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Three worlds, one earth

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Ima­gine you’re strolling through a shop­ping street. It’s Sat­urday morn­ing and a lot of people are pur­chas­ing things in the shops. On your arm you carry your one-year-old son. He is fas­cin­ated by the many col­ours, the sounds and the hustle and bustle. Togeth­er with him, you’re just gaz­ing at the mighty trees that unfold in the middle of the street. BOOM. Chaos, everything is in ruins, your ears are numb, your vis­ion clouded. Your skin is burn­ing. Muffled cries, pan­ic spread­ing in your chest. A bomb. Right in front of your feet! Where is your son? A whistle. Your eyes turn black. Hec­tic. There he is. Your son… Your heart stops. Your son lies there and looks at you. The arms reach for you. Tears. You must take him away from here.

Ima­gine sit­ting on the floor of your con­tain­er, one of 200, togeth­er with your son and a friend. The black tea with some sug­ar is still too hot to drink. Your son is rest­less and you are annoyed by his nag­ging. Your friend is try­ing to start a con­ver­sa­tion about the jost­ling for food, a fam­ily mov­ing into the nearby con­tain­er 65, but you don’t want to talk. You don’t want to think. But the grey cor­rug­ated walls, the grey floor always force the same thoughts on you… When your friend says good­bye, you notice that your son is sleep­ing next to you and your tea is cold.

Ima­gine stand­ing at a table with dif­fer­ent veget­ables. Six oth­er people are sli­cing onions, car­rots, egg­plants, pota­toes, cab­bage and pep­pers with you. You chat about your yes­ter­day-made wooden shelf and the col­our­ful brace­lets in dif­fer­ent lan­guage snip­pets and tooth and nail. Every now and then you ask the volun­teer to get more ingredi­ents from the pantry. You are happy that there will be some­thing really tasty for every­one at lunch today — with your help! A few times you look out the win­dow and see your son. Under the guid­ance of a sup­port­er, he and oth­er chil­dren cre­ate laugh­ing faces out of col­or­ful bal­loons. As the food is being dis­trib­uted, there is a deli­ri­ous applause from over 80 people for the kit­chen team. Your son sits next to you and proudly shows you his cheer­ful clay figure.

Three worlds, one earth
Three ima­gin­a­tions that all hap­pen in one way or anoth­er on this earth. Three dif­fer­ent worlds, so to speak. Stef­fen and I are just exper­i­en­cing all three of some. We are two of the vol­un­tary sup­port­ers from World Three. At the moment we are at Habibi.Works, an open work­shop for people who have fled their homes. Here they can be pro­duct­ive and find a new per­spect­ive for their lives. Because the last days, weeks, months and years of these people were often filled with no per­spect­ives. First there was the decision to flee.

Drift­ing away — the free escape
Hol­i­day­makers, emig­rants, long-term trav­el­lers and many oth­ers flee from their cul­ture, the famil­i­ar and every­day life, vil­lage bore­dom, the nar­row­ness of their own coun­try, the city and its stor­ies, a fos­sil­ized sys­tem, the unful­filling job, the cold, their own per­son. Stef­fen and I have taken these vari­ous causes of flight from TV series such as “Die Aus­wan­der­er” and the Swiss coun­ter­part “Auf und Dav­on”, which seem to be very pop­u­lar at the moment.

People from Ger­many and oth­er afflu­ent coun­tries “flee” because they can — people from oth­er coun­tries flee because they have to.

What a lux­ury Stef­fen and I have in being the own­er of a Ger­man pass­port with which we can move freely on this earth in most cases. It is a great priv­ilege for which we did not have to work our way up in any way. We could just, with our own free will, with the feel­ing of pure free­dom and goose bumps out of respect for and from all over the world, pack our back­packs and set off. Awe­some! The free flight of the priv­ileged. The goal of these people: a beau­ti­ful life.

Would you want to live in world one?

The goal of a beau­ti­ful life con­nects them with those people we actu­ally call “refugees”. But the fun­da­ment­al dif­fer­ence is the cause of flight. It is not vil­lage bore­dom nor the cold of winter that people we meet in Habibi.Works talk about. No, it’s bru­tal war; death threats because you believe in anoth­er god or love the same sex; eco­nom­ic ruin because the har­vest was des­troyed due to cli­mate change; tor­ture if you belong to the wrong party; ter­ror; zero oppor­tun­it­ies to find decent work; no social or oth­er secur­ity… There are many ter­rible exper­i­ences that people have to exper­i­ence in their home country.

Ima­gine liv­ing in World One. Would you want to stay?

About stag­na­tion and the desire to change one’s life
Stef­fen and I “flee” exactly the oth­er way round — the “Balkan route” from Z to A. We want to get to know as many people and their stor­ies as pos­sible and get involved in vari­ous pro­jects. Our travel codex shows the many dif­fer­ent facets which we involve along the way.

So far we have met many people who want to change their lives: mostly young people from Croa­tia or Ser­bia who want to go to Ger­many or Sweden because they see no future in their own coun­try. Mostly they men­tion polit­ics and/or the eco­nom­ic situ­ation as a reas­on. They only see stagnation.

Every single story is heart­break­ing
In World Two, we encounter a very dif­fer­ent kind of stand­still. People have been stuck here in north­ern Greece for over two years. Like in a pris­on, only instead of the bars there are the grey cor­rug­ated walls of the con­tain­ers, the Greek eco­nomy and polit­ics, the bor­ders to the desired countries. 

Nearly 1000 refugees are accom­mod­ated in Kat­si­kas Camp alone. Many still have fam­il­ies in their home coun­tries, which they must fear for every second. Oth­ers have acquaint­ances in pris­ons and are afraid of bad news. Oth­ers have their lov­ers in Athens or sis­ters in Ger­many. Every single story is heart­break­ing. The plaguing minutes pass only hourly. Slug­gish days pass by. And always these agon­iz­ing thoughts.

What to do? Back home? Try­ing to cross the bor­ders without papers? Learn the lan­guage here and look for a job?

Ima­gine you would live in World Two. What would you do?

Wait­ing for a future
Most of the time the answer is: Wait. The refugees sit in the camp and wait. Wait­ing for a future. But hope­less­ness is omni­present. Many European states are seal­ing them­selves off, clos­ing their bor­ders. Right-wing extrem­ism is en vogue again. The media report more on stu­pid Twit­ter state­ments than on the lack of urgently needed on-the-spot help and the fight against the causes of flight at their home coun­tries. The fact many do not want to hear: Europe has a par­tial fault and respons­ib­il­ity for this situation!

Get­ting a piece of dig­nity back
So to world three: The pro­ject Habibi.Works in Kat­si­kas. This open work­shop was foun­ded in August 2016 by the Ger­man asso­ci­ation Soup and Socks. For many, com­ing here means tak­ing the first step towards integ­ra­tion, because in Habibi.Works they come into con­tact with oth­er cul­tures and rules. Dur­ing their wait­ing peri­od, the fugit­ives will be giv­en the oppor­tun­ity to devel­op and unfold. This “wait­ing area”, how­ever, is so much more alive than that of doc­tors: In vari­ous areas such as tex­tiles, cre­at­ive corners, wood and met­al work­shops, kit­chens and media labs, they can con­trib­ute their skills and pro­duce use­ful things. They receive pro­fes­sion­al sup­port from the inter­na­tion­al team. Help­ing them to help themselves.

The people who come here daily between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. come with anti­cip­a­tion and leave with a smile and a new brace­let or wooden shelf. Every day the team real­izes that the work here makes sense. Sense for the people who would oth­er­wise only be in World Two. Here they can work self-determ­ined and get a piece of dig­nity back.

Cure or treat symp­toms?
But the hope­less­ness of World Two unfor­tu­nately knows no bound­ar­ies, because World Three offers only a treat­ment of symp­toms, but no heal­ing. The ques­tions remain. What to do? World One should be abol­ished. But without abol­ish­ing con­cen­trated polit­ic­al decisions and efforts at European and inter­na­tion­al level, World One, there will always be World Two and World Three. 

From World Two to World Three
We are happy about every single per­son who also sup­ports oth­er people, espe­cially those in need. Our time here in Habibi Works is for us the lived proof that some­thing can be changed. Only a few com­mit­ted people have man­aged to hand over people from World Two to World Three.

Yeah, exten­sion!
Stef­fen and I have already been here for three weeks. Stef­fen sup­ports pro­jects in the met­al work­shop and I in the cre­at­ive stu­dio. We have exten­ded our time here until the Christ­mas break. We will def­in­itely con­tin­ue to sup­port Habibi.Works because we have exper­i­enced such heart­warm­ing and beau­ti­ful moments so far.

To anoth­er three unfor­get­table weeks!

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