Home » Seminars and Projects » Study trip Madrid 2011 » Exile stories XV: „If my kids are happy, I’m happy too”

Exile stories XV: „If my kids are happy, I’m happy too”

Martyna has gone to a refugee camp in Poland. There she found people from the Caucasus who escaped from the war and conflicts in their countries.

Martyna, Poland

She spoke with the officials of the camp and then had the opportunity to interview A., a woman from Dagestan who has lived as a refugee since one year and two months ago.

In order to prepare the summary for the academy, I visited a centre for aliens applying for refugee status or asylum, placed 16km from my home.
Due to one of recent law regulations, the centre should be removed – such places ought to be located up to 200 km from Eastern borders and it’s over 400 km in this case. Representatives of organisations helping refugees appealed against the resolution and were successful. There’re aliens from Russian republics as Chechnya and Dagestan. One can meet there people from Georgia as well. Generally, ones representing the same geographical area of Europe – Caucasus. As I learnt from the officials of the centre, first refugees came to there 3 years ago. They all had escaped from their homes because of the war which took place in the time. Most of the first aliens who came have already left, treating the stay in Poland just as a stop in a longer journey. The greater part wanted to move to Western Europe, mostly to France, Holland and Austria. Many of them were turned back to Poland at borders as Poland was the first country they got a place to stay in. Noways, many people come in search for a better life, having no opportunity to even get a medical help.At the beginning of conversation with the officials, I learned that not a lot of the aliens are willing to talk about their experiences. Many of them lie, still being afraid of telling the truth. Especially secretive are older ones. Luckily I gained some interesting information from the officials and was able to talk to one woman from Dagestan called A.. She spoke only Russian and I needed help in translation as I’d never learnt the language.Since 2000, Dagestan has been the venue of a low-level guerilla war, bleeding over from Chechnya; the fighting has claimed the lives of hundreds of federal servicemen and officials – mostly members of local police forces – as well as many Dagestani national rebels and civilians.

A., the person I managed to talk to, is a pregnant middle-aged woman, mother of 4 other children already – all born in Dagestan, aged 8, 5, 4 and 2. She’s lived in the centre for 1 year and 2 months. To understand why she escaped, it’s needed to learn how had looked her life before.
At the time she left it was very dangerous in the place she lived. Various people were kidnapped by fighting units, bombs were planted. No one knew who did it and why. It was dangerous to live home at all. If families called police officers to find a kidnapped person, they immediately wanted money for it. Nothing could be done there without extra money – every institution was corrupted, even medical help. A.’s children had a lot of health problems and without help of her brother who worked in another place in Russia, she wouldn’t be able to afford paying money to doctors for their service. Her husband didn’t work, she was the main bread winner in the family, working at butcher’s. One of her daughters had two operations on lungs. Pediatricians claimed she needed one more and demanded huge amount of money for it. Furthermore, her son had problems with walking. It was very shocking to hear absurd rules in Dagestan. Like such one: when a third boy is born to a family, he’s killed – doctors infect navel wound and children die.

My interlocutor was very unhappy in her family life – her husband had drunk plenty of alcohol and generally was a very bad father. When they divorced, he paid money to a court to make them decide the children should’ve stayed with him. At the time A. got contacted by an aunt, a refugee in Poland, who adviced her not to wonder any longer and to escape as soon as possbile. It was the immediate cause of the escape.The money needed for the trip were the last savings she’d managed to collect from the earnings in her job. Unfortunately, soon my interlocutor and her children ran away from the savings. They travelled by train with a change in Brest in Belarus, slept at the railway station. She didn’t have much problems with crossing the border – as she supposes, it was because she was just a woman with 4 children.Their next stop was Biała Podlaska, 50km distant from Brest. They spent there one month, got money and documents. Afterwards they were moved to Grupa – the place I met them. A.a says she’s very happy in Poland and she wants to stay in here. The oldest child has finished one class at Polish school, younger ones attend kindergarten. They don’t feel a lack of anything. To quote her words: „If my kids are happy, I’m happy too”.