Thanks to an endless number of car crashes, a demonstration and traffic jams around Berlin, my bus never arrived and I was utterly exhausted. So it was that I came to meet Murat and listened to his story. This Palestinian driver spent most of his childhood running from bombs, bullets and death threats and was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon. His parents settled down in the new host country and tried to make the most of their new life.
For better or for worse, Murat’s father entered politics from 1965-68, exposing himself to all kinds of danger, until he was injured in an air raid bombing. Rescued by the German Red Cross (DRK), he was immediately evacuated to Berlin, where he was subsequently granted political asylum. The family, however, was not allowed to follow right away and remained in hiding in Lebanon until further arrangements for safe passage were made.
It took almost two years before the family was reunited, but the road to Germany was not an easy one. The DRK first evacuated them to Athens, then Prague and finally they arrived in Berlin Schönefeld. Murat was 12 at the time, traumatised from the recent events and in a state of utter culture shock. “You have to imagine that my family and I lived all our lives is a small village in Lebanon. We had never seen the big city and suddenly we arrive in Germany, where we didn’t understand the language or the culture.”
It was an uphill battle but eventually Murat finished his high school and got a job as a waiter for the next 12 years. “Any job is interesting in the beginning but at some point you want more out of life”, and so it was that he opted to take the taxi driver training, and take a plunge into the new life. Business was good and eventually he became a self-employed taxi driver with three cars to his name and employees he was responsible for. Like many of his colleagues who went down a similar path, battles with the Finanzamt (Ministry of Finance) and expensive insurance fees got the better of him and he cut back to one car.
Murat has been a taxi driver in Berlin for the past 16 years now, is a father of five children, believes strongly in family and family ties. When I shared my story of having lost my parents within a month of each other, he replied, “I can top that. 2005 was a really bad year for us. My uncle dies on January 2, my grandmother was 106 when died on January 22, and my grandfather 116 when he died on February 2. We barely had time to grieve and breathe.”