It’s one thing being a tourist in Greece and another to come prepared to stay “forever”. The first shock I experienced in my new reality was the change in language. I was no longer a foreigner, but a stranger. The Greek language became something like the Enigma code that constantly needed deciphering. I became a stranger, an outsider; the boundaries of language are ruthless. I was living in a world divided into “the Greeks” and “the others”. I was getting paranoid, even the puppies on the street could understand Greek, while I –a University graduate– was terrified to say “thank you” because my Slavic accent would never come close to that chic Athenian one. Language is the first step on the path of social integration for each immigrant (or foreigner, stranger, alien, whatever you prefer).
I first heard of MC Yinka about two years after I came to Greece. He was introduced to me by a beloved friend — meeting interesting people in your “new life” by the way, is another prerequisite for the integration we were talking about. Yinka is more than a great artist. Being a second generation immigrant of Athenian-Nigerian origin, he is an example for us all. There are no barriers for those who dare to follow their dreams. Yinka, with his powerful lyrics, speaks on behalf of all migrants. When I was told that I would talk with him about the issue of social inclusion, I got really excited. He was one of the first people who helped me become part of this society.
“Quick integration,” Yinka believes, “comes from having access to the labor market. Things were different in Greece once, easier. The first immigrants came specifically to work. Greece needed unskilled workers back then and was able to easily accommodate them. In the ‘90s, there was a friendlier mood towards foreigners in Greece.“
“Today, things have changed,” Yinka thinks. “The uncontrolled flow of people,” or the new global immigration surge I would say, “scare the conservative society. The deep economic crisis Greece is facing, does not help in creating the conditions for integration. A magazine like Solomon is a step forward”, he adds. “Not only are immigrants given the chance to speak about their problems for themselves, but also to show that they are different from what most people have in mind.”
The world is changing. Technological progress is faster than the human progress. Intolerance is defeated by the stable income, growth by tradition, intelligence by fear. Even when living in this reality, we have to find stability mechanisms. In general, a government policy on immigrant integration is necessary. The immigrant can and should be part of the government’s and of society’s human resources.
However, our effective integration also depends on us, i.e. the immigrants themselves. Aren’t you the one who chose this difficult path, even though you had very little to choose from? Remember that you came to someone else’s house. Learn the language and the laws. Stop crying. You have to be prepared for the worst but also for the best. A decent human with passion and zest for life will always find a way to build their future, no matter where they find themselves. But you can’t make it unless you do your utmost!
Written by Nonna Daigorodova | Edited by Gigi Papoulias
photo credits: Nadir Noori