New, Yet Eager

Community Lead Majd Nassan introduces Vienna's Syrians, the focus of this month's 'Home Is Where the Herz Is' issue.

As the newest community to grow in Vienna, we Syrians are eager to prove our place in the diverse society we find here. Somehow, when Syrians started flowing into the country, public perception in Austria was cautious; people were not keen to believe everything politicians and the media told them. They wanted to get to know this community themselves. Many Austrians welcomed Syrians into their homes, some taught us German, other helped by offering jobs. Overall, aside from a few hiccups, Syrians in Austria have felt welcomed and happy to play an active role. You may be surprised to learn that not all of us are actually new here, some were born and grew up here and went on to build careers bridging the two societies.

Most Syrians came out of duress, our journey was difficult but worth it! Not all of us came the same way or at the same time. Moreover, contrary to what may be popular belief, Syrians aren’t one homogenous group that fall under the perceived identity of “refugees.” They are individuals with diverse backgrounds, who first chose to survive and then sought to live.

What is living if one doesn’t dine together with family and friends, eating the food that has defined one’s world? Just ask any Syrian their favorite dish, and they will name at least five. Our cuisine is how we invite you to learn about our culture.

We also want to learn about your culture and we’re sure you know that your language is not an easy one. Integration is a goal for us, but sometimes the road may not seem straightforward or manageable. But we persevere, some of us managed to build tight bonds with Austrians who have become as dear to us as our own flesh and blood, and there is nothing better than when the feeling is mutual.

Growing up in Syria enabled some of us to develop an artistic talent that empower us to portray our diversity, our struggles and hopes, using universal outlets. A young poet wishes he had a tank, but not for the reasons you think. A talented fashion designer succeeds in a competitive business.

But where does this diversity come from? Rest assured, we cannot talk about Syria without talking about its rich and ancient history. Somehow, the sorrows of war cannot erase the fond memories of the two majestic cities of Damascus and Aleppo, that between them are the pillars of Syrian history, dating from before the Old Testament, and one, according to the Bible, the city that launched Christianity abroad to Europe.

Syrians always had a strong bond with Palestinians, whom they shared a history with up until the 20th century. Today as in the past we stand with one another in difficult times, that is why we would like to ask you to donate to UNRWA which is the leading global agency that delivers support and relief to the Palestinian people. Just head to our back cover and scan the QR code to be redirected to their donation page.

Majd Nassan

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Majd Nassan
Majd Nassan currently works at the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, dealing with data and migration dialogues between Africa and Europe. He holds a Bachelor in Political Studies from Beirut and a Master in International Affairs from Vienna. He is an avid Beethoven fan and lives in Vienna with his dog, Diego.

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