Being a refugee is an extremely different and new experience for me. At first, I was afraid of it and I could only see the painful parts of it. But, now, I have been learning to embrace it as one of my beautiful identities. Therefore, I want to share my first impressions of living in a refugee camp in Finland.
When we came to Helsinki by plane, we were shocked because we finally succeeded to reach a safe place for us. We surrendered to the airport security and after integration and searching, they guided us to go to the reception centre which is located in the centre of Helsinki. A kind young man welcomed us and showed us our room. It was late and our children wanted to sleep. When we stepped into the room, we saw some fruits and bread. Maybe, it was a small thing but it touched us a lot… We were in a completely foreign country and somebody thought that we might be hungry.
We had two bunk and one single bed, one small table and two chairs in our room. Also, we had a separate toilet and shower. However, there was not enough space for two small children. We ate our meals with other residents in a hall. Unfortunately, we could not eat most of the food because of our religious instructions. We stayed there only two days. They sent us to Turku for a more permanent place.
We went to Turku by train. One officer guided us to the station while we were carrying little possessions in plastic bags. Just after that, I realized the brutal fact that we were refugees. When we arrived in Turku, one officer came to take us from the train station again. They took us to a building. I guess it was a former school. After our check-in process, each of us was given a large bag with a duvet, pillow, bed linen and kitchen utensils. We took our loads and went to our room.
The floor we were in consisted of two parts. In our section, there were three rooms, a kitchen, a toilet and a shower. When I entered the room, my eyes were inevitably filled and I had to gather myself immediately as my elder son noticed this. Compared to the camps in Greece, this was a five-star hotel; however, we had had better conditions in Turkey…
Our place in fact consisted of two rooms, one small and one large. There were two bunk beds in each room, and we had a larger table, dressing cabinets and four chairs. As I entered the room, the door to the next room was ajar and I was shocked when I saw the inside of that room. People have stayed there for so long that they have turned the room into a house. Seeing this, I was sorry for them and despair filled me.
While I was cleaning the room with the strongest detergents, I was praying to live in a place of our own as soon as possible. At the entrance of the building, there was a large room with a TV, table football and table tennis. Usually, the children spent time here, but I could not send my children alone because there was no attendant with the children. Non-child programs could open on TV, and I also think it was not a clean place. A video about what to do in case of fire was constantly being shown on the screen above the reception. We saw it so much that after a while we started hating this video.
One day a week was a cleaning day. Of course, I was the one who took care of this duty in the family. I cleaned the toilets, the bathroom, the kitchen, the entrance, perhaps as beautiful as never before. After the cleaning, our neighbour in the next room came and thanked me many times. Of course, I was very surprised because I just did my duty. I realized later that I didn’t need to clean the toilet and bathroom, they cleaned them once a month.
In the refugee camp, other people had at least one other person who came from the same country or speaks the same language. In here, we were totally strangers. There were other Muslim families too, but we could not speak the same language.
The next week after our arrival finally came a Turkish family which had the same backgrounds as us. It made us really happy as if we met our relatives. I do not underestimate or judge other communities; however, in such a situation, we needed somebody who can totally understand us.
Moreover, this Turkish family was our first guest in Finland. We invited them for dinner and we gave a camp tour for them. It felt good to help other people. We could stay there for almost two weeks; then, they transferred us to another refugee camp.
Of course, every day of staying in a refugee camp is a different story. I wanted to give you an overview. When we were about to leave the camp, I cleaned everywhere as if we continued our stay there. I did not want to make another mother disappointed…