On the train from Basel I met 10 young Syrians (boys and men aged 16-50) – some “fresh” from the war, all who had survived a death defying boat trip and the long walk across Europe. All they seemed to own between them was a couple of smart phones and a broken carrier bag of a few things, because they had to throw out all their stuff when their boat was sinking. They looked so sad and tired, but very happy to chat. We conversed via one good English speaker among them and after refusing about 5 offers of food and drink they eventually took us up on the offer of coffee. Having not slept for at least 3 days and with another probably long night ahead of them, they needed it. We had a few more laughs and I even got to touch a scar from a bullet wound (personal first). I told them they are heroes and he said no, we are not, we are cowards, we left our country, we should have stayed there to die. Hard to know how to reply to that one. When they left the train they were all very grateful and thanked us for the coffee and company.
A few hours later, just before midnight we reached Berlin Central station where a group of about 20 people on the platform – men, women, teenagers, young children and a babe in arms – caught my eye. Not the usual Saturday night partygoers, that’s for sure, but no luggage either. They were trying to get help from the security people but obviously the message/answer wasn’t getting through. I offered to translate (EN/DE before anyone thinks I have learned Afghan!!) and they said they had just arrived from Afghanistan and wanted to go to the camp. I helped with the answer and directions, welcoming them to Berlin and again got lots of thanks. I can’t stop thinking about the mother with her baby – happily smiling and grateful, just for a few words.
Both times I wasn’t sure about stepping in to help (interfere!), but in both instances I am glad I did. I think people who have been through what they have just experienced need to know they are seen. They need to know they are still human! And quite possibly (almost definitely) need assistance or help whether in the form of a smile, kind word, coffee or translation. I guess at least here in Berlin and other parts of Germany helping refugees will now be part of everyday life for us. So we best all reread the Good Samaritan for inspiration and put our best feet forward 🙂
For Berliners who do have time to help in a more formal/regular way you can register on https://volunteer-planner.org/helpdesk/