I took this photograph of a building in Berlin, after a long day of walking through monuments and museums. I pored over stories of the second world war. I witnessed the corner where the nazis burned books and imagined free speech and free thinking, creative ideas turning to ash. As a writer, I cannot fathom losing the right to express myself. Yet, there are many places where this was and is currently a reality.
I read the stories of desperate attempts to cross the wall to safety or to their loved ones. One involved a fiancée hiding under the hood, wrapped around a car engine, almost burning herself, to have some semblance of a life with her future husband. This story made me think, as I stood outside that cold May day, freezing and rubbing my numb hands together. Even during times of war, when everything is uncertain, people still fall in love. Perhaps, it is humanity’s way. A way to remind the world:
I took this photo of the words: Bitte Lieben (please love) because it fascinated me. As I did so, a large protest erupted for and against the refugees who had been arriving in Germany for the last year. Like so many people from various countries and cultures before them, many were fleeing war. Seeking freedom and safety and somewhat normal lives with their loved ones. Countless refugees made the crossing in rubber rafts across the Mediterranean Sea. The entire world saw the news and the senseless death. And yet, the coverage faded as thousands more perished and continue to each day as I write this, in the largest migration since WWII.
I often think of a little boy I had seen grasping a tattered Spiderman doll in his hands, waiting for clothes in Munich. He was clinging onto his very pregnant mothers leg. I could not imagine how this woman managed to make it across the sea in such a state.
I think of the streets of Berlin that day and the signs which read “Go Home.” The juxtaposition of the fallen wall behind them. Building new ones. One day, we will too see the fault in our current behaviors.
I sighed and once again thought of the mother in Munich. How could one survive such a journey twice, if she were forced to go home? Impossible.
Not long ago, I had to stop participating in social media because non-tolerance had spiked through political debates. The ugliest parts of people were brought into the light. People I loved, but could no longer tolerate because of their intolerance. I felt like screaming up and down and offering a free apartment in Germany (and even food) if they would just come work at a refugee center and go home to tell everyone they met what they had experienced. I knew it would be humbling. I knew they would no longer be able to stand up and proudly exclaim “immigrants out.” I really should have announced the offer. But instead, I deleted the apps which had become so toxic and carried on with my own immigrant life abroad. I did eventually come back, online and to my home country but in a condensed, more selective form of my online and public self. Self-care is critical. Your body, your mind and your sense of worth and place in this world begs this of you:
Your fellow citizen may spend years out of his or her own country. They will see and learn things you might never get a chance to. Ask questions. Listen. Opt to feed your mind and not your ignorance. We cannot fear what we know. Talk to those closest and most distant from you. Travel if you can, as far and wide as possible and if you can’t travel, reach out to those who are completely different than you, in your own neighborhoods, schools, places of worship. Begin conversations and ask questions. You might be surprised how quickly your perspective changes, how simple it all truly is. A baby clings to its mother, asking for one thing:
We are born for it. That is all there is and all there ever was. We know this. We truly do. Even if things get worse before they get better, in the rubble the only thing which will rise, which will give people any reason to rebuild and carry on, in nonsensical and chaotic times such as these, is love.
Author: Nitsa Olivadoti
Nitsa Olivadoti chronicles her thoughts and experiences from life abroad on her facebook blog Bridge the Divide, stories which are currently being complied into her upcoming book with the same title. Nitsa is fascinated with the voices of growth and migration and is the author of the Cicada Series: Cicada’s Choice, Cicada’s Consequence and Cicada’s Closure, novels based on her favorite Triangle: her Greek grandmother.