20 June, 2014

Tell a different story: together we achieve more

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Category: European Action Day, Refugees' stories
Ruxandra Pandea
7 am

Refugee Day


Together we achieve more

by Dilora Mukhtarova



Imagine a family of refugees resettled in another country: they do not speak the language of the country, they do not have any friends around. As experiences show, it is extremely difficult for these refugees sometimes to find their way in a new land, and in a jungle of new and unfamiliar things. However, our situation perfectly presented the truthfulness that “together we achieve more”.


Due to our emergency case, we were urgently resettled in Netherlands. In my country of origin – in Uzbekistan, my father was a human rights activist; therefore, he faced imprisonment, restrictions and persecutions. So we had to flee to neighbour country – Kyrgyzstan seeking for asylum and safety. But that country decided that we were asking for too much because giving asylum for refugees from its neighbour would harm the political relations between these countries. Thankfully, the Netherlands accepted us and invited us to resettle in a country where cheese and tulips come from. This was what I knew about Netherlands, nothing more.


We landed in the Netherlands where the municipality had found a house for us. We stood in the house with minimal household appliances and holding a bunch of official letters written completely in Dutch. What do we do now? We thought.


This is the question probably every migrant or refugee asks themselves. We got the answer from the volunteers and our neighbours surprisingly. Most of them were retired and elderly people who had never worked with refugees, with no idea about Uzbekistan. These people were just regular people who were well organized, kind and caring. This is the story I want to tell, the story of people who cared.


Before we went to the Netherlands, the Dutch organization that works with refugees, sent letters to a few residents of our allocated neighbourhood informing them about a new refugee family that will be moving there with nothing and any kind of help would be appreciated. The residents’ response was positive. Our neighbours welcomed us, shared their clothes and bought us household items that we needed. It did not matter that the items and clothes were used, t we were really glad and thankful to receive them. They even drove us to places we needed to go and helped us repair our house. It was a great support system for us because we practically had no money to buy even the necessities. We were overwhelmed by the support.


Our neighbours told us that they had a better relationship with each other since we arrived because everyone was working together to help us integrate better. We were a community, working, laughing and sharing together.


After two months of being in the neighbourhood, my family organized a gathering with the help of the Dutch Refugee Work Organization, where we served our traditional food and also Dutch homemade cakes and pies and handed a nice book as a present to each of our neighbours and to people who helped us. They were extremely happy. It was so nice to see them all together having a nice conversation in our house and enjoying our foods. We often organize such gatherings because we want to bring all neighbours together and make the friendship in our neighbourhood even stronger.

This is the how we are integrating in a completely unfamiliar and new society: maintaining our identity and culture but sharing it with our community and also learning and adapting from everyone around us.


It has been nine months since our resettlement and my father has succeeded in learning Dutch as volunteers at the local school help by teaching the language to refugees and migrants.


Although my mother faces difficulties in learning Dutch, she is not giving up. She volunteers and works together with Dutch women, refugees, and migrants in creating a garden of flowers, trees and vegetables.


My sister is already fluent in Dutch and loves reading and going to school on her bike just like the other kids in the neighbourhood.


As for me, I am finishing my Dutch language courses and I volunteer at a hospital and in a home for the elderly. Next year I am going to university.


We are and will be forever grateful for those people who helped us- the volunteers, our neighbours, new friends and even strangers. I think none of our progress would have been possible if our neighbours were not informed of our arrival beforehand. Our neighbours were involved in the process of helping us integrate and they learned about us but also each other.


There is no community without unity: open your hearts and minds. Come together because together we achieve more.



Refugee Day

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