The boats are coming over the rim of the world and they just keep coming hour after hour until I stop counting. The horizon is rimmed with boats & rafts bobbing up and down waiting to drift in. Men paddle with oars and boards and hands. Women clutch babies in shawls. It is so unreal I feel I am watching a movie. People are fleeing cities whose walls are ridden with bullets where women are lined up with burlap bags thrown over their heads and price tags pinned to chests. A young boy is shot running across a street to get a loaf of bread. A six year old is forced to watch a man being nailed to a cross because he dared to smoke a cigarette. If she does not watch she will be shot. A ten year old girl watches her father and two brothers shot then is raped by six men and dies four hours later. The mother says the men tied her down with ropes and if she said a word she was whipped. Towns and cities and villages are broken stones dust and rust. Three soldiers march down a deserted streets. They carry machine guns but even the dogs and cats have fled. Bodies are strewn on the ground like rags, bodies tossed into pits. The stench of rotting garbage. Grains of sugar spilled onto counters covered with flies. Moldy bread. Dresses, blouses, shirts and pants swing like ghosts in closets.
The rafts are more flimsy than I thought. The red sun rises like a glaring eye in the searing heat. There is a deafening noise of shouts cries and screams. The rafts rock wildly in the turbulent currents. The boats bob up and down. Men shout; white spray rises like prayers in the morning mist.
She stopped speaking. The audience sat in hard back chairs heads bent forwards to catch each word, but her words were stones that choked her throat and her tongue was dry and numb She held tight to the microphone like it was a rope, but all they heard was the hoarse rasp of her breath.
I saw a man stumble through the surf and kneel down on the beach and weep. The women who were pregnant gave birth as soon as they reached the beach with the oldest women kneeling down to help the women push the babies out, all that blood the placentas lying in the sand like trembling white jellyfish. A baby’s shoe filled with blood, a plastic doll without a head, a boy’s jacket ridden with bullet holes stuck to a rock like a flag and a white fur rabbit with its leg torn off.
Would you go back? A man in the front row asked.
When I went, there were thousands of volunteers from different countries. I have never seen anything like it. We worked in harmony even though we could not understand each other’s language The Greek government had not yet cordoned off the beaches. Now you have to show ID’s and passes to reach the beaches although foreigners can still sneak into the detention camps.
What are the detentions camps like?
The speaker shook her head; tears streamed down her cheeks.