the time for me to step into my future. I believe refugees should be able to conduct their own lives Just like conducting music, life should be your own orchestra – you should get to decide, at your own pace and with whatever instrument or melody you choose, what your life will sound like! Just like every human being.
Interview by Flora Roenneberg // #Education4Integration campaign, sponsored by H&M Foundation