«I didn’t even know what kind of country Russia was»

Сongolese Didier tells of how he fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo, why he applied for asylum in Russia, and what he thinks about the future.

«I didn’t even know what kind of country Russia was»

Tell me when did you came to Russia and why?

I have been in Russia for four years by now. I fled to Moscow in April 2015 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to the political situation in the country. In January 2015, the President of the DRC, Denis Sassou Nguesso, held a referendum on amending the Constitution in order to remain in office for the third term. Then, in protest, many
young people took to the streets.

Did you also participate in the protests?

Sure. There were not only students who opposed the system, there were also hooligans who used the precarious situation in Kinshasa for their own purposes. They robbed shops, set fire to cars, threw stones at the police. In response, the army shot at the oppositionists. This happened in the area where I lived with my family, such a situation lasted for a week.

What did you do then?

I was a student of the department of psychology at the University of Kinshasa. I studied as a sophomore. Students took exams when the protests began. Police officers, security personnel began searches in the houses. Many young men were arrested without any reason.

«I didn’t even know what kind of country Russia was»

They were looking for those who took to the streets?

Yes, especially students. I could not go to university to pass the exams, because even there the plain-clothes police officers were looking for oppositionist. Students were taken even during classes. My parents began to worry about me and sent me to my aunt to another district of Kinshasa. I spent all day at home, I could not go out because of the police. Authorities blocked Internet access for a month. My mother cried when she heard stories about missing young people. The police enterer houses, took students, and their relatives lost contact with them. Many of them still do not know anything about their those, who were taken away. My parents decided that I should go to another country, because it was dangerous for me in Congo.

Why did you decide to flee to Russia?

I did not know that I was going to Russia. My documents were handled by relatives. One day, my uncle came back home with my passport and Russian visa. I didn’t even know what kind of country Russia was. I was taken to the airport at night, and on April 1st I flew to Moscow. My aunt’s friends met me at the airport in Moscow, and I lived with them for the first three months, but then I moved to another place. My aunt advised me to find an organization in Moscow that helps people like me, refugees. I did not know anything about it back then, I did not even know the language. My friends told about the Civic Assistance Committee, and I’ve been studying Russian here for 2 years.

What do you think about Russia? What plans do you have for the future?

I like Russia, but still Congo is my motherland. I want to go back there, graduate from university and acquire a profession. I was first given a certificate of consideration of an application for temporary asylum in Russia, then they extended it several times for 1-3 months. It’s very difficult to be a refugee in Russia. I am very tired. Even the Russians themselves live here as refugees. Sometimes, when someone from Russia tells me about his life, I wonder if he’s Russian or African, like me? No, he is Russian, but he lives as a refugee. I’m scared of such stories.

«I didn’t even know what kind of country Russia was»

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