Among the Lesbians – Ronja and Friends

A young woman from Alice Springs wrote a letter to her father recently. In real life the young woman is a songwriter, singer and filmmaker. Her husband is a human rights lawyer. Recently the couple has been spending some time among the recent arrivals from Syria in Lesvos. You need to have a picture of the writer: imagine an underfed, undersized jockey. Imagine that jockey is entered in a race in which she is obliged to carry a second jockey on her back: Ronja – that’s her name – would be that second jockey. As you will see, Ronja has single-handedly flung English spelling into a bizar new age. She writes:

Dadda,

 

Mine is a strange life right now. I am currently in the Mayer of Lesvos’ office trying to get atms installed in the registration camp Moria (one of the worst places in the world currently). A 5 month baby died there 2 days ago from freezing in the snow, we have up to 5,000 people there most nights sleeping in the snow and rain, not enough food and there are fights and riots daily. The stories of this continue. Rape, gangs, gypsies scamming the etc. it’s a mess.

 

I wake every day and deal with the 70+ volunteers I am responsible for. The admin staff of the foundation all went on holiday 2 weeks ago, so I suddenly became the personal assistant of the woman in charge. Melinda from Starfish Foundation. She was in the Financial Times magazine last year as the number one woman (ahead of Michelle Obama). 

 

A part of this means deciding the vision of the foundation, as well as meeting with the heads of the 100, or so NGO’s (unhcr etc) on the island. I love meeting these people and going to meetings where information is shared. I may never get to work like this again, so am relishing the moments. 

 

She trusts me now and so I work also as a personal sounding board. She wants me to move here and work under her, but we’ll see about that. 

  

    
 I came to clothe and feed people. Instead, I write legal documents, structure how we can implement the best care for refugees and am trying to get funding for special projects: such as information distribution and programs for unaccompanied minors. 

 

I have also been writing music for the foundation for fundraising. I’ll send you the videos when they are posted. That’s been great fun! There are real popstars and so many famous people on this island. Film stars, film makers, musicians and artists. I played my ukulele to Ai Weiwei last weekend and then made a small speech. That was bizar! I think he liked it and he thanked us for our work.

 

Still, I go a bit crazy not having any time to myself and with Shaan. Shaan is in full swing as camp coordinator on behalf of Starfish- you know what he is like.

 

The only reason I can write now is because I am waiting in the Mayer’s office.

 

I am very very interested in what is happening with the unaccompanied minors here in Europe. I met a family of about 50 members from Afghanistan that changed my life 2 weeks ago. Two girls 14 and 10 travelling with a brother who was 17. In the same family a boy 16 travelling mainly with a cousin in this 20s. These three children are legally unaccompanied, so would have been separated, detained and kept in Athens until they each reached the age of 18. They were with family who loved and cared for them, but this was not recognised. They were the most beautiful people and I become very close to the 16yr old boy Mujtaba, who now talks to me every few days from Germany. There is more to this story. 

 

Furthermore, I hear from people who have worked in this area that the children are not properly supervised and are not given proper resources. Most of these children end up running away and getting lost in Europe trying to find their family. 

 

There is also child trafficking happening. We have seen this ourselves. 

 

I want to come back in July and see if I can get into the child compound at Moria camp. One of the good things about meeting all the big wigs is that I have met people who can get me into these areas. The police are in control of the compound, so to be let in is an absolute privilege. If I can get in I want to see if I can come back and run art and music workshops next year. Anyway, we’ll see. It’s all just thought currently, but Melinda knows this is my passion and will help me get permission and money I believe. Right now, my heart and imagination are captured… Also, Shaan will most likely be employed by the foundation in the next few months. AND this crisis is not going anywhere, so neither are our potential roles. Who knows, we may end up living in Greece for a year or two. How surreal. 

 

I better go. The Mayer just arrived. Love you xoxoxoxoxox

Rape

One night when I was about thirteen the local police called my father to examine a body that had been found in the park. The woman (the girl?) was eighteen. She had been raped and strangled. Dad returned, a great sadness in his face. His voice was drained. He said, ‘Her only crime was being a woman.’
I did not understand.

I met a young woman recently who has been treated over twenty years for depression and anxiety. She’d been given medications as well as psychological therapies and psychiatric help. She still sleeps poorly and takes sleeping tablets as well as Valium when she’s anxious. She tells me she spent years drinking a bottle or two a night, ‘closed away’, later using cocaine, ecstasy and ice. She hears the ticking of her fertility clock, she wants children but she feels unready.

Diffidently I asked about abuse. She trusted me enough to confide, ‘I was raped when I was thirteen.’
‘Was it a relative?’
‘No, a school friend one year older than me… I looked for him recently on Facebook and I wrote him a message. I’ll email you what I wrote if you’re interested.’
I was interested.

Hey XXXX,

I’m not sure if you remember me but just wanted to touch base after so many years and confront something which happened when we were at school together.

Remember the night we went to one of your female friends place and another one of your mates came along (apologies but their names don’t spring to mind).

Anyways, the events of that might have haunted me since and, well, finally I’ve managed to build up the courage to message you and speak up.

It saddens me that what happened has affected me so much and for so long.

I honestly thought that you were a friend back then and you and your friend took something away from me and I have never forgotten and it has affected me all this time.

My dignity was taken away and diminished.

I still have vivid images in my mind of being extremely intoxicated even to the embarrassing point prior to what happened that I had been sick on your jacket which I wore as it was cold.  After this I was too ill and had to go to the spare room to sleep it off and at that point both you and your friend had taken advantage of the situation of me being passed out drunk and you both fucked me.

I will never forget also to this day that your mum, and I understand her being your mother defending you and your friend in saying that neither of you would ever do such a thing.

Saddens me that I was the one apparently untrue to the situation in yours/your families eyes.

The next morning my mother and brother had picked me up and they saw that something was not right. I had blood on me and looked a mess and was taken to the doctors but I was too shocked and embarrassed to admit to anything.

XXXX this was probably not the best way to do this via FB and just understand I’m not wanting anything from you nor an apology or anything but just feel that this is something that I’ve had to stand up to and to give me peace of mind after so many years.


***

I understand violence born of anger or fear. What is it in a male that allows him to hurt a woman or a child by calculation? I know this violence, I see it and I treat its fruits; but I don’t understand it. That people live and re-live and suffer and endure I do know. Some suffer beyond endurance and slash or die. I know some few who manage to create an enlightened response. This young woman said, ‘I changed cities to change my life.’ Soberly she added, ‘I think I am making progress.’
She found work in the justice system. And she found a sort of spiritual greatness that shows in these closing lines to her old school friend:

I would however like to ask you to always watch over your daughter, nieces if you have any and younger family members so this never happens to them
.