Sebastian’s Story, Morocco

Photo by: Sebastian Gabryjonczyk

Photo by Sebastian Gabryjonczyk/2014.

My grandparents and parents were all refugees. Their stories inspired me and have definitely motivated my work with migrants and refugees.

The first refugee in my family was my paternal grandfather. As an Air Force technician, he fled the Nazi invasion of Poland in October 1939 escaping the Wehrmacht threat. He travelled through Romania, Greece, Italy, France and Sweden with the intention to join Finland’s Winter War efforts against the Soviets. Upon learning that the Winter War had come to an end, my grandfather stayed in Sweden. In 1945 he met and married a Jewish Polish woman who had arrived to Sweden in the early 40s with the White busses sent by Folke Bernadotte to the concentration camp named Ravensbrück. They married and in 1946 returned to Poland expecting to find it the way they left it before the war. From my maternal grandmother’s side, my roots go all the way to the Caribbean Sea.  In 1965 my mother fled the Haitian dictatorship of François Duvalier also known as Papa Doc in Haiti. She fled to Sweden to live with her maternal aunt.

By 1974 my father joined his sister in Stockholm, Sweden. As an engineer he expected to find qualified employment in Sweden. But it took him a long time before he was able to establish himself. He had to learn the language and earn his engineer diploma again. After becoming a Swedish citizen, he was able to start a family reunification process so he can bring his parents next to him. In 1989, after 15 years of separation, my father and grand-parents reunited. My parents met and married in 1990. Their journey was not easy. They had to adapt to Sweden by learning the language, and through education and work. My parents’ successful integration was an advantage for me as they managed to put me in an international school, which contributed to my already multicultural background.

This being said, my mother, insisted that I open my eyes on the poverty and suffering that plague her native country. She took me to Haiti and showed me around. Today, I have come to realise that my life is full of opportunities and options in comparison with the life my parents and grandparents had. Today, I am proud to manage Morocco Playground, an intercultural street-basketball project, launched by UNHCR in collaboration with UN agencies and the Moroccan civil society. The project aims at facilitating social integration and overcoming cultural barriers by creating spaces for discussions and dialogue, revealing similarities and common goals, between young Moroccans, refugees and migrants. My family worked hard to integrate in Sweden and Sweden gave them the possibility to adapt and make a life. Through my work, I try to promote diversity and I hope that each individual is given the same chances my parents worked hard to get, in order to express themselves and flourish in their own way.


Text by I. Moussaoui/2014.

1 family torn apart by war is too many

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