Like the wild geese I love, come late Fall I pack up to migrate south - 1500 + miles by car. “Why don’t you fly,” a fifty-year young man asked me. “Because,” I said, “for one, I am taking my animals. “ Only 2 dogs now, versus the several horses, 2 dogs, 2 cats and one bonsai tree I used to load up and caravan to the South. “But most of all,” I added, “I love the open road.” Leaving all the unnecessary junk we all accumulate behind, taking only the strictly necessary and driving into change - of weather, of landscape, of people. My mind is wide open as to what lies ahead, the unexpected. It’s like turning your face into the wind and letting your soul fly.
I grew up nomadic. Because of our flight from the Nazis, by the time I was 7, I knew nothing but war and moving on, always moving on - leaving behind memories of massacres, killing fields, ambushes and round-ups. It almost felt as if by walking on you could bury the horror underfoot. So that, for a long time, I only remembered moments of beauty. To this day, the howling of the wolves sends goose bumps down my spine. For then, their howling reassured us that for the moment all was safe, that right then no strange intruder was lurking about. Then there were those moments after the bombs stopped falling, the shooting stopped and the life of the forest resumed in full force. I thought of those years as happy, maybe because I was too young to see beyond our own survival.
The horror started when the so-called “Peace” trapped me in the place where I was born – Cologne, Germany, the place where I was told I must now settle down. A place in ruin, a place foreign to me, infested with rats and crime, a place of defeat, where I had to fester amidst the true horror of it all now out in the open. I had survived the war in freedom, but would I survive the peace forced upon me in a place of entrapment with people I grew up to consider as my enemies. The hopelessness of the war’s aftermath would never quite leave me.
Roma/Gypsies in Romania have lived under hopelessness far greater than what I experienced. Enslaved until 1865, exploited and scorned ever since, when a United Europe opened borders that had confined before, those Roma followed the first sign of hope ever, only to be flung back into a misery greater than the one they left.
Open your hearts to these most vulnerable people who have been part of our Western culture for over 600 years. Unite in the demand for their human rights.