No Stranger Place
In the true spirit of Compassion, Connection and Giving, MEANS features this great series by British photographer Aubrey Wade...
The past year has seen divisions in European and national politics deepen, but some people are making connections that bridge cultural divides and language barriers. The No Stranger Place photo series was developed and photographed by documentary photographer Aubrey Wade in partnership with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to highlight these acts of compassion, producing imagery shot in the tradition of European family portraiture, which reveal new friendships, flatshares and family constellations, and reflect individual responses to an ongoing global issue.
Margarethe Kramer hosts Iraqi refugee Souad Awad in Lavanttal. Souad moved in with Margarethe, an Austrian kindergarten teacher, a month ago, and already the two have become friends. ‘I feel like I am living in heaven now,’ Souad said.
Martina Schamberger with husband Engelbert, son Laurenz and daughter Lea, host Syrian refugee and former national basketball player Nawras Ahmadook in Bad Schallerbach. ‘I feel like he is my son,’ said Martina with pride.
Germany - The Jellinek family is hosting Syrian Muslim Kinan, from Damascus, in Berlin. Kinan, 28, has been living with the Jellineks since November 2015. He joins them for Shabbat most Fridays and often cooks Syrian meals. Kinan used to work in marketing and pharmaceuticals in Damascus. ‘Everyone does what they feel like doing. Hosting a refugee is a win-win situation.’
Sabine David, husband Dominique and daughter Nora host Afghan refugee Nooria and her daughter, Aysu, in Lavanttal. Nooria arrived in Austria in November 2015. When Nooria became pregnant, her husband left her. If she had stayed in Afghanistan, she would have been forced to hand over her daughter to her husband’s sisters, she said. ‘A woman cannot live alone in Afghanistan and raise her own child without a man.’ Nooria is learning to cycle so she can get around independently. ‘ I am so happy with the bicycle and the freedom.’
Sabine Waldner with her daughters, Charlotte and Miriam, host two Syrian refugees, Juan, 16, and Mohammed, 16, classmates from Damascus, at their home in Falkensee, Berlin. Juan and Mohammed moved in with Waldner when they arrived in Germany in October 2015. ‘When they don’t clearly say what they want or need, because they don’t like to cause any inconvenience, it can be difficult. But it’s getting better as they are starting to accept that we see them as part of the family.’
Sweden - Gabriella and Candel Webster host Syrian Ahmad Lababidi, his son, Ali, 18, and daughter, Hiba, 16, who is not pictured, in Malmö. Lababidi, 45, said it was one of the best things that had happened to them: ‘They received us with so much love, compassion and care,’ he said. ‘ They were angels.’
Valerie Schamberger flatshares with Nora Katona, Roman Pable and Syrian refugee Mouhanad Mourad, 27, in Vienna. Mouhanad fled his war-torn country in 2012. As soon as he got to a refugee reception centre, Mouhanad started helping in the kitchen, learned the language and made friends. He got his asylum papers in six months and soon after, moved in with his new flatmates. ‘Mouhanad knows more people than we do. His list of contacts is incredible and we didn’t have to step in – he doesn’t need us at all,’ Valerie said.
Wilhelm and Brian host Inas, a refugee from Syria, in Berlin. They met through a chance encounter on a train four days after Inas arrived in Germany. Ten days later, Inas moved in with the couple of 25 years, in November 2015. Inas was making his way back to Berlin after going to visit a friend from Syria. Unsure whether it was the right train, he asked Wilhelm and Brian, who sat nearby. With the help of Google Translate, the three struck up a conversation and exchanged numbers.
Uta hosts Hamid, from Afghanistan, in a 29 sq metre studio apartment in Berlin. He plays the flute and the piano and wants to learn more instruments. Uta plays the piano and the guitar. They found a shared passion. Uta now teaches Hamid the keyboard and encourages him to play her guitar. One of Uta’s neighbours told her: ‘ We don’t want foreigners here,’ but Uta says she fights this kind of behaviour. ‘ He’s my son,’ she replied, ‘ you just have to get used to it.’
Newruz, a refugee from Syria, lives with Claudia and Tobias in Berlin. Newruz came to visit them in Berlin and stayed for 10 days over Christmas. ‘S o we could get to know each other,’ says Claudia. Finally, after waiting nine months for his papers, Newruz officially moved in with Claudia and Tobias in March.
Sweden - Lars Asklund, an architect, hosts Syrian refugee Farah Hilal, her husband, Waleed Lababidi and her brother Milad Hilal, in Malmö. They fled their home in 2012. ‘For me it’s fun,’ said Asklund. ‘ It’s fantastic, I have new friends and I really like them.’ ‘He cares so much,’ said Hilal. ‘ He studies with me, even when he comes in late at night. He is always discussing with his friends how to help us with our career. We are so lucky to have met him.’
Edgar and Amelie Rai with their two children, Nelly, nine, and Moritz, 12, host Syrian refugees and brothers, Bilal Aljaber, 26, (seated) and Amr Aljaber, 17, in Berlin. It took Bilal Aljaber almost two years to reach Europe. ‘They are like my second family,’ he said. ‘ Anything they can help me with, they do it wholeheartedly. We have a very close friendship and this is one of the most beautiful things that has happened to me. I feel I have someone here, someone supporting me, helping me. I am not all alone.’
Germany - Manuela and Jörg Buisset, and daughter Nöemi, host Nourhan, 18, who has just had her second child (not pictured), Ahmed, 28, and their daughter Alin, 18 months, in Berlin. Manuela, 54, received a call saying there was a family in need of a place to stay. The Buissets welcomed the family into their new basement room and what was supposed to be a 10-day stay became an open-ended arrangement. It has been a little over a year since they moved in, but both families are happy and admit it took time to trust and get to know one another. ‘We are so happy here,’said Nourhan.
Sweden - Linnea Tell, a single mother and librarian, hosts Syrian artist, Alqumit Alhamad, who is now thriving in Malmö. Alhamad, 24, fled Raqqah in northern Syria in 2012 when Islamic State made the city their headquarters. Friends were tortured by Islamic State militants and many homosexuals were thrown off buildings in his home town. Alhamad moved in with her in May 2016. ‘I can’t tell you how much my life changed and how free I feel. Every day I wake up and say, “Oh my God, I am in Sweden”. It’s magical.’
Words with the images written by Nadine Alfa.