"I feel German."
Hello, I am Edwige and I am 34 years old. My sisters and me were born in Congo. I also spent the first 8 years of my life there. We did very well there. We had a house and went to a private school. My father worked in the book store of a diamond mine. But times have changed. According to the regime, my father was in the wrong party and was politically persecuted. He had to go into hiding and was wanted on an arrest warrant. Since he could not be found, my mother was arrested and detained for 2 month. It was clear that nothing would change in this situation, so my parents, my younger sister and I left the Congo for Germany. My two older siblings had to stay with my grandparents. It took 4 years before they were allowed to come to Germany. We came to Cologne first and were then sent across Northern Germany from one asylum home to the next within a few month. We then had our first own apartment in Neumünster. Here I quickly made contact with other children on our street. I went to a reception class, today you would say welcome class, to learn German. I was then integrated into the normal class. My father insisted that only German was spoken at home, this helped us to learn the language quickly. We received only positive motivation and a lot of support from the school, but also from the neighbors. This made it easy for us to settle in and feel comfortable. It was clouded by the absence of our older siblings, who we had to leave behind. However, there were problems from the state side, my father was refused a work permit. So we were forced against our will to live on welfare. Only my mother got a work permit. Then she always worked. I did my high school diploma, an apprenticeship and studied business administration. The next problem came when my younger sister and I came of age. My parents had the residence permit in the meantime, but we were supposed to be expelled. Even though I went to school and studied here, I only got a toleration. If I wanted to leave the City, I needed a special permit from the government. It even went so far, that I was issued false papers for a school trip to Hungary and was arrested upon entry. After 24 hours of detention, I was sent back. My teacher accompanied me to Munich, from there I had to continue on my own. He had to go back to his classmates. As difficult as it was made for us by the state, people from our area helped us and fought with us. After another 3 years, I received my residence permit through the hardship case regulation. My asylum procedure took a total of 13 years. Like everyone in our family I have had German citizenship since 2007. A year and a half ago I got a job at Top Shop, a UK company, where I am responsible for the European operations. As a result, I travel a lot in Europe for work. Before that i worked at H&M for 6 years. I speak German, French, English and Lingala, the Congolese national language. I perfected my English during a two year stay in the USA. 2 years ago I was back in Congo for the first time and saw my grandmother for the first time in 20 years. What struck me was that the people there have to make life with a lot less, but are friendlier and happier. It was actually strange for me that I was in the middle of millions of people who had the same skin color as me. I had not expected this feeling! I am very liberal but grew up with Congolese traditions. I owe the person that I am today to Germany. The help we received from all the people here and their social commitment shaped me. Today I am very involved in the Congolese community in Berlin, attend the services, appreciate the social community and translate sermons there.