I would like to share something with you, which doesn’t have much to do with the physical part of yoga, but a lot with the whole range of it – love and compassion. I didn’t talk much about this story, but whenever I did, people told me this needs to be shared. With the current incidents in Chemnitz/ Germany, I too think it definitely needs to be shared! Its a story about my dear friend Kareem, a refugee from Syria.
When I ended my career in corporate business and wanted to become a yoga teacher, I knew I had to leave Munich, as this City (as much as I love it), is simply too expensive to start off with teaching Yoga. I choose to go to my hometown, for the simple reason that I haven’t been living there for 11 years and that I could reduce my living expenses massively. I got bored there quite quickly as most people I knew got married with kids and the ones who didn’t, lived in different cities. So I thought, I should offer to teach a bit of English as well and save some extra cash for my travels. When I wanted to set up an Ad on Ebay I saw one from Kareem. He was looking for someone to talk to him. Simply to talk in order to learn German and have social contact. I didn’t give it a second thought and contacted him immediately. I told him, that I walk my dog every day through the park and that I am happy to have him joining me and teaching him German. Little did I know then, what kind hearted human I would meet and what special friendship was ahead of us.
Kareem was the most diligent student one could ever imagine. He was always on time and he always had his smartphone ready to study words I used in our conversation. In the beginning most of our meetings were with me asking him questions, so he practiced speaking and whenever he didn’t understand a word I explained it. Afterwards I spelt it or let him try to spell it, so he could type it into his smartphone. Whenever we met the next time he knew this world in every possible form. I felt a little bit ashamed that I was always so lazy at school, in the privileged world we live in, and there was a person wanting nothing more but to study in order to make a living. After a while our conversations got deeper, Kareem told me why he had to leave and that his wife is there waiting to follow to Germany. He also told me how he fled and why his wife couldn’t come with him (but more to this reason later).
Kareem lived in Damaskus, an area in Syria which was considered as safe. Although in this area the Assad regime randomly stopped busses, being armed and all Men had to come out. Some got blindfolded and kidnapped. Kareem was one of them. Being in his early 20’s and working in finance. Kidnapped for no reason whatsoever. They drove for hours and hours and he was not able to see anything, nor did anyone tell him what was gonna happen or why they were doing this. After hours they arrived somewhere and he got thrown in a bunker in absolute darkness with loads of other people. They hardly got given food or water. Whenever they heard of a person leaving the bunker (alive), the person was blind. As this is what happens after not seeing light for weeks. Ten days passed without a word and suddenly they came and took him away, they blindfolded him again, drove him somewhere and kicked him out. He struggled seeing and his skin was green and blue from the lack of light. He still doesn’t have the slightest idea why he got kidnapped.
He made it back to his parents house and the family decided he had to leave immediately. With all their savings they supported him to go to turkey. He also had to leave his beloved wife behind as Damaskus was not a danger for women at that time and she couldn’t have made the trip to Europe.
Kareem left on the 20.09.2014 his homeland Syria, to go to Lebanon and took a flight from there to Turkey. That was all the money they had. In Turkey he had to work for another 8 Months to earn the money for the human traffickers to bring him to Germany. In Izmir he had to pay 1100 Euro to a Trafficer. Obviously no contract, no nothing. The person could have also disappeared. He only told him to stay in Izmir and be ready when it starts. Eventually he got a phone call and someone wanted to meet him in the park. There he got an address and he was supposed to take a taxi there. About 40 people were loaded onto trucks and brought onto boats. All of this was obviously very scaring as he felt that the boats were overloaded. They arrived on greek mainland after a 2 hour trip on the water.
The border from Greece to Macedonia was extremely dangerous as a lot of criminals tried to profit from the situation. Thieves were wearing police uniforms and robbing people. The actual police was according to him extremely violent and aggressive. To get from Macedonia to Serbia he had to pay another 600 Euro because he believed he couldn’t have made it alive without being in a group and with a human trafficker. It was full of mafia and criminals and the police just randomly hit refugees with sticks or tortured them with electro shocks. Most of the distances he did by walking or by bus. From Belgrade to Munich he paid another 700 Euro and arrived in Munich on the 27.06.2015.
From there he got send to the Thuringian forest in a refuge center. The first thing he did was filing in an application so that his wife could come to Germany. He had to leave her behind because this trip was nowhere near makable for a women. For two reasons, the first one is as simple as that she couldn’t have found work in Turkey to earn the money for the trip. It was already super hard for him, and no-one would have hired a refugee women from Syria. The second one is a lot sadder. The Macedonian border was a stronghold for criminals and women were not safe and might become victims of human trafficking and rape. So every refugee knew they had to go on this trip alone and bring their wives through legal channels.
We tried everything possible to get his wife over. We went to the department for foreign affairs. Side note: We were only able to talk to someone about his case, because I as a German citizen was with him and demanded justice. Alone he would have been send away. They proved his case and came to the conclusion that he fulfilled all criteria for her to follow. The last step to be taken was that she needed to go to a German embassy will all documents in order to get her visa. They told us that these appointments take up to a year and in Lebanon (the only really accessible embassy even longer). We were constantly on the phone and due to lots of requests from our side and me explaining everything in German, we got an appointment at the embassy in Istanbul. Hopes were up and then the shock. Even though she had an invite from the German embassy to come to Istanbul and get her visa to go to Germany, Turkey did not allow her to enter. Tears were rolling and one can only imagine in what kind of despair this couple was in. Kareem kept on going and filled in more applications for Lebanon. In the meantime he focused on building a nice home for his wife and spent all day sending out job applications. We worked on assessment centers, looked up companies and send out one application after the other. 95 percent didn’t even get back to him. 5 percent declined immediately.
On Christmas 2016 he was so sad and lonely that he obviously spent it we me and my family. He was that honored to celebrate with us that he was even to shy to eat, and we had to continuously tell him to help himself.
Knowing people like Kareem and his story makes me incredibly sad to see the current situation in Germany. People like him is what Germany needs and not those frustrated whingers who scream they would be the “nation” and baiting against refugees.
And I saved the best for the end. Kareems wife made it safe to Germany in June 2018 (after 4 years of being apart) and on the first of September he started and apprenticeship as a retail dealer at a bicycle shop, being extremely happy about it and not complaining a second that he actually has a university degree in finance and banking. This man and his wife are truly inspiring for me.