January 22, 2014

Of Acknowledging History

Posted in English, Places, Reflections, Revolutionary and Politician at 2:28 pm by Rou...

I haven’t written my reflections on any of the trips I was fortunate to have during the past two years since my Tunisian experience back in 2011; partially because I was too overwhelmed to grasp many of the things I came across, and partially because I lost the spirit if I may say, especially when subconsciously comparing to Egypt, and don’t get me wrong, no I am not only comparing the beauty of the place or how your own humanity is preserved there (though I can list tens of personal stories about this), but it was more about comparing the people’s attitude and maturity towards their own history… So anyways, for some reason, I feel myself forced to share what the past two years of travels left me in; specifically the German and Czech experiences…

I have always been a WWII freak; have always believed that up till this very moment, we are still living in its aftermath; however, all what I have read about it, haven’t really prepared me for the experience of walking in those streets and listening to those stories…

When I visited Germany back in March, and throughout all the cities I visited, I planned for a one day visit to Munich, that day I insisted on visiting the Dachau concentration camp, which resulted in losing almost half of the day intended to be spent in Munich, just to see with my bare eyes that place which once hosted prisoners of the Nazi regime from whichever ethnic that does not fit in the Aryan race criteria… That day, only one thing remained still in my memory… A huge stone in the middle of the camp with two words written on it in five different languages… “Never Again”…

Last month, during my trip, I spent two days in Berlin, I didn’t have much time to cover the huge city, but strolling through its streets, I promised myself not to miss visiting two specific places; the Checkpoint Charlie (the crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War), and the remains of the Berlin Wall… I cannot possibly describe how reading personal testimonials from people and events that took place in the places I was standing in made me feel… It has always terrified me; this fact that one day a place was there, and the next day it was divided… Can you imagine living in Heliopolis, only to wake up someday to find yourself enforced to take a permit to visit relatives or friends living in Haram for example…? Can you possibly understand how is it to live in a divided city…? The idea of expulsion and displacement is as heartbreaking as the stories of wars, genocides, and destruction’s of cities, and humans are equally the criminals and victims in all cases…

My German encounter throughout the two visits left me facing one fact… These people have paid the price of the Nazi regime fully… But most importantly; they acknowledged their mistakes, and promised themselves, before they promise the world, that not under any given circumstances will they allow this to happen one more time… and hence the “Never Again”!

But, the thing is, my astonishment was not only related to the German experience and what the WWII left the world in. I was privileged with visiting Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic twice during the past two years… throughout the two times I went, I used to join arranged walks with freelancing tour guides who take us into the streets of the old preserved city, which miraculously survived the WWII, telling dozens of stories about the places, the architecture, but most importantly about the terrible history of the country under the communist regime. Yes, I went to three guided walks, with three different guides, in three different spots of the city, and they all stopped at one point of their history and told us stories about how they suffered under the rule of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia that started by the coup d’état in February 1948 and ended with the Velvet Revolution in 1989…

During the last tour, one of the attendees asked the guide a simple question; why do you guys keep telling foreigners such stories about the ugly side of the history of this beautiful city, and the answer was as astonishing as the stories were… The young guide said that they insist on telling the story to everyone, to remind themselves, the young generation, as well as the whole world, that they lived terrible years because they never said no, that they suffered for accepting what they shouldn’t have, and that they are not intending to forget about it, so as to make sure, it will never happen again, not to them, and not to any other nation if possible… that simple!

To cut a long story short, if it is one thing I have learned that would conclude my whole experience throughout the past two years, it would be how vital self-assessment and recognizing one’s own flaws and mistakes is… that’s the key word I believe…

These people made it through just because they were strong enough to face the reality that they are not angels… that they did mistakes… that they were defeated more than once, but remained believing in the good inside them… and above all, remained humans; realizing they will only move forward when they remind themselves and their younger generations that whatever the price they had to pay was, they can never allow the root cause of their failures to happen again…

I wish that someday, we would look back and tell our children and grandchildren how we failed, how we were mistaken about ourselves at times, and how we managed eventually to be strong enough to work out our own imperfections and allow the good to rise above the bad…

I wish…

Rou…

January 22, 2014

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