Dedicated to the people of Ukraine and all war-torn countries
This story is an extract of a previously published story. I’m publishing this extract in dedication to the people in Ukraine as their plight fills our news thread with their battered images.
For the full story, see link at the bottom of this page, or click here: “A Dojo, A Refuge”.
M y mind was wandering again, I realized that I was back in the underground level, the malja’ in Arabic, of our building in Beer Hassan, Beirut. Many buildings had underground storage-turned-bunkers ready for use when people wanted to hide in the war. It was easily the first criterion you would check out when you wanted to buy an apartment in Beirut in the 80’s. Here was the last level in the unofficial but well established three stage plan to duck for cover when the fighting broke out, the level after that would be to flee your home, or, well, die in its rubble. Contrary to intuition, people don’t just flee their homes in a war, many preferring to sit “this one” out, as if each clash was the last one. War isn’t a constant, it was often interrupted by forced normalcy.
The 1st level of duck and cover, was to avoid being near any glass windows, those can break easily sending shards hazardously into the room, so you would want to have at least a wall between you and any glass pane, the corridors were the best option.
The 2nd level happens if the fighting intensified. You would need to add further walls between you and the outside, usually the stairwell was a good option. We would all gather on the stairs, and sit out the fighting, for hours at a time.
The 3rd stage is the underground malja’, which means refuge in Arabic. These were built originally for multi-purpose storage, like this big stadium. They are large open spaces with dirty impersonal walls, unloved and dusty. I hate being within these walls.
As the planes flew across the sky, purposefully breaking the sound barrier recurrently and unabashedly throwing bombs on a dense city, with the tanks on the ground destroying gleefully anything and everything they came across, I would raise my head from the pillow with a terrified expression on my face and drop it back on the pillow. Without waking up. I was 2 years old. He…