N: At what age did you come here?
Y: I was 3-4 months old. They had given me to a stewardess. She delivered me to my grandmother and aunt in Turkey. Almost all of those who went to work abroad, sent their first-born children to Turkey because they couldn’t take care of them due to not having the finances to do so.
N: Was your mother also working?
Y: Yes, she was a tailor in a sewing factory. Actually, I grew up very happy in Istanbul. I am an Istanbul lover. I had a very happy childhood. After my grandmother took me to Germany at the age of four and a half, I was never happy there.
N: Why did your grandmother take you to Germany?
Y: Because my mother and my father moved there from Austria and it was now time for me return next to them. I was 4-5 years old, supposedly my grandmother and I had gone on a holiday to Germany; however, some day she left and never come back. She was my mother, my everything, my world... Afterwards, I couldn't warm to Germany. I could not warm to my mom and dad, either. I didn't know them. Simple as that.
Moreover, unlike many other Turkish families, the place where we live was not a city, but the place where the cartoon character Heidi lived. It was a village, and there were no other Turks. It was a wealthy village in the south of Germany. The Germans used to call me, "The Turk's daughter," because I was the only Turkish child! But I wanted to return to Turkey. I wanted to be in my country. I wanted to be in my neighbourhood. My childhood passed with that longing. Then one day I decided to leave home.
N: How old were you when you made this decision?
Y: 15 years old. I saw Mauritius Island on a television documentary and I had found it very beautiful. I had a huge map in my room. I had found Mauritius. "I'm going here" I said. How am I going to get there? There was a cartoon character. He was traveling alone, too. I thought if I'd go all the way to Italy, I'd get on the ship from there and arrive in Mauritius. Just think about the fact that I'm taking a cartoon hero as example! I called the train station and booked my ticket to Italy.
“i wanted to be in my country."
N: Where did you find the money?
Y: I stole it from my father's wallet. Where will you get that money at the age of 15?
I left home to go to school the next morning, I got on the bus but I didn't get off at school, I went all the way to the train station. My journey started like this. I arrived in Italy by train, but I could not continue beyond Italy because my money was stolen. I was hungry for days in Venice. I drank the water from the fountains. I didn’t eat at all. I will either die with my dignity in this city or I will arrive in Mauritius. There was no turning back, it was very clear to me. Begging? It didn't even cross my mind. I was very proud. But now I was literally starving when an American woman ( Francine ) came and touched my shoulder. She asked me, "Are you okay?" "Go away!" I said. The woman left but came back with a sandwich.
N: Did you sleep on the street?
E: No, I didn’t. I was sleeping while sitting at the train station so it wasn’t obvious that I was a fugitive. I'm just 15 years old, police are everywhere… The American woman saved my life with the sandwich. She asked me where I came from. I lied to the woman saying: "My mother is German; my father is Turkish... My mother and my father are apart and my mother lives in Mauritius". I made up lies like “I'm going to my mom, but my money was stolen”. “But you can't go to Mauritius that way, you have no money. You need to call your mother”, she said. I said, "No I can't, I'm going to surprise her." I didn't know how much the woman believed me but I had nothing to lose. Suddenly she noticed my gold necklace and tag around my neck and said to me, "Let’s sell these then." It did not even cross my mind to sell my jewellery until she said it. I was sorry but we eventually sold my jewellery and the American woman bought me a ferryboat ticket to Egypt with that money. She said, "When you go to Egypt you will be in Africa, you will pass more easily from there to Mauritius" and left.
The ferry ride took three days. I was dreaming, "I will see the Pharaohs". The ship was about to dock in Alexandria port, I was very excited. When second captain asked me, "For how many months do you have a visa?", I began to panic because I didn't even know what the ‘v’ of visa was. Like everyone else, I showed the officers my passport and got on the ferry. The captain saw that I didn't have a visa after looking at my passport. He was in shock. Me too! I started to cry. An Egyptian immigration officer was about to come and I did not have a visa! Turned out that I boarded without a visa, but nobody realised that on my passport! Fortunately, the second- captain took care of my visa process. I was so embarrassed in front of him.