Schönefeld, October 18th

Sunday morning

We’re back in our usual quarters. The train is supposed to arrive shortly after 9am. This time, the army, absent from Lichtenberg yesterday, is here. They’re friendly with us. If it weren’t for us volunteers, they would have no food, and no translators. We are about five people, two of us start to prepare the sandwiches. We still have half an hour. The soldiers ask me what kind of bread I brought – it’s arabic bread. One of them asks if it tastes good, I give him a piece with jam on it. One of his colleagues looks interested as well but doesn’t want to try. “It’s not poisoned”, I tell him. Still, he’s not curious enough to give it a go. Another soldier asks me why I’m volunteering. I explain to him that my concern is that fellow human beings are not let to starve or to freeze when they reach our western countries.He nods, I can see he doesn’t understand why I put my energy on it. Another one advises me to keep my bag away from under the tables, in case a refugee steals it. I tell him I never had such problems with refugees but I do as I’m told. They’re curious as to why I’m here. “You must be a student then?”. I say that on the contrary many volunteers have full-time occupations, yet still come to the LaGeSo, and to the many shelters across town and around, so as to provide at least some help.

A translator comes over and offers to write a sign in Farsi, saying “cheese” and “jam” for our sandwiches. We repeat “Panir” and “Murabba” so as to remember it for later. Another translator comes and writes the Arabic version under, “Jeben” and “Murabba”. We’re told the train has arrived, and soon the hall is packed with people. 390 newcomers to feed. I try out my four new words in Farsi and Arabic. Apparently it’s understandable – at worse it makes people laugh, but I’m glad to see those smiles. I ask some people where they come from. Once, I ask a man whether he’s Afghan. He playfully rolls his eyes: “Me?! Noooo! I’m from Syria of course!”. A brief exchange of smiles, and up to the next. There is enough food for everyone this time. Compared to yesterday, there are more families. At least here there is a sheltered area where babies can be changed.

The transfer to the buses goes on, relatively smoothly. Soon, there are only a few families left. I’m no longer needed, I make my way out, but I see a beautiful two years-old girl on her father’s shoulders. I go fetch a teddy bear and come back to give it to her. Her name is Mira, she’s here with her family and some relatives. They fled the Syrian city of Latakia. Her father doesn’t speak English, but another man in the group does. He is in his fifties. He asks me where they are going now, and whether it’s possible for him to go to Sweden from here. I explain that they first have to go to a shelter to be registered. He sighs. They have been on the roads for more than a month now. Like many I met, they almost drowned in the Mediterranean Sea before reaching European shores. I don’t know what to say except that I’m sorry. He smiles: “You know, we are Syrians, we have been living like that for 50 years…it’s alright”. We talk a bit more, then they have to go. On the way back I think I should have given him more information on how to reach Sweden. If our task today was easier to achieve than yesterday in Lichtenberg, people’s sad journeys to Europe remain the same.

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