How They Left: Running to Canada

Maybe it's because the father of my grandfather was pushed across the border from Russia, when he was just eleven years old, to fend for himself, because of the destruction that was happening all around his family.
Maybe it's because when I was 23 and traveling alone through the continent of Africa, a young woman came to me with a baby who even I could tell was dying, and asked me to help. And I had nothing to offer.
Maybe it's because I have examined myself and found myself lacking. And I look at others and I am filled with awe.
Maybe it's because of the women I have met over the years who have come here from Mexico, El Salvador, Domenican Republic, Thailand, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Ukraine, Haiti, Croatia, Brazil, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Barbados, Latvia, Ghana, Cameroon, Russia, Cote d'Ivoire, U.S.A., Ruanda, St. Vincent,  Zambia, Algeria, St. Lucia, Morocco, Egypt, Benin, Chad, Serbia, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Guinee-Bisau, Benin, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia. Women who come here pregnant, who need a safe place to give birth. Who need a safe place to give birth to their human children, who are in a sense our children to. Because we are human.

NoViolet Bulawayo has written an extraordinary book about the breakdown of a country and the flight from that country to another. Here is one chapter from her book, which captures the realities of those fleeing. The women we work with at Montreal Birth Companions are fleeing their home countries and coming here to try to make a new life. Here is a glimpse into their reality:

"How They Left"

"Look at them leaving in droves, the children of the land, just look at them leaving in droves. Those with nothing are crossing borders. Those with strength are crossing borders. Thos with ambitions are crossing borders. Those with hopes are crossing borders. Those with hopes are crossing borders. Those with loss are crossing borders. Those in pain are crossing borders. Moving, running, emigrating, going, deserting, walking, quitting, flying, fleeing -- to all over, to countries near and far, to countries unheard of, to countries whose names they cannot pronounce. They are leaving in droves.

When things fall apart, the children of the land scurry and scatter like birds escaping a burning sky. They flee their own wretched land so their hunger may be pacified in foreign lands, their tears wiped away in strange lands, the wounds of their despair bandaged in far away lands, their blistered prayers muttered in the darkness of queer lands.

Look at the children of the land leaving in droves, leaving their own land with bleeding wounds on their bodies and shock on their faces and blood in their hearts and hunger in their stomachs and grief in their footsteps. Leaving their mothers and fathers behind, leaving their umbilical cords underneath the soil, leaving the bones of their ancestors in the earth, leaving everything that makes them who and what they are, leaving because it is no longer possible to stay. They will never be the same again because you cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are, you just cannot be the same.

Look at them leaving in droves despite knowing they will be welcomed with restraint in those strange lands because they do not belong, knowing they will have to sit on one buttock because they must not sit comfortably lest they be asked to rise and leave, knowing they will speak in dampened whispers because they must not let their voices drown those of the owners of the land, knowing they will have to walk on their toes because they must not leave footprints on the new earth let they be mistaken for those who want to claim the land as theirs. Look at them leaving in droves, arm in arm with loss and lost, look at them leaving in droves."

Bulawayo, N. (2013). We Need New Names (pp. 147-148).  New York, Hachette Books.


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