The Adagio Of My Life

There is much of my life that is an adagio in minor keys.  Composed and performed by the unhappy ones, the ones who had little choice in the matter.  Unmoving upon the ground, after the fall, in their cold ways. 

Refugees have always been a problem in Europe.  We tend to forget that.  Each refugee crisis comes as a surprise to the brain dead.   Sometimes countries, regions, or cities become focal points for thousands or millions of refugees.  During these disruptions, there is always a transitional period between the push of an army and the reorganization of the administrative functions by the local authorities.  New physical and legal structures, new camps and jails, everything has to be created to satisfy the conquering forces.  It takes time, and so the civilian bureaucrats feel empowered to make quick and painful changes.  To make matters worse, the refugees are usually hated by the local inhabitants. 

It’s often the first signs of hell and a moment for old scores to be settled.   

WW I and WW II brought countless refugee problems to Europe.  America mostly turned a blind eye.  We hardly every think or talk about it after all these years.  Maybe it’s too painful, maybe it would lower the volume of screaming USA, USA, over and over again.

But there have been disasters of a more recent vintage: Rwanda, Bosnia, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and now Central America.  

As I lay in bed last night, I recalled a tale of a bureaucrat and a refugee.  I was sitting there, listening, judging.  Let me recount that moment in time.   

I was in Sarajevo, to visit staff, to commiserate about the siege, and the US Embassy told me a Washington-based accountant wanted to make a monitoring visit.  The problem was, the airport was currently closed by the Serbs.  The Serbian military, positioned in the surrounding hills, could not guarantee the safety of planes landing.  The only way to quickly get into the city was over Mt. Igman.  To land a seat on an UNPROFOR convoy took weeks.  My staff made the dangerous trip about two times a week and the accountant wanted to catch a ride. 

I called on the radio and told Split to pick up the State Department staffer at his hotel and bring him to Sarajevo.  They complained he was a tourist.  I replied, his report about our projects meant either a cut or increase in funding.  I told them to be nice to the guy and so, begrudgingly, they brought him to my office in downtown Sarajevo the next afternoon.  

The first thing he wanted to see was our underground school and the kindergarten.  The torture and rape therapy could wait, along with the water and gas projects and so with a driver and translator, we headed out and sped down sniper alley.    

The kindergarten had about twenty kids under the age of seven.  The director was a downcast woman of few words and there were also two younger teachers.  It was in a little canyon that offered good protected from snipers, but not from mortars and rockets.  Half of the house had been damaged by a mortar shell. 

The director explained the mission and showed the embassy staffer around.  We sat for tea in the living room of the house and we went over the budget.  The director, of course, asked for more money.  As they talked the visitor from Washington became more pointed in his questions.  I’m pretty sure the translator softened them a bit, but the director was becoming more and more stone-faced. 

Finally, the accountant said, “Well, your house is finely decorated and you have a well-stocked kitchen.  Everything seems to be going relatively good for you.  You have a pretty high salary in a time of war, which few others have.  Instead of asking for more money, don’t you think you might make a few sacrifices on your own?” 

After a year in Bosnia, I thought I was numb to most things, but this was something that did not involve a physical issue, torture victims, a dead staffer, but rather an outrageous question from a government representative of my country.

The director sat quietly as the translator finished.  A few seconds passed and then the director said, “As you might have noticed, half of my house is destroyed.  Before you gave us a grant, I ran my home as a free shelter for kids who had lost their parents. One night, about two years ago, a mortar hit the house. My husband and one of my children were killed.  My second child lost both her legs and she’s in her bedroom sleeping.  She also lost her hearing.  Would you like to meet her?  I could wake her up.”  

On the way to the underground school, my visitor from Washington did not speak and he hardly asked any questions at the school.  The next day we talked with the two married UK psychiatrists who counselled the rape and torture victims (within a year they would commit double suicide) and then we made a quick pass through the tunnel where the gas and water projects were housed to protect them from rocket and mortar attacks.

On his final day of the monitoring trip, I got a telephone call from the accountant and he asked me to send him a revised budget for the kindergarten, the school, and the torture and rape project.  He was sure the budgets could be increased.  We both agreed the water and gas projects were fine, since not much could be done anyway due to the constant shelling. 

I didn’t last very much longer in Bosnia.  A rocket fell upon a building where I was visiting staff members in Mostar.  Seven people were killed and it caused my heart to fuck up.   

Like I said, many of my hours are adagios in minor keys and I play them mostly at night, in and out of dreams, between breaths and heart beats. 

I would not change a thing and neither would my melancholy dogs.  Those true lovers of mine.


7 thoughts on “The Adagio Of My Life

  1. Actually – I am wrong. There are no morons – just a lack of understanding which considering the complexities of the world is understandable. I’ve been on both sides so you’d think I would have learnt patience but noooooo. Still a hopeless case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. my favorite adagio. whole album is excellent as is the movie. nnoltle’s best performance. if you haven’t seen it, check it out. duke


    1. Everyone who experienced one hour in Sarajevo during the siege was impacted. Anything could happen at any moment. Bosnia was hell on earth at the time. Duke

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Molded my thinking certainly. Gave me a reference point that most don’t have. Millions of others have experienced more pain then me. There is such a huge difference between a refugee/soldier and a refugee worker. Yeah, the workers have problems, but they can always go home, leave the zone usually. A few years ago I decided to write about my life becuase I almost died from falling off a cliff. I present well. My old world was multi-layered. I moved through it pretty well. There were the times I thought I’d die, but I didn’t. Mostly I was either sick, hurt or in some place with very poor security. Roads that were insecure, places that were insecure, making deals with stone cold killers, etc. I was lucky. I might have mentioned this to you before: I always tell people that good luck follows good decisions and if you go someplace bad and you can get through it okay, then it is the greatest thing that could have ever happened to you. However, if you get killed or severly injured, then obviously you made a mistake, couldn’t draw to the inside straight. Most people like me absorb the trauma. Can’t avoid it if you are a decent person. At night I wake up and think what the hell? I have plenty to think about and I always tell myself this has been a life well lived. You know one of our authors died a few months ago … Carol. She was really Jan’s friend, but I got to know her in my own way. Her computer is still out there and her email address is still active. I send her little notes. I’m waiting for her to answer. I never told you about Em. She is another dead virtual friend I had. I still roll her over in my mind. Way to young to die by her self-destructive ways. She was living in NZ.
      Oh well, thanks. Duke

      Liked by 1 person

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