Welcome To Scotland

The crack of the automatic weapon spat fire around his head, showering him in concrete dust and splinters. He curled his small frame up into a ball suddenly, and urgently, startled by the boom of the supersonic jet high above the mostly flattened rubble of what once was the tree-lined city he had been born in seven years before. The inevitable explosions a moment later in the distance, pinpoint smart-controlled missiles, falling short and wide of their expected target. He moaned and murmured in his sleep.

There there little one……

Turning over, and again dropping deeper into slumber, the picture in his mind changed. A moonless night, low cloud and darkness enveloping the dilapidated dinghy. Its vulnerability emphasised by the mounting froth of the waves and the roar of the vast ocean around them.

So cold, so bitterly cold, on the midnight crossing. No room to breathe. Moaning bodies tightly packed in, cramped, smells of unwashed, unclean, rotting flesh where grandfather lay, almost wedged in the corner, semi-conscious, his bandaged blood-soaked leg now critically in need of medical attention.

Some of the men, and women, frantically trying to empty water out of the bottom of the boat. Small plastic plates and cups not up to the task, fighting against the inevitable. One man despairingly pleading with the boatman, who in turn was shouting back in a language he could hardly hear in all of the noise, but one he did not recognise.

Slipping over the side, and sinking, down and down in the darkness, the sound of screaming and wailing disappearing behind him. His family gone. He cried loudly in his sleep, a sound like a wounded animal.

There there little one……

Vague memories of bright lights, arms lifting him on to a table, voices speaking quickly and loudly in a foreign tongue, so tired, so thirsty.

Months of lining up for food, stern men in uniform, always writing, never making eye contact, barbed wire fences, stray dogs, vast acres of tents and campfires, mud, lots of mud, stumbling upon others from his city who spoke his language, and learning simple phrases in French and in English.

The dreams kept coming. Once, when the aid agency provided him with a few sheets of paper and some colouring pencils he had tried to draw a picture of his mother. He sat for hours in the same spot, under the tree next to the fence, trying to picture her, but the memories would not return whilst he was awake. He couldn’t see her. He couldn’t picture her. Folding up the paper neatly he promised himself he would try again another day.

There there little one…….

With no notice, a truck journey to a port with two families from his home province, people with whom he has become close.

On to a ship the size of which he previously has only seen in pictures. Huddling close to his “new’ brothers and infant sister. Surely this boat will sink and overturn too. Fighting back the urge to run he climbed the walkway.

As the ship slipped its moorings, and headed out into the channel, he just managed to peek over the rail, watching the whitecaps bubbling amongst the waves, all the time thinking that perhaps by some miracle his mother, father, grandfather and baby brother would somehow appear from the ocean, would somehow be adrift on an island he would pass. He would rescue them.

There there little one…….

White cliffs, seagulls, another port, more men writing, no smiling faces. Bundled out of a steamed up waiting room after six hours sitting on a hard metal bench watching a TV screen repeat the same five adverts over and over, and on to a long journey in a bus, and some fitful sleeping. No dreams, no memories, just exhaustion.

He awakened with a start, a ray of sunlight directly in his eyes had stirred him to wakefulness. From his window he could see hills and rough countryside. A vision of browns, various greens, and even patches of purple. Even though the sun was beaming in a clear blue sky there was snow on some of the distant peaks. An unfamiliar landscape, very unlike his homeland.

They came to a stop in a town square, where a small gathering of people waited. As he stretched his legs to relieve the ache of the long journey, making sure his small ‘Transformers” backpack was over both shoulders as he had been shown, he made his way, with the others, down the centre of the bus to the exit. He could see through the gaps in the seats that curiously the people outside were smiling.

As he stepped out onto the ground a man and a woman moved tentatively towards him. “Hello” said the man. “Do you speak English?” Recognising the words, if not the accent, the little boy replied “Yes”.

The lady then spoke “What is your name son?” The little boy looked up at her, smiled, and said “My name is Sami.”

“My name is Jen, and this is Sandy” said the woman. “Welcome to Scotland Sami. We are so pleased to meet you. You will be safe here.”

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