Sabiha's dance

Publish date 11-02-2023

by Simona Pagani

We met Sabiha for the first time one afternoon in July. She, her husband and four children, accompanied by a Kurdish compatriot, show up at Sermig asking for hospitality.
They come from Germany where their asylum application was rejected.
Now they are looking for another country where they can start over. They have been to the police station but the appointment is for mid-October. In the Prefecture, where they went to request reception, they were told that, at the moment, there is no place for such a large nucleus.

Their faces are tired, their clothes dirty: they have been sleeping outside for several days and don't know how to get to October. Sabiha is a young woman, she wears traditional clothes, she wears a veil that covers her head and only lets her face be seen. We offer hospitality to Sabiha and her children in a female reception, to her husband in a male dormitory.
Sabiha seems relieved, but the first few days are really difficult: without her husband beside her and in the midst of so many strangers she feels lost. She spends her days crying. She sees only problems, she doesn't know how to handle her children alone.
She is distrustful of everyone, she keeps her distance, she doesn't want her children to be in contact with the other guests, too different in skin color, culture, religion.

But life is in no hurry, she welcomes you as you are and then, through everyday life, she comes to take you by the hand and takes you on steps you never thought you would have. So it was for Sabiha. The days that pass in shared spaces and times, kindness, respect begin to make inroads, to open unexpected and surprising glimmers.
With her pace and her tempo, Sabiha stops defending herself from others and begins to open up.

Her ideas and beliefs lag behind and chase after her, but Sabiha is taking off. About twenty days after her entry, on a warm August evening, as I approach the reception I see the guests sitting together in the distance, music and laughter join me.
I approach and with amazement I find Sabiha who, in front of her two teenage children, dances in the garden together with other women like her, but Nigerian, Ivorian, Peruvian, Egyptian, Albanian and Georgian, with an all-female complicity. Sabiha's free dance tells me once again that Life has a surprising creative force and that, if we learn to leave it a little more space, without barricading ourselves behind our ideas or beliefs, we can run the serious risk of finding ourselves better people.

Simona Pagani
NP November 2023

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