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Tell Your Own Story

Biafra, You Broke our Hearts by Sylvia Wohlfarth

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Article by Sylvia Wohlfarth ©.
Posted in the Magazine (Tell Your Own Story: , ).
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I was 13 then when
The war was declared over.
In the aftermath, it is now too late.
How will I ever know what demons
Haunted my parents’ nightmares.
Dead children the next morning,
I remember my mother’s words.
Although fed the night before
With hope and trickled down food
From the few nations who dared,
Cleansing their guilt over
The swollen eyes and bellies of
Televised skeletons. Every crevice
Covered in flies, quietly whimpering
In the thin hapless arms of their
emaciated and parched mothers.
The bombs over the hospital,
My sister cringing years later
At the sound of a plane overhead,
Running to hide under the table.
My brothers’ best friends, soldiers
In the wards of my overworked
And underequipped father,
Wounded and limbless, but proud
To let them, my young brothers,
Fondle their machine guns.
Boasting the numbers of Nigerian
Soldiers killed in battle. Their battle.
For what, I ask. Shell-shocked
Distraction from a brutal war?
All those children, and innocent
Civilians starved to a painful death
For what, I ask again? What for?
The guilty, on all sides, forever guilty.
And although dead they shall not
Be left to rest in peace, amen,
For I shall, parade them
Again, and again with my words.
We have a lot to pay for,
Some might say ‘pray for’
and wash away their hands.

(c) Sylvia Wohlfarth

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As a person born into two cultures, Irish and Nigerian, I count myself as very lucky to have been able to experience both as a child. I was always, though, a bit of an outsider, being neither black nor white, but thankfully, equally loved. Even as a young participant observer you note and record feelings, desperately trying to understand why things are the way they are, both similarities and differences. Growing up as a privileged child in a third world country certainly left its mark, as did Ireland in the late sixties and early seventies. I guess, too, that was the reason why I went on to study social anthropology. Following the death of my father 12 years ago, I started writing the biography of my parents as something I can leave my kids – an ongoing project which I hope to finish one day. My father was one of the first black students at Cork University. He and my Irish mother not only experienced pre-independence Nigeria but also the Biafran civil war. I write because words are how I channel my myriad of feelings. These can be in the form of poems, prose, stories, all very random indeed. I’m a catcher of stories, moments, and a proper eavesdropper on the bus. Job-wise, I’m an English language teacher (ESOL), German into English translator and social project manager. I moved back to Ireland in 2017 after having lived 40 years in Germany. Ah yes, my third culture. Besides creative writing, I also love travelling and basketball - my son’s a professional basketball player, thus the penchant.
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