A green and orange flower. Imperfect stitches on white cloth. I discovered it half a dozen days ago, in the abyss of moving house, folded in four, at the bottom of a drawer. For a moment, I forgot the crates and remembered crumbling crochet. “Here. To remember the day I got home again. And name ”. When I had nothing – not even a name – I embroidered. In the whirlwind of the refugee camp, the fear of their children stuck to their legs and the needles ticking the darkness. It was a number. He was one of 1.8 million displaced persons in the Bosnian War. It was one of thousands of refugees. That day, he had a name again. Aura. And house. The key trembled in the lock. Tears were streaming down her face. A decade after his escape, he returned home. An apartment in Dobrinja, one of Sarajevo’s martyred neighborhoods. Over there, the war took place building by building, house by house, family by family. She is Bosnian, the Serbian husband. They escaped with their children on their backs, amid a bomb festival. Racial and religious hatred is used to decorate the leaden sky. That day he returned home, the building was still riddled with bullets, but that didn’t matter. That day, it was no longer just a number. He was back to Aura.
No government can hide the fate of its people.
I met her in 2001, the silent war since the end of 1995 and she finally returned home. Jumping out of refugee accounts. There are statistics where no one wants to be, but if it hadn’t been a number, they probably wouldn’t have known your story. Your hand trusting the cloth in mine: “Here. Not to forget the Aura ”. Drank. I fold it again in four, I put it in a box, with me from change to change. Not to forget that statistics is a frame. Each number, a face. Had Aura not been a number and the suffering of the war, the despair of the refugees would not have counted. You need to count shotguns. And victims. Each number is one of us.
I already arranged the embroidery in the new house, but Aura is still by my side. It makes me think of the madness that plagues Brazil. The (un) government of Jair Bolsonaro breaks with the Covid-19 statistics. He threatened to silence the numbers, then he wanted to communicate them as he pleased, failing to add up totals of cases and deaths. There are numbers that can hurt the vote count. But to silence the numbers is to erase the present. The truth of names. Fortunately, a media consortium has fulfilled its role and has taken on the task of spreading the word. On Tuesday, another 1185 deaths, in all 38,497 people died. No government can hide the fate of its people. To hide the numbers is to erase the names. Those who do not know their dead cannot care for their living.
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