Beata works as a qualified primary school teacher, a councillor for drug and alcohol addiction and a farm caretaker for organic olive grow.
“Do you remember the movie Sophia’s choice?” my Ukrainian friend asked me suddenly.
‘Sofiyko’ smiled at me from the WhatsUp screen:
“I still have it,’ she quickly correct herself:”Had it,
stayed behind in the rubble when our flat was bombed.”
I blew her kisses through the screen: “When you come
to Australia I find it online for you again.”
Suddenly our connection was cut off and the last thing
I heard was a Polish guard arguing with her friend
before she was allowed to board
one of the buses arriving to take thousands of
Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s war.
I tried to call her friend again but to no avail
thinking why she thought of that particular movie
walking on foot for four days with her two small
grandchildren and her daughter in law.
Reading about the ’Sophie’s Choice’ on google,
I suddenly remembered Meryl Streep’s agony
when the guard on her arrival to a concentration’s camp,
asked her to choose one of her two children
that would be spare from the gas, only one or none.
Sofiyko’s number on my mobile rang again
so I quickly picked up hearing the small children crying
and her daughter in law singing them a lullaby in Farsi.
“What has happened?” I asked worryingly listening to my
friend’s exhausting voice: “My daughter in law does not look
Ukrainian and neither one of my grand daughter’s,
but I told him we are heading for Australia
where Esin’s family is detained, anyway
did you find out where they are as I asked you?”
I sighed into the mobile: “I am trying ‘Sofiyko’, you know Australian horrific refugee’s policy.
“But you said your prime minister made an exception for us Ukrainians?”
‘Sofiyko’ argued with me: “My daughter in law left Afghanistan to study
medicine where she met my son and have a doctor’s practice in Ukraine
for years now, how is she different to you or me?”
I sighed: “I heard our prime minister’s Sunday speech from his christian church here, he prayed for fellow Ukrainians who are of the same religion and he promised to welcome them with open arms.”
“We are not religious hope it would be no difference to him,” ‘Sofiyko’ sighed
and I assured her: “Don’t worry I will greet you in Sydney airport in no time.”
Or that was what I thought.
In few days ‘Sofiyko’ contacted me again. They managed to cross
to Czech republic where Esin’s colleague was working as a doctor.
They applied for asylum on the Australian embassy and finally got the result.
“They said I can come with one grandchild, but not ‘Esin’.” ‘Sofiyko’ said
quietly and I laughed with irony: “I bet it is ’Svitlana’ your granddaughter
with blonde hair they chose not the Afghan looking ‘Zuha’?”
“How can I choose one grandchild over the other?” ‘Sofiyko’ cried into the mobile: “How can ‘Esin’ choose to keep the one and send the other away?”
I heard ‘Esin’s’ voice in the background: “I thought they need doctors in
Australia? Anyway I do not want any of my children to grow up in the country
that divide people according to their faith and colour, my children would be
always treated differently there.”
The next day I visited the Immigration centre and presented
the Sofiyko case to a bored looking official who glanced at me throwing
a pile of forms at me: “Look, we just follow the government’s policy here,
there is a new refugee status awarded to Ukrainian origin only.”
I looked at the official who adjust his face mask and looked back at his
computer screen: “Check the update on the website, can I help you with
“Have you watched the movie called ‘Sophie’s choice’ with Meryl Streep?”
I asked me leaving and he looked up at me bewildered: “I like to watch
Squid Games why?”
I shrugged: “Just watch it maybe then you get it, is there a difference between the war in Ukraine or war in Afghanistan? Can you or anyone
choose whose suffering is of more importance or less?
The bureaucrat shrugged again: “It is not my problem, ask your prime minister I am just following the procedure.”