Estrella Maraawi is thirteen years old and goes to eighth grade at Dravlje Primary School in Ljubljana.
She came to Slovenia with her mother in the summer of 2016.
“We saw that the country is peaceful and that women feel good here. Estrella will be able to get a good education here,” says her mother.
They have applied for asylum, i.e. political refuge, and they are now waiting for a response by the Slovenian authorities.
Estrella was born in Kuwait, while her parents are Syrians from Damascus.
They moved to Kuwait because her father got a job there. Kuwait is full of foreigners, and they do most of the work. They mostly come from Jordan, Egypt and Palestine.
Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world. Estrella last went there when she was three years old. Two years later, her parents got divorced, so for the last eight years she has been living with her mother.
The marriage of Estrella’s mother to her husband was forced by her parents, which is why she could not go back home after the divorce. She was also in conflict with them because of religion. Since she was not allowed to study after getting married, she could only get a job as a secretary.
“I lost my job three times last year,” says Estrella’s mother. “If you are unemployed in Kuwait, you can’t get your residence permit renewed. Apart from that, foreigners can only go to private schools, which cost a lot of money. Even health insurance is different if you’re not a citizen of Kuwait. I could not afford all of this anymore.”
Even though Estrella has a Syrian passport, she cannot remember anything from Syria; she only knows Kuwait. What does she identify as?
“I am Syrian and hope to be Slovenian,” she says. To make this true, she works very hard at school and is getting good grades. She learns Slovenian by reading books. She particularly likes Anica by Desa Muck. Her favourite subject is mathematics, but she also gets good grades in science and ethics. When she grows up, she would like to be a doctor or a dentist.
She does not miss her old friends, because she made many new ones in Slovenia. In Kuwait it is so hot that children cannot spend much time outdoors. They play at home, for example doing puzzles, or in special playgrounds under blocks of flats. If they want to do sports, they have to go to the gym. They often go to one of the numerous shopping malls. With a land area of 17,000 square kilometres, Kuwait has only one library, so Kuwaiti children read little.
“There is a football stadium in Kuwait, but matches only take place in the afternoon when it’s a bit cooler,” Estrella explains. Kuwaitis often go swimming in the Persian Gulf and have picnics on the Green Island, which is not an actual island, but a place where people meet.
Estrella loves Arab cuisine, which is why her mother often makes her favourite dish – lamb with rice in yoghurt sauce.
Thank you: Šukran
My name is Estrella: Esmi Estrella