MisplacedWomen?

Jasmina Tešanović´s Story

In Borders, Railway-stations, Stories on October 18, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Here I am now as a wannabe European woman traveling alone. Because you see, women don’t travel alone; they travel with their men, families or friends. If they are alone, it means they are lost or dangerous. I always get those looks and check ups, even friendly offers.

I entered in the first comfortable train heading north… to even more United Europe.

Border officers were entering my train, checking us, and it all went well, until we managed to come across one small piece of one small country that once used to be called Yugoslavia, that once used to be my own country.

I didn’t have the proper papers, they claimed. Politely, they took me out off the train, and even more delicately, they locked me behind bars. A small prison hut, really, with two young officers watching me from outside with guns.

Then they went through my suitcase, then through my hand bag and then through my computer.

They were amused:

– So, what are you doing here, madame, smuggling yourself in our country without a visa?

– No, I wasn’t , I said bewildered, I was just traveling back home.

– But you took the wrong train, you cannot travel Europe without a visa.

– No, I said, I just took a train that happens to cross this small country, a nation smaller than the city I come from, a country where the plastic covers on the haystacks look fancier than tablecloths in my country.

– We will have to charge you with an attempt to cross our border illegally.

– But I legally gave you my passport. It was a mistake, my country split up and Europe united…you know, it was such a big confusion…

– We don’t remember your ex-country. The two young blonde border officers stared at me.

I looked at them. Of course, they were too young to remember or even know, why would they care, they were just doing their job.

– You are a writer, one of them says.

– Yes, I am.

– What do you write about, asks he.

– Stuff like this really, I answered vividly, crossing the borders, messing with laws and people.

He was taken aback.

– We must take you immediately to your embassy, in the capital.

– No, I must call my lawyer, you must give me the phone.

It was actually a moment of hands-on struggle between us: the European new order and non-European individual.

The young officer said:

– If we let you go into no-man’s land between borders, you can wait for a couple of hours over there, and then enter Croatia, the country you travelled from. Since from tomorrow, the visa regime in Croatia for Serbs is abolished. You could sleep in the no-man’s land if they don’t let you into Croatia.

– It’ s a deal, I said.

And we did it.

They deported me a couple of kilometers, into nobody’s land where there was literally nothing. I walked slowly, dragging my luggage to the border, which soon enough would stop being one. I reached it, I crossed it because of a kind officer who looked the other way, and I took another train south.

Then a middle aged train conductor checked my new ticket to the south.

– Didn’t you go north only a couple of hours ago?

– Yes I did, I said. I tried to reach to my same destination but I took the wrong direction.

– Don’t you read your tickets, check your trains?

– No I don’t, I said peevishly, as if admitting that I never go to doctors for a regular check up.

– Well you should madame, this world today is all about trains and proper tickets and papers.

He was right: I looked at his kind elderly face with wrinkles, the devoted body bent over his conductor’s heavy bag, his stamps lost in a smaller bag. I imagined his long-sought pension round the corner, his future life, that of a railway clerk in pension: a little bit of gardening, a little bit of cooking, and a lot of memories of trips, and people he met and treated, or mistreated.

I remembered Walter Benjamin’s suicide at the border while waiting for a visa that arrived only hours too late. A Jew trying to escape Nazi Germany: a philosopher trying to describe the world he was living in. Which Benjamin did perfectly: only he did not have the patience and strength to survive it.

By Jasmina Tešanović

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Editorial comment:

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This story has been written in Jun 2003 at the time when visa regime between Croatia and Serbia has been finally abandoned. But Serbian passport holders still needed a visa for Slovenia. (Slovenia joined the European Union one year later, on 1 May 2004). Jasmina Tešanović actually traveled from Zagreb to Belgrade. The train she took first was going over Slovenia, then she had to change to the one that was going from Zagreb to Belgrade over Budapest and where she would not need a visa.

Jasmina Tešanović is a women without homeland and without mother tongue, who lives and works on-line.

This story that she has kindly contributed to the “Missplaced Women?” blog is a part from her on-line book in english: ”My Life Without Me”. In Serbian language “Moj zivot bez mene”, has been publish by Rende, Belgrade in  2013. Italian version  “La mia vita senza di me”, Infinito, Bologna, 2014.

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