"I feel happy on stage"

Foteen Rajeha came to Germany as a Syrian refugee in 2015; in August she began her apprenticeship as a clerk for freight forwarding and logistics services at LOXX. How she came to Gelsenkirchen from the opera in Damascus.

The 22-year-old's eyes light up when she talks about singing. She puts her folded hands together tightly in front of her heart and throws back her head with its dark curls. “I just love being on stage, I feel very light and happy when I'm there,” says Foteen Rajeha. By the age of ten she was already singing as part of the choir in the Greek Orthodox parish in her Syrian hometown of Irbin. She attended a music school there. She wanted to be an opera singer with her soprano voice and has even performed in the Damascus opera. The war in Syria upset her plans and years of massive upheaval followed.

Getting to know each other over videocall
For the singer, the path to logistics didn't seem like the obvious one to start with. It was a friend who gave Foteen Rajeha the idea. "A friend said that logistics would be the right thing for me because I like maths and languages," says the native Syrian. In addition to her passion for numbers, she speaks Arabic (mother tongue) as well as German and English fluently; she can also read Italian, Greek, Spanish and French well. She came across the job advertisement at LOXX through an employment agency. The interview was conducted over videocall due to the Coronavirus. "My initial positive impression has been totally confirmed, my colleagues are very helpful and support me even if I don't fully understand something due to linguistic issues," stated the trainee. In the firsts months she was employed in the accounting department, but trainees switch departments every few months so that they get to become familiar with as much as possible.

From Irbin to Gelsenkirchen
Anyone who hears Foteen Rajeha speak German is usually surprised that she only came to Germany in 2015. Her good pronunciation is probably down to her trained ear as a singer. When she came to Germany as a refugee in 2015, she couldn't speak German. “That was a difficult time, I couldn't start the language course until a year later. From then on I really came into contact with the people here,” tells Foteen Rajeha.

A Bochum resident by choice, Foteen Rajeha made her way to Germany together with her father and a number of other relatives in 2015 due to the war in Syria, where her mother and two sisters remained. Having made their way through Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Austria and in part across the sea, they finally reached Germany. “The separation from my mother and sisters was very difficult. When they had electricity we could at least call them on the phone,” recalls Foteen Rajeha. Her mother and two sisters finally came to Germany in 2019 after three years of separation.

Music for the soul 
Even in Germany, music accompanied Foteen Rajeha since the beginning. She sang in a band for refugees, played Papagena in Mozart's “The Magic Flute”, participated in competitions, and in 2017 took first place in “Jugend musiziert” for singing. She continues to sing operas at Musikschule Bochum to this day. Due to lengthy jaw treatment and the Coronavirus restrictions, her appearances have been very limited this year. That's why she sings all the more at home. When she wants to relax, for example, she'll listen to the opera Madame Butterfly. But she's already looking forward to the particular kind of excitement afforded by a concert appearance.

You can also download the article in the 11/2020 eXXpresso.