A refugee in Latvia: Karzan dreams of working at a bank

Take note – story published 7 years ago

Several dozen people are residing at the Mucenieki asylum seekers' center, having arrived in Latvia after fleeing war and danger to their lives. Only a few have so far been legally recognized as refugees. Latvian Radio unveils a new strand about the people from Mucenieki who are learning Latvian and want to make their future here.

Karzan, a Kurd from northern Iraq, is the subject of the first story.

"I am Karzan Ali. I'm 27. I'm from Iraq. I have been living in Latvia, at Mucenieki, for nine months now," says Karzan in Latvian.

Latvian Radio's Vita Anstrate interviewed Karzan on a summer morning in one of the less crowded parks of central Rīga. You can often see asylum seekers at Rīga's Vērmanes park, but Karzan prefers places more peaceful.

"I like Rīga's parks when there are few people there and it's quiet," he says.

Karzan stands out from the rest of the asylum seekers with his towering height and also with his loose relations with religion. Karzan ate both traditional Latvian and Iraqi foods during Ramadan. He claims that there's one God for all of us, and true faith resides in the heart.

He does look different from most Latvian men, in that the tone of his skin is darker. However, in crowded Rīga at least, Latvian Radio did not see anyone paying him unseemly attention on the street.

Back in Iraq, Karzan was forced to fight in the Kurdish national army where he saw terrible things and received wounds in his arm, shoulder and leg. 

"I miss my country, but I would like to live in Latvia and adopt your traditions," he says. He has been learning Latvian for the second month now and seems to be making progress.

"I like learning Latvian, and I have a good teacher," he says, again in Latvian. 

Karzan smiles whenever he mentions his Latvian lessons. He says he's lucky having such study mates and such a teacher--she's trying to present every topic in a way that's interesting to everyone, says Karzan.

Time passes quickly in the lessons as they're celebrating traditional Latvian festivals, singing songs and throwing parties for the students who have birthdays. As he knows some Latvian, Karzan can already buy things at the store and take care of practical arrangements.

Karzan used his time on air by thanking his Latvian friends and saying he respects the locals. He has visited various points of interest in Latvia, having gone to Jūrmala and most recently Jelgava.

He's a great swimmer and used to take part in swimming competitions in Iraq. Recently he took his first dip in the Baltic Sea.

What surprised Karzan here in the north is the cold. He says he was very cold in the winter when he saw the thermometer slide below -20C for the first time in his life.

He was unable to leave Mucenieki without several layers of clothing during the cold snap. Even though there's snow in Iraq, temperatures seldom if ever fall below zero degrees Celsius, so lasting snow can only be seen on the mountaintops.

In August the court decision will come on whether Karzan can stay. He has a university education in business management, and wants to learn Latvian and work at a bank. However currently he's also prepared to learn something else in order to land a job - he could become a cook or a swimming trainer.

Karzan turns 28 on August 13 and hopes that he'll be able to celebrate this one and others in Latvia where he's found refuge after leaving his homeland.

Here's Karzan writing "May each day be blessed to you!" in Latvian.

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