So now this is finally the english version of my latest article of the german book „Im Falschen Paradies“ von Yosef Şimşek.
I know I said the article would be online on Tuesday – and today is Friday … but… you know… life came around and so it is the end of the week when I found a little time to tranlate.
I hope you can live with that and are still interested in this book. I try my best to translate the quotes.
If you have questions or want to leave a comment: Please do so 🙂
Everyone is talking about the people who flee from the war in their country and are looking for a life in safety and a future in „our“ germany.
And some of them are having troubles with and are upset by the „flow of refugees“ which they compare to emigrations of nations. But they misremember, that also in former times there were people who were looking for another „home“ because of different circumstances which led them to a life in different countries.
And you mostly never do such a heavy step in life by choice.
Those who come to our country mostly have not only to deal with the way of life in Germany and the new language: they also have to find a life between two cultures: the one they are used to – with sometimes – for us – scary or incomprehensible details – and the culture that is lived here in Germany.
Sure – there are „black sheep“ and it would be bad to ignore that fact – but most of the „newcomers to Germany“ just wish to get a peaceful life and integrate in our society.
One of the people who had to manage the antagonism between the „home-culture“ and the traditions in Germany is a guy named Yosef Şimşek.
Born in 1990 in Hamburg he had just one wish during his childhood: to belong to a group and to have friends. But exactly there was the problem: his devout father and the older brothers ruined his wish (and his life at these times) all the time.
Now he found the time to write down his experiences and published them in the form of a book at the Riverfield-Verlag. The book has the title: „The wrong Paradise – how my life between cultures was turned out a nightmare“.
In the book he writes about his childhood-years with all the problems he has to face as a boy.
“My name is Yosef, in arabic Yussuf, and I was born into an arabic-islamic family who lived a long time in the Lebanon. There my parents married in the capital Beirut and my mother gave birth to their first children.”
In the arabic countries exist different ideas of the duties and actions of a man – so young Yosef has to live through the devout upbringing of his father.
“In the course of time the teasing grow towards smaller fisticuffs which then started to grow to sometimes daily beats.
Why did all of this start?
Well, just because I sometimes happen to help my sister with the hair care of her Barbies. But most of all because I had my old and tattered stuffed-animal bunny which was given to me by the Red-Cross. I liked to have it in my arms, liked to hug it and really loved it so much, that I also used to go to bed with it.”
His elder brothers and his father have been formed by the different comand structures and the family requirements in their home-country so much that they couldn’t imagine any other way of upbringing and education.
And because of this devout upbringing even his mother couldn’t – at least not in the understanding of our german world – help him in his need.
At first Yosef has some friends in school and he also trusts his teacher. Until the moment when he is again beaten by his father and not only his body but also his soul is beginning to suffer from that.
“My father was beating me as if I was a naughty and wild animal whom he has to teach respect. He kept on beating until my whole body was laced with red spots and only thing left for me to do was tremble with fear. When he stopped he kneeled down beside me until we were at eye level. Then he roughly lifted me and slapped me in the face. Then he screamed at me:
‘So, you are playing with Barbies, right?! And you go to bed with your stuffed bunny?! Are you a girl with a penis or what? Let me tell you this: i only want proper men in my house! I won’t bring up some pantywaists or poofs. You understand!’”
The situation got only worse after Yosef didn’t get to move to the next class in school… Even his mother has to say little to comfort him:
“You have to try harder, my son. You have to accomplish something. There will be a day when all this agony and pain will be forgotten. Then you will be on your own and earn your own money. Then you will also find time to buy your Mummy a present to make her happy. One day all of this will be gone, my child. I know that it’s not easy – to always be beaten without reason – but this is your destiny. […]”
Little time later Yosef founds out that he is talented in the artistic field: he is really good at drawing. In retrospective he for sure realised that also this talent is not a good thing in the eyes of his family:
“Back then I didn’t understand that in the eyes of my father and my elder brothers I wasn’t a „real man“ and not someone to seriously talk to. For them I was just the shame of the family; in their archaic beliefs was no place for someone like me who is easily crying, has a soft heart and a faible for drawing.”
In the future Yosef gets – also because of his inner conflicts – some more problems in school. And not only there.
His family is behaving completely different and isn’t telling him the reason.
But Yosef also has his times of luck: f.e. when a neighbour of the family appears to help him while his father is about to beat him once more.
“Suddenly Frau Schall came to me, helped me get up and said: „Come my boy, I’ll drive you to the doctors.“
When I was about to climb into the car of Frau Schall my mother came running and get next to me in the car. After Frau Schall reversed out of a parking space she really accelerated and drove as fast as she could to our doctor; we didn’t have a hospital in our spot.
Noone said anything during the short time driving. In this moment I was really thankful that my mother got Frau Schaller because my dad surely would have beaten the shit out of me otherwise.”
Yosef Şimşek has not only dedicated this book to his mother – it is also a declaration of love for the woman who gave birth to him and always loved him, although she couldn’t show it that much.
“I loved my mother and always wanted her to be happy. She is a real mama who always wants the best for her children. I knew that and really felt it. But she also was a prisoner of her upbringing and her culture and just couldn’t leave it that easily. She just wasn’t able to forget everything she was taught, no matter how much she would’ve loved to.”
There were hard times following, but also good times, while Yosef was growing up, gaining experiences and sometimes could even enjoy the company of his mother all by himself.
“Yussuf, Habibi, are you bored?”, my mother asked one day when she came into the room and I was lying uninterested on the bed. […] I think it was heart-warming how she tried to give me other thoughts. Without hesitation I resorted with her to the kitchen and saw that she was about to bake cookies – Mamoul, a specialty of the Lebanon. […] It was the first time that I was helping my mother in the kitchen. And – whether I wanted it or not – I was in the middle of the things happening. Everything else fell into place: everytime my mother needed help in the future she was always calling for me.”
But after another incident in the family Yosef has to ask himself one thing:
“Is my life in danger as long as I am in this family?”
- Is Yosef going to be accepted in his school? Where will his behaviour lead to?
- What is it about the disappearing things of the family?
- Could a new psychologist in school help Yosef change his life?
- Can Yosefs mother help him?
- What else is happening in the family of Yosef…?
- What secrets does the family conceal from Yosef – and how are they discovered?
When the family of Yosef is expelled from Germany a whole new chapter begins in the life of the boy. He was born in Germany and now has to go to a country whose language he didn’t speak and whose costoms are foreign to him…
“On some days I woke up and hoped for all of this – the surrounding, the foreign people, the foreign language and this whole culture – to just be one of my nightmares. I hoped to just be able to open my eyes and everything would be normal: I would be back in Germany, in my bed – where I belonged.“
He also sees that other countries are dealing in a different way with foreign people than it’s the case in Germany. Here in Germany there are language courses – and in Turkey everything is different. That’s the way Yosef tells it in his memories.
- Will the school-psychologist in the new school in Turkey be able to help Yosef to achieve his dreams?
- What are Yosefs dreams?
- How can his mother positively influence this dream?
Despite all Yosef suffers a depression and has to fight a hard fight and gets to see a psychiatrist to help him.
During his story Yosef Şimşek always talks about the effects of the war in Syria.
“Before the war, shortly before we passed through it, Aleppo had nearly 2,5 Mio. inhabitants and was the second largest city in Syria after Damascus. […] and the historic center of Aleppo is one of the oldest in the whole orient. Since the mid-eighties of the last century it is part of the UNESCO-world-cultural-heritage. […] All this was reduced to ashes nearly a year later. Aleppo is hard-fought since 2012. Whole parts of the town are fully destroyed and the most part of the residents fleed. With this fights going on is also the destruction of historical monuments just as the Umayyaden-Mosque, the bazaar with its nearly 1000 businesses and the traditional and wonderful old living environments.”
- How is the psychiatrist helping Yosef?
- How is Yosef helping himself?
Yosef engaged in the time that followed a lot with refugees and talked to many of them. Also this insight and wise words can be found in the book.
Yosef is asking many questions some of us are also having in mind – and hardly a person can understand…
He is working on fulfilling his dream and is also working as a model. He also worked in a five-star-hotel in Antalya and found his peace:
“Today I am a lucky man. I have learned to live with both cultures. In the past I was lost in between them. All people are different but nevertheless we share the same small world. I have come to peace with myself.”
“The wrong Paradise” is a book worth to read about a difficult childhood and the way into an adult-life formed by positivity.
Many thanks to the Riverfield-Verlag for sending me the reviewer’s copy.