Yesterday, on my way home from college, I stopped to chat with the caretaker of the building next door. He is a Syrian, a father. He was as usual sitting in front of the entrance to the building, engrossed in his phone. He followed the events in Ukraine, the devastated cities and above all the exodus of refugees, the queues, the children being carried, the disarray, the dragged suitcases, the reception centres. The destruction was already reminiscent of the horrors in Syria. The young man showed real compassion for the people we saw in the images and I tell myself that all the same the Ukrainian refugees were better off than him and his fellow citizens. I asked him again about his escape from Rakka with his parents, at the beginning of the arrival of Daesh, their walk in the fields at night to a road where a friend took them in a van transporting agricultural products. , their passage through several Islamic State checkpoints manned by hideous bearded men from Tunisia and Central Asia who he made believe that he was going to seek emergency treatment in Hama by displaying a scar due to appendicitis recently operated. Then the chase on foot, her mother’s exhaustion, her father’s fall, and finally her arrival at the Turkish border, her father leaning on her shoulder and her mother in her arms.
→ FILE. Syrian refugees
It was on the way up to my house that I realized that I was holding in my hand a collective work that I had gone to recover from the publisher and in which I had written a short story in the form of a life story. of a Palestinian, son of refugees in 1948 and in which I reported the exodus of his parents from a village in Galilee, their flight among families, herds, children sitting on donkeys in fear of Jewish militias . And I immediately realized, as if the thread of things were suddenly unfolding, that that very morning I had deposited at the university a series of books that I had borrowed in order to try to unravel the route of a former friend of my parents, an Armenian fashion designer who had fled his native city in 1915 after the assassination of his father and who had arrived in Lebanon after a horrifying march suffused with humiliation, terror and the disappearance of a of his sisters.
The wars and the exoduses that they engender are like the horrible symbol of the beginning of the same thing all over History. Who is able to count the enormous amount of individual suffering that these terrible and permanent forced movements will have generated since the world started? No one can any longer know what the humans have endured, who have been displaced since the dawn of time by the barbarian invasions, by the sack of the great cities of the Roman Empire, by that of the Chinese cities under the blow of the nomads of the North, or by the destruction of Baghdad and Mosul following the terrifying cavalcades of the Mongols. We certainly have testimonies on the taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders and on the massacres that followed, as we have on the fall of Granada into the hands of the Catholics, that of Constantinople into the hands of the Ottomans or of Mexico into the hands of Cortes.
But we do not have stories of the flight of populations, of the endless and always similar cohorts of refugees, of fugitives whose specter haunts human history more than anything else. We only begin to have them as these horrors come closer to us, as the suffering and fear become more audible because they rub shoulders with us, almost touch us.
The horrors of the forced migrations of the 19th century are already told to us in more detail, but those of the 20th century now have shapes and contours. Photos, films and testimonials make them palpable and almost frighteningly familiar, before we begin to experience them live.
→ ANALYSIS.2021, a record year for maritime migration
And this is how the columns of millions of miserable people driven from their homes or the legions of deportees and slaves on the five continents over the past millennia are embodied today in image and sound through the miseries of our era which threw and still throws before our eyes on the paths of flight and exile dozens of European peoples, millions of Chinese, Armenians, Greeks, Russians, Jews, Roma, Palestinians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Rwandans, Congolese, Sudanese, Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis, Ukrainians and so many others.