Featured in this photo essay is Burhan, originally from Iraq, but who now lives in Primbee with his wife, Karolina, and their four children, Issa, Adam, Mariam, and Mussa. Karolina is originally from Poland, but emigrated to Australia in 1999. They welcomed SCARF volunteer, Simon Tedder, and Communications Team Member, Sarah Pulling into their home to talk about their life together in Australia.


To read the introduction and background to this series, click here.

As a photo essay, this is best viewed on a desktop or laptop computer.

Burhan has a Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Technology Baghdad, Iraq, a Graduate diploma in Engineering from University of Sydney Australia 2009,  and a Diploma of Community Services from TAFE, NSW.

He is currently working three jobs: Education Support Officer at TAFE NSW, Wollongong campus;  Student Learning Support Officer at Wollongong West Public School; and Language Support Worker at Wollongong City Council.

Aside from his formal roles in the community, he is also a constant support for an ever growing number of people from refugee backgrounds living in the area – who he helps through giving advice and assistance with language and navigating the various Australian systems that can be unfamiliar and complex for people who are new to the country.

How did you two meet?

Karolina: “I’ll tell the story, he takes too long! 


I came (from Poland) in 1999 to Australia. I came with my friend, and I had some Polish friends here. I used to live with my friend in a shared accommodation with a guy that was painting t-shirts. He was an artist, he was doing some t-shirts for the Sydney Olympic [Games] in 2000. He said “Girls, you want to earn some money, just go and sell the t-shirts on the street” – in the city, in Sydney next to the Opera House. [To Burhan] you were working, yes?”


Burhan: “No, no – the first time I met you I was not working, I was passing by.”


Karolina: “Oh yes, he was passing with his friend and he came and talked to me and he asked if my hair is naturally curly, which I said “Ah, mm- how about yours?” [laughs]


Burhan: “I didn’t have a pick up line, so I needed to use something.” [laughs]


Karolina: “And that’s it! He came back the next day and that’s how we started!


Burhan: “It was the first of January 2000.”

Burhan tells his story, anyway:

“They were there, and I had a friend coming from Bathurst and he said ‘Let’s go to the city.’ I said ‘Okay.’ We were fasting for Ramadan- me and my friend- and when I saw her – I said ‘I’m going to go and talk to that girl.’


He said, ‘What are you talking about, we are fasting.’


I said ‘So?’


He said ‘There’s a group of them. Three girls and a guy.’


I said, ‘So? I just want to talk to her.’


So I did…  and we talked and I was nice and I left and I said ‘Why didn’t I ask for her phone number?’ But I was thinking, even if I did ask it would be hard.


But, I was working then as a driver, delivering to the hotels, and two days after that… I was delivering to the Quay Grand Hotel, she was standing about 20 metres away from it! Same place where I met her… it was her! And the same group! I took the van to the carpark and was thinking ‘Should I deliver my goods, or should I go to her?’ And I thought ‘Ah bugger it, I’ll leave everything and I’ll go to her.’ And they were picking up their bags to go, it was only a few seconds [and I would have missed her].!”

What was your first impression of Burhan?

Karolina: “He was the first Muslim I met in my life. And the first time we met up or so, we were talking and I asked ‘What religion are you?’ In Poland we just have Catholics, we didn’t have Muslims.


My friends were saying ‘Maybe he’s Muslim. Come on, be careful!’ [laughs]


And he said ‘I’m Muslim,’ and I said ‘Oh no! Don’t tell me that.’


I said, ‘That’s it.’ I was very scared that he was Muslim because of all the stories that they are telling about Muslims.”

Can you tell us about the first time you went out together?

Burhan: “The first time we went out together, I was wearing all black, and she was wearing all black. And I used to tie my hair all the way back here (in a ponytail), and she used to do the same.

We went to Bondi, her friend was in Bondi, and I think it was in the ice-cream shop- we’re sitting down, and her friend and her boyfriend say ‘Oh my gosh are you twins? Are you cousins?’ All in black, curly hair… and since then, it’s been a nice, good, hard journey, but it’s beautiful, we have four beautiful kids.”


This project is a collaboration between SCARF, Sarah Pulling of Bear Hunt Photography and individuals from the SCARF community. 
Burhan is the man featured in this essay, along with his wife, Karolina, and their four children. A heartfelt thanks is owed to them for sharing their thoughts and stories for this project. 
SCARF is an Illawarra-based, independent not-for-profit organisation that supports people from refugee backgrounds to navigate the personal and practical challenges of building a new life in Australia. By creating connections and generating opportunities, SCARF helps individuals and families to establish a sense of belonging, experience social and economic inclusion and access the tools for self-empowerment and independence. To learn more about what SCARF do, visit https://www.scarfsupport.org.au/in-a-nutshell/
To read more about Sarah Pulling and Bear Hunt Photography, visit here, or to find out about projects she supports through her work as a photographer or how a collaboration like this might happen in the future, visit here.