Changing the rules of the game

X tried to cross the border. This is her story.

‘We'd walk at night, hide and rest during the day. We were walking straight into the land of the enemy, crossing a mountain range full of mines, because it was the only way to get to Italy. Like Frodo and Sam, we'd follow the roads, but hide in the bushes as soon as we'd hear a sound. Rain was pouring on us and soaking me from my underwear to my shoes.

I didn't know when I'd be dry again.

The worst was my fear. The mines were terrifying, but I was even more scared in the villages. Scared of being caught, deported, beaten up or worse. Every house we’d see, I was sure someone would look out of the window and call the police. Every car that passed, I'd be sure it would see us. Every single dog that started barking made my heart twitch and sore. There were so many and they would drive me close to hysteria.

I don't know how we did it, but we just kept going on a diet of 3 boiled eggs, peanuts and raisins for days. I didn’t sleep, my body was too pumped up with adrenaline. My heart just kept beating; days, nights and kilometres passed in a haze.

Before we left, we were regular people. People would nod at us politely in the tram. But we turned into illegal migrants, public enemies. We knew the stories of bus drivers, shop owners and hikers calling the police as soon as they'd see anyone dark haired or dark skinned. We knew the police could be hiding behind every bridge we'd cross. They were after us and we could not trust anybody. I felt like a chased bird, trying still to fly away, but knowing, deep down, that there was no escape. We were fair game.

And then we made it to the fence. I didn't even know it would be there. He went first, climbing up, jumping over it in no time. I followed. I got stuck. The razor wire, made to cut into flesh as deeply as possible, was wrapped all around my legs. With every move I seemed to get more stuck. I almost wanted to get caught - as long as I could get out of there. Finally I just jumped. My legs full of cuts, my pants reduced to fishnet tights.

We were in Slovenia.

More walking and hiding. And then a car driving to us. A man and woman, both in police uniform, stepping out. 'Where's your passport?' The game was over.

Hours of questioning, dozens of forms in a language we didn't understand. We had to sign. A night in jail, then a harsh voice in the early morning: ‘Get up!’ We were put in the back of the van, driven to the border, kicked into another, darker van, taken over by Croatian police. No fresh air or daylight. Hours and hours of driving. We'd hear that they switched the drivers, we had no idea who was driving us or where we were. But of course we knew we were on our way back to Bosnia.

I was feeling a little sick.

I remembered all the stories I had heard. I remembered all the cuts and bruises I had seen. The two guys whose skulls were smashed. People whose shoes were stolen, whose toes had to be amputated. People being stripped off all their clothes and pushed in a river. The countless blue marks: backs being hit by batons. The one guy who actually got shot. I didn't know many women who tried this way, so I wasn't sure if I had to fear rape too.

When the car finally stopped driving, and they opened the back door, the first thing I saw was a female police officer. I almost cried in relief.

15 other migrants came out of other vans. They looked even more wrecked than we did. The police forces took out their batons and my heart stopped beating. But they just shouted at us - 'Go back, never come again! We are Christians, we don’t want you here. Stay in your muslim countries!'.

That was it. We were back in Bosnia.