Growing Up In A War Zone

I was recently Children's Day in Poland, so let's raise glasses filled with lemonade to our children because childhood doesn't last long enough.

Recently I got angry. Very angry. At life. And the universe. And everything.

There I was sipping my favourite Apple & Dill tea (tastes much better than it sounds), eyeing the last chocolate brownie on the plate in front of me and catching up on one of Radio 4 programmes, From Our Own Correspondent. (This is one of my favourite pastimes apart from reading, blogging, doing yoga and drinking cocktails like no one is watching (order depending on the day). And on a more serious note, whenever I get a chance and have two minutes to myself, I like to listen to stories about quirks and oddities in other cultures.)

In that particular episode of FOOC, called The Lap of Luxury, there was a report from Syria in which a BBC journalist visited an old Roman burial chamber and found seven boys hiding in the dark. Some of them were brothers; some had lost their parents in fights and bombings. Seven pairs of eyes in the cold tombstone. "We are all afraid."

Early 1980s. I am perched on a windowsill, next to me a vase with plastic tulips.

I haven't seen my playground friends for weeks. The morning children's TV show is now a black and white blur of static ants. My eyes still sting from teargas and I press a cloth soaked in water and vinegar; the sweet-sour smell makes me feel sick. A gun shot in the background angers the neighbour's dog.

Hasty steps and shrill swearwords.

The mother in me wanted to cuddle the boys, feed them, wrap them in blankets and comfort them with a treat of hot chocolate and love. Their mother, the only person who cared, was out looking for food and she had been gone for quite a few hours. They didn't know when she was going to be back or whether she would be back at all. I didn't want them to be in this place. Hungry. Scared.

I'm angry because there is nothing I can do to alleviate their fear and suffering. The damage is done because we, the grown-ups, have stolen their childhood. Those boys are paying the highest price with their lost joy and innocence.

We rush against the clock through the streets after having queued for hours again; the curfew time looming over the city in unrest. Today's finds from our treasure hunt bounce up and down in my mum's shopping bag. A loaf of stale bread. A chunk of blood sausage. A few potatoes and carrots.

A lazy tank patrols the street and it makes me think of the centipede that lives in a matchbox underneath my pillow; my secret pet. A ZOMO police car parked behind the trees with today's hunting trophies on display; silent, handcuffed with bowed backs. I burst out crying.

"Mum, I don't want them to take me away."

Peanut is so lucky to have been born in the right time, right place and in the right socio-economic circumstances (I know it's recession and it's tough but it could have been much worse). All I hope for him is that he will never experience fear and cold and hunger, like the seven boys in Syria. And should those circumstances ever change I hope there are going to be people who will care about what happens to our children because if we can't protect them, then maybe we should re-think our pride in having got this far as Homo Sapiens/Smartphonicus. Being Homo Egoisticus is not going to get anyone far long-term although it is a comfy name to have.

My tea went cold and a band of blind mice feasted on the brownie while I lost myself in research. I will never know what happened to those boys and I want to imagine their mum came back with food and reassurance that everything would be OK. I want to believe that they were OK. I want to believe that there are people who care about what happens to those children. That they are not forgotten.

Here are some charities that get my support because they do a great job making sure that we remember those less lucky in the citizenship lottery:


Save the Children


If you know of any other charities and individuals who are on the mission to save the world, and universe and everything please share the stories in the comments. In the meantime I am off to get those butterfly wings moving.

The world behind the glass thickens with smoke and army orders. I jump off the window ledge and knock over the vase. The lifeless tulips land on the carpet, reds and yellows, and dust whirls in the air. These are the only flowers we have. I pick one up and bring it to my face.

The red tulip smells of teargas.

I am busy sharing my time between bringing up my very energetic Ponglish toddler and scribbling about life, universe and everything.

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