Ruben and Francis: ‘We didn’t choose to come here’

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Ruben and Francis: ‘We didn’t choose to come here’

I will tell you about him. He was a friend of my brother’s and my family liked him. When I first met him I was expecting something completely different. He sat there, long hair and a woolly hat. Ghastly shoes, a type of trainers with heels that were popular at the time.

But his honesty enticed me. He never lied and I liked that he gesticulated a lot. And his crazy eyes!

We fell in love. But then one day, the police came. They thought I was undocumented and grabbed me without me knowing why, and threw Ruben into another car. I didn’t trust the police; I had escaped from a dictatorship and now I sat in the back seat of a Swedish police car. Me, two policemen and a plainclothes police officer.

It was a misunderstanding, but when I came back home to my family, my father had forgotten all the nice things he liked Ruben for, thought it was his fault that I had been to the police. I said: ‘You know what, I won’t stay.’

I collected my things in an IKEA bag and Ruben showed up and we walked through the snow away from there. It was cold and dark, my first winter in Sweden. I had a long purple shirt and a pink jacket. Ruben had his awful trainers with heels.

I left my dad. But it was worth it. Because somewhere, when I lost confidence in those who were my safety, when they failed to understand me, there was another person who didn’t know me, who I knew I could trust.

I can’t say that I found my home with Ruben. Home was always Chile. We always thought we would go back. We didn’t choose to come here. We didn’t choose Sweden because it was a good country. We ended up here, in a place where even the sky was different.

And then we had our children, and returning home felt more distant. Chile became like a ghost that was with us, but that we never returned to. We didn’t want to expose our kids to the danger that our family had had to live through.

We have never been patriots, never wanted to show off symbols of our country. But we want to speak the language with our children, make them understand why we are here, that we are political refugees. We fled a dictatorship and teach them words like solidarity. It takes time to feel at home. But now we do.


Go to Sweden and migration to get the bigger picture and the historical perspective.

Last updated: 5 April 2017

Alexander Mahmoud


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