A refugee in Latvia: Bunana wants to be safe with her children

Take note – story published 7 years ago

Bunana, an ever-smiling woman and a mother of three, is waiting for the court to legally recognize her as a refugee. During her time here, she has already learned some Latvian. She wants to remain in Latvia as this is a place she can feel safe for her own and her children's lives. Read her story in Latvian Radio's latest strand about refugees who want to live in Latvia.

Bunana is already something of a local celebrity. She has already given interviews to several media, and her daughters appeared on an endearing, hugely popular video singing a Latvian ditty.

"My name is Bunana. I am from Syria. I have two daughters and a son. I have a husband," says Bunana, in Latvian.

People in Rīga had even greeted her on the street upon recognizing her and her daughters on the internet.

"People are very nice. When I go to Rīga on a bus, people smile to me and sometimes I tell them "hello". And they feel happier, as I speak a little Latvian," says Bunana.

Latvian Radio interviewed her during her Latvian lessons, her favorite place in Rīga. She has two lessons a week, while her daughters have four.

The family's room at Mucenieki shows their devotion as it has the Latvian alphabet along with everyday words plastered to the walls.

She says it's so that her nine-year-old Sara and seven-year-old Lara would learn the language faster. They'll need it when they start going to school in September.

Bunana herself however shies away from saying difficult phrases in Latvian so she replies to some questions in English.

She says that she had worked at an international bank in Syria, but cannot work here as of yet as she is waiting for a court ruling over granting asylum.

Her husband Atif is a tailor. He has sewn dresses for Bunana as well, however most of them have been left behind in her home country.

She says she had not known anything about Latvia prior to arrival, but she thinks that the nature is beautiful here, the people are good, and these are good enough reasons to stay.

"I want to live here as the country is very beautiful. I like the people here," she says, in English.

"My daughters are happy as they're making friends with people from Latvia and study Latvian with them."

Volunteers that come to play with her children to Mucenieki on Mondays also give her reason to rejoice.

She says the main thing that's different between Latvia and Syria is the weather. Latvians seem to be sad about the chilly summer while currently it's very hot in Syria.

Secondly, she says, she and her children can feel safe. Besides the two lively daughters, she has a one-year-old son named Muhammad who was born shortly before the decision to leave her home country.

Despite agreeing not to talk about the past, Bunana says that, in Syria, war and traces of blood are seen everywhere. Hence, she wants to settle down here and perhaps visit her own country in the future.

"I like it here in Latvia," she writes in Latvian on a placard for the audience.

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