Kacper has received a ticket for his Air France flight to Warsaw. He has just two days left in N’Djamena. The remaining time will be busy, as he will be finalising his last report from his deployment in the country. The paper will include guidance on how his organisation might want to prepare itself for possible movement of war refugees from Sudan. Good news is that the rainy season is just around the corner, and the rain is likely easing on military operations both in Sudan and Chad – it is simply too difficult for military equipment to be carried through mud, and seasonal rivers that will soon appear in deserts between the two countries. Less fighting will obviously translate into more stability for civilians. Having said that, all horrors of wars might return in October, when it will become dry again. This is when Kacper’s organisation will need to be prepared for stepping up its efforts in helping people, who might need it.
His deployment in Chad forced Kacper to think about conflicts and wars frequently. Like many humanitarian workers, sometimes he looks at conflicts in a very rational and pragmatic way. He tries to predict what might happen – to ensure safety of personnel, or to design good quality, comprehensive programmes for victims of fighting. The pragmatic take of wars dehumanises them a bit, and this actually, to some extend, helps Kacper dealing with war horrors. Kacper wouldn’t be doing his job though, if he didn’t realise what wars mean to people on personal and human level. Stories that he sometimes hear are painful and tragic, and they shake Kacper’s conviction in goodness that he wants to believe is engraved in each and every person walking on this planet…
George screamed in front of a television. He picked a remote controller and changed the channel. He looked very distressed. His Indonesian colleagues started laughing at his reaction. ‘Come on George… We want to finish watching the Jurassic Park!’ one of them demanded, and took the controller from George’s hands, just to change the channel back to the movie. At that point George left the living room. He run out to the garden outside of their house. Except Kacper, no one seemed to have noticed how distressed he was. Kacper didn’t understand what upset George so much, but it was obvious something was not right. He slowly got up from his sofa, and went out following his colleague.
George sat on a chair under a huge tree in their beautiful garden. He still appeared to be disturbed. ‘George, you are alright?’ asked Kacper carefully. ‘Wanna come over for Ulei Kareng (type of Indonesian coffee)?’ he offered. ‘I know this quiet cafeteria in the centre of Banda Aceh’ explained Kacper. ‘We will be there in no time’ he encouraged. George liked the idea and agreed quickly. ‘It will be really nice’ he answered.
They were sitting in the café, and Kacper ordered two coffees. He didn’t want to rush any conversation, so waited a bit and looked at his African friend. George was his colleague from Sierra Leone. He arrived to Indonesia just a few months earlier to help Kacper’s team to monitor progress and quality of programmes they implemented for victims of the tsunami.
‘What was it that freaked you out about the movie?’ finally asked Kacper. ‘The monster… I mean the dinosaurs… they were awful…’ explained George. Kacper raised his eyebrows. ‘But George, you just saw an animation. They were not real… You must know that!’ stated Kacper. ‘I was scared of them… I don’t know why, but they reminded me war, they reminded me of all these horrible things that happened to me’ he told Kacper. He looked at George’s eyes. They seemed to have expressed some unspeakable and incomprehensible sadness. Kacper would never forget them… ‘They showed all pain of the world’ later he recalled.
‘Look at this…’ George rolled his sleeves up, until Kacper could see four big scars on his upper arm. ‘See… they were taking my flesh out from here with metal hooks’ he went on. ‘They did it, so that I could remember that I was controlled by them… that I remember that I should be scared of them’ – George took coffee to his hands. ‘Before that happened, I had been running from Freetown for a week or so’ he restarted his story. Kacper just listened. He didn’t dare asking any questions. ‘I was there with my older brother. There were also two other boys, and three girls… They were our neighbours from Freetown. My brother was 19 years old, and my father had requested him to look after all of us, and take us to safety. We tried to reach Liberia. We were told there were refugee camps there, and that we would be safe in that country…’
‘…After perhaps 7 days, we stopped to rest. We were still in Sierra Leone. We were tired, and we hadn’t eaten for hours. My brother told us to hide in bushes, while he wanted to go to a village to get some food for us. He wanted to see whether it was possible to steal a chicken or two. Just moments after he left us, I heard shots, and my brother scream. I run, run towards him… After a few meters, someone hit me at my head. I fell…’ George was all in tears. ‘They took us both. My brother couldn’t walk; they shot him in his leg. I tried to help him, but I was just a little boy. The rebels got very upset with him… He couldn’t walk, and he slowed them down. One of the guys separated us, and the other one put his gun to his head… He pulled the trigger… I had blood on my face, my brother’s blood…’ George stopped for a while, and sipped his coffee.
‘I don’t know what has happened to the other kids in the bush. I have never heard from them, ever – even when I eventually returned to Freetown years later. They are missing and no one knows what fate might have met them…’ George stopped for a while, and reminded silent for around 5 minuets. Then he continued again: ‘I couldn’t cry much. They gave me a heavy sack and told me to carry it, and follow them. We walked for 4 hours, until we reached the camp. They forced me to drink alcohol. I tried to refuse, I told them that I was Christian and I couldn’t drink. They hit me… they didn’t like me. I was just a kid, Kacper. I was just a kid…’ George didn’t cry anymore, but his eyes again became very sad though.
‘…I was in the rebel group for 3 months. They tortured me every day. They tried to teach me, how to shoot, how to kill, how to drink and take drugs. Slowly I started to give in to these lessons. I was just a kid… I didn’t want to die! I was lucky though… One day, they were all stoned and they fell asleep. So I just run… I managed to be saved by some other Sierra Leonean refugees. They were going to Liberia, and I joined them…’
George asked for some orange juice, and then carried on his tale: ‘Years after, I returned to Freetown. I found my mother. She was the only person that survived from our family. They raped my sister, her daughter in front of her. They beat my mother until she fell unconscious. When she woke up, my sister was dead, and all my mother could do was just bury her body. My father had been killed before that, in the streets of Freetown. Kacper… it is just my mother and I who survived… My mother stopped talking. She doesn’t talk to anyone… there is too much pain in her. She is a bit like a plant… She lives, but she is not with me anymore.’
‘I tried to have our lives as normal as possible. It was not easy Kacper. I missed my siblings and I didn’t know how to earn our living. I went to school again, and I managed to find work in our organisation. I did my best to prove that I was a good and hard working person. They soon promoted me, and now they even sent me here to Indonesia. I am so grateful, Kacper… I can provide for my family and look after my mother!’ George finished his tragic story. They still sat there in the café for another 30 minutes. They just looked at the busy street of Banda Aceh, and watched the life go on. Their minds however for a long time remained in a small country of western Africa.
Kacper was in his bedroom. His was still thinking of his friend’s life. George’s story was so horrific that nearly unreal, and had he not seen, and known George, he would have thought that the story like that must be a result of imagination of some movie script writer… This story was real however, as real as George and his scars on his arms. ‘God…’ thought Kacper… ‘Why… why all this? Why people need to go through something that horrible?’ Unfortunately, Kacper didn’t find any answers that would bring him peace.
PS. Kacper is planning his week that he will spend in Poland.