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While I Wait: A Journey of Recovery

Memories of Life in a Besieged City

Tag Archives: Education


Copyright W.C.Turck 1993

I sat on the cold floor of our hallway, my back against the wall, soaking up the amalgam of fear and love, feeling alive and not wanting to give up. Door opened with a thud, and Mama, winded from the sprint up the four flights of stairs, stood at the doorway.

“What the hell is going in in here?” she muttered still trying to catch her breath and make sense of the situation. “Olja and I are coming up with the most painless way of committing a suicide in case that we are imprisoned,” I informed her calmly. As I spoke, Mama’s gaze fell on top of Olja’s head and slowly drifted towards hands that feverishly pounded a plastic bag filled with pills. Her face, bathed in the slow glow of the candles, softened and she slowly folded herself towards the floor. Crouching in-front of Olja she stroked her hair with one hand as she stopped her hand from making another motion.

“There will not be need for that, I promise,” she began in a same soothing voice that comforted our panic and stopped our fears when we were younger. With hands entwined over a meat cleaver, still hovering in mid-air, Olja and Mama locked eyes. Wordlessly, Olja examined Mama’s face as if trying to confirm the certainty of her words and slowly lowered her arm, loosening the cleaver a bit, but not completely letting go.

“Can we stay here for the night?” I asked. “We really don’t want to go back to basement. We would rather stay here, just us, instead of being surrounded by fear of others.”Image

Not letting go of Olja, Mama shifted towards me. “It’s not safe, but I understand” she added, as she scooted against the wall, pulling Olja towards her side. Flanked by us, Mama pulled Olja and I deeper into a hug. We sat quietly for a while, listening to grenades whistling over the roof. Floor shook with each explosion and a rain of tiny shrapnel showered the buildings and houses around us every so often. We could hear individual gunfire, shuffling of running feet and yelling beneath our windows.  Outside, the world was in chaos. Our hallway,however, seemed to retain the peace and calmness of the days before the War. Three of us clung to each other drawing strength and comfort in silence. “

“I am still keeping this cleaver,” I heard Olja say as I drifted in and out of nap, “…And the knives too!”


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I am one of the lucky ones, the rare one whose soul was magically protected, nurtured and above all respected. Feeling loved and valuable, I never feared to jump ahead and explore my identities, for I knew that all the possible outcomes would find me with a safe home and an unconditional support, helping me to see clearly and continue to fight. Early in my life, I began to understand that there are unknown depths to myself and others around me, and I was encouraged to meet the complexities of life. Instead of shying away from that which might make one feel alive, I was urged to embrace every aspect of the journey that I might take. To think, question and imagine, all without a fear of ridicule or punishment, were treated as necessities, not unlike the air, water and food.
My soul was nourished, exposed to music, art, nature, genuine conversations about anything that might have an effect on my life, including sex. Yes I said that scary, so often ignored reality of any teenager’s life. Any questions I had were welcomed and no matter how insignificant they felt to an adult audience, the issues I had to confront were deemed important and worthy of taking time to discuss. This is not to say that we all (read I) were at our best behavior. Times when I tried to stretch boundaries and cover-up my misguided actions with lies were all met with serious but fair consequences, even though they might not have felt as such at the time. In those instances when the exercise of adult power became too seductive, its effects were diffused with a genuine apology and a conversation.
For all of this and much more I want to thank you, Mom. I thank you for respecting my individuality and encouraging my self- expression no matter how awkward it seemed at different points in our lives. I thank you for those moments when you took time to listen and show a true concern in matters that anguished my young soul. I thank you for seeing the good in me and urging me not to forget compassion and the responsibility that comes with knowledge. I thank you on insisting that I seek the wisdom and to question everything which those in power propagate. I thank you on finding new ways to make learning fun and worthy of my time. I thank you for giving me the tools with which I can bring my own towns, cities and worlds of imagination to life, believing that changing the world is not impossible. I thank you for teaching me that I am not insignificant and that all of us have qualities that are extraordinary. I thank you for showing me how mothering, when done genuinely, with wisdom and passion, can be a backbone of human freedom. I thank you for confirming that women can give birth to ideas just as they can give birth to children. I thank you for expanding the boundaries of womanhood, and reaffirming the strength, dedication and the intellect of my own self. I thank you for all that you have done for me that have not been done for you in the past. I thank you for breaking the cycle of victimhood and for being my true soul’s friend. I love you.

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