The setting is the train from Budapest to Belgrade, riding through the flat lands of southern Hungary. I talk to a girl that is returning home, to her parents place, a small village near the border of Hungary and Serbia. She is seventeen, she visited a cousin in the big city, Budapest, and she is thrilled to go live and study there after next summer. There are great theatres in Budapest, she says. It reminds me of when I was 17, growing up in a small village in the middle of nowhere in Holland, and how I longed to get out of there, to see theatre, to make theatre, to make music, to get lost, to immerse myself in the more buzzing sides of life. As soon I was 18 and finished high-school, I went.
The edge of Europe
We get nearer to the Hungarian/Serbian border. This is also the European border. The girl tells me how months before, there were lot’s of refugees coming into Europe, walking mostly, through her town. I try to imagine how it would have been if my childhood town of 500 inhabitants would have been flooded with immigrants and how the people would have reacted.
The girl leaves the train, and then, after passport checks, the train sets off to leave Europe. The border is clearly visible, through a completely new fence. My Dutch passport makes it so easy to travel. As we pass the high, barbed wired fence, I feel some kind of shame for the ease of which this document allows me to travel.
After the erection of this fence there have been refugees accumulating for weeks, mostly coming from Syria, camping at the Serbian side of the border. The border-girl didn’t know what happened to them in the end.
Arriving in Belgrade I quickly learn that also here the streets and squares were flooded with refugees half a year ago. I meet with the Belgrade based Canadian musician Erik Mut, lead-man of The Wordly Savages. He tells me how they played for the refugees with his group.
Now, after the closing of the border, only few of the the refugees remain on the streets of Belgrade. The ones to remain gather at the square in front of the Faculty of Economics. It makes a scene that is poetic in its contrasts, but sad in the way it shows the strange differences between human beings that are living in the same world but have completely different rights and prospects. There are the mostly teenaged boys from Syria, with nothing to do and no idea of their future, sitting on the benches, waiting. And crossing the square in their high heels are the groups of Serbian students, in their fashion clothes and with their extensive use of make-up, with their futures shining on them as the sun on these warm spring days.
And there is me, this guy with this document in his pocket that allows him to travel anywhere in Europe, but that chose to flee that low country to sit here, watching the world in Belgrade while playing on his accordion.