Often, those who are deprived of safety and security are unwilling captives of circumstance.
Remarkably, the most essential conditions for human life are also often the easiest overlooked by those whose needs are securely met. Safety and security can appear normal and natural. They are marked by the absence of overt and immediate threats to human life.
Those deprived of safety and security, however, are often acutely conscious of other absences. They might lack the assurance that their children will walk safely to school, and face no threats upon arrival. They might be deprived of the ability to express their identity and opinions openly. They are unable to assume that they and their loved ones will be able to retain their homes, and their lives, for another year. These individuals cannot conduct their lives in the way many would like to dismiss as “normal.”
Often, those who are deprived of safety and security are unwilling captives of circumstance. An exceptional few, however, are willing to accept a margin of other individuals’ burdens. They refuse to capitulate to fear, and cast aside passivism and self interest in favor of empathetic action. They recognize that when the ultimate threat is leveled against the unfortunate, increased danger to themselves and even to their own loved ones is an acceptable sacrifice.
Such individuals are the epitome of “Extreme Givers.”
Zoran Mandlebaum, BOSNIA
[While I was saving these two young boys, I was only thinking of the ways to save to young lives… I was thinking of the 16,852 people who helped Jews during WWII.]
It was very hard during that time for everyone who was in a mixed marriage. One of my colleagues, Ibrahim, who was a professor of mechanical engineering, had a son who was, at that time, ready to serve in military. His mother was afraid that they might take him. They asked me if I could help them leave the country.
I gave them my son's birth certificates, made them learn my family's history, taught them how to pronounce my family's names and everything At five o'clock one morning, while the police curfew was still on, I managed to get them out of Mostar. We were able to go through the police check all the way to Međugorje, and when we got there, some drunk man rammed our car. So we had to hitchhike to Čapljina and from there to Gabela Polje where I had a friend and where we were able to leave our stuff. We walked across the Croatian border where I left them with my brother's wife. I got them to Brel in the late afternoon where they knew some people. They went to Norway at that point, and from there one left to England and the other to America…
Stefan Mika, POLAND
During the occupation, I lived with my parents in a town called Zaborow. My parents were farmers. At the time, I was a young boy –the war began when I was 12 and it ended when I was 17... In July 1943, from the camp (really the subcamp because the Ghetto in Brzesk had been practically liquidated by then), two Jewish boys managed to flee to our house.
The following morning–they came at night–I found out that they were here…. we built a hiding place for them in the barn attic. The boys stayed with us until the summer of 1944.
In 1944, a large German detachment came to town, and they occupied two rooms of our apartment, in our house. As a result, a very dangerous situation evolved. They stayed in the attic, where people walked around and you could not cough or laugh. They would play chess. I would also play on occasion, but you had to maintain incredible silence. These were not conditions to hide someone for a year–maybe for a day or two–but to endure them for a year, that is just indescribable. We all helped–my father, mother, and grandmother–she actually assisted the most because she cooked and gave out the food. Any little thing, any help rendered to the Jews–even giving up your slice of bread–meant risking death, whereas hiding a Jewish family meant risking the death of the entire family. My father knew this perfectly well and we asked ourselves, “What are we to do? If they leave, they will get shot anyway.” So, simply put, there was a great responsibility.
Leonard Rurangirwa, RWANDA
I was only 18 years old when I took the Inkotanyi’s side by my own decision. Neither Inkotanyi nor someone else chose for me what to do. At the beginning, there were Tutsis hiding in the forest who took refuge at my home, but were afraid because they thought that I was a killer, too. But when they reached my home and found other Tutsis there, they felt secure and decided to stay with me.
Then, there ended up being a big crowd at my home. It was difficult to protect them, partly because there was an Interahamwe called Emmy, who assaulted people several times. So, we decided to dispatch the group of Tutsis into different groups and give each group to a family. We did our best to ensure that they got food at home. We talked to them only in the nighttime, because during the day, we were waiting for assaults from different parts of the region. When killers came, we organized ourselves to hide. Then they came in big numbers and killed seven of our people.
To help the refugees, I used to move them from one place to another, hiding them in abandoned houses and banana trees. It was a big problem to find enough food to feed them, because there were so many. They ate once in the night. A group of seven ate at home, another three at my mom’s house, and so on. Some people had shops so they sometimes gave us rice.
The above photos and testimonies were taken from PROOF's ongoing project, Picturing Moral Courage: The Rescuers. Not all threats to the safety and security of individuals and communities are as immediate or as vicious, and the contributions required of sympathetic witnesses are not always as extreme. However, a safe and secure life naturally promotes complacency; when a threat is absent from one’s own life, it is easy to overlook the threats to the lives of others that can develop into personal and community tragedies. Smaller sacrifices, and a basic degree of awareness, can often reduce the likelihood of a future suffering that demands attention and sacrifice.
How can you give safety and security?
- Read the international and national news, not just TMZ
- Recognize those both far away and near our own communities who are not privy to an equal sense of safety and security
- Donate and volunteer for organizations such as the Red Cross, and local homeless shelters
- Vote with compassion
For some, safety and security can be purchased with a better job, or a home in a different neighborhood. Broader changes, however, often require the responsiveness of politicians and law enforcement.
Do you know someone who took action to help provide others with safety and security? Send us an email, letter, tweet, Facebook message, or comment in the box below. What story needs to be heard?
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