Glockenturmstr., September 26th

On Sunday morning, another train arrived at Schönefeld. This time, it arrived one hour ahead of schedule. No volunteer was warned. But the RBB, the Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcast, had somehow been informed. The army was there, dispatching bottles of water and donations that were already there.
When we set up our donations, another volunteer, who has never been here before, asks us if we could wait, because we disturb “his” distribution. A thousand things go through my head and I just decide not to answer. The tables are almost empty, so we put the food on it anyway, and people soon come to help themselves. Another woman, whom I also hadn’t seen before, comes over and congratulates me on having brought “arabic bread”. “Good idea, of course we can’t compete with that, with our apples!”, she tells me. I smile, and wonder since when feeding people became a competition. Maybe I’m just being oversensitive, as we all are in those circumstances.
Someone has distributed air-balloons, and the kids are delighted. They seem oblivious to the gloomy atmosphere surrounding them. They draw faces on the balloons and burst them, laughing at the noise. Some adults jump at the noise and look around, worried, before realizing it is just a game. At the Lageso, we stopped giving such toys, so as to avoid further trauma to refugees coming from war zones. One little boy in particular seems so happy to be playing that we forget for a moment where we are.
A family stays behind. They don’t know where they are, they’re not sure where they want to stay. We decide to come with them to Olympia Park. Some 30 refugees are still waiting, the police requisitions another bus. Half an hour later, a bus from Berlin fire services arrives and we all get in. I notice that people are so tired and lost that they follow the flow without even asking. And even if they did, there aren’t always enough translators to vehicle information. I sit in the front with a friend who translates into Arabic. I get a text from a friend on holidays, she sends me a picture from a beautiful tourist spot. It makes me laugh as I look around and see all these destinies reunited here in the strangest circumstances. Like them, I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know where we’re going and what will happen.
I’m not the only newcomer in Glockenturmstr. The fireman who travels with us asks me what we do at Schönefeld station. I explain that we do as we can, when we can, and with only little means. He is visibly moved. When we arrive at the shelter, the bus stops, but no refugee is allowed to get out. I go ask the security why we’re waiting. We have to wait till the previous bus is emptied. One man asks me if he can quickly go to the loo. I ask the fireman. He asks the security man. Security man says no. Fireman and me look at each other. The situation seems complicated, even for simple things. It’s not that warm outside, but it’s stuffy within the bus. People don’t understand why they can’t wait outside – nor why they’re not allowed to use a bathroom.
The fireman is baffled. He asks a couple of times, and we’re finally allowed to wait outside the entrance.
As volunteers, my friend and I are shown a registration point where we can get volunteers’ badges.
It seems better organized than the Lageso. We don’t know any of the volunteers. They seem efficient, they clean everywhere. There are fixed meal times. One thing saddens me: they don’t interact with the refugees. It’s two worlds. The helpers, the people in need.
We look around, see where we could be useful. I see a woman sitting outside, crying. She’s on her own. We go over, sit and start talking with her. She’s very embarrassed that we stopped. At first she says everything is fine. She’s Syrian, she just arrived and she’s waiting for her husband to register them. We manage to make her laugh, we offer them some sweets, she doesn’t dare to take them. She looks so tired and fragile. But she stopped crying and she smiles. She tells her story in Arabic, I understand very little, but my friends do. She needed to talk. In the meantime, another friend started playing with the boy who held the balloon at the airport.
Volunteers walk by, they give us dirty glances because we sit with this woman. We decide to leave and go at the registration desk. A family, two adults, five small children. We take care of the children while the parents go through the paperwork. They then go to the kitchen. No warm food anymore, the bread we brought at the airport is redistributed, amongst other things. Each person is allowed one flat bread with one slice of cheese. We try to obtain more for the kids. We get some baby food, but nothing more.
I had forgotten one bag of flat bread in my backpack, I hand it to the family. A woman visibly in charge comes over and gives out to me. I shouldn’t give bread, because it’s rationed and everyone needs it. I explain that this one comes from my bag. She doesn’t care. I let her moan and think this is neither the place nor the time. The situation gets worse when a friend tries to defend me, we leave the kitchen after a row. My friend can’t take it anymore, we try to do our best and we’re pushed to the limit. I find it so stupid, and it inflicts even more stress upon the family. Fortunately, they don’t understand what is going on.
We come with them to the hall where they will spend the next few nights. They’re allocated 7 beds. Per chance, two baby beds were still available. We fetch bed sheets and they’re as sorted as can be.
It’s 5pm, and we all need to go. We say goodbye to the family, saying we’ll come back. I don’t know how to say goodbye in Arabic, so I wave, and the woman sends me a kiss. I know it’s time to go when I feel my eyes becoming teary.
Four of us then leave, and walk to the next S-Bahn station. There, we meet six refugees wanting to make their way to Berlin main station. We tell them we’ll let them know where to get out of the train.
A couple of stations later, three ticket inspectors get in. The day is far from being over.
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