Cultural Dialogue at Home -
Austrian Hosts and Syrian Refugees: An Autoethnographic Narrative
By Corina Ahlers
Taos Institute Publications/WorldShare Books
This book is filled with tender, funny and frustrating scenes, as Viennese and Syrian cultures meet and mingle, and sometimes clash. Much can be learned about multicultural relations by reading this book.
In 2015 a great influx of Syrian refugees flooded Europe. Vienna was one of the cities that had a large group of people with no place to be. Many citizens who were sympathetic to these people became involved in charitable projects, including providing food, money, and other forms of care. Few went so far as to open up their homes so that refugees could live with them. This book describes the experience of Corina Ahlers, a family therapist and teacher, who opened up the apartment on the ground floor of her home, in a lovely suburb of Vienna to several refugees. Inter-cultural experiences of a great variety are described, as Corina, her husband, Reinhard, and their dog, invite their new residents to share in the Austrian lifestyle, as they open themselves to share in theirs. In the first month they hosted two men (Tarek, age 45 and Can, age 33). One month later, the second wife of Tarek, a widow with a little girl (Samira, age 25 and Leyla, age 6), arrived. Tarek’s first wife arrived in Vienna with 5 children (aged 18, 17, 14, 10, and 9) six months later. Previously his first family had lived in a big Jordanian refugee camp. From the moment his first family arrived, he switched between Corina’s house, where his second wife and her daughter lived, and the new home of his first family in another district of Vienna. Can had no relatives in Austria, and he stayed until May 2016. Tarek, Samira and Leyla moved out at the end of 2017. They found a one-room apartment on the other side of the city, very near to Tarek’s first family’s flat.