Publish Novellas 27 June 2021
EPISODE 2 – JOURNEY
A Tigrayan surgeon works consecutive shifts in an effort to treat patients who are the targets of ethnic cleansing. Then his family is affected.
Fictional events based on actual crisis
After letting go of Ayyana’s hand, Bello seeks out Tafari and says, “Enough! I’ve reached my limit!” He then bursts into tears with painful outcries.
“I cannot pretend to imagine the suffering you have gone through while trying to maintain a level head. You have helped many. The Lord says, he will make a way out for your suffering. Perhaps the time has come,” says Tafari.
“We are losing far more patients than we are saving. Were it me alone, I would sacrifice my own life for the sake of others. But I have an obligation to my remaining family. I cannot come to work while they sit at home waiting for attackers to violate them,” Bello responds.
Tafari asks, “What can I do to help?”
“If anything happens to me, please take care of my family. It is a large favor, but I have no one else with which to leave such a responsibility,” Bello replies.
“Let your family be as my family,” Tafari responds. They then embrace. “So, what are your plans?”
“Some of the patients we have been treating have been turned away from neighboring Sudan refugee camps because of overcrowding and inadequate provisions.
“My plan is to travel through Sudan, by foot, camel, or whatever means. Then Libya,” Bello suggests.
Tafari warns, “Until March of 2020, refugees in Libya faced arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, sexual assault, forced labor and extortion by armed groups linked with Tripoli authorities and smugglers. It could still be a dangerous climate.”
“What can be more dangerous than to remain in Tigray? Besides, the goal is to pass through Libya en route to the Mediterranean Sea. From there, we can board a boat to Italy,” Bello replies.
“It is an ambitious sojourn, especially with injured children,” says Tafari.
“Are you doubting my resolve?” asks Bello.
“No, most certainly not! I only wish to join you, to help care for our family,” replies Tafari. “When do we leave?”
“You are a true friend. Please allow my sister, Ayyana, to heal for two weeks. During this time, we will gather necessary provisions and make preparations at stop points. Rest well the night before our journey,” said Bello. “The trek will push us to greater limits.”
It does not seem possible but the next two weeks are the busiest yet for the hospital. Optimistic of a successful journey, Bello opens online bank accounts in Libya and Italy. To these, he transfers enough funds to have along the way since cash can be taken from them.
When the time comes, each member wears clothing and carries tents with a camouflaging pattern. They also pack medical supplies, a change of clothing, compass, maps, and freeze-dried food. As they walk, each carries a machete—both to clear brush and to protect themselves.
Avoiding major roads, they move from one patch of brush to another, mostly at dusk and before sunrise.
Near Sudan, they adjoin themselves to a larger caravan of migrants for more safety. But as they approach the encampment, the Kassa family separates and watches from a distance. Elderly women gain admittance. The rest are turned away.
Would you have reached a breaking point sooner, sometime afterwards, or not at all?
Bello and his family circumvent the refugee camp and traverse Sudan after several weeks. Crossing the border will bring them access to a waiting bank account for transportation across Libya and beyond.
At the Ma’tan as Sarah checkpoint, Bello and Tafari put on their medical scrubs. With little acting required, the Kassa family feigns severe illness.
“I am Dr. Bello Kassa from the Libyan European Hospital. I was called to attend to these orphan patients with severe symptoms just outside the border. But they require medications as a matter of life and death. I must tend to them at the hospital. With your kindness, may I contact my colleagues for transport?”
Scratching their heads, the guards debate among themselves what to do. It is nearly 1000 kilometers away (over 600 miles).
The children let out loud groans. Bello then intervenes, “I am not asking you to transport them and I will take full responsibility.”
One of the guards offers to drive them to the nearest road at Al-Jawf in Libya, for which they are most grateful. Bello phones a person assisting with the boat sojourn across the Mediterranean. He sends someone with a Humvee to take them to Sukltan, near the Libyan European Hospital.
No strangers of exhaustion, they sleep the night in the city. The next morning, they shower and breakfast before heading to the boat on the coast. They meet the captain and crew, who are paid handsomely to navigate the Mediterranean Sea.
Others join them on the unstable small boat tossed about in the waves. It causes sea sickness for several passengers who retch into the sea. They are thankful for a tarp that protects them from the sun during hot days. After nearly a week, the Province of Catanzaro is in view.
The ship captain slows the boat. Then he demands all their possessions as further payment to continue. After much debate, they must agree. But then the boat gets caught in some underwater coral reefs that rips a hole in the hull. As the boat breaks apart, everyone must leap or sink into the sea.
Reaching for anything that floats, the Kassa family members grab planks from the boat and begin kicking towards the destination with whatever energy remains in their weak bodies.