Shahrazad asked a group of European and non-European writers to compose open letters addressed to ’their Europe’. The results were published in Letters to Europe, a book highlighting how this continent means different things to different people.
Dejan Anastasijevic (1962) is a Serbian journalist and publicist.
By Dejan Anastasijevic
I hope this letter reaches you, because I couldn’t. It’s been such a long time since you disappeared from our part of the world, taken away, they said, by a ferocious horned beast. But as of recently, I started hearing rumours of your reappearance: travellers told that you settled somewhere in the West, and became a queen of sorts, or princess, or somesuch; their stories varied and contradicted. They also said that your land is rich and wonderful, and that all your people are free of persecution and misery.
So I set out westwards to find you. First I came upon a land of many rolling hills rich with grapes, and a long coastline with hundreds of islands like emeralds in the blue shimmering sea, and I asked about you. “Yes”, the natives told me, “this is the land of Europe, and we are her guardians. For centuries we’ve been protecting her from barbarians from the East.” But then I saw the burned villages of their next-door neighbours, and noticed malice hidden in their eyes, and I knew they were lying, and I went further on.
Next was a country with snow-peaked mountains, and at their foothills was a great city with splendid palaces and a marvellous cathedral in the centre. “This is where the land of Europe begins”, they said, “right at the Southern train station in our city.” But they were uptight and selfish and filled with hatred for all those around them, and I didn’t believe a word they said.
Westwards was a larger country almost completely surrounded by the sea, basking in the sun, full of magnificent buildings and monuments, and it looked a lot like a land from the travellers’ tales. And the people there were nice and friendly, and their language sounded like music to my ears, and they talked of you constantly. But then I saw them rounding up the dark- skinned people among them and burning their camps and sending them to a cruel place across the sea, and I knew I had to move on. Next was a land equally beautiful, but the people were arrogant and they ignored me and anyone who couldn’t speak their language flawlessly.
Finally I came to a small country, somewhat flat and wet, but rich and green, and in its midst was a city where everyone said your new home is. And indeed there was a great shiny tower there, made of glass and steel. The guards didn’t believe we were related and they refused to let me in, so I sneaked in through the basement window late one night. I checked every room all the way to the top, but all I found were air-conditioned offices, and I knew that you couldn’t possibly live in such a cold and empty place.
So here I am standing on the sandy beach, and all I see before me is a vast sea, which looks like it’s made of lead, and the dark grey sky above it. I’ve heard stories that you moved further westwards, across the water, but I’m weary and my feet hurt and I no longer believe in these tales. So when I finish this letter, I’ll just put it in a bottle and throw it into the sea, before I start my journey back home. You should do the same, cousin. Who knows where that vile beast took you, but if you’re still somewhere out there, and this letter finds you, I have only one thing to say: Come back home. We really, really, miss you.