After fleeing Ukraine: ‘We don’t know how it goes here’

Life saved, but what about existence? The Aziz/Zawawi family from Kyiv ends up in Bergisch Gladbach through various stages. While mother Ghada Aziz sees the future of children in Germany in particular, father Ahmed Al-Zawawi suffers from his fate. He is a businessman and wants to return to his company in Kyiv. Starting a business in Germany? This raises many questions.

Ghada Aziz from Egypt and Ahmed Al-Zawawi from Tunisia. She and her two children, Amir (6 years old) and Amira (13 years old), have lived and worked in Kyiv for more than 20 years. Then comes the war.

You are lucky. If you can consider yourself lucky even when fleeing Ukraine. Ghada Aziz, Ahmed Al-Zawawi and their children find help and shelter with Issa’s family in Bergisch Gladbach.

The families know each other by chance: the Aziz/Zawawi family is vacationing in Alexandria in 2013 when the Issa family was stranded there while fleeing Syria. You live next door, girls play together. The families stay in touch as the Esas family advances, eventually reaching Bergisch Gladbach.

Editor’s note: You can also read this post in Ukrainian or reading in other languages; Please use the checklist at the top left.

“We have been linked via Facebook since then. Post pictures, like, comment,” says Wiam Issa. Her family of five lives in a home in Rumsshed, and she is building her presence as an architect. The children go to school.

Ahmed Al-Zawawi, Ghada Aziz and Wiam Issa (from left); Photo: Holger Kramp

Through Poland to Germany

Then war broke out in Ukraine. Wiam Issa calls her friends in Kyiv. It’s still possible,” Ghada Aziz initially said. But then it becomes very dangerous, as friends in Kyiv pack their bags and flee the besieged capital in their own car.

“We first traveled to the west of the country,” says Ahmed al-Zawawi. He runs a timber trading company in Kyiv, and thanks to his business acquaintances, he speaks English, French, Arabic and Russian.

From western Ukraine we cross the border into southern Poland. Neither of them can remember the exact location. When asked about border control, he said, “I have a Tunisian passport.” Ukrainian men are not allowed to leave the country. That was gone, but he didn’t want to give specific details.

Getting to Bergisch Gladbach

Isa offers her friends from Kyiv accommodation in her home, and refugees from Ukraine arrive in Rumshid in mid-March. They live with Issa’s family for ten days. Then they move. Ghada Aziz and Ahmed Al Zawawi now have an apartment in Gronauer Waldsiedlung.

They are registered in the city and receive benefits. Ghada Aziz is happy and grateful for the help. She sees her future – at least in the medium term – in Germany. “Here, children have much more chances of getting a quality education,” she says.

However: The daughter, 16, is at home this morning. The chosen school is already overcrowded, according to the Municipal Integration Center. No alternative has been reported. The family now wants to go straight to school.

“The car and two bags, that’s all we have left,” says Ahmed Al-Zawawi.

Back to Kyiv

Germany’s future is out of the question for Ahmed Al-Zawawi. He’s a pioneer, showing off photos from his shop in Kyiv. Trades in pine wood. His Woodinvest LLC seems to be doing well. Ahmed Al-Zawawi talks about his large apartment in Kyiv, a luxury car parked in front of the house. “The car and two bags, that’s all we have left,” he shrugs.

It soon becomes clear that he wants to return to his old job.

“We don’t know the rules – we don’t know how things are going here in Germany,” he asserts over and over again, getting a little angry. He discusses his wife in Arabic occasionally, they interrupt each other. After weeks of being away from home, nerves rattled.

Not a literal, but a manager

Going to the authorities annoys him. In the work center he was sent to the craftsmen’s department because he worked with wood. “But I’m not a craftsman, I’m a manager and dealer, buying and selling timber for rooftops, interior design, and timber construction.”

He despairs of bureaucracy, not knowing what to sign with the authorities. “Always just signed, signed.”

Arrival in Germany as a refugee: Ahmed Al-Zawawi says it sounds like his own business. Like a profession in itself you need to learn and then master it. “We don’t know the rules – we don’t know how it goes here in Germany.”

The two know the welcome offers for refugee initiatives. The people there are polite and nice, but they can’t help it. Volunteers sent me to a bank in Leverkusen to exchange Ukrainian currency. They didn’t know anything there.”

wait wait wait

Help here on the site is not enough for him, he suggests: “As refugees, we need a conference with the Social Welfare Office, the Tax Office, the Employment Center and translators. This is the only way to do justice to the individual problems of Ukrainians.

Which in his case means starting a business. Definitely – he wants to return to Kyiv. In his apartment, in his company. But until that happens, he doesn’t want to sit idly by here in Germany and “wait, wait, wait.”

So he wants to know: “How does it work with sales tax, with the balance sheet, what legal forms of businesses are here.”

Starting a Refugee Business – Is It Possible?
“Yes, it is possible,” says Volker Swermann of Rheinisch-Bergische Wirtschaftsförderungsgesellschaft (RBW). However, this must first be approved by the immigration authorities.

“distinct Professional Entry Requirements It applies to people with temporary protection as well as to anyone else,” says Swerman. So business founders must prove their qualifications. RBW provides support and puts interested parties in contact with institutions that would be interested in recognizing qualifications.

specific grants or loans It will be approved according to the usual procedures: Like every startup, refugees will also be required to have a business plan.

RBW advises refugees in German and English, but strongly advises them to learn the local language. “This way, you can exercise your equal rights and duties accordingly,” says Swerman.

The Advice in RBW Possible without an application and at any time. Contact options can be found here.

After our conversation, Ahmed Al-Zawawi stood in front of his apartment on the street. He wants to go meet other Ukrainians. He hastily jotted down some additional advice: nearby building materials stores, roofing companies, and lumber stores. Ask Russian-speaking tax advisors. Hurry suck what might help him.

He says again: “We don’t know the rules – we don’t know how things are going here in Germany.” He is afraid to start a company again in a new country and is frustrated. But perhaps also because he doubts that he will have no other choice at the moment because of the war.

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