vrijdag 15 juni 2012

Soul Reader

In July 2010, we had written about 75 % of our book. The book was meant to be finished and edited in October, to be published end of 2010. You can see the cover, designed by Soul Reader, here. A car accident in September 2010 put our life on hold, and writing has been a challenge ever since as serious concentration problems persist. While recovering, we're happy to present a 'raw' extract. Please do forgive us for the errors in this unedited version.

We felt it was important to share this part of the book now, as an inspiration for those, who are facing the challenges life is currently presenting while our universe is undergoing such tremendous changes.

At the same time, we want to send a clear message to Soul Reader: Never forget the way of the horse. It is part of you and always will be. NO FEAR, NO ANGER. I love and respect you deeply my friend, don't give up now, being so close to realizing your dreams.


Soul Reader is One Who Understands The Language Of Horses. He has the heart of a horse, the talent to read a horse’s mind and soul, a rare gift amongst humans nowadays. He was born in Gvardeiskoie, Chechnya, until this very day part of the Russian Federation.  Chechnya is located in the Southeastern part of Europe, in the Northern Caucasus mountains. The region’s history is marked by wars, continuous bloodshed, deportation of the ethnic population to Siberia and Kazakhstan, and several attempts to obtain independence.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Chechen-Ingush ASSR was split into two—the Republic of Ingushetia and the Republic of Chechnya, which again sought independence. Following the First Chechen War with Russia, Chechnya gained de facto independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The Russian federal control was restored during the extremely bloody Second Chechen War. Thousands and thousands of people were killed in the process. Many attempted to flee the country. Soul Reader was one of them. The fighting continues until today in the mountains and southern regions of the republic.

Chechnya has the bad luck of being a major hub in the oil infrastructure of the Russian Federation. Its secession ‘might hurt the Russian Federation's economy and energy access’ … On February 1st 2009, the New York Times released extensive evidence to support allegations of consistent torture and executions under the Kadyrov government. The accusations were sparked by the assassination in Austria of a former Chechen rebel who had gained access to Kadyrov's inner circle: the barely 27-year old Umar Israilov. In July of the same year 2009, Amnesty International released a detailed report covering the human rights violations committed by the Russian Federation against Chechen citizens, assaults ranging from kidnapping to torture to plain murder, while those responsible were never held accountable. Amnesty International concluded that Chechnya is being ruled without law. Today, the Chechen population continues to suffer while the entire world is watching. Not one single country has taken action to right the wrong. Unless of course you consider ‘drawing up a report’ which confirms ongoing genocide is taking place on a large scale, as ‘taking action’.

Soul Reader grew up in the middle of nature and was raised on a farm. His parents had a live stock of over 200 horses that lived freely in a huge herd. Their prairies stretched as far as the eye could see, and beyond. His family had practiced Natural Horsemanship for generations, long before the word was even invented. Horses were never kept in stables at the Chechen farm. There simply were no stables at Soul Reader’s farm. His father owned the biggest open barn in the region, providing shelter for the huge herd. His infrastructure was unique in the region. He was famous for his strong, reliable and healthy horses, some of which descended from the original steppe horses, with roots going back for centuries. From the moment Soul Reader had learned to talk, he only expressed one desire : ‘I want to ride horses. I want to ride horses. I want to ride horses.’ It seemed as his sole purpose in life was to ride and be with horses and share their wisdom.

When he was about five years old, his uncle, a reputed horse whisperer, placed him on the back of an unsaddled stallion in the middle of the Caucasian mountains. His uncle told him: ‘Follow the movements of the stallion. Become one with the stallion. Grasp the mane of the stallion and hold on tight. Don’t be afraid and don’t look down. Look straight ahead. If you fall off, you will probably die, as the mountains are filled with rocks. If you manage to stay on the horse, you will know how to ride a horse’.  His uncle then slapped the stallion hard on its bottom, and it took off in a dazzling life-or-death sprint in the mountains, carrying young Soul Reader on his back. It was the first and only horse riding lesson he had ever had and would ever have. Soul Reader later on told me ‘At first, I was sure I was going to die that day’. By the look on his face, remembering and returning to that very moment, I could see that he meant it. But he didn’t die. He let go of his fear and became one with the stallion and brought it back to his uncle, using his intuition, unconsciously remembering and applying his knowledge of many past lives riding on a horse’s back.

As a child, horses were Soul Reader’s toys. Together with his friends and cousins, he would lay down, flat on his belly, in the Chechen steppe, waiting for hours, for a herd of wild horses to pass by. He would then jump out of the long steppe grass, and jump on their back, lithe as a tiger, fast as a gazelle. He would ride with the horses, be one with the horses, without a saddle, without a bridle, free like a bird.

At one time, Soul Reader’s father had purchased an untamed stallion. It was truly a magnificent animal. Because of his special and rare color, the stallion became widely known as the Golden Stallion. From the moment he arrived, the Golden Stallion immediately took his place as the natural leader of the entire herd, counting well over 200 souls at that time, together with the alpha mare. No matter what Soul Reader’s father tried, and despite his long years of experience, he could not tame the Golden Stallion. The stallion would patiently wait for Soul Reader’s father, surrounded by the other horses of the herd, playing hide and seek, as if he knew Soul Reader’s father was on his way, aiming to tame him – again, and again, in vain. When Soul Reader’s father would come in sight, and eye contact was established between the two of them, the Golden Stallion would rise to unseen heights and stand all high and mighty on his two rear legs, ready to crush Soul Reader’s father with his front legs, should he dare to come one step closer. Soul Reader himself, was about 6 or 7 years old at that time. He was simply fascinated by the Golden Stallion and had decided to tame him, although he had never tamed a horse in his short life. When he told his father about his intentions , his father laughed at him and simply said he was crazy. The Golden Stallion was pure suicide, no more, no less, and Soul Reader was firmly ordered to stay away from him. The Golden Stallion would be kept for breeding purposes only and would not be tamed or used for anything else but breeding. Father had spoken and that was the end of the story - or at least, so he thought.

Soul Reader’s mother was sick with worries when she found out about her son’s determined intentions to tame the Golden Stallion and pled in tears to abandon this insane idea. But he could not be brought to his senses. One night, he snuck out of the house and bravely moved forward through the herd, approaching the Golden Stallion. Soul Reader’s father had noticed his son’s escape and ordered Soul Reader to return at once. He feared his son would be crushed and killed by the powerful stallion, who seemed to obey nobody. Soul Reader ignored his father’s commands and continued walking, straight towards the Golden Stallion. He approached the giant horse slowly. The silence was overwhelming and created a sense of magic in the air. As if they knew what was coming, the other horses carefully stepped aside, creating a passage for the young boy. When they were finally face to face, the Golden Stallion hesitated for a moment and snorted wildly. Soul Reader didn’t move an inch and patiently looked the Golden Stallion straight in the eyes. Suddenly the Golden Stallion stood still, as if he had frozen, and had recognized something. He then reached out to Soul Reader, in the most gentle way imaginable, and they bonded. It was a simple as that. No force was used, no word was spoken, not one single movement was made. Soul Reader calmly climbed on his back, as if he had done so for years, and together they took off for a ride, in perfect union. From that moment on, they became inseparable. They would go out for rides together in the steppe and be gone for hours, to the great discomfort of Soul Reader’s mother, who always feared one day her son would not return. But he did return. Each time, each ride, the Golden Stallion and Soul Reader returned home safely. His father never told him again to stay away from the horses.

It broke Soul Reader’s heart when his father, only a couple of years later, decided to sell the Golden Stallion. Soul Reader’s father had not consulted his son about the sale. A rich horse owner had heard about the amazing qualities and looks of the Golden Stallion and had offered a really high price. He wouldn’t accept any other horse but the Golden Stallion. Soul Reader’s family was not rich and needed the money after a bad harvest. Soul Reader begged his father not to sell the Golden Stallion, but the man’s mind was made up and an agreement in those days, a promise in that culture, in that region, could not be broken or undone, or honor would be lost. It was unacceptable to compromise the family honor - and certainly not because of a horse. The Golden Stallion would leave the herd – and Soul Reader’s family. This story happened over twenty years ago, but Soul Reader still has tears in his eyes when he talks about his Golden Stallion. With a bond so close, so intense, surely they will meet again, as they are one, and what is one, can not be separated, not by time, not by distance, as is Law.   

Understanding the way of the horse runs in the blood of Soul Reader’s family. They were minding their own business, trying to survive in the harsh Chechnen circumstances, when the secession wars reached their homestead. More than half of Soul Reader’s family members got killed in cold blood, others ‘by accident’, although none of them had anything to do with politics. Their lives were about farming, horses and living in harmony with nature, friends and family. Soul Reader lost the majority of his friends. They were brutally murdered, often without any reason, and the bodies of some of them were never found. At one time, Soul Reader sat in the car with his uncle, driving back from the city to the farm, when all of the sudden, Russian soldiers hiding between the ruins of what used to be houses, opened fire without a warning. His uncle took several bullets and died in his arms. The car crashed and Soul Reader barely survived. Shortly after, Soul Reader himself took three bullets while getting some groceries for his mother, and nearly got killed. He lingered between life and death for many weeks.

After being shot, barely recovered and barely able to move around, Soul Reader decided to flee to the West, looking for help for himself and his family. His family agreed that, despite the dangerous and long journey ahead, he would have a better chance of surviving outside Chechnya. He would return to Chechnya when the war was over. He also needed surgery to remove the bullets in his body. One of the bullets had entered his head, and has been pressing against his brain ever since. It has been there for well over twelve years now, causing him enormous and extremely painful headaches, leading to frequent blackouts, and sometimes leaving him paralyzed for days.

So one night Soul Reader took off, armed with a small backpack and barely enough money to buy him some food for a couple of days, not knowing where he would end up, not knowing if he would ever see his home or family again. After a long and harsh journey, he arrived in Belgium, more dead than alive. Soul Reader was immediately arrested and locked up as a criminal.

He explained the Belgian authorities what had happened to his family and friends, and requested medical assistance in order for the bullets to be removed from his body. He was assisted by a Russian interpreter in this process. It doesn’t need much explaining on how objective and accurate the translations have been ... a Russian interpreter, appointed by and directly reporting to the Russian embassy in Belgium, which had only one goal, namely to avoid all kinds of negative publicity regarding the ongoing genocide in Chechnya, and who was required to report back directly to the Russian Federation about who had arrived in Belgium, how and when, and therefore whose family should be targeted, monitored and if necessary be killed for ‘treason’. Russian embassy officials and their staff, who were in turn appointed by the Russian Federation - yes indeed, the same Russian Federation that was responsible for the massacre of Soul Reader’s friends and family back in Chechnya - those were, of all people, in all places, the people the Belgian government trusted with the translation of the stories of the refugees who had crossed all Europe to escape the cruelties they faced in their country … Soul Reader, even if he had wanted to, simply could not tell his whole story, or he would be signing his remaining family’s death sentence. He had to leave most of the atrocities out of his report, as the interpreter made it very clear that every word or insinuation that could possibly put the Russian Federation into a ‘bad light’, would have repercussions on his family still living in Chechnya. Soul Reader knew, that ‘repercussions’ equaled torture, followed by brutal murder, in most cases leaving the body never to be found. Welcome, dear Soul Reader, to Belgium …

Instead of providing the necessary medical care, the Belgian government decided to lock Soul Reader up again and left him waiting for weeks. A pro bono attorney was appointed – a youngster that had recently graduated from law school, with little to no experience in the complex matter of political asylum - to file Soul Reader’s claim for political asylum. It probably won't come much as a surprise to read that the pro bono attorney managed to completely screw up the case. Political asylum is granted when there is sufficient proof that the  life of an applicant is in danger in the country of his birth. While the whole world was watching the news about ongoing genocide in Chechnya, its people completely left at the mercy of the Russian troops who could torture and slaughter at random without any restraints, while Soul Reader gave details about the brutal murders on many innocent family members and friends, while having three Russian bullets in his body, that no one, even until this very day, bothered to remove, the Belgian government ruled that there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Soul Reader’s life would be in danger in Chechnya. Therefore, political asylum was DENIED. As Chechnya was still at war, the Belgian government could not deport Soul Reader back to Chechnya. Above all, the Belgian government was aware of Chechen citizens returning home after being rejected as a political refugee, and being arrested at the airport by the Russian government, as soon as they got off the plane, and being tortured and then killed in the most unspeakable ways, for the simple reason they wanted to survive outside their country that knew no rules or justice. 

So the Belgian government put Soul Reader on the street, informing him he could stay in Belgium, but had no right to work in Belgium, had no right to earn an income in Belgium, and above all, that he was not entitled to unemployment, social security, social housing, not even food stamps, as he was not recognized as a political refugee. Soul Reader’s life as a homeless, illegal person had started. He had no money, no roof above his head, he was seriously injured, and was put on the street. It was forbidden to work or to apply for a job, there was nowhere to turn to for help. He didn’t know anybody in this strange country, that had locked him up like a criminal, and that had reviewed his ‘case’ with the help of Russian officials. Soul Reader was stuck in this tiny country that refused him the necessary medical care. He was buried alive in the heart of Europe, supposedly a place where human rights meant something, where people spoke  a funny language that sounded nothing like the language he was used to and he didn’t understand a word of. He had no possibility of returning home, a home where a certain death, being a refugee, awaited him. Welcome again, dear Soul Reader, to Belgium ...

* The facts, people and events mentioned above are no fiction. It is a true story. Having the spirit of a horse, Soul Reader never gave up. For many years, he worked like a slave in a Flemish horse stable, isolated, underpaid, most of the time not even paid at all (but simply given a sandwich to eat - after all, being illegal, who would he turn to to complain?) and badly treated. Being close to horses kept him alive. He learned to speak Dutch, Flemish, English and French. Being able to communicate, he met people who recognized his exceptionnal talent with horses. He left the horse stable and started training race horses and jumping horses in private stables, using Natural Horsemanship. Soul Reader quickly developed a reputation as a 'horse psy' or horse whisperer and requests for his intervention started growing - no matter what the underlying problem was, he always brought it to the surface and fixed it. He started working more and more with 'problem horses' - difficult, aggressive, dangerous, nervous, traumatized horses - transforming them into great, reliable, joyful and cooperative partners for their owners in both groundwork and under saddle. Creating a beautiful, strong relationship with any horse, based on mutual trust and respect and the natural encounter between human and horse, always remained his focus. 10 years after arriving in Europe, he finally became a legal European resident.