Today’s blog is going to be a little bit different. Today I am taking you back in time. Since I am taking you on my financial journey I think it is important that I share my background with you. To be honest, at first, I was hesitant about it, but as you can see I have made the decision to do it. It’s not that I wanted to hide this part of my life or anything. It’s just that some events that happened in my family’s life are hard to talk about. I ended up deciding to share my story because I think it will definitely help someone. And I want to show you that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel even though it doesn’t seem like it sometimes. My story is spread over a period of approximately 20 years. I don’t think that I will be able to share my story in one post, so I will break it down into different parts.
1996 – 2000
I was born in the summer of the year 1996, in a small village in The Netherlands. I was a child of two emigrant parents, who came to the Netherlands in 1994. When my parents came to this country my mother was pregnant with my older brother, who was born less than two months after my parents’ arrival.
My parents were asylum seekers, which made me and my brother asylum seekers as well, even though we were born in this country. At this young age I, of course, did not understand exactly what was going on. All I knew was that my parents were immigrants, that our stay in this country was uncertain, and that we did not have a lot of money. I still remember my mom always talking about and praying for a “status” and “papers”. I did not understand what papers she was talking about. I was always thinking “why doesn’t she just go to the store and buy some papers and give them to those people who are asking for them”. Unfortunately, life wasn’t that easy.
In this period we were a family of four living in an apartment with only 1 bedroom. My brother and I had our own bed. My mother slept on a mattress on the floor and my father slept on our wooden “couch”. At some point, we got a couch that could turn into a bed, so my father did not have to sleep on that wooden bench anymore.
Even though we were living in these circumstances, my brother and I still enjoyed our lives. We had a lot of fun. We had a front yard where we used to play. We also played a lot with our neighbors. We live lived so close to the beach. All we had to do was cross the road. At home, we had enough toys to play with. We did not have the coolest, newest toys you saw on tv, but we still had nice toys and we were satisfied with them. A few times a year there would be a fair in our village, where our parents would take us to. They would always buy me and my brother a toy, while they didn’t have to. Going to the fair on its own was excited enough for my brother and me.
On my first day of school in the year 2000, I became a big sister. My little brother was born. I was so excited to be a big sister and to have a baby in the house. I have always been an observing person and observing my little brother was so much fun to me. I still remember the day he was born, like it was yesterday. It was so exciting to have a baby in the house and see my mother taking care of a baby.
Before my little brother was born we moved to a bigger apartment with 3 bedrooms, close by our previous apartment. We did not have to change schools. We lived in a little community with other asylum seekers. I enjoyed living there. We were one big family. We always played together and the older kids would look out for the younger kids. Sometimes the workers at the center would organize fun little events for the children. We were always entertained. In the previous apartment we only had two neighbors, so having all these people around us was very exciting.
In 2001 my family and all the other families in the community received the news that we all had to move to the city where I am currently living. I remember everyone packing up their stuff and giving their stuff away to each other, and saying goodbye. While living there we still did not have a lot, but we had each other as a community, and we were all in the same boat. We didn’t even live there for a year. During this period it was still uncertain if we were staying in this country. They (the government) were still trying to make us leave the country. But my father kept telling them that we were not going anywhere.
So in the summer of 2001, we ended up moving to the city. We arrived in our new house on my 5th birthday. This house was so huge to us. It had 2 floors. Well, actually 3, but the first floor was just the entrance. We had a big living room and 3 bedrooms. It was my first time living in a city, so it was all new to me, and I had to get used to a lot of things.
As I got older, I started to understand more. I started to understand what it actually meant to be an asylum seeker. I realized that our life was controlled and we didn’t have a lot of rights. My parents were not allowed to work. We depended on financial aid. We were not allowed to go on vacation, because asylum seekers are not allowed to leave the country. We were not allowed to make certain purchases. If we needed a new couch, for example, we had to go to the social services and they would find us a new couch. All our housing costs were paid by the government, and our school activities as well. We lived on €100 a week as a family of five.
When I started to go to my new school in the city I started to notice that our life was different from others. In the village we were surrounded by other asylum seekers, all the kids went to the same school and we were in the same situation. But in the city, I realized that people had a “better” life than us. My classmates were doing things that we couldn’t do, they were not asylum seekers like we were. Every time we had a school activity that we had to pay for, I had to go to the teacher and tell her that the social services would cover these costs. I was the only one in my class who wasn’t paying for those activities.
Every week my parents had to go to the immigration office to scan their fingerprints, in this way the immigration police knew that they didn’t leave the country.
At one point my father started going to school to learn the Dutch language. He was doing good and taking the classes seriously. He was also practicing at home a lot. My mother was not going to school yet, because she was taking care of me and my siblings.
Even when we moved to the city, our stay was uncertain. Those immigration people would come to our house to tell us we had to leave the country. They kept wasting their time because my father would tell them that we were not leaving. In 2004, we even had to go to court as a family. I remember having to go through the body scan. We had to go from youngest to eldest. So my three years old little brother went first. I was so scared that he would misbehave or that he wouldn’t want to go without us, but he did what he was told to do. The only thing that I remember from the courtroom was our attorney saying “this family should stay in the Netherlands”.
During summer break my family didn’t go on vacations of course. We would just go outside to a park or we would part take in free summer events. We also went to the beach. We actually had a lot of fun as a family. When you grow up not having much, you appreciate every single thing. The fact that it was summer was already amazing to me. I loved not having to wear a jacket and letting the sun shine on my skin. I loved eating ice cream and being outside. I enjoyed the fun things we did as a family.
One summer things were different. I am talking about the summer of 2004. My family and I were watching a movie altogether in the evening. Even my little brother was watching with us. He was only 3 years old, so I don’t think he even understood the movie. But it was a really nice evening. When the movie ended my father was like “I am going to sleep, I have a headache”. My mother’s reaction was “huh?” because my father was always the last one to go to sleep. We didn’t think much of it and my father went to bed. Little did we know that our lives would be turned upside down the very next day.
My father fell sick at night. He had a blood clot in his brain which caused him to have a cerebral hemorrhage. The left side of his body was paralyzed because of it. I still remember this day, like it was yesterday. My father was hospitalized for 1 or 2 months. Then he went to a revalidation center for about a year and then to another center. We spend our summer going to the hospital instead of having fun in the park.
Something that is also important to mention is, that we don’t have family in this country. So we were going through most of this by ourselves. My mother called my father’s family, and they would check up on us by phone. Some family members would visit us, but they couldn’t stay for long of course. Others couldn’t even make it, because they didn’t have money and lived overseas. But his family would always call. The first family members came within a few weeks after my father fell sick.
This period was hard for us as a family, but we got through it. My siblings and I still did well at school. Our situation didn’t affect our performance at school. At that time, I had hope, I really believed that my father would be back to who he used to be. If I knew that he wouldn’t be the same anymore, the situation would have hit me differently and it might have affected my performance at school. Luckily, in my case, going to school was a great distraction for me. At school, I was so happy. I didn’t feel the emptiness that I felt at home, because my dad was never in my classroom. So no one was missing. As I mentioned earlier, we lived in a big house, and without my father, it felt so empty.
When our school found out what happened to my father they were there for us. They helped us where they could. Everyone in the neighborhood and at school who knew my father would always ask how he was doing, and that really warmed my heart.
When my father fell sick I was 7 turning 8, and I grew up so fast. I am happy that I was able to do so and help my mom as a young child. While all of this was happening in our life, we were still asylum-seekers. So now my mother didn’t have my father to go to all these immigrant appointments anymore. I replaced my dad. I went with my mom to all these appointments. I filled in all the papers with her, and I translated everything for her.
My mom did amazing. She kept going on, she kept fighting for all of us. She kept raising us and she still made sure that we had everything that we needed. She is such a strong woman.
In December 2004 we moved to the apartment we are currently living in, because of my father’s situation. Everything in this apartment is on one floor.
During Christmas break, my father’s family came to visit. It was really nice having them over.
This is how our 2004 ended. We were still asylum seekers, our life was still controlled and we still did not have a lot of money. But we were still a grateful family and making the best of what we had.
I am ending this post here because it is getting too long. There will be a second part. Before I close out I want you to know that even though my father is still paralyzed, he is healthy and he is doing okay. I am so grateful for that.
Thank you for your time and until next time!
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