After 23 years living in Holland, I have been reminded that I might share a story with the ones that we call refugees. Soul searching and trying to understand how all this makes any sense... good guys, bad guys, people that save you, perspective, and only questions left. Born a stranger, living as one, searching for home but only finding a solution in adjusting the lens. All other ways lead to suffering.

 Whenever I participate in a discussion about the current situation of emigration, there is always somebody that reminds me: “but you also fled the war”. Every time it is as if I hear it for the first time. There is a shiver that goes through my spine.

Did I? Doas one ever?

The first evening news where we heard that the war has started in Slovenia.

 I remember feeling like…”oh no! No,no,no…I have no time for this. A war?? What does that mean? I need to do my diploma, learn new concerto, driver’s license exam… My father has cancer, he needs to go to have his operation! I have a life! What do you mean war!!! War is like Germans and Partisans and black and white documentaries and movies about the heroes who lost their lives for our freedom! Our freedom which always seamed will be forever!!

We are Brothers and Equals, and together we are building our future! And what do you mean Tito was not good!!!! I am a born Tito’s Pionir, Tito’s Youth. Once I was running with a pioneers relay for his birthday. I was dreaming of seeing him close up! My mother sang for him one New Years eve. She cried when he died. I never saw her cry before! Suddenly it was all his fault! But… he sad NO to Stalin!!?? …

There are people who are born to start wars. There are others that end them. There are the unfortunate ones that get taken away forced a gun into their hands.
There are people who get benumb, there are people who help, there are people that take advantage, think of solutions. There are ones who fight, the ones that motivate others, who give their lives for the freedom of others!! There are people who are born in a war, ones who carry on wars of their ancestors.
Some get wealthy, others loose everything they ever had!
There are people who would never leave their homes and others who run from the madness. There are ones who don’t know who they would fight. And then, there are the people who refuse to participate. Wars are for winners and losers. Heroes and villains.

And, they never end!!!

 Following the long gone Ottoman Empire times, the Turks are still fighting the wars on the Balkans. They say the Serbs are more Turkish than the Bosnians who are more Slavic than the Serbs but they are Muslim. They converted to Islam so that they would live in peace. Serbs fought and fought for 600 years. Man were slaughtered, women raped over hundreds of years. Many of them stayed with a child… Who is who? Who will represent whom in the next war?

 At the end, we all end up fighting ourselves.

 The pure chance wanted that I came to Holland to study! My violin was my boat. In a time when Yugoslavia was hermetically closed a miracle happened and I felt like a see divided and I walked away. I remember the bus. Very late at night. My father lifting me with his own hands onto the first step of the bus. I had to make it to Budapest to fly to Holland.  No civilian could fly from Belgrade at that time. I don’t remember the plain, or anything of the journey. I remember Marileen en Jan Michiel Otto. I remember sleeping in the van Eegenstraat neer the Vondelpaark in Amsterdam, and the smell of their house. I remember having to go to Rotterdam after one day. I remember Erica de Wijs the Coordinator of students of the Rotterdams Conservatory. I still have the blanket she gave me, and one spoon. I remember people looking strangely and wanting to help, and me thinking : ‘Oh, thank you!! How kind of you!’, not even feeling I need help! It is silence in my head and a vacuum of feelings. It is all fine! I am here to study and show that I play the violin sooooo good! The only problem is that nobody seems to know who I am!!

 I learned that I don’t come from Yugoslavia because it was a confusing answer. It was a country that started disappearing. I learned that when they asked me where from EX Yugoslavia, with still a little hope on their faces, I had to make a joke and say: ‘ where the BAD guys come from’. Humor always made it easier. They would just say: ‘Oh…’…. Not knowing what to ask next. It seamed everybody back then knew where the bad guys came from. Humor saved me.

 I learned to start calling the place where I came from Serbia, though it never felt right.

 I was born in Yugoslavia in 1972. It was paradise on earth. Tito sad ‘NO’ to Stalin but we were still communists. Had salaries equal to western countries! Could travel ANYWHERE around the globe without a visa. We have been one of the five countries in the world who were Non-Aligned. Didn’t belong anywhere. We were free! In the cold war. (If this was a film it would have been a sound of an Icy wind and going to dark!). Tito took care of EVERYTHING. He just didn’t ménage not to die! The moment he died somebody changed the light.

 I was born in Yugoslavia as a minority in a province of Serbia one of the 6 republic of Yugoslavia, where ethnic minorities lived in peace and prosperity. Everybody was listening to the daily news in their own language. Children that felt Hungarian went to Hungarian schools. There was a Hungarian theatre. Hungarian newspapers, radio stations, television stations…

 My father Tibor Hartig, a grandson of an Austrian noble man from Wiena who strayed with a Check cook whose son married a Hungarian … Mother Jula Biszak a daughter of a Hungarian from Transylvania who married a Slovak girl. All that in Vojvodina. A territory that was a part of Austro Hungarian Empire until the end of the I world war. Than it became a part of Yugoslavia. People stay, borders change. Borders change traditions stay. Borders stay people change…People go! My Vojvodina is not there anymore. It became a refuge to new people and new traditions.

 My parents would not know anymore what nationality to call me (though my mother tongue was Hungarian), so decided that I was a Yugoslav like we all were back then, and I shall go to a school where the majority goes. In Serbo-Croatian. Then it was one language. Now it is two.

 However, even though we were all the same, and brothers and equals I was different because my name was foreign and I could speak that funny language that my ancestors all had in common. It sounded silly with its exaggereted rhythm so I was made fun of. I decided I will never speak it again. Still my mother speaks Hungarian to me, and I mainly communicate back in Serbian or English (she lives in Australia). Now thinking about it I cant stop being amaised that even in such a multicultural envoirment the majority never got comfortable around the ones that are different.

 I am still kind of ashamed of not being what everybody else is. That feeling never left me, even when it got even more ironic and I got the shame of coming from where the bad guys come from. Where do bad guys come from????!!!

 It is not my war.

 I am a Duch citizen now for almost thirteen years. Still occasionally, when I say my name, people ask me if it is my husband surname. No. It is Hartig. It means savoury in Duch language. Salted and powerful in taste. No, it is MY name!

 There is a mechanism  in us that tries to give a definition to everything and everybody. We have a need to give identity to everyone. We need to name each other and define the similarities and differences. But there are more and more of us who are chasing borders and stepping always seemingly on a wrong one, because there are no borders that protect us or make us safe. There are more and more of us born homeless and countryless. I believe we are the ones free, if we choose to be! My war was, and still is, the one not knowing why we need to belong to a group, country, community and why cant we all be immigrants and refugees coming from one galaxy and living this life waiting for the visa going on to another one in PEACE.

  Julija Hartig



​​​Julija Hartig violin