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  • Portrait: Tsegazgi Berhe at a computer.

“I’m now a Bavarian!”

Tsegazgi Berhe from Eritrea has well and truly arrived in Bavaria. He sings in the church choir, plays for the local football team and is not only learning German but also Bavarian. He simply wants to belong.

It’s an honour! Tsegazgi Berhe (21) already greets people like a genuine local from Trostberg. The young man from Eritrea also feels like one. He is not only enthusiastically learning German at the Trostberg Bridging School for adult refugees but also practising lots of Bavarian. Grüß Gott, Griaß di, Pfiat di, Servus, Vergelt’s Gott. His vocabulary of the local dialect is growing from day to day. Tsegazgi Berhe knows more than enough Bavarian to regularly practise: he sings in Trostberg Church Choir and plays for the local football team.

Integration in record time

Integration all the way. Tsegazgi Berhe has lived in Bavaria in the municipality of Trostberg since May 2015. Trostberg has 11,000 inhabitants and is located in the administrative district of Traunstein. It is a stroke of luck for both sides. He is still learning Bavarian – sorry, German! – at the Bridging School. “I want to be able to speak and write perfectly. I then want to complete an apprenticeship as a car mechanic or as a carpenter”, he explains. And he gives the impression straight away that he will achieve his goal. The young man is extremely willing.

Tsegazgi Berhe sitting at a computer. He is smiling.
Tsegazgi Berhe from Eritrea attends the Trostberg Bridging School for refugees.
Tsegazgi Berhe points to a newspaper article about the school that has been posted on a notice board.
“I mog di”: a newspaper article has been published about the Bridging School.
“My life is now here. Trostberg is my new home.”
Tsegazgi Berhe is holding the book “Everyday German” in his hand.
One of Tsegazgi Berhe’s goals is to learn to speak and write perfectly.

Eritrea: despotism, violence & mass exodus

And he is also courageous. You need to be courageous, after all, to flee from Eritrea, a small country with an inhumane regime in Eastern Africa. Around five million people – there are no precise figures – live and suffer in Eritrea under a despotic and brutal president, in an area about twice the size of Bavaria. The former rebel leader Isaias Afwerki governs the country as a dictator. Any opposition is banned. The despotic rule of the state apparatus is feared – especially amongst young men. Many of them are conscripted into the military for life, while any deserters are sent to prison camps. This was also the reason for Tsegazgi Berhe to flee the country. His odyssey lasted for five months and took him via Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya, Italy and France to Germany.

Five days on the Mediterranean sea

He spent five days of his journey on a decrepit boat along with 800 other refugees on the Mediterranean Sea. He won’t speak about the crossing. He isn’t able to. Tsegazgi Berhe is glad that the Italian coastguard managed to rescue them. And that he survived. Not all of his fellow passengers were as lucky.

New friendships in Trostberg

Everything improved in Bavaria. His life has become really good! He has met friendly and helpful people. Above all Marianne Penn, one of the founders of the Trostberg Bridging School. The young man has made new friends – from Trostberg, Eritrea and Afghanistan – both in the town and on the football field. The young refugees recently held an “international football match”: Eritrea against Afghanistan in front of a Bavarian crowd. Eritrea won the first game 6-1, while Afghanistan triumphed in the return game 5-2. A win-win situation in the truest sense of the phrase.

The winners from integration: everyone

Successful integration creates only winners. And a common language: German – or Bavarian. Sometimes also communicating with hand movements and gestures. It feels good. It feels like home, friendship and security. “My life is now here. Trostberg is my new home”, says Tsegazgi Berhe.

Classroom situation: young migrants in a classroom.

A lesson at the Trostberg Bridging School. Learning German is the top priority for the young refugees.

Classroom situation: students writing in their books.

Tsegazgi Berhe and his fellow students are highly motivated and enthusiastically take part in the lesson. They know that education is a valuable commodity and not something that can be taken for granted everywhere in the world.

Tsegazgi Berhe on the way home from school. He is waving.

“Servus, Pfia Gott and Auf Wiedersehen”: Tsegazgi Berhe is not only studying German but also enthusiastically learning Bavarian.


Tsegazgi is now completing an apprenticeship as a metalworker.

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