“It was not easy for my mother to be a single mother in Northern Africa. People were judging us, asking questions. It was a terrible. In the mentality over there, there should be a mother, a father and children. There is one system and you have to fit in it. And a mother alone with a child is abnormal. Financially it was also very difficult. But my mother said I was the hope of her life and she did her best. Sometimes she didn’t eat and said: “When you eat, I eat too”. And I believed her. She also did her best to play the role of the father, but I always felt that this was missing.
In high school, I became fascinated with the humanities. It was the only place where I could think freely. Between Plato, Kant, Nietzsche, everyone has their own way of thinking. There is no one model to follow. So I decided to prepare for the competitive examination for the Ecole Normale Supérieure. In my country, passing this exam is like a dream. There were only 10 places in the whole country and I finished 4th! My mother was very proud, her dream was coming true. And it changed the image people had of me. Being a teacher there is a big thing. Everybody has a lot of respect for you. The neighbours were saying : “We saw the teacher!”
Soon after I got my job, I had my first child. I had taken a flat for my mother and me. She was looking after my daughter and when I came home in the evening I found my dinner ready. At that moment, I felt I was close to achieving my dream life. But the father left to Geneva to find work. The neighbours started asking questions again. I started to have a lot of problems of harassment.
On top of that, my daughter was very attached to her father. The last time we returned home after a few months in Geneva, she was looking for her dad everywhere. She stopped eating and playing. We even had to take her to the hospital. It made my heart ache. The past was repeating itself, so I said: stop! After a few months, I applied for a visa again and this time I thought about staying in Geneva for good. I didn’t want my children to have the same life as me, growing up without a father and being judged by others. On the day of our departure, I hugged my mother and said to her: “I don’t know if we’ll see each other again in a few months or in a few years…”.
The first year here was very difficult. In my country I always had the support of my mother, but here I had no one. My children were always getting sick because of the humidity in our studio, so I was spending my time at the hospital. Then I read on an official website that being in Switzerland without papers is a crime so I was always afraid of being arrested. People wearing uniforms were the worst thing. Even the people checking the parkings were scaring me (laughs)! And some people take advantage of our situation. The owner of the flat raised the rent a lot and sometimes employers don’t pay because they know we can’t go to the police.
The weirdest thing here is that you are not allowed to work when you are undocumented. But on the other hand, to get a residence permit you have to have a job, not to receive money from the Hospice and not have been arrested. Even the social worker doesn’t understand this system! Soon it will be 5 years and I will finally be able to apply for a permit. And as I have a job, my children are well integrated and I’ve never received money from the Hospice, it should go quickly. I’m almost there! Five years without seeing my mother… During these next few months I have to be careful. If I get arrested and kicked out, everything starts from scratch. So I still panic when I see the police.
You see, life isn’t so easy for others ! You don’t realise the value of being able to walk down the street without the fear of being arrested. I decided to stay here for the children first. There is no future back home. Young people try to go leave for Europe very early and by very dangerous means. And I don’t want my boys to try it one day. Now they are at home here, they go to school here, they have their friends here. Their life is here. And I also feel that I’ve achieved my ideal of having the family together. I see them playing with their father, they are so happy when he comes home from work, and that makes me feel good. I’ve never experienced that as a child.
On the other hand, I’ve lost my professional ideal. To pay the bills, I mostly babysit. It’s like I’ve lost a part of myself. A week ago, my daughter said to me: “When I grow up I’d like to have a husband, but no children so I don’t have to struggle like you!” Wallah, I swear, my friends and I laughed so hard (laughs)! But despite all these difficulties, I am comfortable here. I’m often alone with the children, and no one has asked me: where is the father? And one day I hope to find my professional ideal again. ”