Saturday, April 30, 2011
There Was Fadil Fejzic
We can't talk about hope if we live within a world of illusion.
Last night, the 20-year war correspondent, prolific author and activist Chris Hedges spoke to a standing-room-only audience at All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena. He beckoned us "to break free from the lethargy of illusions" in a culture of power, greed, injustice and a penchant for targetting scapegoats. This, Hedges said, is about "taking the lonely first step" of resistance. He closed with an eyewitness account of this kind of lonely resistance from his time covering the brutality of the former Yugoslavia in the 90s--a true Story about a poor Serb Christian family (the Soraks) and the courageous Love of a Muslim farmer (Fadil Fejzic):
It was 1992 and the Serbs had begun their siege of Gorazde. The Soraks lived there with their older son, Zoran, and his wife. While Serbs, they ignored the anti-Muslim propaganda of Bosnian Serb leaders. When the siege began in earnest, and the village infrastructure collapsed, they refused to move out. Instead they found common ground with the Bosnian government and were branded traitors by their fellow Serbs. On June 14, the Bosnian police, Muslims, came for their son, Zorak, to ask a few questions. They never saw him again.
Soon after, they lost their second son to a freak accident. They were alone, childless. The horrors around them escalated. Some of their Muslim neighbors threatened to kill them; others defended them. They were among a spare 200 Serbs remaining in town, but were terrified, soon turning against a Muslim government that they had once been willing to accept.
Five months after the disappearance of their son, his wife gave birth to a little girl. Not surprisingly, she was unable to nurse the child. The city was under constant shelling; the residents were shell-shocked, hungry, and desperate. For five days, the baby was given tea; it wasn’t enough, and she began to fade. In the words of her grandmother: “She was dying, and it was breaking our hearts.”
All the while, their Muslim neighbor, Fadil Fejzic´, kept his cow in a field on the edge of town, where he milked it at night to avoid the perils of daylight. Before the crack of dawn on the fifth day, there was a knock on the door of the Sorak home. They had no choice but to answer. There was Fadil Fejzic, clad in black rubber boots, holding up to them a half liter of milk. The next morning, he came again, and the next and the next and the next. Other families in the street started to insult him, telling him to give his milk to Muslims and let the Chetnik (the pejorative term for Serbs) die. He took no money; there was none to take. Said the Grandmother to Chris Hedges: "Fadil Fejzic came for 442 days, until my daughter-in-law and granddaughter left Gorazde for Serbia.”
The Soraks were eventually forced to leave also, moving into the former home of a Muslim family in a nearby town. They grieved daily for their lost sons. They grieved daily for their lost home. They said they had no forgiveness to give, but they also said that they could never listen to other Serbs berating the Muslims without telling the story of Fejzic and his cow.
And Fejzic? Hedges went and sought him out. The cow had been slaughtered for meat before the end of the siege, and Fejzic had fallen on hard times, collecting apples on the ground to sell on the street. But, when Hedges told him he had seen the Soraks, his eyes brightened. "And the baby?" he asked "How is she?"
This is a story that should be told and re-told and rehearsed and embodied. It is a priceless episode of self-sacrificial Love from a Muslim to a Christian family, echoing the life and death of a magnificient Jew 2000 years ago. May we ponder it and live it.
Epilogue: Check out Hedges' Hope Speech delivered at the anti-war rally at Lafayette Park in Washington DC on December 16, 2010. He was later arrested in an act of nonviolent resistance.