CPH Post

Immigration & Denmark

Out of 'the life'

How a young refugee found salvation at a folk high school

Like a rockstar: Savi on the big screen (Photo: Ray Weaver)

June 14, 2014

by Ray Weaver

Folkemødet is all about speeches. There are speeches everywhere. There’s the speaker’s corner, the other speaker’s corner, the main stage, scores of other stages, and each and every one is filled with someone going on passionately about something … or anything. Every political party, lobbyist group, butcher, baker and organic farmer has a tent, a sound system and a microphone, and there are debates, discussions and pontificating around the clock.

Yet, in spite of the glut of heavyweight and practised orators, the day’s most compelling speech was given by a 24-year-old man. The 10am slot on the main stage was given over to a group from Grundvig folk high school. It is hard to think of an English equivalent for this form of continuing education where students who have finished primary schooling gather to continue their education for a year or two, living together, studying together, travelling and working together. It’s kind of like a boarding school, only not precisely the same.

A young man named Savi, who came to Denmark as a refugee, talked about his experiences at Grundvig folk high school.

Savi grew up in a refugee family. Both his parents were traumatised by their harsh experiences, both in Afghanistan and then when they managed to come to Denmark.

“My parents had problems,” he said. “I always felt that I was being pushed a little away.”

Life on the street
Savi wound up, like many of the immigrant youngsters around him, taking his cues from life on the street. He wound up in a gang, getting involved in criminal activity and eventually in prison, still surrounded by people who grew up with the same problems.

He was then offered a chance after his prison time was over, “completely out of the blue”, to attend Grundvig folk high school, and he said yes without really being sure at the time why he was doing it.

“For me, it was something completely unique,” he said. “I could finally see how other young people, who had not grown up in my environment, lived their lives.”

He said it took a while to realise he was also part of the community and lose the 'us and them' mentality he had learned and experienced for most of his life.

Out of ‘the life’
Since finishing school, Savi has taken an apprenticeship as a carpenter and has now completely left his criminal life behind him.

He hopes his experience will help other young immigrants realise that they can become what he called “a normal citzen, earn money legally and pay taxes; it means a lot to me”.

The large crowd was obviously taken by the thin, dark, handsome young man who protested “I am not a politician” and then proceeded to give a speech that blew them all away.

READ MORE: New gang exit programme for immigrants proposed

Tomorrow, some of the mostly white, mostly affluent audience that dominates Folkemødet will once again be knocking back a lager at their local and knocking down “those people” for ruining the country.

But, on this morning on Bornholm, they sent him off with a standing ovation and cheers.

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