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At one time, when the realm of the dead became over­pop­u­lat­ed, you hid in me”

Tell me about the bak­ery,” she said, “that trans­par­ent four-eyed window…”

Because”, I said, “by crawl­ing, the Casern moved all the way to the cash at the bak­ery. Our hands, reach­ing for the cash to cov­er our most basic needs, were cut off at the shoul­ders. They claim that ‘mon­ey soils humans’. Here, the cash was soiled by a human.”

It was win­ter­time, it was cold, in the ground floor apart­ment that was our home, the stove was only lit in one of the rooms. As for the build­ing, it dat­ed from the war years with this gas heat­ing… A stove… Since he was self­ish, since he was piti­less, he only heat­ed his own room. In the oth­er rooms, the walls lost their paper, strip after strip, as if ripped off a human body… Between the edges of these strips, green­ish mold wept black tears.

Such labour it was, labour, pro­duc­ing day and night, togeth­er, with all those lit­tle children…On my mother’s head, no, this was not the case! Our every bite­full was count­ed. Each piece of bread in our mouths, like razor blades, if I swal­low, it will tear my throat, best to spit it out…

And that death­ly silence. Sin­cer­i­ty no longer existed.

Ger­man cus­tomers came to the bak­ery, bought a cof­fee, a dessert, the woman would pay for what she had eat­en and drunk, the man paid for his own. I was flab­ber­gast­ed in the rear. I won­dered what kind of fam­i­ly this was. “In the name of God, how do those two make love in the same bed?”

All things con­sid­ered, they were the peace­ful ones. “Take my rose, give my rose.” Look, our stove, our mon­ey, our Casern… I have no idea of what comes in, what goes out. “I’ll han­dle it, you don’t under­stand a thing about paper­work” said the Casern to the cash­box. Over time, every­thing changes, every­thing becomes soiled.

True enough, what would we know about fraud, gim­micks behind our back, clan­des­tine invest­ments, what would we know of swin­dling one’s own chil­dren, of liv­ing off oth­ers, what would we know about grab­bing some­one else’s work…?

The chil­dren are small, I can’t go on with my stud­ies, nor can I have a trade, but I must do some­thing, I must do many things… I must get out of here, escape from the Casern.

We had a Ger­man cus­tomer by the name of Gabi. She lives with her daugh­ter. She is a nurse in a retire­ment home, dropped by after work, we would have a cof­fee and chat at the bakery.

- Find me a job, Gabi, for mercy’s sake, I’m suf­fo­cat­ing. Casern is going to kill me…!

Gabi takes a look at the oven, then at my dying eyes.

- I’ll take any kind of job…

- How about house cleaning?

- Of course, why not. Do peo­ple lose their soul from doing it?

The fol­low­ing day, she had me meet Brig­it who in charge of the retire­ment home and also a painter. Under the door­bell at her home, there’s a fam­i­ly name end­ing in “dovs­ki”. She is a descen­dant of the first Pol­ish car­pen­ters who arrived in Ger­many in the 1800s. We talk, we look at her paint­ings. Col­or­ful, with flow­ers and kites… Such hap­py paint­ings that induce seren­i­ty. I would like to take my chil­dren by the hand, enter these paint­ings, dis­ap­pear in them, evaporate.

- So, are they beautiful?

- They are beautiful.

Draw Frida’s wound­ed stag for me, Bir­git, that’s the state I’m in” I say to myself.

Frida Kahlo El Venado Herido

Fri­da Kahlo, El Vena­do Heri­do (The Wound­ed Stag)

We talk about Goya, Dali, Van Gogh, about Käthe Kollwitz’s pen­cil draw­ings. She hands over the keys to her house. Her daugh­ter, her hus­band and her­self leave in the morn­ing and come back at night, I’ll clean the house until they come home…

I have two daugh­ters and a son. He is still in the cra­dle. That morn­ing I send off the two old­est to school, I place the small one in the stroller and head for Birgit’s. A three storey house, the lit­tle one sleeps on the ground floor, I start work on the upper floor. From time to time, the lit­tle one wakes up, I feed him, I get back to work…

At the end of the day, Bir­git rings the door­bell, hold­ing in her hand a bou­quet of flow­ers and a fifty euro bill. Her house has nev­er been cleaned like that since it was a house…

Oh how I love you, pearl of salt on my brow.”

There’s much to do, there’s much to be done, I must also get rid of Casern.

I head to the women’s bureau, Bir­git and Gabi have indi­cat­ed the way.

The woman at the bureau is mid­dle aged, she lends a good ear to my prob­lems, asks a few ques­tions from time to time. I begin with the pink clouds, the love let­ters, and work down to my slow dis­ap­pear­ance in a death­ly silence, until Casern shoots me in the back… I crash down the stairs of my life.

The woman sits in front of my chair, she takes my hands in hers and says “Ah girl, your Casern is a secret nar­cis­sic per­vert”… So I learn some­thing new. In fact, a some­thing that becomes many things.

You must leave Casern with­out turn­ing back, there is no rem­e­dy to this trou­ble, you can­not sow affec­tion on this field”, she tells me. She writes a let­ter as a con­se­quence, makes a few phone calls and directs me toward a hous­ing bureau.

For days, with chil­dren hold­ing on to my skirt, I make round trips to this hous­ing bureau. I’m sent away with “not today, come back tomor­row.” In the end, I sit on the doorstep and don’t leave any more. Three hours go by, some­one slips the rental con­tract and the key to an apart­ment in my hand.

I start clean­ing a dif­fer­ent house every day. The sweat of my brow falls on my lips. I love the taste of it, I adore it.

With a sim­ple sig­na­ture, the State hands over the key to your home to Casern, turns you into a pris­on­er, you suf­fo­cate in the clean­ing-chil­dren-bed­room triangle…Your prop­er­ty rights are not­ed on your mar­riage con­tract, but is sep­a­ra­tion that easy?

For years, in order to divorce, you step in and out of tri­bunals. The insti­tu­tions are not will­ing to open up this tri­an­gle and set you free. And if that is not enough, the fam­i­ly gets involved, and so do the neigh­bours. But it doesn’t mat­ter, you know your real­i­ty, your life knows it.

Dur­ing those years, you search for the organs ripped off your body, your frag­ments. You find them by road­side, in front of win­dows, in pas­tures, on moun­tains and you sew them back into place, one after the other.

Then you tell your­self “wow, liv­ing is beau­ti­ful!” Liv­ing, with­out Casern, with­out tanks, with­out bul­lets or bombs.

Then Casern’s ropes return, wrap around your neck, you find your­self alone.

You say “to hell with those stran­gling me with your rope, drop it.” You come to terms with the mir­rors. “wow, life is beau­ti­ful!” You are despised, ban­ished because of the work you do. But you laugh inside with a glass of wine, you cel­e­brate your deliv­er­ance from Casern. Your daugh­ters enter uni­ver­si­ty. You teach them one thing, way before all the labels, “Just be honest”…

Then, you get back on the navy blue bicy­cle

- Hey, brown-haired one, where are you off to?

- I’m off to do house­work, I’m off to clean the world.

Salt of my brow, I love you…

Image : Naz Oke 2022. adoptart.net
Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges

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Suna Arev
Née en 1972 à Uzun­tar­la (Elazığ).Dans une famille de huits enfants, elle est immergée dès son plus jeune âge, par­mi les tra­vailleurs agri­coles à la tâche. Tel un miroir qui date de son enfance, la péri­ode du coup d’Etat mil­i­taire du 12 sep­tem­bre 1980 a for­mé sa vie poli­tique. Diplômée de l’École pro­fes­sion­nelle de com­merce d’Elazığ, elle a vécu, en grandeur nature les com­porte­ments fas­cistes et racistes dans sa ville. Mère de qua­tre enfants, depuis 1997, elle habite en Alle­magne, pour des raisons politiques.
Suna Arev was born in 1972 in the vil­lage of Uzun­tar­la, Elazığ dis­trict. From a fam­i­ly of eight chil­dren she became one of the agri­cul­tur­al work­ers at an ear­ly age. The mil­i­tary coup d’état of Sep­tem­ber 12 1980 served as a mir­ror in shap­ing her polit­i­cal out­look. After obtain­ing a diplo­ma from the Elazığ Pro­fes­sion­al Busi­ness School, she expe­ri­enced the full force of fas­cist and racist behav­iours in her town. She has lived in Ger­many since 1997, for polit­i­cal rea­sons. She is the moth­er of four children.