Saturday, August 12, 2006

FROM EXILE TO THE PRISON: What shall I tell Jana?

(This is a translation of a very moving article that a great friend of mine, Roland, wrote in French, and that has been published in Canada where he had recently emigrated. He is now back in Lebanon; I'll let him speak for himself... I have translated the article into English here; the original text in French can be found here. And I'd like to thank Eve, Delirious, and Arlene for looking over my translation.)

On Tuesday July 25, 2006, while Canadians of Lebanese origin and the Lebanese with dual-citizenship descended onto the ports of their "promised land", I did what my heart and convictions begged me to do: I took a Montreal-Paris-Damascus flight to join my family and my country that have been abandoned to Israeli fire and death. The road from Damascus to Beirut, in the middle of the night, was a true nightmare: the sound of the planes roaring above the taxi (the only one that was as insane as I and that had agreed to take the risk) seemed like the drum of death that I had to witness up-close.

I knew that I had come to help, but I did not know how. One week already and I know that I will never look at life the same way again. Last Thursday I joined a group of young people, between the ages of 25 and 35, who had decided to remain and face this atrocious war. It’s been one week since I’ve joined them, each day in a different school, where hundreds of thousands of displaced, dismembered and shocked families were piled up, families of which one or two members have remained under the rubble, these fragments of families a part of which has been lost for good under the shells.

In the over-populated schools, these refugees survive under precarious conditions: the meager and rare food portions, some drugs for the cardiac patients and diabetics. We try to keep the children occupied, because they are hungry and, even more so, afraid: they cannot sleep, with the night being torn by the noise and vibrations of Israeli bombardments. Today we decided to make them dream.

With paints I drew on their small tired faces stars, moustaches, zebra stripes... And each one of them, for one afternoon, believed themselves to be a magician, a tiger or a lion, and could overcome their misery to spend the night on a small carpet on the ground with a bread crumb for dinner.

Jana is 6 years old. It’s been two days now that I’ve met her at the "concentration camp" (it is the best description I can find to describe these small rooms where the refugees pile up). Her father, who remained in Tyre to care for the sick grandmother, never returned. Jana is soft and seldom smiles. Today, she asked me to draw white flowers for her on her two pale cheeks. And, as if by magic, I also could draw for the first time a smile on her small angelic mouth. She did not let go of my hand for the rest of the day.

In the evening, when leaving, she looked at me and said: "If you come to our place in Tyre, I will give you a white rose from my rose tree which I planted with my grandmother." I looked at her soft innocent face as her words pierced my heart.

While driving home, I could not stop thinking of Jana, with her white rose tree tinted with blood, at her house crushed by missiles, with her grandmother and her father of whom nothing remains but ashes.

What shall I tell Jana? That the Grown-ups didn't want to stop the fire and that nothing remains of her childhood but memories? That the blood of her father stained the white rose tree and that he has left forever? That she has no one left anymore but her mother and her 2 year old brother and a few pennies, that she has nothing for shelter but a corner of the street without roof nor harbor?

What shall I tell Jana, that the grown-ups of this world claim that, for every answer, the response is "measured "?

I smiled to Jana and the broken heart I left in Beirut, a phantom city as of 3 p.m., not knowing if the night would bring more devastation and if the death of other children qualifying as "measured response" would be added to our misery.

I thought of Jana, while at home, waiting for the Israeli planes to release their beautiful gifts from the sky to the children of Lebanon... I thought of Jana and the other innocent children; I felt revolt at this cleansing blessed and legitimized by certain great powers. And I ask you to answer Jana yourself, you, citizens of the world spared of misery, because I feel ashamed to tell her what the Grown-ups approve still, until this very moment...


pepektheassassin said...

This bombing is not blessed by me. What a beautiful and incredibly sad piece this is!

_z. said...

moving story! very sad. this is reality though.

Anonymous said...

Hi am a kuwaiti student here in the US and i just wanted to say how sorry we are as kuwaitis for what happening in Lebanon
i hope we can find an other way to help, not only to donate…
I know that our government trying there best by using there contact with the US and through the UN to help… I know Lebanon will be stronger with her Lebanese.
With love…

ingrid nyc said...

To Lebanon with love -
hope the suffering will end soon.

Sou^Sou said...

As i watch a father looking through the rubble for his children on the news it brings tears down my face. Once again you have done this by a story that has touched my heart..