Schönefeld, November 8th, 2015

Sunday feels quieter, even though it is one of the busiest arrivals we’ve had with about 650 persons expected. New volunteers show up, it seem today we will be plenty to make our hundreds of sandwiches. As I give basic information to the newbies, the atmosphere is pretty relaxed. I’m glad our assembly line works well, because I started to have blisters on my hands because of the gloves and am not sure how efficient i still am in the food department just now.

Before the train arrives, we gather together to be sure everyone knows what he/she has to do. We now have about six volunteers helping out with hotspots. I asked a couple of times to organizations to install a proper WiFi provider in our hall, to no avail so far.

Today’s train is only delayed by 30 minutes, and soon about 650 persons fill our tiny hall. Yesterday’s recommendation from the officials to leave people enough time to get food pays off, people still look lost and tired, but way less anxious. On both sides. A lot of Afghanis and Kurds are here today. It’s difficult to communicate in Arabic, nearly impossible in Farsi, because today they speak even less English than usual. Almost 70 underage people arrived unaccompanied. They will be brought to a special shelter. I wonder if they too will pay the consequences of the strengthening of the law against refugees and will be sent back home. A lot of them wear wollen hats given by rescue teams on the Mediterranean.

With a 6 months old Syrian baby.

Today another tiny baby reached us. His father asks for my WiFi code, he’s holding the baby in his arms and can’t look properly in his pocket to find his phone. Hands me the baby. I’m very happy about it because I wouldn’t have trusted myself to ask him to carry him. I think because I’m a helper he’d have felt somewhat obliged to comply. But both father and son are laughing as I craddle my little bundle. The baby looks at me with big dark astonished eyes. Again I’m in a beautiful out of time bubble for a split second, and when I raise my head, the father, his brother and a volunteer have their smartphone pointed at me and shoot pictures of the cute scene. It’s a happy and intimate moment that seems to make us all forget the circumstances. The father then sends me the picture through Bluetooth as I hand him my phone- he seems to know more about its function than I do anyway. When he’s finally connected, I leave him and his family catching up with their loved ones in peace.

Two women cradling a baby in Schönefeld, 09.11.2015 © E.Chaze

As I look around, I see a group of about fifteen Afghanis, women and children, sitting on the floor, among a pile of both fortune luggage and rubbish. Two women carry a dirty orange cover in which a baby is being cradled. A volunteer blows soap bubbles that other kids, oblivious to what they’re going through, try to catch and blow up. I barely have the time to think of it as a sweet scene that another volunteer comes up to me and asks me not to order soap bubbles for kids anymore because it makes the place messy. I tell him I’m not the one in charge if that instead if telling him it’s about the only distraction we give to kids and there is no way that is getting away as well.

People sitting on the floor among their belongings. 09.11.2015 © E.Chaze

A Syrian girl comes up to me and I say hello to her in Arabic. She gestures toward a corner if the nearby table. She has neatly arranged the city maps in Arabic I had put there for people to grab. I thank her and she takes my hand. She wants to teach me how to count in Arabic. I repeat after her as she closes and opens my hand in order to show the right number with my fingers. With my free hand, I give away the WiFi codes if three volunteers’phones, trying not to make any if them fall in the process. Suddenly, the little girl runs away, and fetches a mandarine from her mother. She comes back and hands it to me. I try and explain it’s for her, but she looks sad that I’m refusing her gift. I tell her to it eat instead, she reluctantly complies but when she’s done peeling the fruit she hands a quarter to me. We eat together and she tells me a thousand things I don’t understand.

Before the shelters: between train and buses in Schönefeld © E. Chaze

Meanwhile, like everyday, the place empties itself. As we start to clean around, abandoned and torn-out clothes lay around as a testimony of the circumstances in which the refugees reached us.

Amidst the chaos, one of the new volunteers stands, alone, in a state of shock. I come over to comfort her. It has all been so sudden and so much for her. She breaks into tears as I reassure her: “The first time is the worst, don’t worry. You don’t get used to seeing that but it becomes easier.” As she explains how hard she’s finding to cope just now, I wonder at the fact that i have grown so pragmatic about that situation. At least so long it lasts, I simply can’t afford to disperse energy to cry anymore because the arriving people have urgent and immediate need. I think the other volunteers’ reaction is far healthier. Mine is the perfect recipe for a burnout.


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