Creek Speak April 2017 - Page 12

The Refugee

What is it like to be removed from everything you know as a young child?

By Kiley Winkelhake

“When the war started in our young age (my sister 5 and I 4 years old) we did not think about it much. We saw the soldiers and military vehicles in the streets, but could not figure out what it was all about. Years went on, and by the time I was 6 and my sister 8 years in our small town we got use to it to spend during the day and night a good number of hours in a shelter, beneath the surface of the ground/street level. Together with people of our neighbourhood, we could hear the bombers in the air, heading for the industrial areas, where they dropped the bombs.When I was nearly 7 the situation for our family came to a turning point. One early evening, with four little bags, tucked in warm clothing, our family drove off to an area towards the coast. At a remote settlement we had a bite to eat. Us children were instructed to keep our mouths shut from now on. It is pretty hard for kids this young to be this quiet and without an understanding on what's happening. We left the meeting place, passing our car, and followed two men into the darkness. After a while we could hear the sea. Soon we had reached a point where my Dad handed over the car keys to one of the men. Three new men took over. Together with them we left the shore in a small boat. Hardly any sound was made, my sister and I were holding on to each other in fright. I was so damned scared at that time, because I could not swim. The journey by boat took some time before arriving at a landing.” I asked him many questions in my email trying to get a basic concept about what his life as a refugee was like but he was very closed off about his experience because of how traumatic it was. In these politically charged times we tend to forget that refugees are just people who are displaced from their home because of unfair circumstances out of these peoples control. As you were reading the letter one may have assumed that this is a Syrian Refugee which I am interviewing but in fact this is my great uncle Rolf recounting his times being a refugee in the Netherlands in 1942, recalling his story of escaping from the Nazi’s who wanted to send him and his family to the concentration camps to die. Rolf was a quarter Jewish making him a target, he did not practice the Jewish beliefs and didn’t really known anything about them but was still targeted. This 7 year old child with white blonde hair and vibrant blue eyes, practically the poster child for the perfect German child, yet his father's bloodline made him a target.