I never saw my dad again


Friday morning, around 6:45 AM. I start the car and the radio turns on. MnM is on, as usual. A Flemish radio channel with a mix of music, a bit of chitchat by the DJs and every now and then a listener calls in with a short message. Not too complicated, and Flemish always sounds sympathetic to me. This morning, ‘not too complicated’ is not how I would describe the message. Listener Nottie calls in.

Nottie (forgive me the spelling) calls in about the war in Ukraine and wants to tell the listeners that war is not good for anyone. He knows: he was born in Kosovo and had to flee the war. He was thirteen back then.

He tells how he had to say goodbye to his father. Suddenly he begins to cry. From 0 to a 100 in 2 seconds. I drive on a dark, almost empty road and feel my eyes start to moisten as well. You hear a deep trauma straight from the speakers. The young man apologizes several times, saying that this was not his intention. He just wanted to say that war is only hurtful. “It hurts the people. It’s not good for anyone. I had to say goodbye to my father. That was the last time I saw him.” A moment of silence follows, there in the studio and here.

It immediately reminds me of a video I saw the night before, of a father saying goodbye to his daughter of about 6 years old, because Ukrainian men between 18 and 55 are no longer allowed to leave the country because they have to fight for their country. That video chilled me to the bone, of course thinking; will he see his daughter again? Will she see her daddy again? Of course he knows what risks there are and that makes him emotional. The child may not be that far yet, but maybe she is. And then you hear on the radio what it is like for a child in such a situation more than thirty years later: daddy did not make it.

Thirty years later, this man is still breaking into pieces live on radio. To add: “I am grateful for my life now in Belgium, I have a very good life here, with my two-year-old son. But I miss my daddy. Still.” He apologizes again, he didn’t mean to cry like that, it wasn’t his intention. And I can only think; dear boy, what happened to you can never have been the intention of anyone in his right mind.

War is not good for people. I couldn’t have said it better, Nottie.


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