The Tale of the Forgotten Woman

This is a story based on true events and is dedicated to all women fighting for their rights.

A hot July in 1974 shifted Joanna’s destiny drastically.

Like any other morning, Joanna got up from her sweet slumber to start getting ready for her day. Like always, she started with a relaxing bathroom routine and dressing up. It ended with her brother’s complaints about waking him up and her mother yelling at her to hurry up. That morning she decided to wear her new blue pleated skirt, white button shirt, and business blue high heels, and she wore her long straight hair in a high ponytail. After breakfast with her parents and younger brother, she grabbed her bag and left for the city’s morning bus.

Johanna was currently a high school senior. As a policy of her school, she was obliged to take an internship in a company. It was supposedly like a practice test for a future career. She was part of the economy department. Therefore, she decided to work at a branch of a major bank in the city. Her choice was an easy one since she always dreamed of working and living in the city. Johanna has lived all her life in the countryside. As a villager, the city was always a faraway desire. But now she got her chance to experience the fast life of the city. She loved wearing her smart dresses and suits to work and to greet different people every day. But mostly, she loved how she for once did not know everyone around her. Being from the countryside meant everyone knew everyone. Thus, it was often difficult to avoid gossips. Furthermore, as the youngest daughter of six children, it was quite hard to avoid her overprotective family. In the city, she had confidence because she was now surrounded by businessmen and businesswomen. Also, people did not even give her a glimpse, which made her feel like one of them. For the first time, she felt independent.

As she boarded the bus to get to her workplace, she felt content observing the environment outside the window changing from rural to urban. It made her feel greater, significant and gave her the sense of getting closer to realising her dream of becoming a businesswoman and working right in the heart of the capital.

As she was daydreaming of her future self, the bus slowly approached its destination. The moment she got off the bus, she was swept by the rhythm of the people walking and running to their jobs. Thus, her daydreaming was temporarily forgotten and followed the mass of people to her workplace. As she arrived at the bank, she could hear her colleagues’ soft chatter with the radio as a background. Wearing her confident smile, she got inside, greeting her colleagues and superiors. After many good mornings, hellos, and the usual gossip, they all got into work to prepare for another long day of people coming and going, demanding, and ordering.

It was almost lunchtime when by coincidence Johanna’s father and older brother dropped by the bank. They both came for work purposes, but they also didn’t want to miss the chance to see their daughter and sister at work. Johanna felt both nervous and embarrassed. As her brother approached her, she couldn’t avoid the mischievous smile on his usually gruff face. While her father’s body language was glowing from pride. The entire bank was filled with heart-warming energy from the father-son-daughter trio.

Suddenly, the beautiful scene of family love was interrupted by the loud sound of the city sirens. Everyone froze, thinking the worse possible situations. War and conflicts were not unfamiliar to their country. Hence, immediately thoughts of guns, pain, and death were dominating everyone’s heads. Soon piercing screams fought their way into the bank from outside. In contrast to the loud noises in the streets, a sheer silence surrounded the bank until one of the employees turned the radio louder. Johanna could feel everyone’s fear and confusion in the silence until the radio announced a coup d’état against the government by a military group. The silence was suddenly shuttered. Shouts, curses, and crying filled the bank.

Johanna turned to her father and brother with fear in her eyes. Her father, without any words, took her in his arms to comfort her. Gradually gunshots and tanks that surrounded the city were echoing inside the bank. Although he did not wish to leave his daughter, he needed to head back to his job to bring the grave news to his wife and mother-in-law and ask them to leave the city immediately. While her brother, who resided in the city with his wife and six-month-old daughter, had to leave to get his family to the countryside’s safety. With a heavy heart, the three of them gave one last strong hug to each other and left for their destinations.

Johanna, as instructed by her father, was headed to the bus station. Although the journey towards the buses was a short one, it was the longest Johanna ever had. As she was running, she felt the terror of the people around her. They were frightened for their lives. Children were crying for their parents, and parents were praying for their family’s safety. Moreover, gunshots, tanks, and bombs were all over them. But Johanna did not have the time to pay attention to any of this. The only thing she could think of was that she wanted to live. She wanted to survive.

As she approached the bus station, she could see a mass of people. Shouts and curses were thrown by everyone, screaming at the drivers to hurry up, to at least take their children to be saved. Johanna felt being swarmed into the flood of people and couldn’t find the bus that would take her straight to her village. Stressed out by her surroundings, she stayed behind and missed her ticket to home. Waiting for the next bus was a nightmare. Fear and confusion were all over the place. Similarly, Johanna’s mind was occupied with unanswered questions.

“Why was there a coup d’état? What is their motivation? What is the government doing? Who is winning? Who are the good ones, and who are the bad ones? Will I make it home? Is my family safe? What about my job and what about school? What I’m supposed to do? I’m scared”.

All these questions swirled around Johanna’s mind while there was chaos around her. Several minutes had passed since the bus left. Johanna was afraid to stay longer waiting for the next bus. She could hear the gunfight approaching her vicinity. She had to leave. Without any second thought, she took the bus for the nearest village to her own with the hope to somehow reach home. Squeezed in the bus, she could see outside her dream city being violated by soldiers and officers fighting for petty ideals while the citizens were losing their hopes and dreams.

As the bus reached its destination, Johanna could see hundreds of people from the surrounding villages. She felt uncomfortable and uncertain. She could feel the stress and panic overwhelming her. Her heart was beating loud and fast, but she took the familiar road towards the bus for her village with shy and steady steps. On her way, she saw the two familiar silhouettes of her mother and grandmother, and suddenly all the worry peeled off her body. A real smile returned on her face. She ran towards the silhouettes with large confident steps.

The reunion of the three women was a beautiful and warm scene. After many sweet talks, reassurances, hugs, kisses, and praises to God for being safe, still holding hands, they went on their way to the bus. Johanna’s heart now felt much lighter. Having her mother’s and grandmother’s strong hands around her gave her confidence and reassurance. Regrettably, her heart’s rest was short-lived when the loud roaring of military cars crept into the village. Huddled in the corners, the people could only stare with frightened eyes as soldiers started to scatter all over the village. Soon after the soldiers’ arrival, they gave the strict order of the immobilization of all the busses in the village. The soldier’s presence and orders only brought a new string of worries, screams, and cries to the witnesses.

Having no other choice, Johanna, alongside her mother and grandmother, stayed within the boundaries of the tiny bus station, waiting for a miracle. With no communication with their loved ones and no further information on the city’s situation, people were left restless. Until a shepherd from Johanna’s village, frustrated, suggested going to their homes on foot. As much of a ridiculous suggestion it seemed, it was their only option of getting home. The shepherd would often take his herd in the valley that surrounds the villages. Therefore, he advised taking the long way because, although it would be hard walking in the winding and rocky road, it was away from any fights. A large group of fellow villagers with the shepherd in the lead slowly but steady were on their way to the backwoods leaving the eerie noises and screams of the coup d’état behind them.

The journey was hard. Johanna felt like there was no end to this dreadful day. She could see her mother and grandmother struggle at the harsh conditions of the road. She could hear muffled cries from children and adults likewise. As a group, they tried to help each other and be as quiet and fast as possible. Still, the thorny wildflowers and rocky paths weren’t making their task any easier. Nevertheless, the journey across the vast open valley gave them a sense of freedom and hope that the tiny bus station’s confinement in the village stole away. The backwoods’ wilderness was a step closer to their village, to their home and loved ones.

Finally, after what felt like countless hours, the three women arrived at their beloved village. The moment they arrived, everyone run to their homes to see what has been happening and if their families are all safe and well. Once they got home, Johanna, in a hurry, opened the radio to hear any news on the coup d’état.  On the other hand, her mother ran to see if the rest of her family is safe. Unfortunately, although their family living in the countryside were safe, Johanna’s two older brothers and families lived in the city. So, they had no news from them. They could only wait patiently at home for their arrival.

Thankfully, not long after, the entire family was now in the safety of their village. The news on the radio announced the end of the fight. But now, the country fell into the hands of greedy political power. But the country only ever had greedy politicians, so not much changed. However, unfortunately, that day was the beginning of a never-ending conflict that cost Johanna’s dreams and hopes. Just five days after the coup d’état in the early hours of the day, the sirens went off once again. A war plagued the country. Thousands of people died, and even more, lost their homes to the enemy.

Thankfully, Johanna’s family survived the war, and her country found peace. But she lost her chance to become the businesswoman she always wanted to be. She lost her ticket to live in the city like a strong and independent woman. Because of the war, her family, like everyone else, got in a difficult financial situation. Consequently, as a woman, Johanna had to sacrifice her dream of studying at the university. She had to work and earn money for her family and so that her brothers could study and become good men. It was a sacrifice she will always regret.

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Thanks for reading:)

Published by Stories of Yesterday

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