Schönefeld, October 21st

Three hours’ delay. We don’t have to get up at 6. After weeks on end of being here and waiting hours, the chief police finally took our phone numbers to let us know about train delays in advance.
Today, I meet a new volunteer, she’s helping by the sandwiches and we get along very well. Two soldiers come to help us, they make fun at our accents, joke around, the atmosphere is very friendly. My friend remarks: “They’re just big kids aren’t they?”.

Again, assembly-line-like, we’ve got a good cadence and soon 250 pile up. We’re speaking with the soldiers, friendlier each day, with us and with the refugees. We feel sorry that new ones will be coming on Monday. We barely have time to understand how to interact together and to begin to get along before shifts change. As we’re spreading the last spoons of jam on the bread, the refugees start coming. This time we hadn’t even notice they had begun coming in, and it’s quite disorganized.

They look in bad shape – worth than usual. Open shoes, barely a jacket on, many sick people, many children. Each train is different, this one is a very sad one, with its lot of misery and sad stories, we feel it more than usual. We all take that in, we seem to have been struck by immense sadness. The food distribution goes badly – people are surrounding us, I see hands everywhere, eager to seize a piece of bread. At some point there are so many people that we can’t even move anymore.

Later, as the place empties little by little, the remaining children draw – with chalks. But this time, no flowers and no hearts, no name writing. Instead, we see planes bombing people on the ground and the words “airplanes kill us” next to it. I stop by a Syrian family, they’re from Aleppo. Seven people, three of them children. The father asks me if I know what awaits them. I explain where they are being taken, why, and that yes, they will be free to get “out of the camp”. While I talk, he looks at me with tired eyes. Then he says “you know, I have the feeling I’m in Guantanamo. Ever since we came to Europe, we are told when to eat, when to sleep, and we don’t even know where we are”. I tell him we do our best. He’s not angry, just exhausted.

Another elderly man makes a sign from afar, asking me to come over. He’s also Syrian, from Homs. All the men look so old, I fear they’ve considerably aged within the journey. He tells me he wants to travel to Sweden, and work there until he has enough money to bring his family over. We talk together, he asks me about the shelter, I describe it to him. He sighs, I apologize that it’s so difficult for them even after that journey. He smiles weakly. “You know, we are here now, nothing worse can happen to us. We have reached Paradise.” What is already hell for us is his paradise. He gives me his name, I give him mine, we are two people and he’s no longer just a shadow in the flow of refugees. He asks me whether it makes any difference that he is a Christian. I heard various stories of people being bullied because of their religion in the shelters, I don’t know what is true and what is not, but as a precaution I advise him to avoid religious talks or to mention his at all. When he’s about to leave, I tell him to be careful and look after himself. He smiles again, and says: “I know how to, don’t worry”.  He follows the remaining people taking the last bus to one of Berlin’s shelter. They leave, and we’re left with the place to clean. I look around, everyone looks pensive. We all ought to take a break from it all, but there is no way back: we can’t close our eyes again. Day after day, the need for more help is stronger. Financially, physically and emotionally, I wonder how much longer we’ll manage.


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