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papatya, anonymous crisis shelter for girls and young women with a migration background

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PAPATYA: Daily routine in a crisis and crisis as routine

A shelter for girls

  • who have to run away from home as they cannot bear living there any longer
  • who are able to run away from home as they find the courage and the opportunity
    to do so

At eight o’clock in the morning, the advisor Sevim, who has stayed overnight, wakes the girls. Around half an hour later they all sit around the kitchen table talking about dreams and sleepless nights and planning what should be done this day.

For Sladjana it was her first night at Papatya and she still startles every time the doorbell rings.
„If you run away, the city will be too small for you and us“, this is what her father and brother had told her often. She is glad that she does not have to sleep by herself. The large flat accommodates eight girls in one single room, two two-bedrooms and one three-bedroom. Around the clock, there are Turkish, Kurdish and German pedagogues on location. With her roommate Tülay, Sladjana has spoken through half the night.

Yesterday Sladjana’s teacher accompanied her to the youth emergency services. There she phoned with a Papatya team member. Both wondered whether Sladjana could only feel safe in a secret location. Sladjana is afraid of what would happen if her brother or her father finds her. She is willing to accept the rules that go with secrecy: She cannot receive guests, she has to give up her mobile phone, can only leave after telling others and she has to be back for the communal dinner at the latest.  She can phone her friends from the girls’ telephone but cannot be reached directly.

On arriving at Papatya, one carer did an intake interview with her to get an idea about Sladjana’s situation. Last night she had informed Sladjana’s parents that she had not been in an accident or abducted and that they could contact the youth services the next morning. Right after breakfast the carer will phone with the youth services and make an appointment for the following week, so that Sladjana and the social worker can meet.  A staff member of Papatya will accompany her to this meeting.

Sladjana’s school has been notified that she will not be attending for a while. Neither school, nor the youth services nor her parents will know Sladjana’s exact address. She will have time to think - about what was, but also about what her life should be like in the future.

This morning Tülay can’t eat. She is nervous: at noon she has to go to the youth services where she will meet her parents. She hasn’t seen them in three weeks. On the phone her father cried and declared that he would change, that nobody as yet knew that she had left, that he would forgive her for running away and that they would all start anew, as if nothing had happened. Tülay does not want to hurt her parents but she doesn’t believe that they will change. Two carers, Sevim and Karin, will come with her to the meeting. She knows that she can be sure to return to Papatya afterwards. But she is afraid that she will just not be able to talk when she has to tell her parents why she had to leave. Sevim has to encourage her over and over again. After breakfast two girls clean the table and fill the dishwasher. Every one has to take on household duties, every week a new roster is drawn up.

Around nine o’clock the housekeeper turns up who takes care of shopping and the cooking. The girls who are on kitchen duty help her. But all the others, who do not have appointments this morning, like staying in the kitchen, also because it is nice sitting around the large table, talking, playing cards and listening to music.  Sladjana gets to know the other girls a bit better. She would never have believed that there were others who had experienced things at home similar to those she had.

The carers Karin and Sabine arrive at ten o’clock. Shortly afterwards, Tülay has to leave with Sevim and Karin for the meeting with the parents. Sabine has to organise a doctor’s appointment for Sladjana, who has forgotten her asthma inhaler at home. She disappears in the office to phone and work at the computer. The phone in the office rings all the time.

Around half past twelve lunch is ready. Right in the middle of the meal, Tülay and Karin turn up. Sevim has gone home, after the night shift and Tülay’s meeting with her parents. Everyone wants to know how Tülay fared.

Tülay is relieved that it’s behind her now and proud that she managed to tell her father why she could not take it any longer staying at home. Her father has offered that she could stay with her uncle, or that he could move out, if only she came back. Now everyone has been given some time to think things over. In one week the youth services want Tülay to say whether she could agree to such a solution. If she cannot, the youth services will ask her parents to agree to an arrangement where Tülay lives apart from them.

Tülay does not believe that her parents would accept that. Karin explains once again that she then would have to go to court and ask to have her parents’ right to decide where she can live revoked. Tülay hopes that her father would agree rather than risk such a court order.

After lunch many of girls are in a rush. In the afternoon they can leave and meet friends. But before that there is some scramble in the bathrooms and in front of the large mirror.  Sladjana is to stay in today. The carers want to know first how her parents behaved at the youth services. Sladjana is far too afraid to go out anyway. But she wants to phone her best friend and ask whether her parents have looked for her at school.
She is also supposed to write a curriculum vitae. Sabine explains what should go into it. Sladjana uses the opportunity and asks whether she also has to have a parent meeting. Sabine says that it’s too early to say but that Sladjana would be always involved in planning the next steps. Sladjana shares a bit more of what she experienced at home.  


After five o’clock the girls can watch TV, but today Sladjana prefers speaking with Nazmiye, who also stayed in, about Nazmiye’s problems with her boyfriend.  Time passes quickly and suddenly it’s seven and the other comes back, apart from the girl who is on dinner-duty today. She is a quarter of an hour late and has to listen to Sabine’s reproaches. At the same time Helga turns up who is doing the night shift today.

After dinner some of the girls stay in the kitchen to play cards and chat with Helga, others watch TV or phone with friends. At half past ten Helga sends everyone off to bed. In her room Sladjana does not feel so strange any longer. She will whisper with Tülay right into the night.


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