Aye well, there I was, in Nagyatad, early 1990s, trying to do something for the Bosnian refugees. Nagytad, a town in southern Hungary, bordering Croatia and near Bosnia, and where busloads of Bosnian refugees were sent. Anti-tourists, staring from bus windows, not in shock, not in boredom, not in anything actually. War survivors are just like you and me, and are not a special breed of kittens needing petting, or incapables needing shouted at to stand in line. But one of the penchants of our western world is organisation and efficiency, so they do get shouted at, and organised. But what is almost worse is the sentimentality that afflicts many. And refugees make ideal people to coo at.
In Nagyatad new arrivals were locked in a cage for a week or two. The UN supplied finances to pay doctors to check for illnesses and disease, but the greedy Hungarians pocketed the cash and put new refugees in cages to see if any disease developed. If not they were chucked into the dorms or sent to the dark corridors of the psychiatric wing, in this ex-Soviet military camp with radioactive grounds and tiled paintings of tanks firing emblazoned on walls.
I befriended a young blond woman who lived in one of the cages, a few days before I left. It was a strange friendship, her, bubbly, glad to be alive, in fetching red polkadotted dress, about to suffer her breakdown, and me, absurdly and stoically upset, knowing more details about her family in Bosnia than her.
when I think of her
I hope she is free now
in all ways