Hadeel Alsamman

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Stories of Belonging,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Sweden
Production Team:
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I am Hadeel and I am 21 years old. I am from Damascus, Syria. I came to Sweden in 2014 and have been here for over 7 years.

When I arrived here, it was through illegal immigration. I arrived in May 2014, and went directly to the Immigration Department. My story starts when they took me to live in the Camp for the palace. Because I was under 18, I started school immediately. I was the only Arab in the camp - the rest were of different nationalities. This helped me to get to know the people who work here so that I could communicate with them more easily, and it encouraged me to sit and learn from them. From going to school, I learnt Swedish faster and was able to engage more in the community.

I lived alone without my family for three years, and this gave me the motivation to depend on myself in Sweden.

Many good people in the camp helped me, as they loved to guide the newcomers. This enthusiasm to teach comes from the view that the camp is their own small society where they want to prove themselves and do something for the community. The newcomers are an addition to their small community with a new culture and different world view.

The main reason behind my illegal immigration is the war. From my own point of view, there was no future in my country at that time. It is hard for someone to develop herself there, and no one can achieve their dreams no matter how much they work for it due the current situation in the country. Leaving Syria was the best option for me, since outside you can fulfil your dreams by studying and then working within your speciality.

I did not choose the family I have now, and they did not choose me either because I was assigned by the immigration department. When we met at the office, they told me that they would be like a family to me.

My first meeting with them was the most beautiful thing as the mom didn't want me to feel that it was an official meeting. She approached me and hugged and said: "I would be very happy to have you with me and you will be like a daughter to me. I am very excited to get to know you, and to know where you came from and about your culture and your rituals”.

She was very excited to know more about me, to know more about the way I think and my everyday life. This made me feel very comfortable because she broke all the formalities that exist between us. Of course, she took care of me in a very lovely way. When I told her that I am Muslim and we have Ramadan, Eid, and the other Islamic rituals, she took care of every detail of those events. She even took me to the closest Arab market to buy all things I needed for Ramadan so that I did not feel lost in the absence of my parents. In Ramadan, she would fast with me some days so we could eat together. On the other holidays, she would take me to the market to buy new clothes to make me enjoy the celebration.

Added to that, she made sure to introduce me to the local habits and customs. I spent a long time with them, and she and her husband would sit and tell me all about their holidays in Sweden, the way they think, what historical things are there that they believe in and are among their customs and traditions.

They contributed a lot to my integration into this community because they talked to me about things in precise detail. They did not only describe the way they live, but also the reasons and details behind it. This is why I integrated or became determined to integrate, because of those beliefs or their thinking.

No one is like my mother for sure, but this woman played a very big role in my life. She stood by me until I turned 18, taught me how to manage my life and how to think when I live independently so that I could live alone after I turned 18. She taught me the tiniest details. For example, how I should organise my budget, how I should reconcile study, work and chores at home, and how I should buy the things needed at home.

She was with me every step of the way and we are still friends. Up to this moment I feel that she is proud of me when I achieve anything and she always greets me on events like Ramadan and other holidays and does not miss any of them.

I was the first girl that she hosted in Sweden. She received more after me but she assures me that I am the closest to her heart because I tried so determinedly to integrate with all their habits and traditions.

When she comes to my area, we go out together for lunch and she tells me that she feels like I am like her daughter. She used to have a very different idea about my country, my customs and traditions, and I changed her view. Not only did I integrate into Swedish society but she also completely changed her view on Syrians and their customs and traditions.

I feel like it would have been hard for me to integrate this well if it was not for her. Certainly, anyone can integrate but they need more time. She saved me so much time and let me know the right things at the right time.

I feel she is really my family. I can talk to her about anything I want. I can tell her about any problem that I am facing and she will listen and be by my side thinking about a suitable solution. She stands up to anyone who bothers me. If I tell her that I am being harassed, she goes and tells them that they are not allowed to approach me or harass me, and so I feel very safe.

Throughout the time I lived with her, I felt that there was someone I could go to and tell about my problems. Even at the times when I felt homesick (and there were very difficult moments at that young age) she was the only one who could make me feel better in her own way. For example, when I sat and talked to her for hours she would not get bored but would listen to me until the end. She would often surprise me with something I loved. On my birthday, she threw me a big surprise party and invited all my friends. These things certainly created a stronger connection between us.

She has no children, and on Mother's Day I remembered her. I took a cake and a gift and went to her to celebrate with her and she started to cry tears of joy. I am not her daughter by blood but I was able to bring her this much joy. I can say that the connection between us is very strong.

I am Hadeel Alsamman from Sweden and this was my story."