A Letter From Berlin To My Village
28 March 2023
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By Collen Kajokoto | Last November I arrived at the immaculate Berlin Brandenburg international airport accompanied by my 15 year old daughter.

The airport accessibility and immigration processes were a knife-butter-cutting marvel procession.This was in total contrast to our nightmarish departure at RG Mugabe international airport in Harare where we had to rush to board the plane in the rain!This is no exaggeration to say we had to handover wet tickets to the cabinet crew.

Ms Astrid our host escort rushed out to embrace and welcome us with huge warm hugs as we landed in Berlin.We were pleasantly surprised that the weather too was warm and less brutal and furious as we had anticipated.

The train ride from the airport to our apartment was very memorable to both daughter and father.For the father this was my first train journey in nearly two decades.And for my daughter, this was her maiden train ride!This pathetic and sad reality is birthed from a corrupt and a political corrosive regime bereft of shame and morals.Corruption,nepotism and mismanagement have rendered the rail system redundant and consigned the coaches to rodents turfs at national museums .

As the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months Berlin weather became inhospitable and severely brute .But Berlin is warm in the figurative sense. It is a cosmopolitan city and the Government seat of Europe’s biggest economy!Berlin is the womb of Germany.It is a mesmerizing arts and cultural harbour!

My daughter’s welcome teacher Ms Veselaj is a daughter of an Albanian father and writer who was jailed for years because of his political thoughts and writings . Ironically today Ms Veselaj finds herself teaching a daughter of a writer persecuted and ostracized from his county!
Germany offers absolutely free education in public schools and universities.This is without exception to nationality.Students from low income households are provided with free meals and free train ride tickets!
Here ,like in my Zimbabwe village, water is for free.And the comparison ends there! In my village folks drink from wells.In Berlin free water comes from stainless steel taps.German tap water is considered one of the cleanest across Europe and North America.Strangely Germans distrust tap water.In fact they call it toilet water.Their preferred choice is bottled water.
Berlin is a cosmopolitan city and State.People come from all over across planet Earth.The majority like me are victims and survivors of war ,oppression, conflict, political and gender persecutions.Of course Berlin is host to expatriates and international students.

There is a good number of Africans on asylum.I have had pleasant encounters, in Doner shops(fast food and coffee shops) ,with”bruder” and “schwestern” from Kenya,Ghana, Eritrea, Somalia, Cameron,Benin,The Gambia to mention a few .War,conflict and fluctuations to African economies have scattered African families as the Holocaust scattered the Jews.

The Eritreans deserve to be mentioned out most. They have been so compassionate and hugely warm towards me.They have suffered the brutality and killings of the Ethiopian Red Terror army in the 90s under the authoritarian Haile Mariam Mengistu who was later deposed by a military coup. The genocide architect fled to Zimbabwe where he still lives in the leafy Gun Hill suburb of Harare as a “special guest” of the Zimbabwe cabal.The Harare regime has on numerous occasions contemptuously rebuffed extradition pleas from Addis Ababa .The Zimbabwe Government provides Mengistu with security services at his heavily guarded sanctuary .

From the hot frying pan of Mengistu today the Eritreans face the scourge of their own- despotic. ruler Isaias Afwerki .Like the Chechens they are conscripted into the army with little salaries.Those who are fortunate to flee, leave behind families with remote chances of reunification .The Eritrea regime does not process passports which makes it extremely difficult to leave the country via Sudan, North Africa and into the hazardous ferry boats to Europe.

Some have married to Germans.The majority like me still harbour thin optimism of returning to our village sooner. I left my country but I arrived here with my village.I still dream in my language.

Reality strikes quick and cruel like a child orphaned early, when it can no longer drink from the mother’s rich breasts.When the lactogen scent suddenly solidifies into thick snow falling over Berlin.When you abandon your sun hat and sandles.When you go out with thick boots and a coat and and wool hat.When the sun become as elusive as freedom to a prisoner.When sweating becomes an anatomical luxury . When sneezing and coughing become perpetual impulsive as breathing.

When you go outside of your comfort zone, when you eat a different meal from home,sadza,mufushwa,mazondo derere, mbambaira,nyevhe, muboora, madora, tsunga with maguru and matumbu.And of course mahehu,and chikokiyana from my village’s brew master, Ambuya Jamiya.

The scourge of war,conflict and persecutions have not spared Europe neither Asia more particularly the Middle East.My friend Eslan is from Chechen.Like his many countrymen he fled his country to escape the dreaded conscription into the Russian army to fight in the unprovoked war in Ukraine.The Ukrainians continue to arrive .I have heard horrible stories narrated by nationals from Iraq,Syria, Turkey, Kurdistan, Serbia,Iran.

But life goes on .Life must flow.We must live on hope.We must marry anew We must be the authors of lamentations of Absence and Will- the Absence of justice,peace,fairness, equality, freedom of expression and free speech- the Will to fight oppression,injustice , political,economic , artistic/cultural suffocation and exploitation.

Germany has her own anger.My German friends Nadine and her boyfriend Uli tell me there is underneath resentment towards the former West Germany by the Eastern natives .The natives from the former East Germany feel short changed by the unification of the erstwhile antagonists.

The unification resulted in an an avalanche of factory closures, job losses, accelerated poverty etc.
It will be far fetched to draw parallels with the dubious and scandalous so called Unity Accord between the then zanu and zapu.
The daily overzealous attempts by Zanupf rented propaganda crowd and apologists to equate the two are not just arrogant political prostitution but dimensionally contrast and detrimentally obtuse .ZANU swallowed ZAPU. Full stop!
Berliners are known for weekend night outs . My favorite joint is the Panke Night Club where I met my good friend Laura , her friends Verena and Charlotte. We affectionally call her”The Youth Day Lady”.The affable and well read young lady was born on 16 June . On this day in 1976 hundreds of demonstrating black South African students were ambushed and brutally massacred by the apartheid SA security forces.
Every year on 16 June this callous ,cold blooded and heinous crime against humanity is remembered as a Youth Day in SA . Laura celebrates her birthday with the South Africans in memory of the innocent slain students. This solemn commemoration and acknowledgement is a befitting recognition and attestation of the important role played by the youths during the struggle for freedom.
With her TV like soap character Laura is proud and so passionate about this day. She exudes wittiness, humour and alertness of a seasoned soap actress.The soap serendipity was punctuated with Berliner pilsner downing and dance! I bet my last penny it’s not a question of “if” but “when” will her face appears on our screen.

Until another time!
Danke schon. Maita basa!

-The author is a Zimbabwe poet and a scholar under PEN Germany’s Writers-in-Exile program.He writes from Germany where he lives in exile.

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