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«Welcome«to«Germany«

In the middle of last December I was dissatisfied. I couldn’t listen to any news about refugees anymore. The far right protests against immigration and Islam, all the numbers that’d been thrown around so often, I couldn’t stand it any longer. 

I wanted to meet some actual people, with real lives and real stories. I wanted to talk to them and to listen. So I grabbed my camera and started this project, that has changed my life completely.

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“There is war in my country.” 

Godstime (which is an awesome name in my opinion) is from Nigeria. He fled his homeland out of security reasons: “There is war in my country”, he says with a firm look into my eyes. 

It is Boko Haram he talks about, and as he names the militant movement, a few things click inside my head. I’ve heard about Bokoh Haram alot, but this is the moment I meet a fellow who actually knows what that means through his life. 

Godstime first fled to Italy overseas, with a boat. Again, a few things click in my head. I’ve heard about that, too. “It’s very dangerous”, Godstime adds. 

After two months in Italy, he found his way to Germany. And he is obviously very glad that he made it.

But with a few words, he explains to me that he has no family anymore. No family. I have to pause. These words pierce their way into my heart in seconds. 

Without further needing to explain, I do not ask how that happened. I think I know it. And I do not want to push our conversation too far. But I look into his eyes and respond, that I am very sorry. Godstime nods.

Welcome to Germany, Godstime. May you be safe. May you find people in our country, that give you warmth. May you find a home, that feels safe. May we help you, as much as we can.  

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“If I help other poeple, God will help me.” 

This is Yusef, 25 years old, from Togo. I met him on the streets, escorting another refugee to the train station. Yusef was totally okay with me taking a photograph of him, but he was kind of weary, because to him, nothing really mattered in the context of problems. So if as a consequence of the photographs he would have problems, he wouldn’t care at all. 

I saw that resigning in his face. But, Yusef had faith in God. “If I help other people, God will help me”. He said that over and over, and it was clear to me, that it gave him some strength and  resilience. 

I wish Yusef all the strength he needs for the future. Welcome to Germany! 

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Another day I met Nadia from Togo. She was out on the streets with her mother, her uncle and other refugees from Togo. As I talked to her and her mother, she couldn’t understand me, but one thing stuck me right away: 

She never looked away. Even as I took 3-4 photographs of her, she looked straight into the camera. Not for a second she stopped to focus on what I was doing. 

Nadia is 2 years old and I wish her all the best. Welcome! 

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Then I met Muhammed and his younger Brother. Both are Somali and have been in Germany for only a few days. Both looked very glad to be here and that joy translated without interruption – contrary to the hard exchange of words, if one doesn’t understand each other.

We met before this big sign that says “Christmas Market Of Karlsruhe”. As I took the photographs I found it somehow funny and a bit strange, but well, it kind of fits that we celebrate *love* these days, right?

I hope Muhammed and his brother will find a warm and safe place to stay and that they’ll feel welcomed in this country.   

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This is Suad (21) from the Republic of Macedonia. Back home, Suad worked at building lots, but had more and more problems and was forced to flee.

He made it to Germany with his wife and daughter, who is one year old. Suad was very open and friendly to me. He had alot of humor, was very happy to be here and made a strong impression on me. 

To be honest, if I were in his shoes, I’m not sure if I’d have the strength he has. I envy his calm and strength. 

Welcome to Germany, Suad! 

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“The area where my family lives is surrounded by military from the government. They can’t get out.“

This is Tamim from Syria. He just arrived the same morning when I met him. Tamim was very kind and open to me, but I saw what the past had done to him. 

But he had no option. He had to leave his country; his family could not leave their neighbourhood to get to him, nor could he get back in. 

So the very shy boy from Syria. he gave up everything he had, to come to us. At least to be secure. No military.

Tamim misses his family very bad. As would I. 

Tamim, welcome to Germany. May this country give you a safe place and a future that can heal your inner wounds. Stay strong. Stay strong.  

Martin Gommel is a photographer and Editor-in-Chief for the photo magazine kwerfeldein. Currently he is working on a project about refugees in Germany. He loves South-American Coffee , life and his little family.

Check out Martin’s work here: martingommel.de and on ello here: @martingommel

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