Teklemichael & Michael (22 and 21 years old, Eritrea)
We met Michael e Teklemichael in Pozzallo, in late September 2018. They had arrived in Europe since few weeks, after having survived a year long journey through Ethiopia and Libya. During the past year we kept on receiving on Facebook updates from them (“We’re still in Ragusa”), till the good news arrived three months back: they could finally reach Germany. For them it is a big step towards rejoining part of their family. One brother of them lives in Dortmund, the other one in Kassel.
At the beach, in Pozzallo, they looked like teenagers to us. They were young boys – we thought – still scared and shocked from the journey, but full of hope and excitement for the future. Now they look older, somehow different.
They live 25 km away from Berlin in a refugee house. On paper it is close to Potsdam, but while we drive there we understand that it is quite secluded, far away from everything, especially from the concept of home.
At the entrance two guards ask us for documents. “We’re friends”, we say and smile. They don’t smile back and give us visiting passes.
Michael, on the other hand, is welcoming us warmly. He calls us “sis”.
In the corridor bored kids are playing with water bombs, but the atmosphere is far away from cheerful. Michael show us the common kitchen, few electric stoves one after the other. On the side an empty dining room, without a single table to eat on. “We all eat separately in our rooms”, he later explains.
The room they live in is grey and dirty. It shows the passage of other migrants before them: stains on the carpet, moulded plaster and messages written on walls with pens. There are bunkbeds and way too many wardrobes – what are they for? Anyway, they prefer to keep their clothes inside big black suitcases.
The bedroom is shared with another young man from Eritrea. He was in the same boat with them and then in the same hotspot in Sicily. They moved together to the same refugee house in Ragusa, and after 9 months to the same accommodation we are visiting now in Germany.
“What did you do during all this time?”.
“We wait sis”.
They didn’t learn Italian, they are now not learning German. They cannot attend school, they’re too old for that. So they sleep, they wait, they think too much.
Michael plays for us a song with a traditional instrument, the kirar. The melody is sweet and melancholic. “What is it about?”, we ask.
“It’s a song about the future. About coming back to Eritrea, when there will be democracy”.
That it is a dream for now, he knows.
Michael and his closest friend can only wish for the near future: getting a passport, being allowed to study and work. Michael would like to become truck driver in case he will not make it with his music. Teklemichael would like to be an electrician.
That is one of the very few things he wants to tell us during our visit.