A refugee in Latvia: Dina wants to engineer her future here

Take note – story published 7 years ago

19-year-old Dina and her family come from Baghdad. She's been here for nine months now and is studying Latvian. She hopes to become an engineer one day. Her story is part of a Latvian Radio strand about people from the Mucenieki asylum seekers' center who are learning Latvian and want to make their future here.

Dina is different from some of the other girls at Mucenieki in that she's interested in fashion. On the day Latvian Radio is interviewing her, she has colored her hair once again. Now it's black but it had previously taken blue, pink, blonde and chestnut hues.

Dina wants to live in Latvia and to graduate from Rīga Technical University (RTU) as an engineer.

Her mother, father and 15-year-old sister Mina accompany her to the interview. It's no surprise that the arranged place is Vērmanes garden as you can often see asylum seekers here.

Before becoming a refugee, Dina was able to graduate high school in Baghdad. She shows pictures of school uniforms and her classmates. The memory card of her phone is full with pictures from her home town. She says she misses the mountains of Iraq--even hills are a rarity in Latvia.

Her family is still beginning their Latvian studies so the interview takes place partly in Latvian and partly in English.

Dina says that the greatest difference between Latvia and Iraq is security, which is lacking in her homeland.

One of her relatives has lost an arm in a recent bomb blast in Baghdad. Dina says she's used to seeing blasts since her early years. That's why she stresses repeatedly that she cherishes the fact that she can go to a store in Rīga without fearing for her life, or dream away an afternoon at the park together with her family or friends.

Among her favorite places in Rīga is not only the Vērmanes garden but also the 11th November Embankment, from which you can gaze at the Daugava river. Every time the family goes there, she passes the RTU building where she wants to study and obtain an engineer's qualification.

Dina liked physics in high school, and she wants to attend the university and find a well-paid job.

In September her sister Mina will start attending grade 9, but her parents want to find a job in their own field of expertise.

"My mother worked at a bank, and my father worked at a gas company," she says.

But now, in summer, the family attends Latvian lessons twice a week. Despite it being difficult to talk in longer sentences, Dina seems eager to learn. She says that she waits impatiently for Mondays and Fridays when they're learning Latvian. She even calls her teacher "a second mother".

She shows pictures from a lesson shortly before Midsummer, when the girls were studying Latvian folk dance, weaved cornflower wreaths and listened to stories about the local traditions in order to prepare for celebrating Midsummer at the 11th November Embankment, a place she seems to like very much.

In August the court will decide whether she and her family will be allowed to stay. She'll be turning 20 just about that time.

"I hope that Latvia will become my country. Be happy. Thank you," she writes on a placard for the audience.

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