Mirsad Ramić grew up in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and came to Australia in 1981, aged 24. He has written in many different forms, including short stories, travel journals, diaries and poems in recent years. His work is politically charged and often accuses. It can be dark and tragic in tone, but is often infused with underlying humour; black and cynical one minute, light-hearted the next. Mirsad is a teacher and practising furniture designer and maker. He believes in solutions, ancient wisdom, and the power of nature.
This piece from Mirsad, Abraham’s Children, is published on be:longing in two parts. This is the second. Find PART 1 here.
Note: This piece engages with sensitive topics that may be distressing to some readers.
It is winter in Australia and I am asleep in a separate bedroom where I am evicted due to a sleeping disorder. In my dream, Uncle Ibrahim and I are travelling. We are moving with a huge crowd of people towards train platforms, claiming long stairs. We are departing from a beautifully decadent Victorian station. This is Delhi or perhaps Melbourne. People are everywhere and I am trying to shelter him. His eyesight is bad, and he is wobbly on his feet. I carry the luggage and keep an eye on him while making our way upstairs in a swelling torrent of human flesh. We have made it to the platform, and I am scanning coaches for a place and for entrance doors. It is total mayhem, and I am struggling to stay with him. I have spotted some seats in a carriage, but he has already vanished into the crowd. My heart is racing as I search the human wave around me for his tall silhouette. He is nowhere to be seen and I know that this is not a place where he can find his way around unassisted. I am pushing through the crowd along the platform, down the stairs and back up the stairs, very upset as he has just vanished.
I woke up and knew that this dream had a deeper meaning. During our morning coffee, my wife Mia and I were both concerned about his wellbeing. We were trying to decipher what was hidden in this strange dream. “It could be marking his departure from this world,” I thought. “I have said my goodbyes, at least.” Many of our relatives and friends had died overseas without a personal ‘message’, leaving us with a sense of loss and yearning for a lost intimacy, unprepared, abandoned…
My dream did have a meaning and a connection to Ibrahim. None of our speculations and guesses were as bad as what in fact happened. After all, Ibrahim is a family patriarch in his late eighties. He has already lived his life. In Bosnia, if he died it would be considered God’s will. Death would have acted in order of seniority and everyone would agree that Ibrahim had a long, fulfilling, and prosperous life. This same life, which walked him on a path of success and prosperity, had a different twist in store for Ibrahim and played him a cruel hand.
Adnan, Ibrahim’s grandson, died in Banja Luka, during a business trip in unknown circumstances. His heart failed him. My dream of Ibrahim and his disappearance in the crowd of a railway station predicted the loss of his first grandchild. Every time I thought about this chain of events and premonitions, a notion of Greek tragedy came to mind. Ibrahim and his name brought up the Biblical story of Abraham and his sacrifice for his faith. Ibrahim lost his first grandson, the special one. God did not interfere this time.
I was waiting for ‘the right time’ to call Ibrahim and express my condolences…
Next time in my dream, Uncle Ibrahim and I were walking along on one of those intimate walks so popular in the old Yugoslav socialist era, but we were not in the Old Land. Everything appeared idyllic for a while. Flashes of light turned our attention to the sky. We were standing, mesmerized by the natural light show. Soundless displays of patterns and colours traveling across the sky made us stop. It was all so unreal and dreamlike. For a long time, we were both lying down on freshly cut grass and watching a plane marking the sky and dissecting clouds with its jet. Out of the sky and its coloured patterns, we could see people falling down in random small groups of three, then five and six, then whole dozens of people neatly flying as if they were diving into the water. And indeed, they were landing into what appeared to be a pond or a small lake. They were hitting the water with their feet first, arms straight above their heads like acrobats in a circus performance. As soon as they “landed”, they walked out and went across the field, all in one direction. We got up and followed them, looking for an explanation. We were both absolutely charmed with the way they came, their elegant posture in flight and the spontaneity of their march through the field. “Monsieur, Madame?!!” We were trying to catch somebody’s attention. They were all very much focused on their task of disappearing as fast as they could…
In the morning, I told Mia about the dream and we were both searching for its meaning. Nothing made sense, except the connection with Adnan and his tragic death. “All these people falling out of the sky and disappearing… What does it mean?” It puzzled me. I phoned Ayka, late Adnan’s mother, in the evening. She was so pleased that I called, and she was so strong in her grief. Ayka was alone and she drew strength from her faith. She saw Adnan’s death as his destiny and there was nothing she could do but accept it. Phone lines with Bosnia often work just the way a dream works. Lines fade away, conversation disappears, a new call is made, and the dream does not continue where it broke off. We talked about her, our children, my parents, their illness, and death, as well as her father, Ibrahim. I told her that I met him in my dreams and that I wanted to call him. She gave me the time, late morning, as the best time to call.
The next day at the right time, I tried to call – no answer. The phone rang in the empty apartment; I could almost see it, listening to its repeated cries. The next day, I tried again and after a lengthy delay, he picked up: “Hallo.” We exchanged the usual: “How are you? Very well, Thanks to God, and, how are you? I am not too bad, Thanks God. What’s up? Nothing much, all the same, what about you?” And then he said, “What can we do, my child?… Adnan is gone and there is nothing we can do. It is tragic and painful, especially for Ayka, his wife and children… How is life in Australia? Is your wife working? What are you actually doing there?” He fired a three barrelled question. I have only been in Australia for 34 years. I was just about to tell him how I felt real connection to my dedo Huso through my work in wood, building and art. “Krupalija blood in my veins…” I started as I heard a phone ringing in the background. “Wait a second,” uncle said, “Someone is calling me on my mobile.” “Hallo Abide, I’ll be with you in a jiffy,” I could hear him talking to someone.
He picked up the phone again and told me that someone had called his mobile and he had to go… I stood there with my mouth half open and the phone receiver in my hand for a long time.
The next morning, I was driving to work and listening to the news on the radio. There was a further development in recovering the bodies of 37 Australian citizens from Ukraine after the KH 17 plane was shot by pro-Russian separatists (June 2014). All passengers, 297 human beings in total, on board died. In previous days, I had watched the news as Ukrainian peasants talked about bodies, luggage and plane parts scattered through crops, farmyards and alongside broken roads. Fields covered with sunflowers and overgrown mine fields staged this senseless tragedy. Until this morning, I did not connect people falling down to earth in my dream to this event. Suddenly, it was all clear. I had a vision in my dream and saw what was about to happen over the Ukraine steppe. I stopped the car, almost in tears as emotions came through and phoned Mia. “Remember the dream I told you about…?”
© Mirsad Ramić, 2022