Stories told by
Hello, my name is Melanie and I'm 21 years
old. The greatest difficulty for me is that as a person
of mixed origin (half Ivory Coast and half Swiss) I am at
home neither here nor
there. Wherever I am, I am regarded as being
foreign, either "white" or "black".
It happens to me when I live in my mother's country of origin,
in Switzerland, and it happened to me when I was living
in my father's country, Ivory Coast. I would feel at home
where I could feel that people accept me just the way I
When you are a small child you first do not
feel that you are different from the others. But soon the
others will make you feel different - and children too can
be very cruel in their behaviour against the "strange
Sometimes incredible incidents happen. Some
time ago I was riding my bike somewhere in a little place
in Switzerland nearby to where I live. A car drove by, and
the male driver opened the window and yelled at me: "Scheiss-Neger
- dirty nigger!" I virtually froze. I felt helpless
and unable to defend myself. When I looked at the number
plate, I saw that it was a German number plate. This means
that the insulting person himself was a foreigner in this
country! How could he dare insulting me like this? I felt
that I wanted to kill this man. When I recovered I was able
to think about it more clearly. These racist people are
just stupid and do not know anything about life.
Intolerance really is the thing that bothers
me most. I think that everybody is different and everybody
has the right to be different - without exception, no matter
what the mentality, the colour of skin or the religion is.
But this doesn't mean that he or she must be a second class
human being because of these differences. Tolerating something
doesn't mean that you have to agree with everything; it
just means that you try to accept it unconditionally. May
people be much more open-minded to foreigners and their
way of life: that's my wish!
Melanie, 21, Switzerland
My name is Nikola Bobann, I'm half Danish
and half Bosnian. I want to write about an incident I had
3 years ago. I had just finished business college and was
applying for this job in a big, well respected company.
I had all the necessary diplomas and qualifications and
was self-confident. So I delivered my application personally
just to make a good impression.
The company told me that I would have an
answer within a month. I waited two month for a reply and
than I decided to withdraw my application. I was disappointed
but at the same time I had to find out what the reasons
were for the silence.
I went to the company for the second time
and got to talk with the manager. He sat behind a big table
full of papers and he asked me why I had withdrawn my application
and I answered. He reached out for two piles of papers and
asked for my name. I told him my name and he looked surprised
and asked me where I came from. I had to find out that one
of the piles had familiar Danish names and the other pile
had only foreign names.
At that time I understood his astonished
face - it was because of my blue eyes and blond hair - he
thought I was a Dane, but according to the application form
I was a foreigner for him.
This experience made me realise the race
problem even in well respected companies, which are supposed
to have an intelligent workforce.
Nikola Bobann, Denmark
Hello! My name is Juliana Violari, I'm from
Cyprus and I'm 18 years old and I'm half Catholic and half
Orthodox. But this is not the only special thing in my life.
I'm also a child of parents who are in the Turkish area
since 1974. Because I have to study I came to the South
part of the island. When I was 12 I left home and went to
Nicosia to school. I could only visit my family during school
holidays, at Christmas, Easter and during the summer break.
This was the situation until last year when I turned 17
years. Since last year I am not allowed to visit my family.
My parents are allowed to visit us, my brothers and sisters
and me, once the month.
When I was 13 years old I went to visit my
parents during Christmas holidays and I really had a good
time. When the holidays were over I returned to the Greek
area to continue with school. But things didn't turn out
so fine. When we reached the so called "Green Line"
the Turkish border police would not allow us to go to the
Greek side. They said that if we went to the Greek side
we would never again get a permit to visit our family. I
felt like the world was ending. I didn't know what to do
and what to think. How could they ask me such a thing? How
can they stop me from being in my own home with my own family?
How could they? But I couldn't do anything about it. The
Turks thought that this was one way so they can make us
leave our home. But they couldn't achieve it. After that
many problems arose but I have never felt as bad as on that
day. Even after all these problems my family didn't think
about leaving home and moving to the Greek side. I just
hope that I'll never feel like this again. After all it
is one of the Human Rights to be able to live where ever
you want in your own country. And all that because I'm Greek
and they are Turkish. That's the reason.
Juliana Violari, 18, Cyprus
I am a 24 year old Hungarian Jew living in
Budapest. When I was still studying in High School I felt
intolerance more than ever before and after. Once we had
a chemistry class and we studied the process of soap producing.
At a certain point one of my classmates in the first row
turned around and shouted: "Gabor! Do you hear this?"
In the context it was clear we he meant. I found also sentences
on the black board like "Gabor! Go back to Israel"
or "Stinky Jew". The word Jew or Gipsy was generally
used as a four letter word. Teachers did nothing on this
Gabor Rona, 24, Budapest
Hi, I'm Anna from Poland and I'm 20 years
old. I would like to tell you about a situation in which
I felt really bad. It happened already one year ago, but
I can still remember it very clearly. I was on a student
exchange in Holland. I lived with a very friendly family,
whose daughter Sandra visited me later on in Poland. Sandra
and I met (on our way home from shopping), a boy from Sandra's
neighbourhood. He didn't say 'hello' to me, but only to
her and spoke only in Dutch. I do not understand this language,
but I felt that he told her something about me. When I was
gone I asked Sandra to tell me what he talked about. Let
me repeat the short dialogue, Sandra had with her neighbour:
Sandra: "Hi, how are you?"
He: "Well, I am fine. I do not have
any Polish at home."
For me this was really awful - I did not
understand why my friend did not tell him off. Her mother
told me that he was probably jealous that he was not able
to invite somebody from abroad to his home. I do not know.
Maybe the mother was right. But I think the guy was not
even aware about the stupidity of his behaviour. Such people
Anna Smolen, 20, Poland
My name is Daniel, I am 21 years old and
I live in Denmark. I want to write about an incident I had
three years ago. I was at may best friends birthday and
we were all celebrating. After the party we decided to got
to a discotheque in town. When we got there the group split
up and I went to the bar to get something to drink.
At the bar I noticed a man who looked at
me in a strange way. I did not like his looks and the situation
but I did not pay much attention. Suddenly the man walked
towards me and asked me where I had bought my tie. I thought
it was a funny question, but I did not mind as I felt open
and I wanted to meet new people. I answered his question
and suddenly he took a knife out of his pocket, grabbed
my tie and cut it of. Then he slashed the knife towards
my hips and walked away. All this happened in the discotheque.
I was shocked and first idea was to run away. On the way
to get my jacket I noticed I was bleeding. It didn't hurt
or look serious, but I was frightened. The police came and
I reported what had happened. Although they caught the guy
they couldn't do anything -they didn't find witnesses or
the weapon and the man was let free again.
Since this happened I had a lot of difficulties.
I was scared all the time and felt uncomfortable in big
crowds of people. I did not trust people any more - so I
lost a lot of my friends. I attended a therapy group but
this didn't work, either.
I often wonder if the person who stabbed
me ever realised what he did that night.
Daniel, 21, Denmark
Hello. My name is Marcella, I'm 23 years
of age. I was born in Colombia, but I'm living in Sweden
for 5 years. The reason I left Colombia is rather complicated,
but one of them is the fact that I'm transsexual. For those
who don't know what that is, I will shortly explain it.
I was born with the body of a boy, but deep in my soul I've
always known that I'm a woman. To be able to live, I'm going
through a long process, and right now I'm in the middle
of it. Yet, I haven't changed sex but I'm eating hormones
and I really look like a woman now. It's very tough to be
Columbian and transsexual living in Sweden. Often I'm discriminated
twice, if you know what I mean. People have beaten me up,
not only physically but also in a verbal way. Until now
my life has been a mess, but as I have the possibility to
change sex I'm very happy. Someday I hope people accept
me for the person I am. I'm not a pervert, or strange in
any way, I'm just a person who wants to be happy.
Marcella, 23, Sweden
My name is Tedros Tesfaye. I'm 20 years old.
I was born in Ethiopia but now I'm living in Sweden. I want
to tell you a true story where I was discriminated. In the
summer of 1992, I was in Stockholm with 2 friends. We had
been at a gay club, afterwards we went to McDonalds for
a hamburger. At the gay club, there had been a masquerade,
so we were dressed a bit "different".
At McDonalds most of the people, just thought
we looked funny, but they didn't mind. But there was this
guy who didn't like our appearance very much. This guy was
very drunk and he began to argue with us. He asked me if
I was queer and I said "Yes, do you have a problem
with that?" Of course he did and he told me what he
wanted to do with me. He didn't like the fact that I was
alive. He wanted me to dig my own grave, and then he would
strangle me he said. I was very upset, and as his friends
arrived, I was very afraid and ran away. The last thing
I heard from him was that I was a gay nigger with no right
to exist. I will never forget this, but one thing is for
sure, nobody can take my dignity away from me.
Tedros Tesfaye, 20, Black, happy queer
living in Sweden
If you want more material for
discussion about personal experiences of discrimination
you can look in Alien B14 at "Personal
experiences of refugees" and in Alien C15 at the
If the group would like to go
on to something more "active" then "Take
a step forward" in Compass is an activity that
uses role play and imagination to promote empathy with others
who are different and raise awareness about the inequalities
of opportunity in society. In the all different all equal
education pack "My
story" and "My
childhood" are activities that encourage people
to reflect on and share the experiences that have shaped
Reading through the above stories
raises many questions about identity and how we all come
to terms with a) the way we see ourselves and b) how others
see us. You might find it useful to look at the discussion
and activities around what is called The Onion of Identity
in the Education Pack.