Sky and Ground

what is home? The home is sky and ground.

Sky and Ground

It’s 23:17 and I’m sitting in front of this glaring screen knowing I should full well be sleeping. I’m not going to do that because I have come to an important realization, something that has precipitated from my collection of thoughts by watching ‘Sky and Ground’ a film documenting a Syrian family’s journey as they escape the siege of Aleppo (https://vimeo.com/263803334). The documentary is heart wrenching in its raw display of humanity. We follow the Guevaras, a family, with 3 generations from the oldest mother to the 8 year old Rita and her bunny Abdou, on their arduous journey on foot across Europe. So much pain is etched on the faces of the old and young alike. It puts into perspective that human beings like you and I are living their existence as the Guevaras did in this film, right at this moment. Yesterday evening (14.6.20) Turkish forces bombed Kurdish refugee camps and Yazidi settlements in the Mount Sinjar region. Already victims of persecution from Assad and ISIS, these people, who have been scarred in ways we in the west with our cushy lives cannot even begin to comprehend, are targeted once again. Civilians godammit.

The Guevaras were privileged, with family rooted in Germany who were committed to get them across. However the people affected by the airstrike yesterday- and the many other horrific events that happen on a more frequent basis than the western media would have us know- don’t have access to the same resources or connections. They are stuck, fleeing from violence instigated by states who prioritize operations in lieu for human lives. The Guevaras remain in fear of the police,of smugglers, even medics till the end of the documentary- they have no one to rely on except their own. The inhumanity of this stands out when uncle Guevara himself is imprisoned in a detention center for 24 days leaving his family who are dependent on him flailing emotionally and logistically. What would have happened to 8 year old Rita if her German uncle hadn’t forgone reason and came out to get them? An 8 year old who can’t read or write because of a war she was born into of no fault of her own. Behrouz Boochani’s ‘No Friend But The Mountains’, show the most inhumane of the inhumane detention center (which was really a prison) on Manus Island. As single male, the same reason Guevara was imprisoned, the monstrosities he faced and observed in the prison’s subhuman conditions where inmates would rather die than continue, shakes you to the core. These are experiences that we must search out to listen to otherwise they are lost to the wind, and we negate the very humanity of the people who these stories concern.

I’d rather have bombs fall on me than go through this torment

Sky and Ground

The scene in the whole documentary that stood out for me the most was when the matriarch of a family the Guevras were travelling with injured her foot. Progressively it got worse spreading to her leg meaning they had to give in and call a doctor. The ‘humanitarian’ organisation of the Red Cross arrived… and called the police. The family had to restart at Greece- both their morale and geographical position had been compromised. I see the medic as on the side of humanity of life regardless of ideological or geographical boundaries, hence why I fundamentally disagree with army medics. In a world in which people are unable or afraid to approach people for medical care, there seems very little light. This scene reminded me of the documentary I watched earlier this year called ‘For Sama’. Waad al Kateab, the wife of a Syrian doctor and a director in her own right, recorded the siege of Aleppo and the targeting of hospitals in bombings. Both her and her husband felt a deep affinity for their people, such that they would risk their own lives and that of their infant daughter Sama to resist. From my perspective, this is the job of a medic: to sit tight for those who need them. Not to self sacrifice- that would cause more harm than good- but as a highly skilled professionals who should provide services to the communities that need them most and that they are best positioned to serve.

In my interview at Cambridge I said to my Director of Studies that either way, if I got the place or not, I would do something in my life that helps other people. I was banging my head on the level of cliche I had reached on the way home that evening. However in retrospect, taking into account where my interests and passions lie, I think those words were the most profound self insight I’ve ever produced. I am always questioning myself- Why did I choose medicine? Why am I studying so hard? Why Why Why?. It is now 00:23, and I understand the world a little better. I understand my place in this world in it a fraction more, and I know deep in my heart that it is reading and watching people struggle like this while I lead a life of relative luxury that has shaped me.

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