Thu 11/07/2024 - 14:21

Tadesse Abraham was born in Eritrea. There, he would have to walk up to 20 kilometers to school every day. He would soon to be noticed for his exceptional endurance and speed, and so his destiny and passion for running were born. Tadesse managed to join his country's national team, but his dream was cut short when he had to flee Eritrea. A refugee in Switzerland since 2004, he has lived for many years in Zurich and Uster, where he is still a member of a local sports club, and now lives in Geneva. It was in Switzerland that his athletic career really took off: as Swiss marathon record holder, he will be representing Switzerland at the Paris Olympic Games this summer, in his third appearance. From refugee to Olympic hero - it hasn't been an easy road, as the athlete confided to us in an interview.

For people who aren't sporty, there are other ways of integrating. 

What was it like to be welcomed into Swiss society? 

It wasn't always easy, but I had some good times too. I arrived at the age of 22 and I was very young, so it affected my youth. At that age, it's hard to learn the culture and the language - but when you tell yourself you've got no choice, you do it. 

What role did sport play in your arrival in Switzerland? 

For me, sport played a big role in my integration, because I met lots of people and travelled everywhere. Sport is a great way of integrating people. Thanks to sport, I was able to cope with this new life and it really helped me to integrate well into Swiss society. For people who aren't sporty, there are other ways of integrating. 

you can't give up, you have to work and give it your all to get the fruits of your labour. 

What's the difference between running in Eritrea and running in Switzerland? 

Both are running. However, in Eritrea, we speak Tigrigna when we run. Here, we speak in German, French, Italian and English. What's different is who I'm running with and the cultures. There's also more altitude in Eritrea than in Switzerland. But whatever the country, the question remains the same for all runners: whether you win or not. 

What motivates you every day? 

First it was my passion for running, which then became my job. Now I get up every morning and go to work like everyone else. But if I didn't run, my life would be missing something. I'm lucky enough to practice my passion. I give it my all even if it hurts, because I love what I do and I like to apply myself. 

You first came to Switzerland as a refugee. What do you have to say to refugees arriving in Switzerland? 

When you're a refugee, and especially when you arrive as an adult, you don't have much time to choose what you want to do. So it's important to make that choice. Personally, I chose running and I've been doing it for years now. I'm very happy with it and I've got what I wanted. For those who arrive in Switzerland, they have to make this choice fairly quickly. They can try two or three different options and then work on the one they prefer. Even if it doesn't work out today, it will tomorrow. You can't give up, you have to work and give it your all to get the fruits of your labour. 

What do people in Switzerland need to know about refugees? 

Refugees are like you: They're human beings. They are also capable of participating in the community. They just need to be given opportunities to show what they can do. Don't hesitate to approach them, talk to them and find out what they want to do. Tomorrow, they'll be participating in Swiss society just like you and me. Personally, I've won medals for Switzerland; I know that there are many people like me who are full of potential and capable of making a great contribution to this country. Yes, they are refugees for a few years, but after that they become Swiss citizens and taxpayers.

How do you feel about the fact that Vincent Häring is making a documentary about your career? 

I'm very proud of it. This documentary is not for me, but for others. To show them what's possible, to help them and, above all, to inspire them. Through this documentary, I can set an example and share with the Swiss community and beyond - and show that anything is possible. 

Any final words? 

I'm just one point in the Swiss community, but with several points, you can draw a picture. There are a lot of people like me out there, so approach them, talk to them and help them become people who will bring value to Switzerland. 

If you're a refugee, stay motivated and keep your goals in mind. You only live once, so it's important to be able to achieve what you want. 

Thank you very much, Tadesse, and good luck in Paris!