When people look at me, they might see a foreigner, but that's not how I see myself. I’ve been in Denmark for most of my life, and I really feel 100 percent Danish. I recently returned to Iraq for the first time on holiday, but after a few days I missed Denmark. I longed to come home.
The worst thing was having neither money nor nothing to eat. Even though I was only 14 years old when my dad had to escape, I was then the only man in the family. I felt that my mother, my brothers and my sister were all my responsibility. It took about two years before my father could secure family reunification for us. When I saw him at the airport, he looked so different to when he left us.
This was of course the best day of my life. I told my dad that now my mother and siblings were his responsibility again. Then I walked out of the airport and took a deep breath. I can still recall, to this day, how clean the air was. I was free. I had to close my shop in Torvegade after three years, and it was my own fault. I wasn't aware of all the regulations and rules and this cost me dearly. This still annoys me, because I was really happy having my own business.
I have always been extremely social, and also loved all kinds of sport. But after two bouts with cancer, I’ve become far more introverted. I just want to be with my wife and my kids, but I really get a lot of support to fight my anxiety. I am truly grateful for the help I have received in Denmark. Had I been sick in Iraq, I would not have been alive today.
Ali Saed / 38 years / male / married / children / autodidact / Esbjerg / from Iraq / came to Denmark via family reunification in 1998 / residence permit same year