The island of Bornholm is dressed like a bride, white and pure. Wild cherry trees and hawthorns flourishes, and in a while fields of yellow rape will be here. The wind is still sharp. Taking a walk in the forest I meet a company of Danish soldiers painted green in their faces, and with the machine guns raised for shooting. Ready to join new wars in distant countries.
The war was close this winter in Jordan with only 75 kilometers to the border of Syria. It became a habit for the Jordanians and the Syrian refugees living close to the border to wake up in the middle of the night hearing the sound of bombers. Inside Syria the machines spread death and destruction, and it happened they threw their cargo of barrel bombs in Jordan. When it happened The Kingdom would make a protest, but for what use? Against mighty countries like USA, Russia, France and Turkey?
Staying three month in Amman in Jordan I happened to develop an attitude “thats life” about the war so close. Like a woman from Dubai told me: We are so used to war that I never gives it a thought.
A bad cold meant I had to cancel my plans staying with a Syrian refugee family close to the border of Syria. The cancellation might have been lucky, since it is no use seeking out war. On Facebook desperate Syrian friends outside – and inside Syria shared plenty of mutilated children with torn-off limbs and crushed dead people buried in dusty rubble. Their way to get the worlds attention to all the terribly things happening in their country.
One morning having my coffee and oat meal I see pictures of skinny people with ribcase protruding. Dying human beings from the besieged Syrian city of Madaya, 150 kilometer away from Amman. 40.000 people trapped for months, living of cats and boiled leaves. Old people and children dying of hunger, and desperate inhabitants trying to tell the world.
Even on peaceful Bornholm it is hard to escape horror: All the people I have come to know. All the children. And all the people I just met on my way.
Two month on the Greek Island of Leros in autumn, when refugees were still sort of welcomed in Europe. In overcrowded robber boats they landed one by one on the military island of Farmakonisi. Here the refugees were welcomed by soldiers, who fired scaring shots in the air and gave them a packet of biscuits and a little water to survive, until the day they were picked up by the Greek military and brought to Leros.
Three cold month in Jordan close to the war and early spring in Athen with more than 50.000 refugees captured in a Europe closing its borders with barbed wire, teargas and riot police and military. A Europe which no longer care about humanity locking up starving children behind fences. Deporting people back to death, or just having closed eyes for the horrible conditions in the gigantic refugee camps, we have transformed Greece into.
I met the three Syrian mothers at my hotel on Leros. Each of them had just lost a child in the sea, and the old man next to me in the couch, who lost his wife the same night in the same accident.
And the Syrian father repeating:
-I have been four months in prison in Turkey with my children – three month in a hole in the soil – without daylight. I never thought, we would make it out.
And I watched his anger to everything that was Turkish slowly eating him up. There was beautiful and calm eighteen year old Jasmin sitting there with her family for days on a blanket in the street in an overcrowded city of Leros. Back in Damascus the best in her class, and she told me, how the soldiers on Farmakonisi had beaten her beloved uncle. And the uncle, who asked me, if this was the attitude in Europe, and I did not know what to answer.
Or 20 year old Hamid from Syria, his only surviving family is an uncle in Denmark. All Hamid wishes of life is to go and stay with his uncle, but Denmark do not want him, so now he walks up and down the worn streets of Athen.
In many ways I feel great gratitude. I have a passport. I have a country, I can call my own. I am not forced to travel round the world chased and trying to flee war or a repressive Taliban. I do not meet barbed wire and closed borders, when I seek security for my children. Armed soldiers do not shout at me in a Greek refugee camp, and I am not locked up on a Greek island behind fences in order to be deported to a camp or a prison in Turkey or death in my country.
News from Greece. A video showing people screaming in panic. Another fire at a refugee camp in Athen. Security conditions are miserable in the hastily build camps, and I am thinking that one day someone might die.
I am reading that EU has a plan B, if the controversial deal with Turkey fails. We the European countries will transform Greece into a large refugee camp. They do not say it loud. At least not in that way.
-It is a big responsibility with three small kids, Arian writes on Messenger from one of the many refugee camps in Athen. The family is from Afghanistan, and they arrived just, when Europe closed its borders. He is only 30, an actor, and had to flee Afghanistan, when some men attacked him late one night and disfigured his face with brass knuckles. They did not like the TV series about womens liberation, where he was starring. Some neighbors found him and when he woke up 24 hours later in the hospital, the doctors told him, he was lucky, he was still alive.
-Being uncertain about the future is the worst, but at least I am safe here. I will rather live in Greece, than die in Afghanistan, he said, when we met in Athen.
The family with three small kids, one disabled arrived to Greece just as Macedonia closed its borders to the north for Afghan people. The country put up barbed wire and police shot at desperate people, who tried to get through.
-We do not want you, Macedonia said with EU approving. At first they said it to the Afghan people, then to everybody else.
-Why do you come, the Greek policeman asks, when Arian one morning in February arrives in Athen with his family on the ferry from Chios.
-We are just one big prison for refugees, the police officer told him.
Now the family is staying in a refugee camp in Athen. Three month in a container with air conditioning, and plenty of macaroni served by the Greek military.
-I am confused and sometimes my wife cries silently, Arian said.
Being back home I get a big hug from Shofiq. Half a year ago, I suddenly left him, and for a long time he denied talking to me on Skype. But then he got three small rabbits, and the connection was quickly restored.
-Why did you have to go so far away, he asks me and cuddles in my arms.
I am sitting on a cafe overlooking Amman’s rooftops, drinking strong arabic coffee with cardemom. It is late February and sitting in the spring sunshine is just beautiful. In front of me a couple of smart Jordanian women wearing white scarfs and smoking the water pipe, and from the nearby mosque the muezzin calls for another prayer. With my camera I take a picture of the barrels of water lined up on the rooftops – the desert country Jordan is always short of water – and I read on BBC online news that Saudi Arabia is going to send troops into Syria.
That war is one big mess. I wonder, if the Kingdom south of Jordan will send their tanks up through Jordan on the old Desert Highway?
I always make sure to be able to get out of the country quickly, if needed.
It is chilly on the island of Bornholm. Though it is soon May snow is falling. The first small beech trees are green and the forest floor is white with anemones. The wild garlic smell sharply and I pick as many as I can possibly eat.
There are the Syrian family in a suburb of Amman, who was so poor that the kids had no toys.
A selfie. The actor from Afghanistan holding the Olympic flame in the refugee camp in Athen. A great moment.
I mix in a spread on Facebook. There are so many false rumors about refugees. Old videos spread as if it had happened yesterday. An unknown man writes me a private message on Messenger, that I am a traitor towards my country.
And all the time I know a young Syrian man, who walks around in the streets of Athen, sad and not knowing what to do and an Afghan father, who fears the future of his children.
A black shoe tucked among the rocks on the beach of Bornholm.
There were so many lonesome shoes on the beach of the Island of Kos. So many broken robber boats. So many shipwrecks in the harbor. And left roars, so that the refugees were able to row the boat ashore, when the gasoline can got empty in the middle of the sea. I look at pictures of life jackets. I look at a picture of a white cape once belonged to a child, who survived crossing the sea between Turkey and Greece and I have a picture of a doll with blue hair forgotten on the pavement.
And I remember the early morning, when two young men took a selfie on the beach of Kos, just arrived and happy that they had survived the dangerous trip across the Aegan Sea. In the night there was this screaming from the ocean. In a car and together with an English nurse I went up and down the coast for several hours in order to find out, what happened. We did not find out, but I am sure, the two young men were among the people, who arrived safely on the island of Kos. At least there were no reports of any accidents at sea that night.
On Bornholm the flowers of the wild cherry trees falls like large white snowflakes settling on a white blanket on the paved road. In a small village a woman is busy painting her mailbox red. A cold fog coming from the sea has settled over the island, and suddenly it blows up. I can hear crying in the wind from the South. During these times so many people cries.
I do too, when I hear Hamid is safe in Sweden.