I wonder how it is possible that so many people here cannot magine what it feels like to lose everything, to have to leave everything behind and to go somewhere where people are strangers.
When I see how these few years in forced exile marked my father, how his life was influenced by this traumatic event, then I fear for what will happen to all those children who have to leave their countries because of war, famine, disaster and are not welcome anywhere else.
What happened that we have lost compassion and understanding? Are we simply flooded with information about catastrophes up to a point that not caring is the only way to mentally survive? I notice how reading the news on the internet daily impacts the way I feel and the way I act. It makes me angry most of the time, desperate usually, sad often. Happy hardly ever. And my feeling bad does not change one bit of what is happening, it is just one more person being unhappy and angry. That does not make any sense either.

The stories of the war and of their forced exile that I heard as a child and a teenager made me aware of the fragility of peace and civilization. And of their incredible importance.
What makes people question everything that has been achieved in matters of peace, cooperation and progress in Europe since WW2? Is it a lack of education and proper information? Is it a diffuse feeling of not having enough and of being “left out” ? Are we still able to see thing in their context or has our vison shrunk to the size of our portable devices?
Has the reality of social media become more important then the physical reality? And how terrible will the awakening be when “real reality” suddenly becomes something else entirely and freedoms we see as given suddenly disappear?
Why do human being react with anger and the will to destroy to problems and challenges instead of trying to find ways to change what matters in a peaceful way?

What remains when nothing does?
Who are we when we lost all those belongings that usually define us?

I grew up with war stories.
My grandmother liked to entertain uns with stories form the “Emmsiedlung”, and I do mean entertain. She could find something worth laughing about in everything. And the stories were funny. In retrospect, I do not remember my grandfather adding anything to her stories, or even mentioning the war , he seemed quiet, not keen on talking about those times.
Even thought the anecdotes of my grandmother were meant to make us laugh, they also meant that we knew what had happened to her family during those years. She often tried to make light of what she had been through but the anguish she had felt was still palpable. And she could switch from being funny to being serious rather quickly.
The one time she travelled secretly, without the necessary permission from the authorities, from Silesia to the Eifel on a train in order to get help for my sick father, who was 5 or 6 years old at the time,  seems to me, still today, as something unbearably scary (and brave) to do.
Needless to say, I grew up with rather a resentment against Germans, “Preisen” how we used to call them. That changed when I was a teenager and began to find a liking in German literature and culture. But the deep fear and hate of authoritarian regimes is something that I felt very early and that, of course, never went away.
Another consequence of the lively stories my family told is that I felt their fear and I made it mine. The fear of being woken up in the middle of the night and having to leave everything behind, like it happened to my grandparents, that is one of the irrational fears that I carried with my for year. I remember that even when I was at university in Brussels, I used to sleep with a full outfit of clothes and a pair of shoes next to my bed, laid out so that I could get dressed in less then a minute, and i always had a bag with my most important belongings standing next to the bed as well …  I don´t remember when I stopped doing this, but I must have been well into my twenties … and sometimes now, again, I find myself making a quick mental inventory of the things that I would grab if we had to leave everything very quickly (now my list includes my two cats which makes things a bit more complicated .. )
In these worrying times across the globe and also, especially in Europe, the old ghost come back to haunt me.  I am shocked at people reactions to refugees. How can one not feel compassion for people who had to leave everything behind and who can never go back to their homes, simply because those homes to not exist anymore? How is it possible to treat people who went through horrific experiences as lesser humans? And how on earth is it possible that  people consider themselves “decent” citizens preach, yell, scream and propagate hate and intolerance?

It is in their deeply ugly, grotesquely enraged and empty looks and stupid faces  that I see the spectres of a dark past rising again….