History repeats in this forboding tale about innocents on the run.
Fleeing the Nazis
By Nick Lachmund
“We need to leave,” Adam says, waking me from a deep sleep.
“Right now?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says seriously. “Right now.”
In an instant I am out of bed and getting dressed. After this many moves, I know the drill. Since the pogroms started, my brother and I have had to flee a number of times during the night. We tend to seek refuge with other people of our faith or sympathisers. Some take us in, others send us away. I can’t blame the ones that turn us away. If I was them and had to choose between risking the lives of my family or turning away strangers, I’m not sure what I would do.
“Nearly ready?” Adam calls from the next room.
Life wasn’t always this hard. Back in the twenties, I had a good job and I was married. My wife was beautiful and we looked forward to a good life together. But when we lost our democracy, that all changed. First, my employer told me that he had to let me go. He couldn’t explain why. Not that he needed to. I knew what was happening. He was a Party member and it wouldn’t look good to have one of my ‘kind’ in his workforce. I didn’t think things could get worse after that. But then, my beloved left me.
Her parents persuaded her to join them in fleeing the country. They were meeting up with family in Switzerland, of all places. I had no money and couldn’t even speak the language. I begged her to stay. But it made no difference. She was always scared of her father and he never liked me. I wasn’t shocked that he found a way to take her away from me. Some nights, I dream of our last moments together. As she left our home for the final time, she turned back and whispered, ‘Sorry.’ I didn’t reply. There was nothing to say. As the door closed behind her, I began to cry. God, I miss her.
I was born in this country and I belong here. It doesn’t matter what the Party says. Our new leaders have managed to somehow turn the masses against my people through hate and ignorance. They view my faith as my race. It is truly amazing to think that the majority of the population have joined them. The people want to believe that the Party is making the country a better place. They want to believe that our economy can be fixed by following a tyrant. They are willing to turn a blind eye and even participate in mass persecution to get want they want. Most of the population claim that the Lord is their shepherd, but they look more like mindless sheep being led by the Party.
Over the past few years, I have seen things I will never forget. During one of the pogroms, I saw a young woman dragged into the street and savagely beaten. She would have been no more than twenty. I watched the whole thing through a dirty window, hidden in a shed and I did nothing. The crowd around her was made up of ten men and, realistically, I know that I could not have helped her but the act of not trying still makes me feel sick to the stomach. The woman had done nothing wrong. I’ve done nothing wrong! How can these people, our colleagues, our neighbours and our friends do these things to us? How do they sleep at night?
I’m dressed and ready to escape under the cover of night. Adam and I meet in the hallway and have one last look around, making sure that we are not leaving anything behind. Carrying a briefcase each, we escape through the backdoor, climbing over a fence and cutting through an alleyway. As we move away from our former residence, we can hear the angry mob screaming in the distance. It seems we left just in time.
“There is a man I used to work with that might help,” Adam says, leading the way for me.
I walk without replying. I’m not sure how much more I can take of this. This isn’t a life. I’m living like an animal, constantly on the run from hunters. God only knows what steps the Party will take next against my people. I remember when this country was great and accepting of all people.
“Move quick, Ali,” Adam says.
They call themselves nationalists, socialists and patriots. To me the new leaders of our country are nothing more than Nazis. I am a Muslim man, but I am also an Australian man. I don’t deserve this. How has the world not learnt from past mistakes?