There is No Refuge

That title is pretty fucked up.

I have lived 22 (almost 23) years in Canada and I can honestly tell you that as a refugee, the worldly feeling of homelessness will never dissipate. This is where I feel the disconnect between what an immigrant and a refugee really is. See, immigrants leave for a variety of reasons; societal, economic, maybe to go rejoin with family elsewhere or due to natural disasters etc. Although natural disasters can definitely create refugees and are a risk to your life, no natural disaster lasts forever.

Unlike war. Genocide. Violence, more violence....

No, wars do not last forever but the remnants of it are so deep that it sometimes feels like you're on this conveyor belt of memories and realities you'd rather forget.

This is the thing about being a refugee, everything is memory based. Our memories keep us in line. Our memories give us unhappy thoughts when everyone else's may be completely opposite. Every. Damn. Day. We are reminded we have no home.

I can use myself (my family) perfectly as an example, and I am almost 99.9% sure that other refugees would feel the same.

You never feel settled.

So you started in country A, this is where you were born and your family is from. Your entire history is linked to this land from country A. You do all the right things: go to school, travel, learn some more, find love, start a family then one day your entire world crashes. You are in a situation where everything you have worked for and everything you know is about to be demolished. You have to flee. If you stay you will end up injured, raped, dead or all of the aforementioned- when you leave you are now displaced.

This is where you flee to country B. All refugees tend to have country B. This is the transit country at the time that would accept you in between you trying to get to Canada, Australia, USA, England etc. In my case we ended up in Slovenia. Country B is okay, it wasn't the biggest culture shock yet because you are still somewhat close to your culture and the language is not impossible to learn. You are still picked on in school because you are different, but at least you can argue back because you have the language skills to do so. Country B is where you spend time waiting, you are in this purgatory filled with uncertainty. You have family members that may have not gotten out at the same time as you to wait on. You are trying to figure out if this is where you will be living from now on. You are figuring out if this is still too close to home, will you be in danger again? Oh. Wait. Country B does not allow you (or someone in your family) to get citizenship because of mitigating circumstances. You no longer can stay here.

You now make your way to country C. Your new 'home' - your final destination. This is likely somewhere in the Anglo-Saxon West. For me, this is Canada. You arrive into refugee housing with other unfortunate souls who are from different places in the world and had to flee also. It sucks, it sucks BAD. As a child especially, you are now privy to that what is happening to you also happens to kids who don't look anything like you around the world. You grow up much faster than everyone else. You eventually leave refugee housing and end up in another city, unfortunately, it may be a little hick town. This is where the culture shock is unbearable. You do NOT speak anything that the locals of country C speak. You can only make friends with those who, like you, are newcomers. Wait, no you can't, they also don't speak the language of country C nor the same language as you. You are isolated and lonely. The locals are not welcoming. You are different. You have an ugly kid who you are WAY better at in math making fun of you because you don't speak English. He walks around the school singing Fugees every time he sees you because you being a refugee is hilarious to him. You can't react. You are unable to react. The language of country C is not available to you, yet.

Now you spend time learning the language of country C. You get better. You get AMAZING. You are now exceeding your peers, those same peers who were born in country C and still can't do as well as you in school even though this is your second or even third language before 10 years old. You do this while having absent parents who have to work two or three jobs to make sure you are okay. You do it while dealing with intermittent bouts of fighting with the PTSD that has you scared of the dark and loud noises. So now you've done it. You speak the language of country C! That excitement is short lived because although you try your hardest to integrate, all you'll ever hear whether you do well or not is 'go back to where you came from'...

Now let me say this, I am white. Very very white. So white that if I laid down in snow I would probably blend in. I have blue eyes. I look no different than the local Canadian (my country C) Anglo-Saxon population. I am not a person of colour. I no longer have an accent. There is really nothing extraordinarily telling about me to make anyone think I am what IN THEIR HEAD a refugee is. I suddenly have become privy to people so easily making negative commentary about refugees, immigrants, Muslims in my company because now they think I am one of them. They do not know who is in their company.

Half my family is Muslim. I am a refugee. This is the third goddamn country I have lived in. I, like every other refugee, bust my ass every single day to be a part of this social fabric. To fit in. But I never ever will.

The problem with being a refugee vs an immigrant is your original diaspora is no longer the diaspora it was. People immigrate from places where there is no conflict so they may return and feel love and happiness when they do. Us refugees don't have that luxury.

In the case of being Bosnian, I love being Bosnian. Do I have a good relationship with the actual idea of the country? No. What happiness can returning to a place you were FORCED out of hold? None. The larger Yugoslavian diaspora is even worse because we can barely get along back home nonetheless in country C. We are still separated over bullshit that stems from the Balkan war. I am one of the fortunate ones because my parents never taught me to hate anyone. Serbian. Croatian. Bosnian. I unfortunately cannot say that about the rest of the Yugo diaspora I have met here.

So this is where you are constantly as a refugee. You don't belong at home. You don't belong in your final destination country. The people from home still can't get along so you can't really feel a sense of community with them. The locals of country C where you are now, put on a tolerant facade to make you feel like you are welcome. It's a lie.

We see in how the idiots in England voted for Brexit that integration isn't the wave.

We see how the baboons who voted in Trump in USA now sing along to a Muslim ban.

Sadly, we see in that shooting at a mosque last night in Quebec.

We have no home. We were kicked out of ours and now we are unwanted and unsafe in the one we wanted to make anew.

I love being Canadian, I truly do. I couldn't imagine loving a place like I'd love a human. That is how I feel about Toronto. I love being surrounded by different religions, races, cultures. All of it. I want to be a part of this awesome everythingness that we have. But I am also aware I live on stolen land. I live on a land that was subject to its own genocide. There are natives in their own homeland that are displaced persons. Ridiculous.

This is where I end it because, I am exhausted. This weekend has me spent. I have spent all the worry and emotion and empathy I have in me. To those poor people still stuck in Syria, country A. To those taking dangerous journeys across waters and lands to attempt a chance at reaching country B. And finally, to those in country C. Where you (we) thought we would be safe. Please stay safe. Some of us know what you are going through and do care and pray for you.

- Mirna