Being a daughter of refugees from Eritrea, Hanna Petros grew up in Oslo with an inherited responsibility to create a good life.
By Janni Møller Thomsen.
Photographed by Brandt & Nobel.
- It has taken me some years to learn to listen to my own inner voice – to the feeling in my stomach – and to trust it, 26 years old Hanna Petros smiles and nods her head:
- I want to create a life for myself with less worries and more laughter cramps. With good food, surrounded by great people, that makes me feel safe.
- I have been given an opportunity because my parents risked everything and fled from Eritrea, and I am balancing the responsibility, the inheritance and my dreams, Hanna Petros says. Growing up, Hanna Petros sat down with her siblings every Saturday with her dad or mum and were taught Tigrinya, which is the native language of Eritrea, a Semitic language.
- It was always essential for us kids to understand where and what we came from in my family. A fine attempt to avoid us growing up in Norway with an identity crisis, Hanna Petros tells and shares that her parents also wanted to make sure that if Eritrea one day would be safe for them to return to, they could.
- Language is so important to learn and understand a culture, and I am grateful that my parents were consistent, she says and knows, that it might give her an advantage someday in the future, that she masters such a unique skill.
“I have been given an opportunity because my parents risked everything and fled from Eritrea, and I am balancing the responsibility, the inheritance and my dreams.”
Reflection and gratitude
Hanna Petros also visited Eritrea, but it is no longer safe for her and her family to go back, as her parents are active in the resistance movement towards the regime that runs the country in, what she refers to as, an iron grip.
- People are either forced into the Military or put in jail because they are trying to protest against the regime. If my parents had not fled, it could be me trying to reach Europe; instead, I get to travel, educate, and live a safe life. There’s a world of difference, she says and tells, that is the part of Eritrea; her parents fled from, there is no stable electricity. No water. No security. None of all the basics that Hanna Petros grew up taking for granted.
I remember thinking about the significant influence on a country when there is no stable phone or internet connection and constantly adjusting to nature. If there is no rain, there is no food. Like this last summer, she adds.
Despite the rough memories, Hanna has decided to use it as empowerment in her life.
Hanna Petros chose to study psychology. She was not a doctor or a lawyer, which was the education her parents wished for her but the one she felt was right for her at the time.
- While I was studying, I found out that I didn’t want to become a psychologist, but it taught me a lot about myself and helped me find me, she says, and the contagious smile crosses her face as she continues:
- Moving away from home, I was able to see the world through other people, and it taught me that it looked a little different from what I was brought up to see, and it gave me more nuances.
She got her education in Bergen, and she met a cluster of Danes that studied art. And here she met someone special.
- I met my boyfriend, and he is Danish, and after a very rainy time in Bergen, we decided to move to Copenhagen together. A big step for me” she smiles and adds:
- Denmark is like Norway, so it was not too big of a step for me, and I love Copenhagen. It is such a fantastic city.
Hanna Petros got the job she wanted.
- I work with marketing. Who knew I could use my education in that job? I am so grateful that the recruiter saw that I would be interested in board; even though I am not the classic Business School graduate, she smiles.
“I want to enjoy life without feeling guilty, that I have a better life than others.”
Finding your path
Her parents’ past marked her upbringing, but Hanna Petros wants to shape her future, and for that to happen, she needs more practice in one very special thing; To trust her heart.
- I want to enjoy life without feeling guilty, that I have a better life than others. In the end, living your life to the fullest – your way - is the most important thing – and you only do that when you learn to trust your heart and inner voice.