After leaving Ukraine: “We do not know how things are going here”

Life was saved, but what about existence? The Aziz / Zouaoui family from Kiev ends up in Bergisch Gladbach through various stages. As mother Ghada Aziz sees the future of children especially in Germany, father Ahmed Zouaoui struggles with his fate. He is a businessman and wants to return to his company in Kiev. Starting a business in Germany? This raises many questions.

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

You are lucky. If you can call yourself lucky when you leave Ukraine. Ghada Aziz, Ahmed Zouaoui and their children find help and shelter with the Eissa family in Bergisch Gladbach.

Families get to know each other by chance: the Aziz / Zouaoui family is vacationing in Alexandria in 2013, when the Eissa family was trapped there while fleeing Syria. You live next door, the girls play together. The families keep in touch as the Eissas move, eventually arriving in Bergisch Gladbach.

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“Since then we have been connected through Facebook. Post pictures, like, comment, “says Weaam Eissa. Her family of five lives in a house in Rommerscheid and she builds her existence as an architect. The children go to school.

Ahmed Zouaoui, Ghada Aziz and Weaam Eisa (from left); Photo: Holger Crump

From Poland to Germany

Then the war breaks out in Ukraine. Weaam Eissa calls her friends in Kiev. “It is still possible,” Ghada Aziz initially said. But then it becomes very dangerous, acquaintances in Kiev pack their bags and flee the capital attacked with their car.

“First we drove to the west of the country,” reports Ahmed Zouaoui. He runs a wood trading company in Kiev and, thanks to his business contacts, speaks English, French, Arabic and Russian.

From western Ukraine we cross the border into southern Poland. None of them can remember the exact location. “I have a Tunisian passport,” he says when asked about border control. Ukrainian men are not allowed to leave the country. So it went, but he does not want to give concrete details.

Arrival in Bergisch Gladbach

Eissa offers her friends from Kiev accommodation in her home. Refugees from Ukraine arrive in Rommerscheid in mid-March. They live with the Eissa family for ten days. Then move on. Ghada Aziz and Ahmed Zouaoui 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 significantly more chances for a good education,” she says.

However: Girl (16) is home this morning. The selected school is already overcrowded, according to the municipal integration center. An alternative was not communicated. The family now wants to go straight to school.

“Cars and some suitcases, that’s all we have left,” says Ahmed Zouaoui

Return to Kiev

A future in Germany can not be discussed for Ahmed Zouaoui. He is attractive, shows photos from his shop in Kiev. Trades pine wood. His company Woodinvest LLC seems to have done well. Ahmed Zouaoui talks about his big apartment in Kiev. A luxury car is parked in front of the house. “A car and a couple of suitcases, that’s all we have left,” he shrugs.

It soon becomes clear that he wants to get back to his old business.

“We do not know the rules – we do not know how things work here in Germany,” he said. Occasionally discusses with his wife in Arabic, interrupting each other. After weeks away from home, the nerves are at the blade.

Not a craftsman, but a manager

Going to the authorities bothers him. At the work center he was sent to a craft department because he worked with wood. “But I am not a craftsman, I am a manager and a trader, I buy and sell wood for roofing, furniture, wood construction.”

He is frustrated by the bureaucracy, does not know what he will sign with the authorities. “Always just sign, sign.”

Arriving in Germany as a refugee: Ahmed Zouaoui says this sounds like a job to him. As a profession in itself that must be learned and then mastered. “We do not know the rules – we do not know how things work here in Germany.”

Both know the welcome offers of refugee initiatives. The people there are kind and polite, but they can not help it. “Volunteers sent me to a bank in Leverkusen to exchange Ukrainian currency. “They knew nothing there,” he said desperately.

Wait, wait, wait

The help here in the country is not enough, he suggests: “As refugees, we need a conference with the social welfare office, the tax office, the job center and the translator. “This is the only way to bring justice to the individual problems of Ukrainians.”

Which in his case would mean starting a business. Of course – he wants to return to Kiev. In his apartment, in his company. But until that happens, he does not want to stand idly by here in Germany and “wait, wait, wait.”

So he wants to know: “How it works with the sales tax, with the balance sheet, what is the legal form for companies here”.

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

“Special professional entry requirements it applies to people with temporary protection, as well as to everyone else “, says Suermann. Therefore, business founders need to prove their qualifications. RBW provides support and puts stakeholders in contact with the institutions that would take care of the recognition of qualifications.

specific grants or loans would be approved according to the usual procedures: Like any business start-up, 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. “In this way, you can exercise your equal rights and obligations accordingly,” says Suermann.

of Tips at RBW it is possible without application and at any time. Contact options can be found here.

After our conversation, Ahmed Zouaoui stands in front of his apartment on the street. He wants to go and meet other Ukrainians. He hastily listed some other tips: nearby building materials stores, roofing companies, lumber shops. Ask Russian-speaking tax advisers. Hurry to inhale what can help him.

“We do not know the rules – we do not know how things work here in Germany,” he says again. He is afraid to start a business again in a new country and is frustrated. But perhaps also because he doubts that in wartime there will be no other solution at the moment.

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