(3) Midway To Somewhere New

Refugees, staying here

Politicians are doing theoretical forward and backwards rolls, communication media indulge in reports  from the ‘front line’ of the refugee crisis and a roused public opinion is hovering  through the streets and sounds like: Watch out, when it comes through your door! Then, there is the people. Just like you and me they have come across the refugees at stations, in front of registration centres or in tents on some operating space. You meet them when you go to work or do your errands or just buy a newspaper. Gradually, you find yourselves in a noticeably changed reality, in a new social role as hosts to a large number of displaced people in your own country. Those huddled masses from TV have arrived right here. You will have to share your lives with them, somehow. How is that to be accomplished? How to encounter these foreigners, dramatically cut off from relatives, friends, values, food, shelter and finding themselves without any resources in our society. How to include the devastating experience of these people’s terrible losses into our own everyday but nonetheless urgent necessities? Obviously, we have to make room for something new and we have to grow something which is eatable. No need to turn away from this unfamiliar challenge, we’ll accomplish something wholesome.

Plant and grow

Growing bags in Berlin garden

Why have I ever come here, to this cold, hostile station concourse with its flashy noises and hundreds of pushy people hastening past. I can’t call out to them and I don’t want to, either. I am like a stone, on this cold floor, with the child asleep in my arms in a thermo fleece blanket. Don’t step on me. I am like the beggar on the steps of historic Al Hejaz station, that beggar who I would give some money, when I passed by once in a while. I haven’t gone there for years. They told me there was an explosion which killed a dozen of workers, and others, too. Nobody will sit on those stairs any longer. And who am I now? I couldn’t tell the Egyptian lady who came up to me an hour ago and spoke to me with a kind summer voice. She talked to me in Egyptian Arabic. She looked neat and nice, I would have liked her if I had met her somewhere else. She wanted to give me money, at least for the child, she said pitifully. I know, we look needy, messed-up and miserable after the ordeals of the journey but I don’t want people to notice. I wanted to shout at her. I don’t need your money, no, no, keep it!  Don’t look at me! Turn away from us and put your purse back into your handbag, please do! But she insisted, talking patiently, pleading with me that at least she could buy some food. Please tell me what you want, she said, pointing at the shops in the main station. I was infuriated. Who am I to take food from an Egyptian woman, that I don’t know, and who is not even a native on this alien ground. Then, suddenly, she caught my gaze and stopped me in my fury. She said that her name was Dalal. I answered that I didn’t need money but that I needed prayers. And I begged her to pray to God for the people who I left behind. Promise, I demanded. She bent down, stroked my shoulder and promised, using the right words. Her smiling eyes were wet and I wished she could have stayed with me for some more minutes. When she walked away through the large hall I followed her with my eyes. She moved forward steadfastly, with firm steps. Somebody I got to know by name in this strange place, Dalal.

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