Rawan Alfarkh

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Stories of Belonging,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Hamburg, Germany
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I am Rawan Alfarkh, a 30-year-old from Damascus, Syria. I graduated from the school of journalism at Damascus University in Syria and worked as a journalist for many years. In 2015, I decided for many reasons to leave Syria and I've been living in Germany since then. I have moved around many cities and districts in Germany and currently live in Hamburg in the North. While living in Germany, I have worked in many jobs and tried to blend in. My sole purpose was to adapt and learn the language.

I worked in a German podcast/radio station for a while then I moved to become an intern in a newspaper office. After that, I trained in television. At the moment, I am working with an Arabic educational institution that is interested in supporting the cultural identity of Arabs in immigrant countries.

Since the minute I arrived here, circumstances have led me to stay in a city located in the East. Its people are known for being prejudiced, and not keen on the idea of cultural exposure to foreigners living in their area or dealing with them on a daily basis. They are known for being closed-minded. I feel unwelcome in such a place, a feeling of not belonging. It has been that way since I arrived, which was something of a shock for me. I used to think of ways to integrate into the community, but the lack of willingness to take me in or help me devastated me. The locals did not want me to belong in the first place, they wanted me to leave.                                                                                                                                            It was like this until I started learning German. There was a construction site beside the building in which I took a language course. An elderly man of about 65-70 years old was always present, smiling at me every time I went there, and I would smile back then go on my way. One day, he talked to me and felt that my German was a bit weak, so he tried to use English to communicate with me to help me understand what he said. This person was so kind and helped me learn German since I used to see him daily on my way to the class. Every morning, before I went to class, he would be standing and waiting for my arrival, holding a small gift. Once he got me sunglasses, then when it was raining he got me winter gloves.

On special occasions and holidays, he would always bring me cake or the dessert they usually prepare for their holidays. He was so kind, bringing me books to help me develop my German and always advising me on how to improve, learn the language faster and how to belong and deal with Germans. His wife and he helped me and were so kind, always wanting to know me and my lifestyle better.                                                                             Additionally, his daughters lived in another country, so he always told me about them and one time we video-called them. He always gave me the feeling of being a father figure in my life, and would constantly text me. His text messages were supportive and reassuring, such as "we are always beside you, my family and I, and whatever problem or hardship you face, don't ever be scared because we're with you". I kept in contact with them for 3 months until New Year's Eve 2016. He asked me the night before how I would be spending it. I told him that I didn't have anywhere to go and I didn't know anyone, and I couldn't see my relatives because they lived far away, so I didn't want to go out. He then replied, "How about you come and spend it with me and my family? My daughters will be there too." I was excited and said yes. He asked about whether I preferred certain kinds of meat and other things to make the night more fun. He confirmed that his daughter would talk to me the night before to agree on a location to meet and pick me up. That day came and I waited for someone to call me but no one did. I waited the next day as well because the party was happening at night and I was sure one of them would call during the day but no one called. I guessed that  maybe he had forgotten or lost my number so I decided to call instead. His cell phone was off and when I called the landline, no one picked up. I did not know what to do, and New Year's Eve went by. I haven't heard from him since and even though I tried to call repeatedly, his mobile is always off.                                                                                                                                    I did not know what to do, and kept asking myself why he had done that. Was it possibly that his family did not want me there, or was there a problem? Nonetheless, he should have been honest with me at the end of the day. I would not have been sad if he had apologised for not being able to host me that day.
That night, I had prepared a few gifts for him and his family. They were small ones for the New Year. A few days after the new year, I went back to the language course, and was surprised to find that the construction site he had worked at had been completely closed, and no one was there, not even him. I tried to ask around about him but when I asked the course supervisor, he told me he did not know anything about him and assumed that he might have travelled or moved to another city or found another job in a place far away.

Days went by and during my time at the course I would pass by where the man used to stand but he was never there. I was very curious to know his whereabouts. He had suddenly disappeared. I used to be very excited when I saw him, for he was a father figure, always telling me he was there for me and would always help me. I always wondered where he ended up and what had happened.                                                                                         Years have passed by since 2016 and it is now 4 years since that story, and to this day, he is always on my mind. He was a God-given gift that gave me hope and support. He helped me stand on my own two feet. I felt like he was sent from God to do that, to hold my hand and guide me through my first steps, to make me feel that there are still people who love helping others, people who like foreigners. After that, I moved to other regions and cities until I reached Hamburg where I am now.

I have met other people, Germans, who were different. Some were good and helped me, and others were bad and behaved differently. However, that man is always on my mind, and I am still looking for him here and there. I searched on Facebook, trying to find him by his name or the company he used to work at. I still wish I knew where he was, where he went. I wish to thank him, for he was a motivation from the beginning. But years have passed by and I still know nothing about him. And that is my story.