“I never had a strong desire to become a parent. Neither did my wife. We took over my parents cafe instead. We worked for more than 40 years to keep the business going. You could say that the cafe was our child. When we retired we had to sell the cafe. It was hard giving up our business. However, we still live above the cafe and the new owners are doing a great job. Now that I am retired, I spend most of my days reading the paper and taking walks around Amsterdam. When I am tired I stay nearby. When I feel adventurous, I explore different parts of town. My wife and I, we do our own thing. We have no rules. Well except for one: Every day at 5PM we meet at the house and we drink a glass of dry white wine in the living room. No matter how far I walk, she knows I’ll be home 5PM sharp.”

‘’Julia studies medicine in Warsaw and I study music composition here at the conservatory. We have been doing this long-distance-kind-of-relationship for a while now. A while ago, I needed to come up with a new concept for an opera. I couldn’t come up with anything when Julia all of a sudden said: ‘’maybe you should do your next piece about the Albatross birds.’’ I had never heard of this bird but she explained that the Albatross is a very strong an independent bird. It is fine with traveling across the world all by its self. However sooner or later it always returns to their significant other just like Julia and I. The Albatross bird teaches us that we need to find our own paradise first before we can truly commit to someone else. The opera will premier in March and it is inspired by the Albatross, by our story and by Julia.’’

(3/4) “Years went by without any information about what happened to Enesa and Sadif. My mom had put the set of bed sheets in a plastic cover under her bed. Once in a while, she would take them out of the cover to wash them. Sometimes she would sew a flower on it. After washing the sheets, she would carefully iron and fold them and then put them back into the plastic cover. We still had hope until we received a phone call from the Missing Persons Institute in 2002. They had found a body in the forest and, based on our DNA, it was a match. My mother and I had to come to the mortuary to identify. When we arrived, a staff member suggested it might be better if my mother didn’t go inside, so I went in by myself. They had found all her bones and, on a table, there was a red piece of cloth and some leather fabric. The doctor asked me if those were the clothes Enesa was wearing the day she left Srebrenica. I told him that I couldn’t know because I hadn’t seen Enesa in years. I went outside and asked my mother what Enesa wore the day she left. My mother said: ‘A red dress and a leather jacket.’ I said: ‘Mom, It’s Enesa’. She started crying. Until the last moment, my mother had remained hopeful. “

“Last summer I traveled with two friends through Eastern Europe. Every time I arrived in a new city I would turn on Tinder kind of as a fun experiment. I was curious just to see what would happen. When we arrived in Ukraine, Maryana and I matched and we started talking. The next day we continued our journey so we were not able to meet in real life. When I got back to Amsterdam I kept in touch with her. After a few months I suggested we would meet and so she invited me to celebrate Orthodox Christmas with her family in Ukraine. The first few days I stayed with her in Lviv, the city where she goes to university. After four days we went to her parents house by train in Ternopil. I really liked her but I was too shy to tell her that so on the train when she suddenly asked if I liked her, I panicked. Instead of answering her questions I repeated her question: ’‘Do you like me?” which made her think I meant I was being sarcastic. Luckily it did not take long before we both understood we really liked each other. We just spend a romantic long weekend here in Amsterdam. Unfortunately I’m about to take her to the airport because she is flying home. I’m really going to miss her but also I know it won’t be long before I see her again.“

“I was seven when I started writing in my diary. It was in the middle of the civil war and the basement of our building which was a clothing factory became our shelter. From my little window I could see the snipers aim and bombs falling on Beirut. I was so affected by the war that I would write down everything I saw and felt. My diary had a beautiful green cover and it became my best friend, my all time confidant. Every time I finished writing I would hide it as a treasure so no one could find it. At some point our neighborhood became a hotspot. Bombs were flying around so we had to flee. I was afraid of losing my diary so I hid it very carefully in the shelter where I was sleeping. One year later, when we returned, the building had been rebuild after all the damage of the war. The first thing I did was look for my diary but it was nowhere to be found. For many years I searched until at some point I came to realize that I would never find it again. I couldn’t write for a long time. I felt that I had lost my story. Sometimes, I still stand in front of that same building and I feel like that 7-year-old-girl again who wants to go into the shelter to try to find her diary, to find her story.”
(Beirut, Lebanon)

7

7

‘’I studied marketing in Ethiopia. After graduation, I worked for a while but I wasn’t making enough to provide for my family. I heard about an agency that was recruiting people to work in Lebanon so I applied. Leaving my 2-year-old daughter behind was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I came to Lebanon on the 29th of December 2007. When I arrived, a lot of things were different from what the agency had told me. I didn’t know that I would become a domestic worker and that I would work seven days a week in family’s house. The first 3 months I barely stepped out of the house. I had no idea that I had the right to have a day off. After 3 months I learned to speak up for myself. The family I worked for ended up moving abroad so I started working for another family. I don’t want to talk about my experience with that family but it wasn’t good, I ended up running away. I am now working for my third family. I am lucky because they are good people. The hardest part about this job is that my mother raises my daughter and I am here taking care of other people’s children. In a few months I will be going back to Ethiopia for a visit. I am so happy to see my daughter again. In those nine years I have only been back once. She is 11 years old now. I have to accept the situation as it is. I will do anything to provide for her, even if that means I don’t get to see her grow up..“
(Beirut, Lebanon)