Selafet Hizarçi on family and neighborhood support structures

Selafet Hizarçi came to Germany from Turkey in 1969, where she immediatly began to work, learn the language and lateron started a family. Within the framework of the project “Mutige Entdecker Bleiben” (“Courageous Discoverers Stay”), she talks like other Muslim and Jewish pensioners about her experiences of migration. In this excerptshe describes the important role of family and neighborhood support structures.

Selafet Hizarçi © Falko Siewert und Jenny Posener. Und Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (see source)


Wo bekamen Sie Unterstützung?

“Sehr geholfen hat uns ein Bruder meines Mannes. Der ‘Onkel’, wie wir ihn nannten, lebte in Neukölln mit Frau und Tochter in einer großen Wohnung mit vier Zimmern und kümmerte sich um uns. Wir hatten damals kein Telefon, und wenn der Onkel länger als vier Tage nichts von uns gehört hatte, lam er miot dem Fahrrad zu uns nach Kreuzberg, um nach dem Rechten zu sehen. Später fand er für uns eine Wohnung in seiner Straße und wir besuchten uns täglich. Ich konnte meine Kinder immer zu ihm bringen, wenn ich arbeiten musste. Das war eine große Hilfe.

Auch unsere Nachbarschaft hielt zusammen. Egal welche Nationalität. Zu unserem Freundeskreis gehörten unter anderem Griechen, Jugoslawen und Polen. Meine jüdische Nachbarin war fast jeden Tag bei uns zum Essen da. Sie hatte auch wie wir keine größere Familie mehr.”









Where did you get support?

“A brother of my husband helped us a lot. The ‘uncle’, as we called him, lived in Neukölln with his wife and daughter in a large apartment with four rooms and took care of us. We didn’t have a telephone at that time, and if the uncle hadn’t heard from us for more than four days, he would come to Kreuzberg on his bicycle to see if we were all right. Later he found an apartment for us in his street and we visited each other daily. I could always bring my children to him when I had to work. That was a great help.

Our neighborhood also held together. No matter what nationality. Our circle of friends included Greeks, Yugoslavs and Poles. My Jewish neighbor was there almost every day to eat with us. Like us, she no longer had a large family.

Selafet Hizarçi came to Germany from Turkey with her future husband in 1969. They lived together in a one-room apartment in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Selafet started working in a restaurant, later in a can factory and as a cleaner in a kindergarten. Although she was illiterate and never went to school, she learned German over time. In 1975 and 1983 her sons were born. In 1987 she was hospitalized with meningitis for four months, two of which she was in coma. Today Selafe and her husband live in Berlin-Neukölln.

Selafet Hizarçi was interviewed about her experiences of arriving in Germany as part of the project “Mutige Entdecker Bleiben” (“Courageous Discoverers Stay”). The book, in which Jewish and Muslim immigrants of the generation after 1945 are asked about their experiences of arriving in Germany, was created as part of the project “Schalom Aleikum. Jüdisch-Muslimischer Dialog” (“Schalom Aleikum. Jewish Muslim Dialogue”) by the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (Central Council of Jews in Germany).

Even though Selafet Hizarçi and her husband came to Germany as migrant workers, their experiences are exemplary for those of many migrants, including refugees. She describes how important mutual support in the family and neighborhood was for her when living in Berlin.


This excerpt from the interview with Selafet Hizarçi is published in the We Refugees Archive with the kind permission of the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (Central Council of Jews in Germany).

First published in:

Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (ed.), 2019: Mutige Entdecker bleiben. Jüdische und Muslimische Senioren im Gespräch. Schalom Aleikum Buchreihe 1. Berlin/Leipzig: Hentrich & Hentrich. p. 50.

Translation from German into English © Minor Kontor.