Courtney Angela Brkic in Dissent:
Before the war, you worked in an office. You took care of your parents, who were getting older but still managed to tend their vegetable garden and read the newspaper every day. For your daughter’s ninth birthday, you bought her a bicycle. Your teenage son played soccer for a local team, and when you could, you went to cheer him on.
When the war started, you could not believe that such a thing was possible in this day and age. “It’s the twentieth century,” you told your husband in disbelief. You did not understand how people could kill their neighbors. You blamed their politicians for this sudden contagion of nationalism. People will come to their senses, you reasoned, even as things got worse.
Finally, you sought refuge in the town—the one the United Nations had disarmed and subsequently declared “safe.” You reasoned that if UN troops had disarmed it, they intended to protect it. It is only logical, you thought. And eventually several hundred Dutch troops were deployed there. You did not speak their language, and they did not speak yours, but they stood between you and those who wanted you dead.
Almost overnight, the old life slipped away.