Turbulent Thrills (Part II)


After some time, my family found refuge in Vienna, Austria where I was born and raised. I still remember my first plane ride. We were visiting our homeland long after the war. As I looked through the window I witnessed the full splendor of Vienna, the city I was taught to love, come fully alive but  a few hours later when we landed in Port Harcourt International Airport, I couldn’t understand how these two different cities managed to exist in the same world. I could finally see for myself, the tales mother spoke of so eschewly. Though there had been a few improvements in the roads and certain buildings, the city still reeked of the consequences of war.

Being raised in a family whose history includes being a refugee-of-war has some perks, namely being underrated and undervalued all of the time. Throughout my growing up in Austria, I faced countless bullies who would - out of confusion- pick on my accent and my mannerisms because it was like nothing they have ever heard before. The worst part about being bullied in school because of circumstances out of your control, is being bullied not by the student but by your own teachers. It was as if my very essence in their classroom was a burden. It was as if, teaching me German was more of an annoyance for them than for me learning it. I was already fluent in French, English, Spanish, Yoruba, Igbo and other native Nigerian languages so for me, learning German was not a challenge, besides I was already a citizen of the country. However, due to me being the only child in my grade whose family came to the country on refugee terms, my teachers were not so patient with me.

The only adult that showed any kind of interest in me was Herr Haberkorn my Vice Principal back then. He would tell me stories of the great wars, stories that his grandfather told his father and passed on to him. It was like a very graphic broken telephone game except the telephone wasn’t broken and you can sense his grandfather’s pain in his voice. Many students hated Haberkorn because of his graphic stories, though, I was inspired by them. In fact, these stories motivated me to be efficient in school, whenever I was stuck on an assignment. I would remember stories of how P.O.W would find comfort in one another and find solutions to their everyday problems through teamwork and endurance. During both recess and lunch, I would often visit Haberkorn telling him about the stories my mother told me. When I would ask questions about war, in German he’d reply:

“Krieg wird nicht gefürchtet wegen des Todes, den er schafft; Krieg ist wegen der Veränderung, die er schafft, gefürchtet.”

Translation: (War is not feared because of the death it creates; war is feared because of the change it creates).

- Tobi Ogude