Fundacja PARVANE – Polska alpinistka dla kobiet Afganistanu
Dzisiaj, 1 maja 2005 o godz. 3,30 ruszyła strona www.parvane.pl strona “fundacji Parvane – polska alpinistka dla kobiet Afganistanu”. ZAPRASZAMY !
Mnie udało się odnaleźć przyjaciół, tylko dwóch, ale się udało ! w Afganistanie, w Dolinie Panczszir, w r. 2002. Założyłam fundację “Parvane” – polska alpinistka dla kobiet Afganistanu [tj. kobiet poszkodowanych w konfliktach zbrojnych].
Możemy razem poszukać Najiby. A przynajmniej – próbować odnaleźć. Może także pomożemy innym kobietom.
[za kilka dni ruszy strona int. fundacji “Parvane”]
Anna T. Pietraszek [dziennikarka, alpinistka]
Fundacja „Parvane” – polska alpinistka dla kobiet Afganistanu –
[Nowolipie 10 m.9, 00-150 Warszawa]
konto Bank PKO S.A. nr: 17 1020 1026 0000 1302 0098 4252
niesiemy pomoc kobietom poszkodowanym w konfliktach zbrojnych na świecie
Gazeta Wyborcza 63, 2003-03-15 – Wysokie Obcasy
ANNA TERESA PIETRASZEK
When I was about to leave, Holia said: “I’ve entrusted you with the story of my life, so that you could tell about us – Afghan women.” She removed the ring from her finger and started putting it on mine. I protested: “But it’s all you have!” Holia: “That’s why I’m giving it to you.”
It’s a tin ring with a star – says Anna Pietraszek, a reporter, who four months ago came back from Afghanistan. – I got it from Holia, a widow I met in bombed-out Kabul.
– This ring from lapis-lazuli – Anna presents a second ring – is the only family heirloom, which survived in the family of my most genuine Afghan brother, Azrad Gul, a highlander of the Hindukush, who saved me on my first Afghan expedition. In August, I found him in the mountains. It was a most touching meeting, at the end of which Azrad Gul gave me this treasure.
– And this one – we look at the third ring – strange, well worn, with a volcanic crystal (maybe it was a ruby?) I got it 29 years ago from my first Afghan friend – the mother of a boy, who in a later dramatic situation was saved by our expedition’s doctor.
And it was this mother and this boy whom I was able to find in August.
Afghanistan – twenty years later
In 1973, I traveled to Afghanistan for the first time with a students’ alpinist club expedition and … I was captivated. This country is so close to me – almost like Poland. After that, year after year, and sometimes even twice a year, I would travel through the Hindukusz Mountains or the Himalayan region, wanting more and more to make films. And this, very soon, is what came to be.
My own repertoire of film travelogues, exploring films, sports films, now numbers as many as 50. I had been to Afghanistan 12 times, but most recently, following 23 years of war, I went there to find my old friends.
I knew I had to reach the place. After a year of attempts, I managed to convince the journalistic editorial board of Telewizja Polska for a modest expense account, being assigned to the making of a reportage from there. I also knew – since those were the conditions stated by my employer – that I would have to go alone; that I wouldn’t get an operator or a soundman, who could help me in my work.
Undzia mine! – Look out, mines!
I got to Kabul by plane via Dubai and Islamabad, laden with heavy photographic and movie equipment. At first I lived in the base at Bagram. With Polish sappers stationed there, I first began getting to know the greatest danger in Afghanistan – mined areas. Officially – according to the sappers’ own estimates – there are some ten million mines in this. In all probability, there are two or three times as many.
This is something that is hardly possible to imagine. One should simply go stand in a minefield. One should rub shoulders with death to understand this. I have to acknowledge that I had never yet come so close to the point of death until recently.
We had come back from a stressful trip and filming in the Hindukusz. I was sitting in the back of the jeep, savoring the Afghan wind. I prefer this, to sitting in the cab, in warmth and comfort. I arranged with the driver that when I would see something interesting for the camera, I would bang on the floor of the jeep. He would stop then, and I could film. I had very little time for this. We had to reach Kabul before dusk – if we would travel after dark, we could be attacked.
The driver was nervous because I kept stopping the car – still I wanted yet another take, another “retake” and I was filming with two cameras at the same time.
Near the town of Czarikar, I saw a full field of stones, with a sandbank of post-soviet tanks and cannons on it. They looked new – green, shiny with varnish, with their guns leveled at the Hindukusz.
There, the glacier covered mountains, symbolizing freedom, and here stuck in the gravel, in the sand, those horrendous machines… I couldn’t resist. I stopped the car. I caught the film and still cameras and ran into the middle of this field. I made several splendid takes. Everything was just right – the sun, light was in my favor, the wind from the Hindukush played in my hair.
Suddenly children’s voices reached me through the wind. Somewhere high above on the hillside stood a small house. The children came running and called out to me, but they wouldn’t come any closer.
I looked around – something wasn’t quite right … Two of the kids stood on the road, waving their hands, their weak voices trying to pierce through the wind. Why didn’t these children come running to me?
And finally I heard, what they were calling out: Undzia min! Undzia min! (Look out, mines!). I froze, standing in the field; I had 100, 150 m to the asphalt. I had to go back … And I understood that I could not do as the sappers had taught – “If you walk into a mine field, walk back in your own footsteps” – because my footsteps were not visible. This field was covered with gravel!
I had once again to retrace my path – only this time consciously. With the risk that every step could possibly be the last one! How will it be? Will it hurt? – I wondered. In my head, memories flew by at a mad pace; I saw those persons closest me … I stood on the asphalt at last, I jumped onto the back of the jeep, I banged on the floor for the driver and we drove off.
Only after two days did it catch up with me. I was sitting in the chaihan and could not bring the mug of tea to my mouth. My hands were quivering. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. This was my day for coping with a state of nervous breakdown.
To survive ones own salvation… I think that one is born again at such a time. It seemed to me that I had emerged from there completely new, feeling that I was someone from a different world.
Holia, my friend
Kabul reminds me of a photograph of post-war Warsaw – seventy percent destroyed, the walls shot up, the stumps of houses. Among these ruins, children, crying, poverty, dirt. At the beginning, when I approached people in the ruins, I was a bit fearful. Obviously I feared that mines were everywhere and that one had to be careful. But I also feared the people, the wild looks of the women; their faces were tough, obstinate.
I broke through my resistance, I approached them saying: Assalam aleikum! Shumo hubasti? Shumo cheturasti, djurasti? (How you feel? How are you? Is all well?). This is a typical expression; one should always express this greeting. Nobody listens for the replies, which are: A shumo? A honom hubasti? A cheturasti? A djurasti? – spoken with a kind of nod. This is enough for our eyes to meet. To see in these faces the desire for meeting with other people. We would sit on the rubble. It sometimes happened that someone would embrace me, hug me and cry.
Once in the Gozargoh district, I reached the ruins of a girls’ high school (I went there once because I wanted to get to know Afghan women, to make friends with them), but I saw in this place only shot up houses, destroyed walls, shelled out interiors.
Suddenly someone waved a greeting, calling with a warm voice.
It was my newly found friend – Holia, a widow.
I took several steps and … stopped numbed. I saw a smashed up staircase suspended from a wire. How could one get through this rubble to the second floor? There, behind all the barriers stood the women and children. Amazed, that someone such as I – well dressed, with a rucksack, well fed – would go to them. That I didn’t fear or abhor them…
I was greeted as the closest of kin on entering their home. They offered me the scrap of an old bag, saying: “Please forgive us that we have no carpet for you to sit down on.”
Someone ran over to the neighbors. One could hear preparations being made, as in the case of some long lost cousin’s unexpected visit. Someone brought a plate. Someone else had a remaining cup. Someone found a teaspoon, someone came running calling out with joy: “Don’t worry; I have tea! You can have her over.”
I was already a guest.
Two million widows
Holia… I think about her today as the closest of friends. She is a typical Afghan woman, whose duty was to be a mother, to love her children, husband and to serve them.
Afghan women like this role, and it poses no humiliation for them. They see in their womanhood a great value.
The Taliban stood Holia’s husband against the wall and – before her eyes, in the presence of their four children – they cruelly murdered him. Holia and her children found themselves with no means of support, without any help.
She told me her story – she has six children now. Two of them come from rape. Following the death of her husband, she was raped at the time of her journey to Iran and from Iran, because in Moslem countries a woman without the care of a man is but an object – to be used. In local morals, another man from the family, her husband’s brother or cousins should protect a widow. However, she no longer had these family members. They were made destitute, broken or simply exterminated. If a husband was murdered, his brother would be murdered along with him as would his brother and father. All the boys in the family would be murdered so as not to allow the family to regenerate itself.
Two million widows in a mined, ruined country – these are women who have no road open to them. They have no professional skills either. They don’t have anything whatsoever! And often they have to look after children and old parents.
When I had recorded Holia’s conversation, and drank the tea, I was getting ready to leave. When I was about to go, Holia said: “I’ve entrusted you with the story of my life, so that you could tell about us – Afghan women.” She removed the ring from her finger and started putting it on mine. I protested: “But it’s all you have!” Holia: “That’s why I’m giving it to you.”
Return to the enchanting valley
When I left the Bagram base for almost three-weeks of filming in Kabul and environs, I dreamt of the impossible, that is, permission from the Afghan police bosses for a lone entry into the Hindukusz, to the Panczszir Valley, to the village of Daszt-e-rewat, where I had once been twenty-nine years ago.
And I did get this permission!
Panczszir – enchanting valley. I have no better words to describe it. When in 1973 I had reached the bottom of the valley for the first time, I became a being of the Hindukusz. This so fills the depths of my imagination, memory and heart …
At the end of the valley, in the village of Daszt-e-rewat, there then lived a seventeen-year-old boy, Azrad Gul – a handsome and jovial young man. He accompanied our caravan as the youngest lad trained by the older porters. Of course, for a young girl, his was the most attractive company. We joked from morning till evening – so as to more easily bear the difficulties of the expedition.
And then – after the conquest of the peak, on the glacial, extremely difficult road – I managed to blister the soles of my feet in uncomfortable climbing shoes. When I got down to the base camp, the blood was flowing from my feet. These were open wounds. Three or four days ago, we had ordered porters and had to go down to the valley. There was no food in the base and we couldn’t wait any longer for my legs to heal. This would have lasted weeks.
My colleague gave me his own shoes – five sizes too large for me. With great difficulty, I forced my bandaged legs and dressing into them. I took some painkillers to dull the pain. I tried to go downhill, leaning on an ice axe.
Before me were four days of very difficult narrow paths, with precipices sometimes reaching 300 m. The pain that I began to feel then caused me to quickly run a high fever. In tears and screaming in pain, I trailed along near the end, so that no one had to look at me. I knew that I wouldn’t make it. The mountains had beaten me.
It was then that on the horizon I saw … a blue angel with a horse.
A horse? In this place?
The tiny figure began to grow. This was not just an angel, but our porter – Azrad Gul “Czopendas” – that is, a rider taking part in the royal horse competitions in Buzkaszi.
The village of Daszt-e-rewat would pool their resources for such an animal and provide for the upkeep of the heroic rider and his wondrous steed. Azrad Gul was that very rider.
When the message had reached the village that I was so ill that I was unable to go down from the mountains alone, Daszt-e-rewat sent Azrad Gul with a horse in order to transport me down the slope. This was an extremely expensive horse – yet they were prepared to risk his life!
I remember, when Azrad Gul took me by the hand and seated me on the horse; and he then led me step by step, placing the horse’s hooves on the stone path, so that it would not lose its balance. And throughout four whole days he continued joking.
When we reached the village, the people went out to greet us, happy, proud of Azrad Gul that he had performed such a deed!
A pill, when the sun is in the sky
Several days later the village mayor requested that our expedition’s doctor, Stasio Kurek (then a prominent surgeon, today a well-known orthopedist) look at his seriously ill son. We went to the home of the village mayor to see the patient. The boy was about six-years-old. He was unconscious. The doctor diagnosed his state as critical.
I remember, what an inner struggle he went through – how to undertake such a complicated operation under extremely primitive conditions? In the light of an oil-lamp, almost under conditions out of the Middle Ages.
He took the risk. He told me: “You know if I don’t try it, the child will die in three days.”
I then agreed, in order to somehow show my gratitude to the villagers, to assist in the operation. I managed to overcome my fears because what I saw was terrible. The doctor had to cut the whole calf from the knee to the ankle, to slash muscles and to remove the pus and cysts.
Following the operation, Staszek prescribed antibiotics, which he gave the family from our medicine-chest. I explained to the boy’s mother how to administer the medicines.
I left her drawings: when the sun is in the sky, a red pill; when the sun goes behind the mountains, then the second one.
When we were leaving the village, in remembrance, the boy’s mother gave me a ring with a ruby.
When I reached Daszt-e-rewat in October, I smelled the glaciers once again.
It is as though I were returning home. After the war, everything was bombed out, destroyed.
The fields were cratered by bomb blasts.
Tiny narrow paths (I already knew what that was all about), those tiny passages between little houses, among the ruins, the only narrow paths, which would allow one to avoid the mines.
Sappers tell of mines lying high in the mountains that could still explode after a hundred years!
When I reached the village, its mayor – already a different one, a modern Afghani – gave a welcoming dinner for me. I sat down on the carpet and explained that I was unable to announce my visit and that I am here for just a short time. I had only two days of permission to stay.
– I wanted to find out about the fate of my friends – I said.
– Describe what they look like.
– One of them was named Azrad Gul.
– Ah, that’s right, he has just come back!
It turned out that he had been forced to emigrate. The Russians had pacified the whole valley. They bombed it first, and then mined it. The majority of people survived in hideouts under rocks, and in the night moved into the Hindukusz on the Pakistani side of the pass. They had survived many years there. Some were coming back just now. Azrad Gul had come back a month before my arrival.
They ran over to get him. The whole village shouted: “Azrad Gul! Azrad Gul! Rafiko az Puland!” (Your friend from Poland!).
A moment later, he appeared.
I will never forget this moment. I felt as if we were greeting one another, having been saved from the war. I didn’t know how not to relive it … Now Azrad Gul was 30 years older! When he saw me, he fell to the ground and cried.
And then we all began crying.
We understood that our worlds were connected once again, that this was real! The village mayor brought refills of tea; we wiped our eyes, and blew our noses in the napkins I had passed out to everyone. The village mayor then said: “I hereby announce! Azrad Gul is the brother of Ania!”
This is serious obligation. I am officially a member of a family in Daszt-e-rewat. And it is not of the slightest meaning that we had not conducted this in court. It is as if they had adopted me there.
In token of our brotherhood, Azrad Gul presented me this ring with lapis-lazuli, which I couldn’t refuse to accept.
When we had gotten hold of our emotions, I said:
– Many years ago there was a certain village mayor here… I can’t remember his last name.
– Describe him.
I went on to describe him.
– But of course! Certainly! That was Mister Mohammad Anwar Khan. His son lives in our village .
The crowd ran out again. In a moment they were back leading someone. A good-looking splendid highlander came in, extremely handsome. He bowed to the village mayor. Surprised and on his guard – what could this woman want from him? Some American? What was going on here?
It turned out that he had been a brave soldier, commanding one of Massud’s units. Now, he was famous throughout the whole valley.
I didn’t wait for anything more.
I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the whole crowd was looking on and what they would think of me. I ran up to this man’s leg in one jump, and pulled up his trouser leg. It was there! The long scar on a whole section of the calf, from the knee to the ankle.
– It’s you!
– It’s you?! Father said that the Poles had saved me!
So we all cried again, we were moved, we embraced one another. Euphoria of joy!
The village mayor said:
– Ania, this is your second brother in Daszt-e-rewat.
– I had two brothers!
I sat between them and we were so happy as though there had been no war!
How much does a house cost?
– In the winter I will take my whole family and we will go to Kabulu – said Azrad Gul. – Maybe somehow we will survive there. Here we don’t have the conditions. My house only has three walls. I don’t have the money to repair it and to put a roof on it; we have no way to survive this winter. We have nothing to eat. We won’t survive here. We have to go to Kabul!
I tried to persuade: – Azrad, I have just come back from Kabul ! I was there! I saw thousands, hundreds of thousands such as you. They are fighting for their survival; they eat refuse from the canals; their children are dying of hunger in the street, from diseases, without any help. Don’t go there!
I saw in his eyes that he did not understand me, and I didn’t know how to convince him.
He was never there so he probably thought: “It had to be better there in the city!”
I was helpless.
I asked: – How much money do you need to rebuild your house?
He looked at me condescendingly. Since a younger sister asks stupid questions, one has to answer patiently.
He closed his eyes and mentioned the horrible sum – 300 thousand afghani.
This – at the current rate of exchange – was 60 dollars U.S.
In my jeans, I had exactly that much. I remembered that when I had arrived here in 1973, I had ten dollars for the whole expedition .
From my pocket I took out 60 dollars and said: – Azrad Gul, swear that you will stay here. I will give you the money.
I assured him that for me it was no great sum.
He promised before the whole village that he would build the house, that he would not leave the valley.
And it waits for me now in Duszt now-e-rewat, my own house, to which I can go with all my friends from Poland.
Beneath the Andżuman pass
On the next day, Azrad Gul came for me at dawn and even before the sun had reached the valley, we went into the mountains.
It was cold. The wind from above the river wafted down the breeze and scent of the glacier. We reached high under the Andżuman pass.
We sat down on a stone, saying nothing.
Our life was being fulfilled, it was closing, turning towards the new, the good.
We looked down at the valley in silence.
TEXT: KRZYSZTOF WYRZYKOWSKI
PHOTOS: ANNA TERESA PIETRASZEK
Anna Teresa Pietraszek, a film director and operator movie, TVP journalist, laureate of many international film festivals. She completed (so far as the only civilian woman) the Postgraduate Operational-Strategic Research Institute at the Academy of National Defense in Warsaw. From her last expedition to Afghanistan, she brought back twenty-four hours of film and over 1500 photos. In January of this year she set up the foundation “Parvane – a Polish Alpinist to the women of Afghanistan” (parvane – in the Afghan language – butterfly; the butterfly is also a symbol of freedom in Afghanistan). The aim of the Foundation is to provide aid to Afghan women in need.
Contact with the Foundation: email@example.com
or (0-22) 547 78 33
The Foundation’s Account No. is: 5810201026 122730862
Bank BP’s PKO SA II / O Warszawa.
Krzysztof Wyrzykowski’s reportage won the Witold Zadrowski Award in the All Polish Competition on Reportages and Radio Documentaries “Poland and the World 2002.”
The program will be broadcast on Monday, March 17, at 20.10 hours in Program I of Polish Radio
Ann Pietraszek in a cassette shop near Chicken Street. Kabul, October 2002.
From the top: The Panchshir Valley
A minefield near the town of Czarikar. In Afghanistan today there are officially ten million mines.
Outdoor lessons . The school is in the course of construction; the reconstruction of the village was begun with its rebuilding.
From the left: Azrad Gul and Mohammed Khan. The village mayor of Daszt-e-rewat officially proclaiming that they were Anna’s brothers.
Anna recognizes Mohammed from the wound on his leg.