Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Untold Stories

I told you Dad is a man of few words so I think he did a remarkable job at telling his side of the story. I've heard many more stories than what Dad wrote; his battle with malaria in New Guinea, the jungle rot that threatened to eat his ear, a man in his outfit committing suicide and the horror of being close when it happened. And then there are the stories that he won't talk about and tries to keep a safe distance from those memories. For so many of the people who have been through the horrors of war we may never hear the bulk of their stories nor will we fully comprehend what they've been through.
One day many years ago I was sitting at the station waiting for the train to take me to work when a young Somali woman who was in a student in my class came over and sat beside me. As she began to speak I noticed the silent tears streaming down her face. Two years previously she had been tying to escape the rebels in Somalia which was difficult due to being heavily pregnant and in labour. The aid workers preformed a Cesarean under a tree and then bundled her into a car. She woke 3 days later to find her baby gone. She only knew she had given birth to a little girl and no one could tell her whether her baby was alive or dead. She spent some time in a refugee camp where she was reunited with her husband and eldest daughter. While at the refugee camp they were put on the Australian list. It still took about 18 months to get settled in Australia. Red Cross had been trying to find her daughter or information about her but it was virtually impossible to find any trace of her. The train pulled up, she dried her tears and thanked me for listening. Words don't comfort at a time like that.
At that time I was teaching in a little community school right next to the building of a new freeway and as the pile drivers rammed support structures into the ground so many of my students thought bombs were being dropped and would dive under the tables. Their terror was real. My students were from Somali, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, China, Timor, Philippines and the former Yugoslavia. Some were migrants but most were refugees trying to get their heads around a new language but for most the effort to concentrate was very hard.
So many untold stories, so many too hard to hear and for them so very difficult to forget.

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