The story is contained within a booklet Flight
of the magical paper cranes which
also contains stories about paper cranes written by students from the ESL Program.
See below for ordering information.
||Paper Cranes by Janice
The Bosnian war was raging. It sent its ripples across the
world, carrying its people far from their homeland, within them the untold
horrors they had witnessed and been part of, as they escaped the Final Solution,
to seek refuge in another part of the earth.
And so it was that one Spring day in 1992 the classroom door of a language centre in South Australia opened and a trail of silent students entered. These were no innocent children, for in their eyes was something far beyond lack of just English language. Big boys aged seventeen sat at desks which were far too small for them and they did not complain. To the left and to the right were the children of Asia and Russia, Eastern Europe, Ethiopia and South America.
The Serb and Bosnian students remained remote, learning methodically
and unemotionally. I couldn't reach them, for their suffering had
been too great.
Stories began to stumble out from numb minds. Dark hidden parts of the brain buried deep the sinister horrors of war which day and night continued to rage, only a jet flight away.
We wept in the classroom for the suffering that was to continue
Long before the media began to print stories of the atrocities committed in the name of religion, revenge and possession, these young people hinted of the darkness which only comes with hate and madness.
The little boy and his friend had sat side by side at school from the age of five until age of 15. Then one day the Moslem boy came into school to be confronted by a sea of hate. Going into the schoolyard, he was met with a hail of stones and a threat of being shot. His friend from childhood told him to go and never return to the school that he loved.
Children sheltered in cellars, living on potatoes and water whilst in the streets above, whole families disappeared. These young people had embraced the comforts of the Twentieth Century and within the space of a few months, time turned inwards and back down the dark tunnel they were pushed, into a deep morass of ancient vengeance and cruelty. Ill equipped, vulnerable, they suffered the degradation of the human soul.
I desperately sought to come to terms with this horror, for my
language lessons merely gave them words. I wanted them to heal.
They were the lucky ones, a mere handful who had escaped from a place of hell.
Then one day a Vietnamese boy made a blue paper crane, following
our reading of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. He carefully
threaded it onto a piece of fishing line and hung it from the ceiling.
The next day three more appeared, then more and more! We were caught
up with this hope, this
Once the idea caught momentum, there was no stopping us.
At every opportunity we would fold all available pieces of paper into paper
We used up our lunch hours and breaks and even time at home.
Conversation began to flow. Friendships were made.
The wind blew through
They appointed two girls to count the birds so that one thousand would hang
I will always remember the day when the thousand birds finally hung from
The weeks passed by. The students sat proudly under the paper cranes,
Finally came the day of their graduation. At the party we celebrated
I pushed open the door and she silently stared at the birds. I pointed
'I thought of our thousand paper cranes and I knew that we would be
In that moment we were united by that single belief, a hope for the human
We laughed and danced around the room together in relief, then we climbed
Last modified 27 September 2006
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