Growing up in Finland as an immigrant – a personal story!

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D4R is a regular poster in the comments on Migrant Tales. We are very grateful that he has shared some of his experiences of growing up and dealing with discrimination in Finland. Here is the first part of a long comment he made on one post, which deserves to be read by as many people as possible.

D4R is currently studying in further education and has made huge strides in finding ways to move forward from his difficult experiences, in spite of having had his educational opportunities previously undermined by daily racism.

His idealism is remarkably strong and clear, and his message is one of tolerance and understanding, in spite of the fact that he was often shown neither of these.

He has our deep admiration on MT for his strength of character and his determination to avoid bitterness and to build bridges of understanding.

D4R: Growing up in Finland was one of [the most] challenging things that I have faced during my life time. (excuse my poor English language writings) When I came to Finland I was a small boy; I started school at age of around 8. I have faced hardship in school and outside of school coming from people who were hating my ethnicity.

I have been jumped on and called names by people of different type of ages; they could have been adults or kids, woman or men, it was horrible. I remember at school when we kids were in the class and the teacher wasn’t in the class, kids used to shout at me like you’re a welfare leecher, that I’m a bum, and this was coming from kids who were 8 years old.

At that time I could not understand why were they calling me a bum. No way could they figure that out; these all were things they had heard from their parents; it was stuff that’s being discussed at their homes. All these things deeply affected me mentally and it was taking a toll on me physically. I was getting sick every short period of times, the abuse was continuous at school. I was being bullied almost every single day.

Sometimes when my parents send me to school I just went to the park and spent the rest of school time there alone so I could avoid going to school and facing the abuse I was getting there daily. One day my teacher called us at home and told my parents that I was being absent from school and they held a meeting with my parents, and so we went there to meet the teachers.

In there we discussed about me why was I being absent and why was I not focusing on anything at school. I just can’t understand how come nobody understood my problems; they all blamed me and nobody paid attention to the negative environment I was in at the time. How can you function and concentrate on anything when you’re being taken as a target, you’re being called names every day, when you get jumped on by several people just because of your ethnicity.

Honestly, it was like in the jungle with a pack of animals, no mercy. There were a few kids who were kind to me; I guess their parents were raising them properly, but most of the kids put me through hell. This abuse continued through my teenage years, and every time I made a complaint I was told that they’re going to do something about it but with no results, the kids and teenagers were freely abusing me.

Every year that passed by was getting worse than the previous one, and my grades were degrading to a point where my parents were getting concerned about me; they could figure out what was really happening to me. My personality changed, I become isolated even at home. I was in pain and nobody was there to understand my pain. I used to come home and shut myself in my room. There was nobody that I could talk to, they couldn’t care less at school and my poor parents didn’t know what was wrong in me; even if they knew, what could they do about it? Nothing.

Every morning when I had to go to school I was depressed, I was depressed to go and meet those evil people who just feast on my torture and I had to no option but to stand and take that torture and abuse, and this continued throughout my elementary school.

Now somebody will say, this is the same as school bullying, but no, this is not like school bullying; this is worse than that, especially when you’re being targeted and your spirit detroyed. Again, someone is going to say, why did you come to this country or stay here, but this is easier said than done.

When my parents brought me to this country, they did not know where they were coming to and what will be the environment for their kids. I truly can understand the frustration my parents had and the concern; it wasn’t easy for them either, we were just unlucky to face these things.

I didn’t do well at school because I wasn’t receiving the proper environment; I was in a bad and hostile environment. I can understand what a lot of visible immigrants go through; I don’t know if nowadays the situation is different than in my time, but I want to encourage visible youths to stay strong and talk with their parents at home if they are having similar kinds of problems that I had, because I know it will destroy them as it destroyed me.

It will have an effect on their education, their personalities, basically everything; it will destroy them. I could have done better at school if somebody could have figured out my problems at school and helped me. Finland is a safe country to live for most people but there are some serious problems for visible immigrants.

I strongly believe and hope things will get better in this country for all kinds of people. We’re all human beings; we should treated one another with respect and not degrade and destroy, I guess that’s too much to ask for some people’s human nature, to not destroy other people’s lives.

We all have one life, treat each other as you want them to treat you; if you don’t want people to treat you bad, don’t treat people that way. You wouldn’t want people to call you names and degrade you, so don’t do it to them.

People may look different than you, they may have different skin colour to you, but they have feelings just like you do, they get hurt and offended, please understand that. If you destroy your environment, you’re destroying yourself too. I think we as human beings should increase tolerance and peace in this world not intolerance and hatred, because that leads to violence and nobody is safe then, not you or me.

People who spread separatism, racism, prejudice, intolerance are dangerous people and we shouldn’t allow them to receive power; they don’t serve you or me, they serve themselves. I’ll leave peace to all you and happy Easter day

  1. PS voter

    During a short time peried, there has been two good writings on Migrant Tales and not just more or less meaningless whinings about opininion peaces not clearly enough marked as opinions instead of news. This story by D4R is one of them and the other one is about the illegal military attack by USA to Iraq. I hope that this trend continues and we get to see more writings of high quality.

    However, I disagree with one thing. In my opinion, what you have exprerienced is a form of bullying, even though you seem to think that it is completely different thing. I agree that what you have axperienced sounds that it has been worse than typical bullying, but on the other hand, some bullying cases are even worse than you described. For example, there are cases where the victim of school bullying has died because of bullying or committed suicide. And in my school massacres it seems that the perpetrator has been victim of bullying before the massacre.

    Being somehow different makes it easier to become a victim of bullying. It can be ethnic background, skin colour, dialect, being overweight/thin, hair colour, being gay, being from poor family etc. However, some persons are better at defusing if somebody tries to bully them. And some persons get mental scars more easily because of bullying than others. And those mental scars are quite clear. Many studies have shown that victims of bullying are more like to suffer from many mental problems later in life and have other problems as well.

    I have one suggestion for all persons with immigrant background. Maybe persons with immigrant backgrounds could organize visits to school in order to get more understanding. SETA, which is a organization for GLBT rights, organizes that kind of visits to schools to increase acceptance towards gays. I have never seen it in practise, but I think that the same model might be useful for people from immigrant background as well. And instead of just preaching, there should be efforts for real dialogue. And after the visits, the students should provide anonymous commonts and suggestions on how to improve that kind of visits on future, so that those events could be fine tuned even better.

    • Mark

      PS voter

      During a short time peried, there has been two good writings on Migrant Tales

      Fuck me, you are one patronising prick!

  2. PS voter

    Here is one quite interesting article about bullying, which I recommend all to read to better understand what bullying can cause:

    And today there was articale about being lonely and the article mentioned bullying as well:

    And here is a blog by a person whose life has been seriously affected because of bullying:

  3. PS voter

    I hope that moderators let through my message which mentions some things worth reading. I especially recommend articale “Lauri on mahdollinen joukkomurhaaja – kertomus valkoisesta raivosta” which has been in Suomen kuvalehti.

  4. PS voter

    It is widely recognized that school bullying is a large problem, but still there doesn’t seem to enough effort to stop and prevent it. I think there should be more experimental studies so that we could better see what works well against school bullying.

    I believe that in many cases, if the bullying has not continued for long or in extreme forms, it is possible even to change hostility to friendship. When I was school, I had some fights with one other student but later we became best friends. However, in that case, the initial fighting was more mutual than classic case of bullying. I was also a victim of more typical bullying and I did some bullying by myself, which I regret, but luckily that didn’t continue for long.

  5. Mark

    PS voter

    You seem to ignore D4R’s point that this is not simply bullying. This is racial bullying and it carries a far greater harm and pernicious attack on secure identity formation. It is a collective and societal form of bullying that gets reinforced in adulthood through discrimination, unlike ordinary school bullying, which thankfully usually stops at some point. In other words, when the kids have finished the abuse, the adults take over.