We accepted the invitation from Comunità Montana Valsassina Valvarrone Val d’Esino e Riviera, the managing authority of Sprar Project “Lecco: a cosy province”, to take part to the seminar “Your home is where you are” arranged by Polytechnic of Milan in collaboration with Comune of Lecco, SPRAR (System of Protection for Asylum Seeker and Refugees, also with the support of PIE – Psychotraumatology Institute Europe and Stress Management for the launch of the project “E/MIGRANT: a sympathetic historical city. The recovery of the cultural heritage for a sustainable reception”.
Referring to the living issue, we took the witness of three asylum seeker hosted in our centre for families and single women with or without children, we supported them in reflecting upon living in one place that can become a home and so a living place.
For Favour, a Nigerian woman with her baby girl Gift, home means safety and survival.
She tells us that she used to live in a village called Eubeligun in Edo State. A village of brick houses and hers had five rooms for five people. Path were made of soil, a lot of people always on the way by foot or on a motorcycle. Shops were just outside the “city centre”.
To the question which house would you like for your future, she answers that she would like an apartment in a flat complex so she would feel safer as in Nigeria houses only have the door, while here they have the front gate, the small gate and the door; she says that to be surrounded by other people would have a beneficial effect on her and the living room is her favourite space because people meet there.
When we ask her what did you expect from Italian reception, she says that she didn’t know, she could not imagine where she could have lived but she’s happy because finally she has a room for her, a bed just for her and food.
Monday and Peace are a young Nigerian couple and for them their home is the place where a family lives. In Nigeria, they used to live in a big house with four bedrooms and bathrooms for eight people, and in the middle a nice living room. They used to live in a suburban apartment complex in Benin City. The house had one floor, the last level of a two-story house. They close their eyes remembering where they used to live and they tell us that the road in front of the house was a dirt track, a secondary road for a paved one, the main street. They were close to a big marketplace, a public hospital and a private school.
For them, the key word bound to the house concept is comfortable. Every house would be good, but actually they want the house they can afford according to their salary in the future.
For them, the most important space is the living room that is like a business card and should be always tidy and clean.
They didn’t know what to expect from Italian reception, too; so they didn’t know where they could have lived. They didn’t know Italy and they only thought to live in peace, they only heard about a safe place, clothes and food, on the ship from Libya to Italy.
An interesting anecdote that could make people reflect is about a research of PIE that involved every participant to the seminar. It was about remembering the “safe place” where you took shelter when you were a child and you were scared or sad, or where you just wanted to stay “in peace” to dream. Some of the participant talked about a tree, a magnolia, a hazel, they struggle a bit to get the meaning of the game and then they said: “there is no tree where we lived, if you had your room you stay there, or in the street with the other children!”. Integration can also pass through memories and mutual knowledge of familiar spaces.