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Refugees show how they see and experience Berlin

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At querstadtein nine city-guides from Syria and Iraq are involved. They show Berliners and visitors the city from their perspective.

„There’s a shared experience in all our resumes and that’s war,“ says Samer. „There was a time before the war, then the war came, and we lost everything. When we came to Germany, the time after the war began. For us, it was like being reborn.“

Samer came to Berlin from Syria in 2015. In his home country, he managed a big factory. He also ran his own import/export company. In Berlin, he met Dominika, who was at the time a volunteer for querstadtein, a non-profit that offers city tours from unusual perspectives. Formerly homeless people show the neighborhood streets where they once lived. Since 2016, refugees have joined the organization, showing „their“ Berlin, telling their story, and about how they came to Germany.

Dominika convinced Samer to join querstadtein. He has since been with the organization or two and a half years and guides tours through his neighborhood in Neukölln. But it’s not a tourist’s tour in the classic sense. „At querstadtein, refugees, who have been the subject of so much reporting and debate in the media, get to have their say. They become players in political education,“ explains Dominika, who now works as a project coordinator at querstadtein.

Samer’s tours primarily focus on sharing experiences and world views as peers: „The city tours are a good opportunity to learn to talk to each other instead of about each other. This is the only way we can find out how to live together well and make society better.“

And how was Samer’s arrival in Berlin? „That’s a complicated question because I actually arrived in Berlin twice,“ he replies. „The first time was very difficult because I didn’t know the city, the language, or the Germans. The second time I arrived was when I got to learn German, got to know Berlin, and the Germans. That’s when I really arrived. I’ve been comfortable here ever since. I can even now say that this is home.“