This is the twelfth part of my short story, Friends. Please, would you correct my mistakes.
They drove through Hungary and then Poland, all the way to the Baltic Sea. They waited for hours for the ferry, which took them to Sweden. When Omer stepped ashore, he felt the icy winter wind penetrating his clothes and giving him goose pimples. Such a bitter wind he had never experienced in his homeland, but despite the cold, he felt a pleasant warmth in his heart. He kissed and hugged his wife and daughter and then hugged and shook hands with other refugees who had become emotional. They could hardly believe that the nightmare was over, that they were going to walk the street like ordinary human beings, that nobody would ever smash into their homes and threaten them with guns and knives.
The busses transported them from the port to a sports hall outside the town. The authorities had already placed hundreds of camping cots inside to accommodate all these people, who were coming like a flood from all parts of Bosnia. They were all interviewed by the staff from the Swedish Migration Board, who took their statements and applications for asylum. Omer felt relieved that he finally could talk freely about his experiences and the suffering his people and his family had endured.
Three days later, they were transported to another refugee camp, where they stayed just for a week, and then they were moved to a large refugee centre with hundreds of people from different countries, who only had one goal on their mind - to get a residence permit and start a new life. They had hardly unpacked their luggage, when they were ordered to get on the busses again, which took them to the north. That was their first disappointment with the new country. After a long journey, they alighted and found themselves in a little town, covered in deep snow.
The camp was an old, run-down block of flats, which once in the past where homes of ordinary Swedish workers and their families. When the jobs disappeared, the workers moved away leaving behind hundreds of empty flats. Now they became handy for the Swedish state, which wanted to bring more people into this depopulated area. The refugees had no choice. Once they arrived here, they had to wait. Some had moved away within a few months, and some had been waiting for years, because their applications for asylum had been rejected and their respective homelands did not want them back. They were angry, reckless and disrespectful. They went into shops and took whatever they wanted and they did not bother to pay, or at the weekends, they would beat some drunken Swedish men, as an act revenge. When Omer understood what was going on, he steered clear of these desperate men.
It was a godforsaken place with nothing interesting in it. There were two supermarkets, a pizzeria, a hotel, three churches and a library. The temperatures were around -20 Celsius degrees, which kept people inside. Already the next day Omer went to the library and borrowed a Swedish-English dictionary and a course in Swedish with the tapes. He promised himself he was going to work as an orthopaedic surgeon again. There was a Swedish course in the camp and Omer went every day to the classes, writing down every new word, learning pronunciation, grammar, and the Swedish way of living.
After about six months, Omer and his family got a residence permit. Now they were officially accepted as the new citizens of Sweden. At least on the paper, they were equal to and had the same rights and obligations as the natives. One day the head of the camp called them to his office and gave him the name of the town, which would become their permanent home. It was more north than this godforsaken place, which meant more snow and ice. However, the head told them that the town was modern, had a university and a large hospital, in which Omer would certainly find a job easier than in some other parts of the country.
When they finally settled, Omer and his family felt at home. People were very kind and helpful and treated him with respect especially when he told him about his occupation. After two years, he was able to speak Swedish pretty well, although now and then, he had to look a word up in his dictionary. The Swedish authorities had examined his diploma and told him that in order to get his qualifications and his diploma recognized he had to complete them with a few courses at a Swedish university. It took him another two years to comply with all rules and regulations. He was already losing patience, and asking himself if all these sacrifices were worthwhile. His was bent over books from morning until evening. He and his wife never went to a restaurant or had any kind of entertainment. She was trying to get her diploma recognized also, and had to follow the same rules as her husband did. They lived on welfare and spent their money as economically as possible. The war in Bosnia ended, but they did not have money to visit their homeland. Instead, they frequently called their respective families, paying high telephones bill.
TO BE CONTINUED
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