Monday, November 9, 2015

The Journey

On Saturday it finally happened .... for the first time since the "refugee crisis" started washing over Germany I had a real life discussion with one of those "I do not want to be seen as right wing, BUT ..." people. Crazy enough the person wasn't even German but a first generation immigrant. I should maybe not be too surprised as the story of Akif Pirincci - the Turkish immigrant who became one of the most popular speakers of the right wing anti refugee movement - nicely proofs that this obviously not a contradiction for some people. 

That discussion cost me tons of energy I do not have at the moment still recovering from my surgery and busy turning my own life upside down but there are situations where it's just not an option to stay quiet and not fight back. What it did though was confirming my decision that who ever comes up with talk like this will be removed from all my social media and my personal circle - close and far - with no further warning. It's a zero tolerance thing. I also decided to tell you a - true - story and I call it ... 

The Journey 

In the shine of a lamp a young woman is packing, packing to leave her home.
She had to think carefully what to pack, because she just could take what she could carry herself and it wasn't just for her, but also for her three little boys. The journey would be long and very dangerous, but her home was not safe anymore. It was war - a long, terrible, exhausting war that turned the country into rubble and ashes and the enemy was close. Very close. If she would not leave now it would be too late. She was alone because her husband was away fighting - like many others as well. She did not know if she would ever see him again. 

So she packed as many warm clothes as possible, little things for the boys and a metal box with some family pictures and a few important documents like the birth certificates. She also wrote a letter she left on the kitchen table begging the enemy's troops not to destroy her home. 
The woman was young for a mother of three. She was smart, but she had not much education - just a few years of basic grammar school - ... normal for 'just a girl' in that small town out in the countryside. Because sex was "not something to talk about" she had no idea when she - still a teenager - met that handsome young man who quickly got a bit more "close"  than anyone else had been before. Soon she found out she was pregnant and got married to the father of the child because that is what you do. She almost died giving birth to a big baby boy a few months later and the doctor told her she would never be able to have children again. She believed him and so she very soon was a mother of two and a few years later - with less surprise this time - of three boys. 

The following day she finally left the house with her children trying to get to their first destination:  The shore

The only realistic way to leave was the sea, but when she arrived at the harbor there were much more people trying to get on a boat than space available. So she counted herself lucky when they could finally make it on one of the ships together with some neighbors from her hometown. At some point during the passage those neighbors asked if she wanted to come to the other end of the ship but the kids were tired and she decided to stay where she was. 
She never saw them again, because all her biggest fears came true only moments later when the ship sank. There were only very few boats - by far not enough for the screaming, panicking mass of refugees aboard. The woman had not much time to think and at least try to save the lives of her children and herself. So she dropped her bags - the small pieces of her belongings she was still carrying - and ran with the boys towards the side of the ship were the boats were. The kids were screaming because they were so scared. They did not want to jump from the ship into the ice cold water so the young mother had no other option than throwing the crying children over board. Then she pressed the metal box with the birth certificates - the last proof of who she was - against her small chest and jumped as well. 

They survived. All of them. They were cold, sick, traumatized, homeless, penniless but alive when they arrived on save ground. Were they welcome? No, they were not. The people in their new hometown were overwhelmed by all the refugees and they had a lot of problems themselves and did not feel like they could deal with so many new people arriving. The young woman had no choice though than getting herself and her children registered and asking for help - clothes, food, a place to live, a chance to survive and rebuild their lives and hoping her whole family would be able to come together again. It was a new beginning anyway how hard it was ... 

Let me guess the pictures in your head. You think of the shores of Lesbos covered in bright orange life jackets. And you think of the woman carrying her kids towards a safer life like some of the Syrian mothers in the picture below. 

Image source:

That is understandable, but you are wrong. Here is her real picture: 

That's the mother in the story - many years later obviously. Her name was Erika and she was my gran - my mother's mother. The little boys were my three uncles. 

So remember where you come from. Remember who build this country you are so comfortably live in now. Take a few minutes and think about what YOU would do to safe your life and the life of your children. And also remember why there was this war that forced my grandmother to leave her home. I was born in Germany several decades after the Nazi regime and I - as the individual person I am - do not feel guilty, BUT I feel that we have a responsibility to make sure that we keep our mindset free from that poison. 

And to those who come with the argument of "These people now have another religion" another anecdote from my family chronicles:
When my parents wanted to get married my other grandmother (roman-catholic) called the priest and claimed she was dying of grief because my dad wanted to marry a "heathen" who would not praise the Saints. My mother was ... gasp ... a Protestant.  It is all a matter of perspective.
I also understand that it was a bit of a different situation because my grandmother was German and she escaped "just" to another part of Germany, but that Germany was bombed to pieces and in a far worse situation to take care for refugees - German or not - than we are now. 

This is a difficult situation and that is even more true for the refugees than any of us. It is a big challenge on many levels and one of the things that most upsets me is the fact that so many other countries in the European Union pretend to be not in the same responsibility like Germany. That is not how a "Union" works. Calais for example is a place of shame and there are many more.
But just like my grandmother had no other option than leaving everything behind, we have now no other option than remembering what humanity means and act accordingly. And if we want that the at the moment so often quoted "Christian values" are & will be the base of your society we need to live after them - in good days and in bad. 

Soon we celebrate Christmas. Probably a good opportunity to read that story again. You know the one of that man and his pregnant wife who were forced at winter time to leave their home and go on a long and exhausting journey; the one about them not finding any other shelter than a stable when the woman was about to give birth because nobody would let them in; the one about nobody giving a shit about the newborn except for a handful of animals, some shepherds and three wise men from .... oh wait right ... the orient.  

PS: Any hate comments on the blog or social media will be deleted and the sender blocked.