By Enrique Tessieri
I have never met in person an Iranian woman calls herself anonymously Dana. Even so, she comes to life little by little as an image in my mind and when she writes about her greatest suffering in Finland: living without her parents. Things may get worse before they improve for Dana since Christian Democrat minister of the interior, Päivi Räsänen, announced plans last year to tighten further family reunification rules.
It’s quite incredible that a country that suffered a devastating war and had to resettle 410,000 Karelian refugees after the Continuation War (1941-44) lacks compassion for refugees who are traumatized by war and need their parents as well as their closest relatives by their sides. Finns who emigrated to the United States in the nineteenth century did the same thing. After they got settled, they brought their relatives and even their friends and neighbors.
Where does this lack of compassion come from? Is it because our authorities don’t more Africans to move to Finland? Take for example a minor who flees war-torn Somalia and gets political asylum. Everything is fine except for one very vital detail: the right to live with his or her parents.
Dana isn’t too old nor is she too young. She feels great emptiness and despair because she hasn’t seen her parents for seven years. Dana isn’t too happy with the social welfare system, which, according to her, eats away your self-esteem and opens you up to abuse.
I asked her if she could write something that would reveal her feelings and life in Finland. I got the following poem by email from her that I edited in English. A lot of things have happened to Dana. She was once arrested and put in a police cell apparently for protesting against her detention at the social welfare office on Dagmaninkatu 6 in Helsinki:
R U racist or fascist? Ur guilty and a terrorist.
R U brave or a coward? Don’t you have any life why are you so cranky?
Leave my legs, hands alone…shame on u for being so ruthless and rabid
In this cold, hard and dark jail…oh God my heart is broken, pity me!
Why did I believe the words of my demons?? Why have I ended up here in a corner of my cell?
Why aren’t there any human here?? Why did my hope die in my spirit??
Come on ironic robot police and open this door…my race and yours are one, the same, awaken now…
My social workers fooled me and U in an instant…Stop the anguish and awaken for a second
Why can’t I find any doors here??? Why have I fallen here tired and all alone???
Why is the law against me and us??? Why is the color of my skin the crime, the sin? Who said these things???
Come and open ur two eyes at this moment…Don’t beat on my wings and feathers because I’m so tired
Katu, this Dagmarinkatu is pure agony, torture…Number 6 is an open sore, pain and a mirage in a sea of hopelessness.
راشیستی یا فاشیستی ثو مجرم تروریستی
دلیری یا که ترسو نداری غیرت ای بیمار بد خو?
رها کن دست و پایم حیا کن ظالم هار
در این زندان سخت و سرد و تاریک خدا قلبم شکته وای بر من
چرا باور نمودم حرف دیوان? چرا افتادهام در کنج زندان?
چرا اینجا ندارد هیچ مهربان ? چرا امید من شد مرده در جان?
بیا بگشا پلیس اهنی این درب زندان نزاد من و توباشد یکی اگه شو الان
مددکارم کلک زد من تو را یک لحظه در ان جفا بس کن بیا وجدان شو یک ان
چرا دربی نمی یابم در اینجا چرا افتاده ام من خسته تنها
چرا قانون بود ضد من و ما چرا رنگم بود جرم و خطا کی گفثه اینها?
بیا بگشا دو چشمانت تو حالا مزن بر بال و این پر خسته ام اه
کاتو این داگمارین کاتو عذاب است شماره نمره ۶ زخم و درد است و سراب است
Dana says that loneliness is the most difficult matters to adapt to in Finland.
“I came to Finland in April 2008 from Turkey. I’m originally from Iran. I had to leave the country because there is no religious freedom. I was forced to flee the country to Turkey. I met some representatives from the United Nations who said I could go and live in Finland as a refugee.
It was spring when I arrived at Vaasa in an apartment where there was hardly any furniture, only a bed, table, chairs a pot, spoon, fork and knife, no TV; there were no curtains and they gave me 250 euros. The social worker said that money was for food and stuff I wanted to buy.
Feeling like the loneliest person on Earth in a foreign country, I wondered where I had ended up. I couldn’t believe it. I was totally and completely alone. I thought I could make friends but this wasn’t easy. People didn’t want to talk to me when I approached them. I asked my social worker if I could bring my family. I told her I could not stand living alone this way.
She didn’t leave with much hope. The social worker said that if I wanted to bring my parents to Finland I would have to pay their plane ticket and support them financially here. The social worker said I’d have to personally pay the application fees for my parents. My mother is very sick suffering kidney complications. The social worker made me feel hopeless because it sounded like bringing my parents here would be an enormous and expensive task.
But I need my parents by my side. It’s so difficult for me to live so faraway from them all alone.
Dana believes that all people have a right to live a peaceful life in a country where they aren’t persecuted
Almost immediately after I moved to Vaasa I enrolled in a Finnish-language course. At school, it didn’t take long to figure out that I was in the wrong place. My classmates were from Africa, Bosnia, Russia, Guatemala, Ghana, China and other countries. None, however, were from Iran.
I learned to speak Finnish pretty fast. I worked hard and did my homework diligently. But then things started to go sour at the school. All of the students in my class had a relative studying there like a mother, brother, sister or at least a friend from the same country. There were no Iranians at the school. I was all alone.
The African complained to the teacher about the racism she were facing in Vaasa. All I could do is think of my parents and how to bring them to Finland. I wasn’t interested in supporting her so she turned against me for that reason. I guess it was because I was all alone and tried to be a model student. I was better than anyone at school and learned Finnish faster than any of them.
I had a different perspective back then. I didn’t want any problems with people like the Finns and with the school staff. To make a long story short, I was called in by the principal and teacher and expelled from the school. The reason? Because I could not get along with my classmates.
I was shocked. I complained to the social worker who then called one of the teachers. The principle apparently kicked me out of the school to appease my classmates. Once the principle and teacher insulted me in front of the class in the presence of all the students. It was clear that I could not stay any longer at the school.
Immigrants turn against each other. They do that in order to show the Finns that they are better than another immigrant.
I was only a few months at that school in Vaasa. I stuck around for a year and a half and started to go to Unicef. There were some foreigners there and the Finnish they taught was very elementary. It was too easy. The hardest part, however, was being alone. Nobody was there for me to help and support me.
A friend got me an apprentice job at a home for old people. I worked there for three months for practically nothing. It was hard and physically strenuous work. There were students working there as well. When I asked them how much they made, I discovered they made a lot more than I did. Imagine, I worked eight-hour shifts five days a week and got 180 euros per month! It’s not fair! People should not be allowed to work for free, like a slave.
What kind of foreigners am I? I like to see myself as a brave person who can spot racism and is sensitive enough to even scent it when a person looks at me. To understand my suffering is to understand the meaning of time. It’s time that I am losing, precious years of my life, of being without my parents and not even having a job in Finland.
Racists in Finland are the ones who are responsible for wasting my precious time, my golden time.
I tried everything but there wasn’t any hope. I thought it would be a good idea to move to Germany where I had relatives. I did go there with the intention of never returning to Finland but I couldn’t stay there. Germany wouldn’t give me a residence permit. So I returned to Vaasa and then after a short while moved to Helsinki.
*Migrant Tales publishes on and off life histories of immigrants living in Finland. The aim of these short life stories is to get a glimpse of the joys and challenges they face in their new home country. If you want to share your story with us, please get in touch by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.