Thursday, 6th of June

Maja is given an ultimatum by her teacher Mrs Süßmund. She needs to hand in the signed application forms for enrolment by the following day.

Maya is very depressed about this, because her parents know nothing about her attending school. She keeps a cool head about the situation and promises Mrs Süßmund to return the needed documents with the signature of her parents by next day.

With a pounding heart Maya approaches her mother and confesses that she has furtively been attending school. At first her mother is totally taken aback and filled with consternation, but then shows understanding for her daughter. Even so Mayas mother is afraid of getting into trouble with the authorities by signing the documents. During the 1980’s school attendance of immigrant children in Germany is far from a matter of course.

Maya is quick-witted and replies to her mother’s concern with her teacher’s assurance, that signing the documents would not cause any problems. Maya’s mother hesitates, but finally agrees to sign the paper. Maya very much likes attending classes at the (secondary modern -/ junior high) school. She loves studying and takes her homework assignment along on her daily visits to the local youth-club, where Claudia, a social-worker, is willing to help her.

Mrs Süßmund is very much in favour of Maya and sees her as a hard-working and intelligent pupil, who she especially supports. After only three month Maya’s German is near to perfect and she has managed to fully integrate herself. At the age of 14 she starts earning a little money on the side as a waitress and starts an apprenticeship in a hotel after she finishes school. She meets her big love at the age of 16 and gets married. Meanwhile she has three children with her husband of which the eldest son is already 15. He would like to be a pilot when he grows up and is taking part in a work-experience with Lufthansa at the moment. Maya would like to bring up her children anti-authoritarian and tries to encourage them to make their own choices in life.

Maja is a positive example of a courageous young female asylum-seeker, who has managed to succeed in life and make positive changes, against all odds. Whilst holding the interview with Maya, I’m offered some of the delicious almonds and nuts, that are roasted in the families own cafeteria. But suddenly, I realize, I need to hurry, to get to Oranienplatz, where I have my next appointment for another interview.

Here refugees are momentarily living in tents. They belong to a protest-camp called the “refugee-strike” that is aimed at stopping asylum-seekers being deported from Germany. At first is seems finding an interview-partner could turn out to be very difficult, as most of the refugees are from Mali and only speak French. I ask a good friend of mine who lives in Berlin and who speaks fluent French, to accompany me on the Interview.

Unfortunately my friend has problems getting to the interview on time, so that I need to find a different way of communication. Time is pressing because I need to move on to Hamburg in an hour. I suddenly become aware of a likable young African man, who introduces himself by the name of Vito, from Nigeria.

I ask him for an Interview and straightaway he is pleased to grant my request. We find an empty tent, for the interview, so it can be held without any interruption. The story I am told is unbelievable and highly emotional and at times I wish I had been psychologically trained for such a situation.

During the conversation it gets clear to me that a person is only capable of really understanding what these war-refugees have gone through, if one self has truly experienced what they have had to go through. How the story goes on will be revealed here at a later date.