Internationales Bildungs- und Begegnungswerk in Dortmund

Europe column 9: Starting from scratch once again

Europe column 9: Starting from scratch once again

Leonora Ahmetaj was born in Germany. Her father is Albanian and came to Germany from Kosovo. Now, the 18-year-old wants to completely start from scratch somewhere else herself.

Leonora lives in Dortmund and will finish high school next year. In her free time, she is active in sports since she was little. Before it was children‘s gymnastics, swimming, and volleyball. Today it is track and field, more specifically discus throwing. Both her sister and her mother are also active in this sport. Beyond that, Leonora is politically active, with the Ambassadors of Remembrance and the Left Youth in Dortmund. For example, she organises memorial excursions to former concentration camps. „Understanding that the hate during the time of National Socialism was nearly world-wide is crass“, Leonora says, „Back then, there was no Europe which could catch you, where you could flee to.“

Next year she will go to Kosovo for a year. She wants to do her European volunteer service there, work with children, or do something with politics. She explains: „A new culture, new climate, new thinking – This excites me.“

Getting to know other realities


Leonora Ahmetaj: „„A new culture, new climate, new thinking – This excites me.“
Image sources: Chantal Stauder

The young Dortmunder likes to travel a lot. Her next destination is Finland. Leonora says, she wants to visit as many European countries as possible. She is volunteering in order to get to know other realities. „In Germany there is much talk of a multicultural society. But it is quite different trying to integrate yourself, where another language is spoken and another culture is lived. A society, where, for example, it might be obvious that women move in with their husbands and primarily stay within the house.“

Regarding the question what Europe means to her, the 18-year-old is torn. She is not sure, whether she should look at Europe as simply a continent, utilising national boundaries. For Leonora, Europe is a symbol of securing peace: „Countries, which previously didn‘t get one another, are now getting closer.“ On the other hand, the Dortmunder has to think of countries like Greece, where following the financial crisis people partly have to live under conditions of poverty. She is critical of the application of Turkey to become an EU member, due to the political and civic situation. She says: „There is no lived democracy in Turkey. This is incompatible with Europe.“

A share of the wealth

She thinks Kosovo joining the EU is important. „The people of Kosovo would be in a different situation. Today they are not part of the EU, while being on the continent“, she says. Leonora sees many of those who moved to Germany from Kosovo are now building houses in Kosovo. She believes the people there want some share of the wealth, they are suddenly witnessing. „It is possible to live well and study off 450 Euro in Kosovo. A monthly wage of 100 to 200 Euro is already okay if a coffee is 50 cents.“

She says her cousin has just finished university. He is now an attorney, however searching for a job is complicated. Leonora described Kosovarian society as rather rural with many peasants. „There is a lot of corruption, bribes, and old, stuck parties focused on themselves.“ On the other hand, people‘s interactions are usually warmer than in Germany. People are more sociable and outgoing, and children outside the family being greeted and hugged is quite natural.

Double standards in sports and migration

One topic for Leonora are the special norms in Europe. Regarding sports competitions and national teams, for example, she sees that, in many countries, it is often much easier and faster to change the status of a person on paper with little regard to nationality. However, once the issue is one of migration, the bureaucratic hurdles suddenly increase, and procedures take several times as long.

Chantal Stauder