Last Wednesday I was at Keleti train station again. It was a very tense and desperate place. Refugees were lined up around one entire area of the station waiting to get on a train. Police were creating a human barrier to keep order. The train was in the station and passengers were boarding. Refugees were getting more and more desperate as time passed. They wanted to get on the train…they needed to get on. Some of them had tickets but almost none of them had the proper paperwork/registration to travel to Austria. Finally, the police line opened and slowly some of the refugees were allowed on the train.
The line of refugees was divided into sections separated by police barriers. The first section got on the train. They were next in line. The next section was growing more concerned…there was some yelling and a bit of pushing. Children were being held up so they did not get shoved around. When more people were allowed on the train eventually, those with small children were allowed on first. The train was delayed, first 5 min, then 10 min. More people were allowed on. And then eventually it was full and it left the station.
With all the tension, I expected there to be an aggressive response from the crowd of waiting refugees. But no, although there was still some noise and frustration, many in the crowd sat down and just continued waiting for the next train. They must have been in that line for hours by that time. Watching all this happen and seeing the faces of the people waiting was sad and scary. But I soon realized that all they want is to be safe and peaceful. Isn’t that what we all want? There was no malicious intent, they were desperate.
As I was standing there on the edge of all this happening, I thought about what my response might be. If I have to wait in line for more than a few minutes, how frustrated do I feel? And then what if on top of the waiting, I was hungry, exhausted, and running away from my home to help save my life and lives of my family? And then what if I had entered a country in which the government and the authorities were difficult to trust and all I wanted to do was get out? What if I just saw a train leave and I had to sit back down on the dirty floor of the train station and wait another 2, 3, or 6 hours? Or maybe I had to wait all night and sleep on that dirty floor? And if I had to rely on the goodwill of strangers for food and water? I can’t even imagine it. How would you feel?