The Integration Puzzle What a Million Refugees Mean for Everyday Life
Part 7: The Doctor's Advice: Learn German and Be Patient
Amin Ballouz, 57, heals refugees and the elderly in the town of Schwedt on the German-Polish border.
Why are you still homesick, Dr. Ballouz?
The doctor stands in his office and cries. He holds a small, eight-month-old Syrian girl in his arms who he must vaccinate against tetanus, diphtheria and polio. He pricks her with his needle; now she's crying too. The parents, a young couple from Madaya, Syria, are telling the story of their bombed-out city, where children are currently starving. Then they ask the doctor how they're supposed to live here among the strangers who look as gray and closed off as the Communist-era, East German prefab homes they live in?
The doctor's answer is always the same: learn German and be patient. While he offers his advice, his thoughts wander to his own flight 40 years ago. Ballouz was only 17 when he escaped the civil war in his native Beirut on his father's orders. There was no "Willkommenskultur," or welcoming culture, like there is today. And he didn't have anybody here waiting for him. He was lonelier than the Syrian family sitting in his office now. They kiss his hand, though he's not particularly fond of the gesture. For them, the doctor is a welcome consolation in a foreign land -- and the reverse is true as well.
Dr. Amin Ballouz is from Lebanon. His mother was Muslim, his father Christian. He studied in what was then East Germany and has worked as a doctor across the globe. For the last six years, he has been a general practitioner in the town of Schwedt. It's a place where people only ever move away from, never to. Since the collapse of East Germany, the population has nearly halved. Schwedt's future prospects are grim.
The people from the surrounding region, known as the Uckermark, hold the doctor in high regard. He's "good at giving shots" and has a sense of humor, they say. But for asylum-seekers, Ballouz is much more than that. He is a translator, a judge and arbitrator, a counselor and a therapist. He says that for him, the few hundred refugees in the area are like a sweet medicine against homesickness. They help him to reconcile his own unhappy youth in Germany.
- Part 1: What a Million Refugees Mean for Everyday Life
- Part 2: Integration 101
- Part 3: Are Refugees More Violent?
- Part 4: Frustration and a Lack of Resources
- Part 5: Teaching Refugees to Swim
- Part 6: 'A Challenge Like No Other'
- Part 7: The Doctor's Advice: Learn German and Be Patient
- Part 8: A 1.5 Billion Burden for the Healthcare System?
- Part 9: Dancing Away Stereotypes and Prejudice
- Part 10: The Midwife's Migraine
- Part 11: Germany Will Need 20,000 New Teachers for Refugees
- Part 12: 'We Need Time'
- Part 13: 'We Will Only Manage This If We Have the Infrastructure'
- Part 14: 'We Will Undergo a Multicultural Transformation'
- Part 15: Refugees at Our Doorsteps
- Part 16: 1.09 Million Refugees Registered in 2015
- Part 17: Policing the Refugee Camps
- Part 18: The Refugee Bill
- Part 19: Integration Will Be a Task for Decades to Come
- Part 20: 'An Open Economy Would Be Unimaginable without Immigration'
- Part 21: BMW Courts Refugees
- Part 22: A Michelin Star and Refugees
- Part 23: 'What Is a Petroleum Technician?'