|A roadside reminder in Bosnia-Herzegovina.|
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Returning Engagement with the World
Last year in Venice at Albergo Doni, I learned that Jackie Steves was also a guest. I left a scribbled note of thanks to say how much I value the work of Rick in the world. Now I've just finished the new book Travel as Political Act — and thanks again.
I remember East Berlin when I was called a Spitzel (spy) by a teenager; I remember the automatic machine guns on the Iron Curtain, and the signs to Buchenwald that vanished mysteriously the year Weimar was named European City of Culture.
I remember night flights to Tempelhof and armoured cars at Stuttgart from the Baader-Meinhof years.
I remember Greece before electricity or democracy was installed.
I remember Israel in the dawn and Rhodes at dusk.
I remember love songs in Sarajevo sung where mortars killed the lovers. I have waited on a Bosnian bus while they clear another unexploded mine, and watched the white arrows of Muslim cemeteries march up hillsides of hate.
The choice of former Yugoslavia to open your new book is inspired — my wife is from Brcko, Bosnia. We go to that world to help, to meet and to live new days with surviving poets, writers, and her old librarian — who serves us kava, sweets and storytelling as the city of Sarajevo revives.
My grandmother married a GI in the UK in 1945, and then vanished. By the time I found her address she had just died — less than a morning's drive from my home on Vancouver Island. We had ended up on the opposite side of the world a few miles apart, but never met. Life is richest when it involves meetings and contacts, soul to soul.
Thank you to you and your team for promoting this act of engagement with the world that all people, especially Americans, need. It is a great gift that you are giving. We enjoy the TV shows all winter long, and then go live our own every summer. Thanks to a network of friends and family, we are the luckiest of people — Canadian Europeans — citizens of the world with a safe and peaceful home to savour here.
Kudos to Rick and all of you for producing a profoundly important outcome: educated citizens and human beings. We will drink a toast to you in Sarajevo in August, where life is cherished and celebrated and lived well. They say, ringed by graveyards, "if we cannot forgive, we cannot live", and so they rebuild shattered libraries and lives.
As they also say, "Svaka chast!" — all honour to you!
— John and Marija, Nanaimo, BC
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