Wajd is 17 and grew up in Idlib, Syria. One month ago she arrived in the camp of Idomeni- where two weeks ago we became friends.
While climbing up the stairs to my plane yesterday, I turned around and saw a girl, maybe eleven years old and dressed into a red jacket, who was accompanied into the plane by a flight attendant.
Maybe, I thought, maybe this should be taken for granted. Maybe they try to show me that the world as I should see it, is a world in which we easily overlook this kind of scene. But instead, tears flew into my eyes. I spent the past two and a half weeks in a world, where seeing this kind of scene is not only rare. It is impossible. I also accompanied the children of Idomeni: past provisional existences, stranded biographies and dirty plastic-toilets. Only to a plane to Germany no one accompanies them.
Still, during my time here and especially during the time I spent with you and your family, I felt privileged. As much as Idomeni is a symbol of missing humanity, the place itself is its complete opposite. The warmth you and your family treated me with, has been a touching experience. As well as the strength you show, facing every new day, with a lost life in your back, confronted with the struggles of your present and without any perspective in sight.
I searched for your hometown of Idlib on Google this morning. I wanted to see pictures and connect them to all the stories you told me. To get an idea of how this home looks like, that you miss. What kind of House it is, where the book you were reading on the day of your departure still lies on your bed. How the school you loved to attend might look and the streets, you and your friends hung out.
But these pictures do not exist anymore. You can find photos only of hooded militants, of dead bodies and streets destroyed by bombs. Those memories of a calm and peaceful life that reduce your mother to tears every day, I would have loved to share them. But they seem so far away, not even the internet, which people say „never forgets“, is willed to remember.
Instead of Idlib, you now live in a tent in the camp of Idomeni. This place is dirty, the atmosphere often tensioned, and the intercourse sometimes brutalized. As much as most people treated me with warmth, this place is also oppressive, as is the uncertainty, that lies over the camp like a shadow. But still, there is something I have seen in Idomeni that I have never seen before in this way: the beauty of the human being.
A tear here means honest despair. It is understood by all because it is shared by all.
A laugh here is an honest laugh, deep and beautiful, because there is not much to be happy about, other then about life itself. About the value, it retains, even if one has lost everything that seemed to make it valuable.
The people fear nothing more than insignificance, so they spend their lifetime escaping it. Some find their lives subjected by a greater might, a god, others don’t. But almost everybody finds significance by setting oneself apart from others. What is the best degree worth without the worst, what the boss without his employee? Who will be impressed by a toned body without a potbelly as its opposite? I am not content with my own company either. It occurs only rarely that I recognize the beauty inherent in life and bestowing it with significance, no matter how many victories it has achieved or how many defeats it has overcome.
The people of Idomeni are all united by the cut, the escape meant for their lives, their lost home, their abandoned profession- in short: the loss of everything that gave significance to their life. I almost wrote: except their families. But for many of them, adults and children, not even this applies. But nevertheless, people sit around fires at night, chanting songs and affirming life. And what they affirm is indeed nothing but the pure, bare life. For the first time, in this place, I have seen the beauty of the human being shovelled clear of all the redundancies burying it in my own life. And I liked it.
Your strength, which I am so impressed by, needs a source. I believe the children in the camp to be this source for you. The levity, with which they run between the tents, the smile on their faces and the energy they spread, all this keeps the people in Idomeni living and hoping. The German songwriter Herbert Grönemeyer once wrote: „The world belongs into children‘s hands; an end to gloom; we’ll be laughed in ground and soil; children to power.” When I said Goodbye to Abdulazeez on Sunday, he told me: „Sadness won’t change anything around you. It will only change you.” Who should teach you this attitude, if not the children?
Still, this camp must not exist for much longer. It’s a shame that you are treated like second-class humans. And I am pretty sure most people would agree, if they knew you. But not everybody does, there are far too many people in this world. They are forced to categorise and to open up drawers, so your story becomes indistinct in a mass, people in Europe call “Refugees”. Their perspective doesn’t allow them to encounter you at eye level, to grasp your fate as theirs. Unfortunately, it is remarkably humane to behave inhumanely. What you actually would have deserved instead, is the same protected youth I was privileged to experience. I wished the struggles you had to face would be also composed of bad grades, annoying parents and the new fiancée of your Ex.
I’m impressed by the maturity you show with only 17 years of age, by your passion for books and for writing stories about love and relations between Muslims and Christians. I am glad about the excitement you show when talking about your future plans as a doctor and writer. You are a great girl, seen that the depth of a character is not revealed by its heroics or the spectacular experiences that nowadays get presented on the internet. It is revealed by the questions one asks of their life.
Life took away from you the opportunity to define a familiar place as your home. It forced you to look for protection somewhere else. I am glad your family is able to protect you, since this is something, many others in Idomeni can’t share with you. But If I would assume the right to give you an advice, I would probably advise you to try and find home in yourself. Life, especially when it presents itself so inconsistent as your life does, isn’t something you can tame. And it is often bearable only if you are content with your own company, a home for yourself.
Having met you and your family means a lot to me. To encounter great people, as you can encounter many in Idomeni, is something special. Just consider how unlikely it is: Our world not only offers countless other places we could have been in these days, humanity also left behind lots and lots of centuries and will probably still face a lot of them in the future. The Here and even more the Now of these days carry an enormously unifying force. A force, I wished also those would somewhen recognize, who are deciding on your future. Until then though, nothing else remains to do but to wish you the strength you need.
There are two things I hope for our reunion: that it will happen soon, and that it will happen in another place. A place where you can come to rest and that is able to offer your family a perspective. A place you won’t want to leave, before Idlib will no longer be a symbol of destruction but become a place of life once again. And maybe someday you will find that book still lying on your bed and you will be able to finish reading it. As a grown woman, shaped indeed by a shattered youth, but never broken.