MY family fled Kosovo and moved to Finland in 1992 when I was two years old. As refugees, we were placed in a remote asylum centre that was located in a small town of around 2,000 people, about 100km from the capital Helsinki.
I don’t have any memories of life before Kosovo and very few of our first years in Finland. I remember only details here and there. But I do remember that I was plagued by a certain feeling: the disappointment my parents felt radiated from them.
They had left a fairly decent life behind and a moment later they were in the middle of nowhere, among people they couldn’t understand, in a foreign country that was supposed to be everything but what it was.
I remember how a worker shouted to my mother when she was eating that in Finland people don’t eat with their hands, and I remember how bothered my mother was by that.
I remember how another worker said to my father that his kids were beasts that should be chained, and how angry my father was after that.
I remember how scary the forest that surrounded the asylum centre was because my two older brothers convinced me that forests in Finland are endless, that they go on for ever, that there are places people haven’t ever visited.
Because I was such a sensitive child I imagined the forest being full of scary beasts, dragons and ghosts. I remember being afraid of spending time outside because of that.