Happy Monday! This is a continuation of my journey out of Bosnia during the war. Read on and as always, comments and suggestions are appreciated! 🙂
Passing the Border
I cleared my throat and called to Dara, “If I have any trouble getting through, please take Samir to Belgrade with you. The birth certificate does not have any connection with me.” My mouth was dry, and it became harder and harder to pronounce words.
“I have another concern,” Dara added, “but I will ask you about it later.”
“I’m frightened,” confided Petar, lighting another cigarette. “We cannot go straight to the border.” He took a handkerchief, dried his hands, and then tucked it in his shirt. Dara bent from her seat and whispered something in his ear. Peter scratched his head and informed us, “We are going to visit our friends before we cross. My friend has a boat, and we may decide to use it to cross the Drina River after midnight. My friends are willing to help us.”
The car stopped in front of a house in a quiet village neighborhood. Petar announced, “My wife, my friends, and I are going to make a final decision. You two stay in the car.” He closed the door.
Dara looked at me. “Can we talk outside for a moment?” She stood behind the car and whispered, “Is Samir circumcised?”
Her question astonished me. Circumcision is mandated by Islam. Muslim males are all circumcised.
“Yes. Why are you asking?” I paused. “Are they going to check it?” I froze.
“They could. I don’t know,” she answered and headed to the house.
I went back to the car, squeezed my eyes shut, and hunched my back, as though I could somehow hide from whatever might be coming. My head felt like it was coming apart, and my entire body was covered in sweat.
Samir looked at me. “Mom, are you okay? You don’t look so good.”
“I am not sure about this trip anymore. It’s too dangerous,” I whispered.
“Mom, we are almost there. In another half hour, if God will help us, we will be out of this war zone. We’ll be fine.” He patted my tense shoulder.
With a sigh I looked into my son’s bright eyes. His hope touched my heart, calming me for the moment.
“You’re right. I had a good dream a few nights ago. With God’s help everything is possible.” I paused. “Samir, let’s pray.” Our lips moved as we recited our prayers. Dear God, You conduct our entire universe. We are asking You by all of Your names to help us today to cross to the other side of the river safely. We want to go to a safe place and glorify Your name.
“It’s time to go.” Petar seemed little relaxed as he settled himself in the driver’s seat.
I squeezed Samir’s hand tightly, and he gave me a calm, confident look.
After a few minutes of driving, we slowed down, almost coming to a stop. The hundreds of cars in front of us and surrounding us created a large knot in front of the border gates. Drums played so loudly in my ears that they muted any sounds from the outside world. I tried to speak, but bitterness glued my lips shut. We stopped. I dried my palms. Was there an accident in front of us? Suddenly I recognized the offices, the gates, and the place where I was thrown off the buses twice. Once again those agonizing memories became vivid, and I heard a voice in my mind saying, “I thought that our Republic had been cleaned out by now, but look, the Muslim is still here! How dare you come here! What do you want here?” My body felt numb.
The color drain out of Samir’s face. I opened the car window to get air. I looked at my face in the rearview mirror, and met Petar’s eyes. He quickly put the car in gear, turned into an emergency line, and drove straight to the border gates. When he squeezed the car back into line, Dara looked surprised that no one had stopped him.
Ah, the border. To be or not to be. The car in front of us was waved on through. A border officer came up to Petar’s car. I saw his dark blue uniform and black shoes, but I was afraid to raise my head. Fear paralyzed me. What do I need to do with my eyes? I looked at the car floor. The officer would notice that my face and the photo on the card did not match. I became sick, ready to vomit. With shaking hands I handed the ID card and the birth certificate to the officer. I have to look at him. It will be lass suspicious. Our eyes met. Cold sweat glued my clothes to my body, and a hundred invisible nails pierced my flesh. I lowered my head until my chin touched my chest and closed my eyes. I tasted the bitterness in my dry mouth and heard only the music of dead drums in my ears. Time stopped. Seconds lasted forever.
Suddenly the sound of paperwork changing hands broke the silence. Petar put the car in gear, and we began to move forward. I raised my head at the same time the barrier was lifted and the car move up onto the bridge. I almost strangled Samir with a bear hug. A brightness from his eyes melted my heart, and I wiped tears of happiness from my face. My muscles began lessening the grip they had held on every part of my body for so long in my life. Dear God, this journey is Your reward. I had tried to pass the border twice before and failed. Thank you for accompanying my son and me with good people who helped us to pass the border. Please reward all of them.
I rolled down the window and thousands of suns smiled at me from the sparkling river. A stone in the river looked like Nana’s shoes and glued my gaze on. The water shaped the stone! The flowing river is touching the white hard stone sometimes pleasantly, peacefully, but other moments wildly, gustily, and agitatedly. The water of the same river is always new and different, like our days. Water is always moving, finding a way to touch the stone on the top, the sides, or even comes inside. I couldn’t move my eyes from the stone’s shape but an enjoyable sound of gurgling water touched my ears, and, I understood that the Drina River was whispering, “Good-bye, good-bye—and good luck!”