Today I was in Danish school again, in our class made up of nearly all women, from various continents. This afternoon I studied in our newly-built ‘self-study center’ with a sweet and clever young woman from Serbia, named Dragana. We have talked together before, and I know her basic story: came to Denmark first as an Au Pair about five years ago, met and fell in love with a Dane, married, and now is mother of a delightful baby boy. She is a busy woman, between working as a cleaner part-time, then going to language school, then home to care for baby, husband and housechores, she has very little time to herself.
We left school at the same time, and walked together up the road to wait for the bus. As we walked and waited, I asked her to tell me about Serbia. She is now 26 years old, old enough to remember both wars which happened within her young life. She couldn’t remember much about the first war after Yugoslavia broke up into different countries, when she was 8 years old. But she remembered a lot about what happened when NATO, headed by the United States, bombed her homeland in Serbia, which was known as the Kosovo war. She told me how for about four months her city and the cities around the region, were bombed by NATO planes. She said that she remembered sleeping in her clothes and shoes, in the event that the sirens would start screaming in the middle of the night and they would have to run to the bomb shelter. She remembered that at one point her aunt and uncle moved their things from their second story apartment into the basement of the house and lived down there, afraid to go out. She told me how there were open air markets full of people buying fruit and vegetables, suddenly bombed, people dead and hurt everywhere, one woman being blown up with only her shoes remaining on the street where she stood. She told how there was hardly any food to eat, only bread which her mother baked each day which they ate with some preserves that her mother had made the autumn before. She told too how, when the children were finally allowed back to school after the bombings had stopped, she had been afraid to go back, for fear of there suddenly being more bombs dropped while she was there. The teachers had bombing drills, where they would make all the kids go down into a tiny basement of the school as quickly as possible, four hundred kids packed into the small, dark rooms of the basement.
Naturally I was both horrified and fascinated with Dragana’s story. I asked her if the teachers or parents, or anybody, ever talked about the war and what happened with her and the other kids. She said simply, ‘No. We never really talked about it. But you know you have to move on, you have to live your life.’ That’s how it was for her and her family, friends and neighbors. She was lucky; none of her family or relatives died in the war, and only a man who lived upstairs from them was killed whom she knew personally.
Listening to her story while standing on the bus, looking at the pouring rain of the February afternoon, my heart became heavy. How many hundreds of thousands of people share a similar story to hers, of lives interrupted and destroyed, homes and jobs and families destroyed by some faceless, nameless ‘security forces’ controlled by a select group of powerful individuals without even a hint of humanity or mercy in their souls, for the purpose of gaining yet more power, money and control of the world? Dragana is lucky too because she is not a refugee, she came here to Denmark of her own free will, not into forced immigration because of war like so many other refugees in Denmark, Europe and other rich countries.
Sometimes I walk around the language school and watch the people. As I have mentioned in other posts, they come from many different lands. Many come from Muslim countries which have been destroyed by the United State’s security forces (what an absurd name for their killing machine), others from different countries in Africa, and some from Eastern Europe, like Dragana. Unless one takes the time and interest to really study a particular place and its history, it is easy to have a very fuzzy understanding of where they come from and what happened there. It was the reason I asked Dragana to tell me her story today, so I could understand a little of what happened there and what her life was like during the war.
So many of us grow up in a country, like for example, the United States, with next to zero understanding of what happens when their own government’s military power goes there and ruthlessly smashes other countries for their own secret purposes. I see this now as a great tragedy, our collective ignorance. As long as the people stay ignorant of their own government’s foreign policies and agendas, and hear only State-controlled media news, which tells a very one-sided version of what is actually occurring, nothing significant can change. If many ordinary citizens in the United States actually knew the truth of what their government was doing, the horrors it brings upon innocent civilians the world over, in the name-only of ‘democracy and freedom’, it might be possible to stop their horrific crimes against humanity. Oh but it is a long and frightfully horrific story. How long can we, (those of us who do not have bombs dropped on us in the night while we are sleeping, or in the market while we are buying groceries on a Saturday morning) remain asleep to the ugly realities of our world? Choosing to remain blind is simply not working. For the citizens of the United States in particular, it is no longer working to just ignore the situation or pretend that it doesn’t exist. We are all in this world together, and if one small person is suffering at the hands of ruthless dictators, whether overt or covert, we all suffer. The bombing of innocent people in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, is the destroying of citizens’ rights to a free life in America, in England, in Denmark, in Australia. We are all connected, that is simply the way it works here on Earth.
To quote a famous freedom fighter from the olden days, ‘What you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.‘
What would the world be like if we all took his advice very seriously?