Touba, beneficiary of the Future Interpreters program, SolidarityNow

It is a wet September morning in an apartment somewhere in Thessaloniki, and the couple drinks Turkish tea. “A friend from Istanbul brought it for us”, says Touba nostalgically, a former journalist in Turkey and now an asylum seeker in Greece.

Touba introduces herself.

She is a young woman who attends the training program for interpreters (Future Interpreters), implemented by SolidarityNow with the support of Guerilla Foundation. For one and a half month, refugees and migrants attended special training courses on the main practices and methodologies of community interpreting and intercultural mediation. The program is linked with SolidarityNow’s Employability Programs based in Athens and Thessaloniki Solidarity Centers. Touba has successfully completed the seminar and now holds the certificate signed by the Panhellenic Association of Professional Translators Graduates of the Ionian University (PEEMPIP).

But hew story starts long ago.

Touba is 35 years-old, mother of 2 children and married to the former editor-in-chief of a Turkish magazine. Her husband has been accused of “involvement in a terrorist organization” and “attempt of government overthrow” and sentenced to 22 years and 6 months imprisonment. For a long time, the couple had lived in a situation of fear. They were forced to part from each other and live hidden from the authorities that could find and arrest them. Her husband had already been imprisoned in the past for 2 months, due to a front page that had bothered the government. “Many of our friends are in prison as we speak, while others are missing”, says Touba.

She arrived in Greece with her family in December 2016 with the help of a smuggler. Greek authorities arrested them and transferred them in the Detention Center in Fylakio, Evros. They stayed there for 14 days. As journalists, they contacted the Greek Journalists’ Union, the members of which helped them to get to Thessaloniki. We ask her how the children dealt with the situation. “We tried to tell them it was all a big adventure, like a fairytale. We had to be careful. It is very easy for the kids to be traumatized”, says Touba. As she talks about what she’s been through, we don’t see her crying, not even once, but wearing a big smile instead. “I don’t know if I’m strong, but I am definitely optimistic. When I think about my pain, I always observe the pain and the lives of other people. In Turkey, I lost everything. I lost my job, my belongings. I have nothing of these here in Greece. But I have a house and money to buy food for my children. Things could be worse. But, life goes on, and I am starting over now”, she adds.

Greece, as she says, embraced them from the beginning.

“We have the same culture, the same climate. In the summer, I had been taking my children to the beach almost every day. Everything is nice here”, says Touba. Many people supported them and helped them to have a normal life. Among those were their neighbors, new friends, colleagues-Greek journalists, but also human rights organizations, like SolidarityNow. Her husband is currently working for an online newspaper and his wage can only cover the family’s basic needs. If everything works out, they can imagine their future in Greece. The kids go to the Greek school and speak very good the new language; as for her, she learns the language “siga-siga” (slowly), as she notes.

Touba found out about the “Future Interpreters” program from Anastasia Koukidou, Employability Consultant in Thessaloniki Solidarity Center, when she visited her to ask for support in finding a job. “I learnt many things, like the fact that just speaking some language is not enough, the interpreter’s job is in the details. There are many ways and different techniques to do this job right. This seminar was very beneficial for me”, says Touba. Apart from the classes, the atmosphere was very nice, too. “I met people from different countries like Iran, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan and Palestine. It was very nice and fun to meet all these people. We are still friends with some of them. I would love to work as an interpreter. I like communicating with people, I like foreign languages and I would really like to do something that is about human rights”, she notes.

“I am certain that life will bring good things for me”.

*SolidarityNow implemented the Future Interpreters program, with the support of the Guerrilla Foundation and in collaboration with the Society for the Care of Minors and the PanHellenic Association of Professional Translators Graduates of the Ionian University.