For months, students at the Hostato School in Frankfurt were stuck in Afghanistan. Now they are back in Frankfurt. Three tenth graders report on the hail of bombs, street fights and their adventurous escape home.
For months in Frankfurt, the banner hangs at the Hostato School in Höchst. “We want our classmates back from Afghanistan” are written on it and “We miss you”. They were for the eight Hostato students who had traveled with their families to the country on the Hindu Kush during the past summer holidays, where they were surprised by the rapid invasion of the Taliban and had to wait several months before they could return to Germany. The relief that a few days ago the last of them finally arrived in Frankfurt is all the greater.
Frankfurt School wrote a letter to the Foreign Ministry
School principal Marianna Papadopoulou and Caritas theater teacher Margarete Magiera say that the school is happy and happy that everyone is back, safe and sound. For months we feared for the students. The school even wrote an open letter to Australian Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to support the eight children and four other former students, and tenth graders also designed banners to draw attention to the case.
The eight Hostato students who were stuck in Afghanistan also include the three tenth graders Alena*, Shirin* and Leila* (*names have been changed by the editor). Out of concern for their families, they want to remain anonymous. In mid-July, eleven of them traveled to their relatives in the capital Kabul, Alena says – without suspecting that they could be surprised by the invasion there: “None of us expected the Taliban to come back so soon.”
“I felt the heat on my face. It was a shock.”
She would have enjoyed the first week. But then the nightmare began. At night, when she and her cousin were sleeping on the terrace because of the summer heat, a bomb suddenly exploded nearby, Alena says: “I felt the heat on my face. It was a shock.”
In the following nights more bombs were dropped, once five or six in a row – “we didn’t sleep a minute”. Since the district where her relatives live was the first to be taken by the Taliban, she witnessed the fighting first-hand. “They fought on our doorstep,” Alena recalled.
Return journey to Frankfurt is no longer possible
“We all gathered in the living room and heard the shots. It was so loud I thought they were going to shoot us.” The fighting was mainly concentrated at the nearby train station – “in the morning you see that one house after another has burned down”. Fortunately, the house of her relatives remained intact. The sisters Leila and Shirin, who were visiting relatives in another Afghan city with their family, have a similar story.
At that time, it was no longer possible to leave the country, the three report unanimously. The Foreign Office warned them by email not to go to the airport and instead advised them to stay in a safe place. So they continued to persevere with their relatives. At most they went out into the street to buy groceries, says Leila, but never alone. Luckily her relatives have a courtyard and a garden, so they don’t live in the house all the time.
“Those were very bad days”
“Only the men bought from us,” adds Alena. They remembered when they and other family members got sick and came to the doctor. Of the chaos in the doctor’s office and in the streets, where there were swarms of armed people, of the fear she had: “At some point we just threw ourselves back in the car and drove back. Those were very bad days.”
Many rumors were also circulating at the time, says Alena. For example, that people with a German passport are allowed to take four more people with them when they leave the country – which later turned out to be wrong. Since everyone in her family has a German passport, people kept coming and begging her: “Please take us with you,” says the tenth grader. “That was a lot of pressure for us.” In addition, there were TV pictures from the overcrowded airport in Kabul. Of people who desperately clung to planes taking off until they finally fell to the ground and died. “There were so many dead, it broke our hearts.”
At the border, the Frankfurters were denied exit
Finally, Leila and Shirin set off with their family for the border to Pakistan. There, however, they were denied exit. They then drove to Kabul, where they actually got to the airport and got seats on a plane to Qatar. From there it goes back to Frankfurt, where they arrived four and a half months after their departure. Alena, her parents and siblings also made their way to the Pakistani border by bus. It was pure stress, she says – the heat, the fear and then the chaos when leaving the country: “So many people wanted to leave themselves, and it was unclear who was allowed to cross the border.” But they were lucky. Because their name was on a list from the Foreign Office and because they could show German passports, they were allowed to leave the country. However, due to problems with their return flight tickets, they were then stuck in Pakistan for several weeks before returning to Germany, three months after leaving Frankfurt.
Frankfurt School plans new poster campaign
Despite the terrible events, the three tenth graders, who want to graduate this year, say they coped with what happened quite well. They are also relieved that the situation in Afghanistan has obviously improved somewhat. “We often call our relatives, they are doing quite well,” says Leila. In the meantime, you can even see many women on the street again, says Alena.
The posters at the hostato school have since disappeared. Instead, says theater teacher Margarete Magiera, a new copy is to be hung there to celebrate that all the students have finally returned safely – “a jubilant banner”.