Zelinka, E., Irregular Migration and its Wounds

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IRREGULAR MIGRATION AND ITS WOUNDS


A private discussion is an opportunity for the traumatized person (in this case study an Asian woman) to tell their story without being judged, stigmatized or punished. This paper will closely illustrate if and to what extent such a private conversation can aid the subject to find and create for themselves ‘a room of their own’: peace of mind, psychological stability and self-esteem. This paper will try to answer the following central question: may such a private discussion constitute the starting point for the subject’s empowerment and for their (re)building of identity? Can it help a traumatized student create or start creating ‘a room of their own’?

Firstly, the phrase ‘a room of her own’ begs for an explanation: in the present paper the above-mentioned phrase will not necessarily have the Woolfian connotation: a self-isolated, intimate, private space of the woman, where she can create artistically (write) and earn her living from her own creation (writing), making the woman economically and ideologically independent of man and of society in general (Woolf, 1999, 88).

Naturally, Woolf implies that in order to be able to do all these in her “room of her own”, a woman also needs peace of mind, freedom from pain and from prejudices. Nevertheless, I will use in this paper the phrase as a metaphor for a set of related feelings and states of mind, such as: the act of talking and language as tools of defulation, leading to psychological stability. Further on, this leads to peace of mind and may breed self-esteem, self empowerment and dignity, even if they appear only in an embryonic form. Lastly, all these united factors may become the starting point of the subject’s self-empowerment and of their (re)building  their identity.

My first argument in answering the central question of this paper is closely related to Shulamit Reinharz’s theory, which argues the following: it is paramount to consider that such a private conversation, which resembles a counseling session or even an Oral History interview, may become a rostrum for the traumatized woman, her very first opportunity to speak out, to pour out her trauma. Depending on her socio-cultural background, it may be her maiden encounter with the opportunity to have an opinion of her own and to voice her opinion, her gender related and gender specific issues, that may have been refulated for a long time. (Reinharz, 1992, 245).


That is why I consider that such a friendly private conversation can be the starting point of a student’s liberation; their trampoline for shedding their (traumatizing) past or present, and for starting to cope with the problems, slowly addressing each issue one by one. The main liberation channel in this weary process of remembering and then shedding/addressing/’digesting’ each issue is language.  
This is such a complex matter, that I will come back to it and analyze it extensively later.  As I have mentioned above, this painstaking, long process of remembering, ‘pouring out’, defulating may then lead to ‘the room of their own’: peace of mind and stability and a fresh start for building up self-confidence and identity.

In order to answer the central question of the paper, I will secondly analyze the issue of language as a means of defulation and of addressing one’s innermost problems. Julia Kristeva argues that language, the act of speech has a definite power to “break up” even the most deeply buried issues in one’s soul. She admits to the fact that this is one of the bases of psychotherapy: the subject talks about their problems and in this way more or less consciously ‘befriends’ with them, starts to master them, quenches their fear of their past trauma (Kristeva, 1986, 128). This is the crucial point when (s)he self-empowers themselves, usually unawares.
Further on, I will highlight the direct connection between language as a means of defulation and empowerment, and an Oral History interview, conducted by a woman with a woman. I will try to prove that an Oral History interview is in fact language, a language of defulation and of empowerment.
 We must go back and reconsider Kristeva once again. In her same interview, she argues that to most women, especially to the traumatized women, language is something “foreign”, “cold” and secondary. “Language is a foreign body” to traumatized women (ibid, 131).
Juliet Mitchell provides the explanation to Kristeva’s statement: “language is phallocentric”, that is it is male-created, male-dominated and it is institutionalized and normed by men, regardless of women’s gender-specific needs (Mitchell, 1984, 426).
Consequently, traumatized women “refuse to submit to communication” especially to communication with men (Kristeva, 1986, 131). That is why an Oral History interview usually acts as a cure to the traumatized woman: talking and talking to another woman, to somebody of her own sex gives her confidence to open up and talk, assuming that the listener (the female interviewer) will understand her better than a man, as she belongs to the same sex. They share the same gender and sex-related issues, thus the female listener will be able to better understand, analyze and interpret the female interviewee’s trauma. Hence the greater confidence to talk to a woman rather than to a man.
 Due to this fact I believe that talking about one’s problems in an Oral History interview to another woman may become an effective act of defulation, since “language is defulation” (ibid, 131). One mustn’t forget that an Oral History interview is in fact based on talking, on language, that is on the act of speech. This is the direct connection between language and the Oral History interview that I have mentioned above.
To sum up, this talking, this act of speech leads to defulation, as Kristeva argues. As a result, defulation breeds the traumatized subject’s energy to face and to address the traumas of her/his past. As a conclusion, an Oral History interview (based on language, on speech) contains the first steps towards the female interviewee’s “room of her own”, especially if conducted by a female interviewer.
Consequently, in my opinion an Oral History interview resembles very much a familiar, but private discussion between the student and the professor of the same sex, who attempts to aid the student in their process of defulation through language and metalanguage.

Finally,  the founding father of Oral History, Alessandro Portelli establishes a close relationship and a resemblance between an Oral History interview and a literary text: both need and should be interpreted. The Oral Historian should never analyze only the text: that is the information which s/he has on the tape recorder or on the transcript of the interview (Portelli, 1998, 64-66). Similarly, a literary critic should never restrict his/her analysis only to the text on the paper in front of him/her. In both cases interpretation is required, the text begs for the interpretation of the metatext as well: for example punctuation, dialect, sentence length, grammar or syntax.
According to Portelli, in case of an Oral History interview (in out case, the private discussion), the professor must also consider apart from the word proper, uttered by the student, the metatext (punctuation, tone, volume, rhythm, intonation, velocity of speech) and their body language too (Portelli, 1998, 64-66).
This is very important to mention, because this is going to be the basis of my third argument in trying to answer the central question of the present paper. I will try to interpret not only the text, but the metatext too, in the Oral History interview I conducted (see Appendix). This is the third tool that will serve me in order to bring an answer to the question in the title.

Firstly, I will analyse and interpret the text: the words uttered by S. (“Subject” of my interview) answer the question: did the Oral History interview help her get closer to “a room of her own”? As we can read on the second page of the interview, the interviewee is fighting to gather her strength to start her confession, that is her defulation through language. She does that on her own, deliberately and consciously assuming all risks of her memories hurting her.
The interviewer is reluctant at the beginning to start the interview, because she is not convinced that S. is already strong enough psychologically, as to face her past. Nevertheless, S. verbally fights back the interviewer, she “wants to tell her all”, because she “needs” to get rid of a burden that she has been carrying in her soul for so long: ” No…no.. I want to … want to... to … pour it all out…I need to pour it out… I’ve been carrying it enough!!!” This burden is nothing but her trauma, her flight from persecution Asian country to Hungary; a nightmare that she has not yet had the chance to face, to pour out and thus be relieved of it: “Listen, I cried all last night …all night, because I remembered all that we went through…and it was so intense I couldn’t stop crying…so I decided to tell you everything today, when you would come… again… and…”
As we may conclude the interviewee feels that if she talks, she will be relieved, so she decides on her own to talk, to relieve herself. The subject herself acknowledges that talking is relieving. What is more, at the end of the interview she admits to the fact that now, after having had the interview, she has found her peace, at least for the moment: “…oh, thank you for hearing me out… I knew you would have the patience…you helped me a lot… (I.: I helped you…???) …S.: Yes, just by listening, you helped me get a huge burden off my soul, ...it is …I feel much more lighter now…I don’t know why… but I feel so much better… finally, I am at peace now… now that I poured it all out”.
To sum up, S., a genuinely desperate woman interviewee, admits that this private discussion helped her find her peace (at least for the moment) and that it was a great help for her just to be listened to. Therefore, I conclude that this Oral History interview was successful in aiding the desperate woman to take a step closer to peace and find her “room of her own”.

Secondly, after having analysed the text per se, I will turn to the metatext of the interviewee’s statements. It is Alessandro Portelli again, who pinpoints a very important fact: an Oral History interview “is less about events and more about their meaning” (Portelli, 1998, 67). What he means by this statement is the fact that the subject of the Oral History interview may play small ‘tricks’ on the interviewer, consciously or unconsciously.
For example she may hide or just pretend to hide some information (ibid.69). Another usual trick is dwelling on a subject surprisingly much or surprisingly little (ibid.66), or slowing down or speeding up the rhythm of speech (ibid.65). The interviewee resorts to these tiny but important ‘tricks’ in order to try to distract the interviewer’s attention.
That is why, the interviewer has to be very well prepared to capture all these tricks, to understand them and to interpret them correctly, like in the case of a literary text. A great deal of subtlety and compassion is required, while the fatal mistake is being condescending towards the interviewee. This is in fact the interpretation of the Oral History material: going beyond the narrated text (the “events”) and understanding the “meaning” of the metatext, of all that is beyond the uttered words.
Knowing S. and her family quite well, her personality and her nature, I am convinced that in my particular Oral History interview she did not try to play these tricks on me. Still, I found one such moment in S.’s testimony: at the beginning of the interview, when she was fighting to start telling her story, she was continuously assuring me that she was ready and that she wanted to tell me “all”. In the same time, she was looking furtively towards the door.
Let us not forget that her husband (who is a wonderful, warm person) was out, doing the shopping. What is more, this was our first time alone, just the two of us, two women sitting together and talking about something painful.
Again, I must emphasize that S. and her husband are a rare exception of unarranged marriages, where love and mutual support are present. Still the furtive looks towards the door (through which the husband might come in any moment) came in contradiction with S.’s unprecedented and wild determination to act and to talk, in order to get rid of her inner burden and find her piece.
I can interpret these furtive looks only in the following way: she had often told me during my earlier visits, that she could never talk to anybody about her trauma. When I asked her why, she answered that she was still very weak and that she could hardly leave her room. Her husband, was usually there in their room, pampering and cherishing both her and their little baby.
That is why even if her friends from the other rooms came to spend some time with her, she could not talk to them about “her story”, because that would remind her husband of their common nightmare that they had gone through in the previous two or three months. She did not want to hurt him by bringing up the past, although for her, it would have meant relief. Instead, for his sake (who finally found some hope and happiness after the birth of their baby-daughter), she preferred to lock up all her nightmare inside herself: “ I can’ cry in front of him because that would remind him of everything… I can’t cry or talk in front of him! I don’t want to hurt him! He went through enough!”, she had told me once before the interview in December 2004.
    That is why I think she decided to talk to me on that particular Sunday, when the husband for whom she really cares, was out. She could finally talk freely without hurting her him, who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, anyway. Still, there was this smothered fear that he might come in and see her crying and understand that she was talking about her trauma. That would have hurt him, something that S. did not want to happen. That is why she was furtively looking to the door in spite of the fact that she never mentioned anything about these glimpses or about their reason. She preferred to hide the and proceeded with her story.
Portelli mentions that what the interviewee hides is at least as important as what she utters (ibid.69), because the hidden information speaks volumes about what is in the subject’s subconscious, about her psychology (ibid.67) and about all that is in her soul and in her mind. In this particular case it also gave me a lot of information about the interpersonal relationship (mutual love and care) between the interviewee and her husband. It also allowed me to have a glimpse into their marriage relationship.
Also, if during the narration her speed of narration was so fast that it almost drove her out of breath, towards the end of the interview, S.’s  velocity slowed down gradually and her breathing became normal too.
Further on, the transcript of the interview shows clearly that the sentences carry a huge emotional (traumatic) load: they are short, elliptic, fragmented in syllables, words, phrases: “True!.. yes...but…yes…oh, God!!!”. This kind of syntax unveils the subject’s emotional turmoil: fear, pain, anxiety, shame, helplessness and humiliation.
Next, when S. arrives at one of the most painful moments of her narration, that is when she remembers that she got pregnant and that was the moment when they decided they had to flee, her tone changes, too: …her tone gets extremely serious…As we can conclude, the tone and the voice also speak about the subject’s state of mind.

Having interpreted the connotations of what S. tried to hide, I will go on analysing  her body language: S. is a very affectionate and passionate woman, so her body language betrayed her fear at the beginning of the interview, her confusion and her nervousness, her anxiety that she would not be able to face “her story” and her struggle with her own self to gather all her strength to start narrating: “biting her nails as well and cracking her fingers”,” bites her lips and frowns”, “ she swallows repeatedly”, “ wild gesticulation”.
The “crossed arms” as well as the fact that “I reach out and touch her arm, she takes my hand and holds it tight for a moment, then drops it” and later “I try to take her hand, she abruptly pulls away”, all these are body language signs that S. was having a terrible struggle with the story, with the memories she was narrating. Due to this struggle she refused all communication and affection towards and from me.
“Her dilated nostrils” were the clear sign of fury and anger, due to the suffering and the helplessness she was exposed to, while reliving her memories, during her narration. Her womanly and motherly fury reaches its climax when she talks about the most terrible part of her traumatic past: the deadly threat looming over her baby. It is when she recalls how the local national police threatened to execute her newly born baby right after the delivery, that she “hits her pillow with her right fist”. 

Towards the end of the painstaking interview, when the burden has been thrown down and she starts feeling some relief, “she straightens her shoulders and her back”, “ proudly smiles, for the very first time”  and “she reaches out for my hand, as we are both sitting on her bed”.

Moreover, “I take here hand, she embraces me and holds me very tight”, then “she pulls back her shoulder, lifts her chin and lounges back on her pillow and smiles proudly”. She has succeeded, she has done it! She is over the most difficult part of the story-telling. She feels much relieved, “lighter” now.Consequently, she doesn’t push away my hand any more, but “takes my hand and smiles”, she holds me. She needs to give and to receive love and tenderness, so she “caresses my cheeks” with a “peaceful, content smile”. By the end of the interview her “right hand is on her heart, eyes are shut and she is smiling peacefully. After a few seconds I can see tears running down her cheeks”. Coming back to my role of an analyst, of an interpreter, I infer these tears are not so much tears of pain, but first and foremost of triumph over her past that had haunted her until she poured it out through language. Also, they are tears of exhaustion and of shattering, as she has just gone through a traumatic but (paradoxically) relieving experience.As a conclusion, from all these signs of S.’s body, that were tightly connected to the activity of her mind and of her soul, I can interpret that the remembering and the reliving of all the past traumas is a paradoxical experience: extremely painful on the one hand, but defulating and relieving on the other.Taking everything into account, I have arrived to the answer to my central question: may a private discussion, as illustrated by an Oral History interview with a traumatized person constitute the starting point for the subject’s empowerment and for her (re)building  her identity? In my opinion the answer is yes, because the traumatized interviewee pours out all their pain through language, body language and through metatext. S/he is allowed free themselves and to shed their haunting pain by shouting, gesticulating, cursing even. Therefore they are relieved of their burden, they have the freedom to step away from their past, to voice their opinion, their very own opinion.As a result the subject, in this case the traumatized Asian woman is free to build or to rebuild her shattered identity, to find her “room of her own”: her peace of mind and  her emotional stability. Even if they are temporary they exist at least for some time, during which the woman has the opportunity to discover her identity and her resources to rebuild her life. Consequently, the therapeutical outcomes of such an Oral History interview can and may be compared to those of a professor-student private discussion. Both have the same finality: finding a common tone of discussion, a mutual element of confidence, a listener-speaker, bipolar, channel of communication. Thus flux of communication may become beneficial for the traumatized student in order to use it as a means of defulation through language and metalanguage. 

References

Cunningham, M.: The Hours (London: Clays Ltd., 1998).

Kristeva, J.: A Question of Subjectivity. An Interview, in Women’s Review, 12, 1986.

Mitchell, J.: Femininity, Narrative and Psychoanalysis (London: Virago, 1984).

Portelli, A.: What Makes Oral History Different, in The Oral History Reader, Robert Perks and Alaister Thompson (eds.) (London and New York: Routlegde, 1998).

Reinharz, S.: Feminist Methods in Social Research (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).

Woolf, V.: A Room of One's Own (Bucharest: Univers, 1999).

Elisabeta Zelinka, University of the West, Timisoara, Romania

 APPENDIX.Interview with S.—19.12.2004.INTRODUCTION.The following interview was conducted on 19th December 2004 with S., at the refugee camp in Bicske, Hungary. S. is a 25 year old young Asian woman, wife and mother in the same time. She has been living in the Bicske refugee camp since September  2004, together with her husband and her six-week-old baby-daughter. They are political refugees from an Asian country markd by torture and political persecution.When S. she got pregnant in February 2004, this was the last straw for them both to decide to flee their home countries and save their and their babyÅfs life.The present interview was made after many visits to Bicske and after a slow but certain fortification of a mutual, deep and extremely strong friendship and trust between them and me. It took S. two months to grow strong enough to tell me her story completely, from beginning to end, and only now, on my latest visit to Bicske, on 19th December 2004, when her husband was absent. I was surprised by her self-ambitioning to empower her own self to tell me her traumatic story. The interview was conducted in their room in the refugee camp, where they are temporarily sheltered. We were both sitting on their bed, the tiny baby sleeping on the bed near S.. Here is the transcript of the interview.I.: S., we have both gone through some personal trauma in the recent past. Naturally, mine does not compare to yours, because I am convinced that it was much less shattering then yours. Still, it is you who is smiling… (she smiles with understanding and compassion, but keeps biting her nails as well and cracking her fingers)S.: Yes!!! Yes!!!… because I want to tell you something...but sorry… I interrupted you…hmmm…(crosses her arms and starts biting her lips and frowns)I.: Oh, all I wanted to say, is that, I truly admire you because in your condition you are always smiling after all you must have gone through…I mean … you always said that you were not happy in your country, but I infer that it must have been more than just “not happy”. I do not know your story, but I can imagine that it must have been horrible to live in your contry in constant threat and fear. And then you said you had to flee to Europe being pregnant… (her nostrils dilate and she swallows repeatedly)S.: True!.. yes...but…yes…oh, God!!!I.: S., you said you wanted to tell me some…S.: Yes, because I  want to tell you all, because you are the only person outside this camp who comes to visit us so often… who listens… and…I don’t know… you are so kind you… you… understand, you helped me so much… and the baby too… (wild gesticulation with her hands in the air).I.: S., ( I reach out and touch her arm, she takes my hand and holds it tight for a moment, then drops it)…even if you want to tell me something, maybe you are not ready, I mean really ready for that… you only think you are ready. maybe you only think you want to tell me something of your story or your story… (starts crying) S., look at me…don’t cry, please! That’s the last thing you need to do. You need to stay strong for my husband and for this little sweet baby. S.: No…no.. I want to … want to.. to … pour it all out…I need to pour it out.. I’ve been carrying it enough!!! (whole body leaning forward, head and shoulders drooping and constantly glimpsing furtively towards the door)I.: S., I do not want to elicit anything from you, you said some weeks ago that you would like to tell me all, but that you needed time, maybe you need some more time to… digest what you have gone through. I do not want to have this talk as long as you are not absolutely sure that you want to talk, … I mean to break the silence and pour it all out. Only when you want, when you feel ready to talk about your personal story…S.: Listen, I cried all last night (she takes my hand abruptly)… because you emailed us that you would come to visit us before you leave for home for Christmas, and I cried… all night, because I remembered all that we went through…and it was so intense I couldn’t stop crying so I decided to tell you everything today, when you would come… again… and…I.: Are you sure, because…  …S.: Yes, (abrupt sigh and a deep breath follows, then she looks around) besides it is so quiet now, people are all out, many of them are taking a walk in Bicske or have gone to do some shopping…I.: Yes, I observed that.S.: husband also gone shopping… in my country… in my country back home … he could never do that … we were wanted… so friends smuggled us some shopping usually at night to our house….  (Bursts out crying)… this was before we moved to the jungle!I.: To the jungle???!S.: Yes, (deep breath, she straightens her shoulders and her back) all leaders of the political dissident movement had to flee their homes… we all moved in small communities into the jungle, so that the national police would not find us. We left our homes and went into … into the jungle… (swallows swiftly and repeatedly)I.: Where did you live in the jungle?S.: In small huts that we made out of branches, big leaves… there at least, it was much more secure than in our village. We, the women did the housework all day long, while our men were holding meetings and talking over politics. (she clutches her handkerchief) I sometimes used to read and tell poems to my neighbour’s small  baby. I was the only one in the entire camp who could read… I mean the only woman… (proudly smiles, for the very first time and waves her right hand in the air)I.: Why were you “the only woman”…S.: In my country girls are not allowed to go to school. They stay at hone and do the housework… (fists tighten and sad look downwards)…then their parents arrange a marriage for them when they are eight… eight to ten.. I was extremely lucky with my father who used to serve in the British army, now he is retired, and he travelled a lot…so he sent me to school in our village… ten classes… and never forced me to marry. I was a strange thing in school… I was the only girl among all the boys of the village (sad smile and playing with fingers). They often laughed at me, and teachers hated my father for breaking the tradition.I.: What tradition do you mean, S.?S.: That girls do not leave the house, that they do not study and that they marry very young. My mother hated my father too, … for the same reason… they fought so often over this…. (starts weeping head drooping)I.: S.,… (I try to take her hand, she abruptly pulls away)S.: No, no, no!!! Don’t interrupt me!!!! I just remembered my father…after ten classes I had to stop, father could not intervene any more… he could not send me to university…that is not even a joke…. I remained at home, helped mother with the housework. One day my husband, who lived in the same village, came to father to ask him if he could marry me… just like that! (smiles for the second time, shyly and with nostalgia)…. He said he saw me at the local church and that he liked me very much… so… so…Father called me into the room where they were talking and told me what this  young men had just said… I was surprised… I never thought somebody could like me, because at school they considered me very strange, weird, called  me a witch, for studying… so I never thought I could be attractive to any man.I.: So, it was this visit, when you met your husband for the first time ?S.: Yes, it was love at first sight, or how do you call it… (smile and frowning)I.: Very correct!!!…. Excellent English that you have picked up! See, You are so quick at learning!!! (both chuckle, and she reaches out for my hand, as we are both sitting on her bed).S.: So, that is why I learnt to read and this is how I met him. we soon got married, he joined the opposition movement and we had to flee for the Jungle… Then I got pregnant… in February this year… (face turns extremely serious and worried)… It was then that we decided to leave.. before that we were too afraid to start the horrible flight, but when the baby appeared… I knew, I just knew we had to leave!!!….(hits her pillow with her right fist)… They said they would kill  my baby immediately after she was born, right there in the hospital room… (she starts sobbing, leaning forward, shoulders forward)… we had no way out… we left… we took all our money and one of my husband’s friends arranged our flight. But in return we had to give him all our documents, passports included… (swift breathing)…He took us by car, embarked us in the bottom of a ship, in the warehouse… we were in complete darkness…, for a month or so… we were surrounded by luggage and by goods in huge boxes. I was pregnant. Very afraid (her tone gets extremely serious)…the ship was a small ship and kept rocking… I kept throwing up, because I was constantly nauseated, so my husband would always hold me in his arms to make me feel more secure…(she holds her baby very closely to her body and rocks her, to illustrated what went on the ship) it helped a lot… it also prevented the luggage and the boxes to hit me when they would fall on us sometimes because the ship was rocking (swift breathing and reaches out for my hand again)…I.: Would you like to go on, or stop rather…?S.: Yes!, we travelled like this for a month or so… one night the man who would usually give us food twice a day for some money in exchange, told us that we arrived.. it was night when we got off the ship… I have absolutely no idea where it was… (eyes closed and she holds her head with her two hands)… all I know that after that this man from the ship took us out of the ship, and walked with us some steps… I was so afraid … I looked around (she looks around, she bites her lips) but before I could see anything,  three other men surrounded us and embarked us on a van, at… at the back… and there we were stuck in and travelled for several days…we arrived one day in Budapest, at night…. the van driver took us out of the back of the van and he said we arrived in Budapest…… (velocity increases and wild gesticulation in the air)…he took us inside a building near which he had stopped, now I know it was the Keleti railway station… he bought us… two tickets to Bicske and put us on the train… he said we should get off at the second stop, because that would be where the refugee camp was … we did so, we started  to ask around at the railway station where the refugee camp was. At that time I spoke no English, only he did… people at the railway station did not speak English, so we had to ask a lot until a local woman finally understood what we were looking for and pointed towards the road that leads here to the camp…when we arrived to the porch of the camp, I was so sick and weak that I fainted… (bursts out sobbing, my eyes are wet too. I take here hand she embraces me and holds me very tight. Her whole body is rocking in my arms). Look, here is the bruise on my leg… husband could not hold me and I fell on the concrete at the entrance and I hit my knee…look…look… (pulls her skirt up and takes my pointer to the bruise as to point to it, so that I can see better).I:. S, would you like to stop…. Maybe it was too…S.: No, it is good, it is good, I am almost done! (Swallows and blinks speedily) I woke up here in this room, the doctor in the camp had examined me and the baby, he said we were healthy both of us, but extremely weak… Indeed I went into labour earlier than I should have, they took me quickly to this city… wait let me have a look… (pulls out a paper and reads) “Szekesfehervar”…to the hospital in this city… I.: Did you have a Caesarean?S.: Yes, but I was not afraid (pulls back her shoulder, lifts her chin and swallows)… the doctors and the nurses were very nice to us. They even took pictures with us… I will show you immediately a picture from the hospital… just let me wipe my eyes (blows her nose in confusion and exhaustion).I.: S, how do you feel now, after all these you have gone through?S.: I am very well, just waiting for the papers to get the asylum status (swift breathing)...our lives have changed completely after my baby was born (takes up the sleeping baby and hugs and kisses her).  Here I feel OK, she is  our guiding light sent by Buddha (lounges back on her pillow and smiles proudly)I.: Are you afraid here, do you feel secure here at Bicske?S.: Yes, yes (nodding), absolutely! Secure at last! I am not afraid (voice  becomes silent and peaceful). It is just the life here that is monotonous…hard… waiting for the papers to be processed to get the refugee status… that is why talking to somebody from outside is so good. It is a big, big event whenever you visit us… you bring us news from the world… a new face… (she caresses my cheeks)… you bring a smile… you are a happening in this monotonous life. But otherwise we are very happy here… compared to the belly of the ship…in darkness…(She closes her eyes and covers them with her hands swift breathing again)… oh, thank you for hearing me out… I knew you would have the patience…you helped me a lot (peaceful, content smile).I.: Helped you…?S.: Yes, just by listening, you helped me get a huge burden off my soul, ...it is …I feel much more lighter now…I don’t know why… but I feel so much better… It is the first time  I am telling anyone all these… like this in one line (glades her palm in the air, then rests it on the baby in her lap)… all the story pouring it out (takes my hand again and smiles).I.: I was afraid it would shatter you even more… So, you mean talking actually helped you and my coming here helped you too.S.: Yes, Yes, absolutely… and please (she clasps her hands as in a prayer, eyes wide open, desperation on her face)… do come back…do not forget us…I.: S., how can you say such a thing, of course I will, I will come back to Budapest for the second semester and the first weekend I’ll visit you again. You know that!S.: Thank you so very much… it is so good to talk to you… finally I am at peace now… now that I poured it all out… (right hand on her heart, eyes shut and smiling peacefully. After a few seconds I can see tears running down her cheeks).

Elisabeth Zelinka, 2006

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