Mulgeta came to Sweden 9 months ago, after a dangerous journey that took him on the roads of Sudan and Libya and over the Mediterranean Sea in a little motor-failing boat. The constant fear and anxiety of the journey took an end when the Italian coastguards rescued his boat after 25 hours deriving in the middle of the sea.
Back in Eritrea, Mulgeta was a studious young man, busy with getting top grades and enjoying life with his family. Eritrea, also known as the North-Korea of Africa, is ruled by an extremely hard military dictature. The power in place wanted to force Mulgeta’s 65-year old father into joining the military. His father, wanting to continue working and supporting his family went into hiding.
One day, soldiers came to Mulgeta’s house to find his dad, and as they could not find him, they arrested his oldest living-in son – 17 years old Mulgeta, and send him to jail. Eritrean jails are some of the most dangerous jails in the world. Mulgeta managed to flee from jail after 3 months, running for his life with 3 other prisoners.
There was no other option than flee the country, to avoid being caught again by the military junta. He managed to pass the border to Sudan, and then Libya at the mercy of smugglers, and finally the relief came with the Italian coastguards. Now living in Sollefteå in Northern Sweden where he has been reunited with his older brother, he just got his residence permit and is studying Swedish intensively on his own.
An avid student of maths, physics and chemistry, he is eager to start studying again, and he wants to get a job as quickly as possible to get in contact with Swedes and get more chances to improve on his Swedish.
When did you arrive in Sweden?
I arrived 9 months ago. I was just under 18 years old back then, so I lived in a refugee camp for the first 2 months.
What is your story and how did you end up in Sweden?
I could not stay in Eritrea because the military would have arrested me and sent me back in jail or worse. So I had to flee. I had no choices. This was the only possibility, as scary as it was. It was either flee or die. The decision to come to Sweden was easy. My older brother has been living in Sweden with his wife for 7 years, so Sweden was an evident destination.
What was the hardest to adjust to in Sweden?
Not knowing the language was the hardest thing. At the beginning I could not present myself, or say what I had on my mind. I could not express myself. It was really frustrating. So I wanted to learn Swedish as quick as possible. I studied hard on my own. At the refugee camp, we had computers. So I went on YouTube channels and used online resources to learn Swedish. I started to listen to videos, read, and start to write in Swedish by myself. I was good in school back in Eritrea, so I had the discipline to study on my own.
What do you like the best about Sweden?
I like that people can decide for themselves what they want to do with their own life. In Eritrea, the military decides for you. You can not say what you want. Here you can lead your life, make your own decisions, work hard and see the results. If you study hard, you can achieve a lot.
What Swedish word is your favourite?
”Man får aldrig vara bara glad” . “You can never get to be just happy”
I heard it the first time from a Swedish man that worked in my refugee camp, and who was accompanying me to a gym to get me a gymcard. When we arrived at the gym, it was closed… and he said “Man aldrig kan få vara bara glad” with a smile. He explained the meaning when I asked him what it meant. I liked this expression, because it is a nice expression to express little disappointments.
What do you miss the most from Eritrea?
My family, brothers and sisters and my parents, my house, my town, my country. It is a really hard country to live in, but it is where is was born and I have an emotional attachment to it.
Do you have an anecdote about something funny that happened during your first time here?
How I got to know about “Man aldrig kan få vara bara glad”! It was a funny expression to express disappointment!