LAWRENCE - Bashar Hassoun
Lawrence is located in Berlin’s former Jewish quarter overlooking the beautiful new Synagogue. Given its historic location in the city, this 400 square meter, light-flooded former pharmacy is now a poignantly-placed community centre, gallery, restaurant and shop, welcoming people from all walks of life through the power of food!
I am Bashar.
I come from Syria, and I’m one of the founders of Lawrence.
I helped run my family business in Syria where we had a chain of small shops throughout Damascus and by the coast. I enjoyed my life and work a lot, and we were really successful! But then war broke out.
We had to flee to find safety. Anywhere in the world. My father said “go to Europe. Try your luck there.” So in January 2013 I left my homeland, and found myself set on a plane to make a new life in Germany. I arrived at 1am and it was -26°C outside — I asked myself “what am even I doing here??” It was just such a huge shock for me!
The shock wasn’t just climatic though…
After my arrival, I faced discrimination everywhere I turned: whether it was when searching for work, in finding a place to live, on public transport, or even when buying food to eat.
I had to keep telling myself “this is your life. Stay strong. You must find your way here.”
But that all changed, when in 2017 along with co-founder (and esteemed author, director and theatre manager) Frank Alva Buecheler we started Lawrence together as a small cultural project. We conceived a concept to merge a Syrian-Arabic restaurant with a gallery, art studio, a small shop, an event area and co-working space. A community centre.
This project has provided jobs for a great many people — a place were Germans and Syrians can work side-by-side as equals, and above all, where people from all walks of life, whether Berliner, immigrant, tourist or refugee can exchange ideas, build a new life, and find a welcoming place to feel at home.
We are cultures.
“The food gathers everyone at a table. No matter what culture, religion or nationality.”