We got to Macedonia at 6.30am and were ready to perform at 10am. The camp had 3 families and some independent travellers / refugees. Only two kids and the rest were adults. It was probably one of the sweetest shows so far. I chose one man to be my “husband” (My clown has this thing of marrying as many as She can on the road ). Little did I know that this husband of mine is a Yazidi survivor. 16 people from his family were kidnapped by ISIS. His sister and aunt were returned after paying a ransom of 2200 USD each. He told me literally ” we bought them back – اشترينا اختي وعمتي) His 8 year old niece and 11 year old nephew are still there and they know nothing about them. All men were killed and the rest of the women are now sex slaves getting raped daily. They call when and if they can.
Sitting together after the show, blowing bubbles while talking about this, I was reminded one more time about the importance of listening and the value of sharing real stories… something we don’t do often so we end up discriminating, judging and hating.
Here’s the story of this refugee who’s been stuck in Macedonia for the past 7 months, he can’t walk to cross the border illegally because of a war injury, neither does he want to be sent back to Turkey for the many reasons you might have heard about… and yet, the Balkans, the EU and the world are totally ignoring his existence and acting as if he’s not even there.
Few minutes later we got the permit to perform in a camp on the Serbian border, we rode the bus and crossed the border again ( in costume this time). We performed for 150 people ! Mostly kids! The camp was turned into a magical place full of laughter, joy and hope … even if only for an hour.
I can’t be more thankful for those moments be for the amazing 17 volunteers with whom I’m sharing this important journey.
We entered a transit camp at the border of Macedonia. It was not particularly huge, and at the moment of our visit it was also quite empty. We saw only a few children riding their bikes on the gravel between the barrack homes, and some adults every now and again. The leader of the camp told us, that before the borders were closed, the camp received around 3450 people a day on average. During the peak of arrivals, there were even 14 000 people arriving during 24 hours. Many of them came by train, and one of the volunteers from an organisation called Legos told us stories of helping people out the trains. The volunteers stood by the platforms, and once the trains stopped they had to break windows for the people to get air, and stand by the doors of the trains to catch fainted people falling out the doors once they opened. Parents were so tired they lost some of their children, and it was an absolute chaos.
But now it was quiet. We walked around the camp, and spoke to some of the inhabitants who were curious about us and came to meet us. There were two really sweet older ladies from Iraq whom I spoke to. A small, brown dog came to greet our group, and the ladies told me he was their travel companion as he had appeared from nowhere and walked with them for miles from Serbia to Macedonia. After a short chat the other one of the ladies invited me to her barrack home, took me gently by the arm and led me there. Her home was a small room that resembled a cargo box. It had a bed, a mattress on the floor, a small table, and a chair. She sat me down and offered me sweets. There were three and I wanted to share them with her but she placed them all in my hand and insisted that they were mine. I thanked her and told her that I really do love sweets and she laughed and told me she is the same. She explained to me that she was travelling alone and only wished to reunite with her brother in Europe, but as the borders closed she got stuck in Macedonia. She had been on the camp for a good while. When the clown show began outside we went to watch it together.
After the performance I sat with her and her friend again at the barrack room, and her friend’s little daughter joined us. The girl was 14 years old and very coy at first but she got braver fast. I admired her silver necklace that had a round pendant with Arabic text on it, and she gave me a cute smile. The text was a citation from Qur’an. The girl told me her dream was to become an engineer, and her mother said that her only wish was to settle somewhere safe where her children could get a good education. When it was time for me to leave, I could do nothing but hug them all very tight. I hope that one day the lady who invited me to her barrack would be with her loved ones and her brother again, and that the little girl would become a successful engineer, or what ever she wishes to be when she grows up.