The lady next to me on the train looked much younger than she later told me she actually was. We started speaking after I had invited her for a cookie and some small talk, and what I got in return was a story about choices, war and a life on the run.
She told me about her childhood in a country always on the verge of war, living in a disputed area only a bridge away from the enemy. She was dreaming of studies abroad and awarded a visa for doing highschool overseas in the far west when war suddenly cancelled all visas and she was forced to stay. She and her family had to leave their home in a simple car, leaving all their belongings behind.
“It’s just such a stupid detail.. but I was 17 and remember that I had just bought a pair of beautiful Lee jeans, they had the perfect fit! I wanted to wear them for the first day at school.. so I decided to leave them in the house because I was so sure I would be back, but I never saw those jeans again..”
Some years later, she was on the last flight to leave the country as all airports were closed during very critical times, with the pilot getting live reports during the flight and telling everybody through the speakers about what was happening on the ground.
She went back a year later to find her country transformed. She studied. Fell crazy in love with an intense man. Got married. Had a child. Started working.
Then things worsened again. Escape. Illegal smugglers. Dangers. Fear.
“One of my girlfriends ended up in jail with horrendous conditions. /…/ I was too afraid, I couldn’t risk it with my baby.”
He went first, she came after. And then finally, of all places, cold Sweden.
Things were good. A small village in the north. Friendly people. Completely new language. Free education. Helpful strangers. New friends. New reality. New possibilities. Support.
But the person living in her home was still causing fear. Betrayal. Threat. Abuse. Psychological oppression. Pride based violence. Irrational ambivalence.
Lawyers didn’t help. Social services tried. Manipulation won.
“You can’t win a battle against a proud person if you don’t let them believe they are actually the one’s winning it.”
The realisation of rights. Custody. Another escape. Freedom.
Then she told me about life after freedom. About tranquile comfort and love without passion. About cultural differences and boredom. About work, about people, about friends, about the future, about dreams and other little details.
“You know, people always talk about choices and how the choices you made or didn’t make have shaped your life.. and I agree, I have made many choices that have changed the course of my life completely – but what about all those choices that you are forced to make, or the choices that are suddenly taken from you?”
I never asked for her name as I understood she had been given a new one.
We just hugged good-bye.