Assemgul & Alexy (Hannover)
Assemgul calls the benefits office. The clerk at the other end of the phone can’t understand what she wants, and simply hangs up. Assemgul bursts into tears and phones her mother in Kazakhstan. She wants to come home. The people here in Germany don’t understand her, she says, and she doesn’t understand them. Her husband Alexy finally persuades her to stay.
Assemgul and Alexy were each other’s first true love. They come from the village of Petrovka near the city of Karaganda. He was 17 and she was 18 when they fell in love. Two years later, they got married at the registry office – in secret, for they were worried that their families wouldn’t accept their relationship. Assemgul is a Muslim, and Alexy is Russian Orthodox. The mother of the young bride wept when she found out about the marriage. Her father went into shock. Alexy’s mother still doesn’t approve of their relationship. Their wedding was not a very romantic occasion: they didn’t have the money for rings or a wedding gown. And the fight for their love was only just beginning.
A year later, Alexy – an ethnic German – moved to Germany. He went to Hanover, where his father lives. Being apart was very difficult for the young couple. “I never want to feel like that again”, says Assemgul, her eyes filling with tears. On two occasions, Alexy told his wife that he would be coming home. But he held on. He found a one-euro job on a workfare scheme and attended an integration course. Then he started work at a tyre company, and nine months later, Assemgul finally joined him after passing the Start Deutsch 1 examination. But she is homesick. She calls her family in Kazakhstan every day. And the period of separation isn’t over yet: with support from the Otto Benecke Foundation, Assemgul is attending a language course run by the Christliches Jugenddorfwerk Deutschlands in Hamburg, so the couple only see each other at weekends. And after that, this ambitious young woman is thinking about attending a preparatory course in Hamburg for foreign students seeking admission to a German university. In Kazakhstan, she studied law for two years. Now, her ambition is to study tourism – and to have a proper white wedding, and children. “Five children”, says Alexy.