March 27, 2015, United Nations.
He’s knotty. As most people from the Balkans he has a subtle and at the same time painful sense of humour. He turns away from the group we are having lunch with and addresses me in silence. “There’s quite an interesting fact surfacing here”, he says with an amused grin.
“Did you hear what that Afghan girl just said?”
“She said many things. What exactly?”
“About the number of Afghans getting grants to come to New York City?”
“Yes, what about it?”
“Nothing. Really nothing. It has just come to my attention that some countries get much more grants than others. She’s from Afghanistan and she just told us that only in New York City, there are over seventy Afghan grantees. I’m from Kosovo and there’s dozens of us on grants here. Now I have a friend from South-Africa and he’s one of the four that got a grant to come here. So according to my calculations”, he chuckles a little, “a small nation like Kosovo can send hundreds to the United States while a huge nation like South-Africa gets less than a dozen.”
“What is your point?”
“Well…”, he pauses and smiles, “I think it’s not all that bad to be bombed by the United States. But don’t tell anyone I told you this.”
In the entrance hall, a huge painting depicts a man surrounded by snakes and lightning bolts. He is holding a chemical reaction and his hair is on fire. This is Ukraine’s donation to the United Nations, meant to be a reminder of what happened in Tsjernobyl.
“You see this?”, the Korean tour guide with the mousy voice shows us notebooks for emergency relief – even in humanitarian crises, children should be able to learn. “Can you see what is so very special about these books?”
The group shakes its head. “No? Let me ask you: what is missing on these pages?”
Everything looks completely normal. Empty pages with lines.
“There is no line in the margin?”, an English girl tries.
“Yes! Exactly! There is no line in the margin. Why?”
The group is silent.
“Because not all people read from left to right. For instance, in Arab countries people read from right to left and they will need another margin. So these notebooks are universal notebooks, they take account of cultural diversity!”
“Aaaah”, the group answers.
I turn around. This is the human rights hall. Behind a glass closet with rubble and clothes from Hiroshima victims there’s a series of art works honoring the thirty articles of human rights. One of them catches my attention: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.” Why it catches my attention? Well, let me tell you something that happened in my home country this week but is of concern to all.
To be continued…