• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 07
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My Home is All There

I carry my orphaned niece in my bosom and a bulging rucksack on my sore back. My home is all there, fifteen kilo or less. Although my legs can barely bear all this weight, I continue to put one foot in front of the other ― that's all I can manage.

A bank of dark clouds rising from the horizon, blackening the mood of all living things. We can’t hear it, but I'm sure the artillery won't stop firing. Nobody talks, we've banished all our thoughts. As I was crossing the border into safety, I saw a blackbird sitting on a tree watching me. She asked wordlessly: “Why are you, O why are you abandoning your own country?” I could find no answer ― I just burst into tears.

It's a picture in my mind, a promise generously given to me ― a quiet corner in a Berlin green space with a welcoming sign saying, YOU’VE ARRIVED! A fifteen hundred kilometer trek from where the bombs are falling, where I once lived. “You’ll make a new home, you’ll find peace!” they say. The baby's been crying the whole way: tears will now be her life, her shape ― if she lives. If I live.

The blackbird is following us, like a surveillance drone, or perhaps our guardian angel? But all the angels have lost their wings, and my niece’s teddy bear has got a bullet hole right in its middle. And yet she hugs her bear close to her chest, and as I struggle to go from one step to the next, they're both listening to my fretful heartbeat.

"We’ll give you your own soil!" they’ve promised. I know I need that to help my niece strike roots and grow. She’ll forget her dad’s face and her mum’s voice, but I’m confident that ‘geschafft’ won’t be the only thing, nor the first word, she’ll learn to say.