As I walked up to the station, it looked quiet and normal. The only difference was the line of police vans and police officers in front. I walked around the corner and down the stairs. I descended into the chaos. It was overwhelming.
Despite the pictures I had seen all over social media, I could never be prepared for the reality of the difficulty and squalor. There were people sitting, laying and walking everywhere. Children were playing with volunteers while the adults sat talking and taking care of their babies. All the while passengers were walking through to their trains.
I met with the others who were also there to share food and items (Refugee support in Budapest). The children came over when they saw we had some things to give. The adults were a bit more shy but accepted the food also. We spread out and walked around in the hope everyone would get some. Some refused and others took extra. The children were grabbing the marker pens and paper to play with. The items were quickly given away until we had only a few things left.
A tiny baby onesie was of the things we had left. So we went looking for mother and baby who may need it. We walked carefully through the small pathways in between where families and groups had set up their “camps”. There were a few tents, but less than a quarter of the people had this luxury. In the mass of people and activity, a small boy approached us pointing to the onesie. He led us to his mother and tiny baby sister huddled in a tent. It almost didn’t seem real, but there she was. This little baby had already travelled a longer and more difficult journey than most of us can imagine.
Once we finished, we left the station. We left to go to our comfortable homes where we have clothes and food. Something that most of the people in the station could not do after they left their lives behind them.
For the Syrians, after 4 years of conflict and crisis in their country, travelling hundreds of miles to get to Europe and facing extreme hardship in the basement of a train station, I can’t help but think if only. If only, they did not have to leave their homes. If only, there was no war and there could be peace and freedom. If only, there would be a place for them to go. If only, the other countries in the world could have organized themselves so help could be offered quickly and easily.
The refugees are you and me, in a different place and time. They are mothers and fathers. They are professionals and people who work in trades. They are children who love to play with toys and fight over their games. They are babies who need lots of care.