Step by Step
Zula is tall, with beautiful eyes, light brown, gazing from under dark blue eyelashes. Little pieces of paper are covering the cork board above her desk like thick ivy: “Thank you, Zula”, and mainly “I love you, Zula! Kuba”, “I love you, Zula! Agata”, “Zula, I love you…Jurek”, “…Zosia”, “…Rafal”… Zula is a doctor. She came to Poland after the beginning of second Russian-Chechen war.
For me success is when a man, regardless of the situation he is in, strives after a goal and achieves it. Achieves the success, but does not stop there – finds another goal right away. As long as you live you will strive after a goal. Step by step – one success after another.
It was success for me to cross the Polish border. Ten years ago, reaching a country I could be safe in, where I would not be persecuted, humiliated, where I could feel normal and calm.
I felt it was a success when I could hide my passport somewhere at the bottom of my suitcase. My son asked: why are you hiding it? They will come in five minutes or in half an hour and they will check it – this was what he was used to. No – I said – not here. Until this day no one has checked my ID in Poland.
Success is a happy breath: something you have been aiming to achieve has passed, it is behind you, but you are not thinking about the future yet. Here and now I am calm, free – this feeling stays in your memory for ever.
When you reach a refugee centre, you get everything: a roof over your head, personal hygiene products, bedding – you can get undressed calmly, take a shower and go to bed. Although you wake up at night and think: where am I? – you know that you’ve made it, that you have led your loved ones to a place where they are safe. This is your success as a mother, as a woman. You were capable of protecting your children.
A refugee finds him- or herself in a country in which he or she feels a stranger. Everything is different. It is a success to find your way in a new country. Not only in the refugee centre. Live in such a way so as to give something to the society and the country which has accepted you. Be a normal human being you used to be in your homeland. Normal meaning: living, working, opening up, offering something. Not being a vegetable – I will wait six months, maybe a year, then I hope to go back, of course if the war is really over. There is no such option. You have to find harmony with yourself and with your new surroundings. When you start talking to the people around you in their language – this is a huge success.
After all, each one Chechen refugee who experiences war and escape is traumatised – in a way psychologically disabled. Society must help them then, but do so wisely: know who that person is and the direction the aid should take.”
When talking to me, Chechen refugees admit that they would like to stay in Poland but they cannot afford it. In order to move out from the centre, you have to rent a flat. Not many people want to let a flat to a refugee, and it is costly. Persons who were 13–14 when the war started are 23–24 today. They do not have a learning habit or a sense of responsibility. They simply did not manage to learn it. This is where a government aid programme could come in. The current 12-month integration programme is not enough. It should be extended to at least three years. Then refugees could learn the language and the state would verify it: you don’t learn – you don’t get additional financing, then work, they would start paying taxes – the system should strive to achieve this.
Unfortunately, this is costly – if we don’t want to lead them to the fringe of society. And there are more and more refugees because the war continues.
Everyone would like to be successful – have a job, a car, money for holidays for the family. There is no difference between the vision of success of a refugee and a Pole, but for a refugee the road to this success has to be multiplied several times.
Now I have children who are at school, I have work, we are a nice, normal family, we like people and people like us. This is our success but also the success of all those people who helped us in the past, who gave me my status, extended a helping hand. Now they can observe the effects of their work. It is not a success to earn big money. Success is to come to your workplace, like it, feel good. Be surrounded by people, talk, even quarrel but have a common language, sense of community, the same goal – this is success. Be a good person and be aware of it, be kind, helpful, not perfect, there are no such people. This is success. Because it is happiness and in each success there is a drop of happiness.