From left, clockwise: My baby boy cousin M, his aunt, my baby sis T, My mom (with the huge glasses) & my big sis, M.
When I lived in Poland, on the 24th of December, my family would gather and wait for the first star to break the ‘Oplatki’ (Angel bread) & exchange blessings. The table was set with different dishes & no meat was consumed on this day, we call ‘Wigilia’. Instead, my mother, my aunt & Babcia (grandmother) prepared a feast of fish dishes, pierogis, potatoes & various vegetables and soups. Then, we would drink alcohol & have gazillions of cakes & sweets. As a child, I remember hours of fun; I played with my sisters & cousins, & marveled at the gifts we had just received.
That was then.
When I was 8, we moved to Canada & everything fell apart.
I don’t know why but this soil never bared its fruits for my family. My parent’s marriage deteriorated & money was forever scarce.
Sometimes, I wonder what my life would be today if we had stayed in Poland.
Would I be married or engaged, like so many of my old classmates? Would I spend my summers working abroad, in Sweden or in Germany, would I be better or worse?
What would my life be if we would have settled in Congo, as my parents first intended?
We had sent our belongings to Africa. We were ready to start a new life there; my father had a job awaiting, strong connections & a bright future ahead. He was to come back to his native land; an engineering diploma & a family in tow.
But the war broke out.
After the Rwandan Genocide, the Tutsis invaded our country, on pretext of weeding out the Hutus that hid in Congo. 14 years later, an estimated 10 million deaths, & the war is still ongoing.
Rape is used as a weapon; women are systematically abused by dozens of rebel soldiers. The assaults are especially brutal; their genitals are stabbed, burnt & too often, guns are emptied inside them.
I remember reading about this woman. A rebel soldier approached her one day while she walked through the forest, she refused to have sex with him & so, he raped her with his gun & shot her, until no bullets were left. Miraculously, although her inside organs were destroyed, this woman survived.
Another young girl had her eyes stabbed because she was ‘crying too much’ when the soldiers kidnapped & abused her.
Unfortunately, their stories are no longer the exception.
How did I get so off subject?
I should be writing about rest, food & family time.
But I am where I am from; If my country is in turmoil, I can never be at Peace.
Merry Christmas & Happy, happy New Years