Because We Can

Our job in Röszke is done, the Swiss team arrived home safely. It was great to find breakfast and coffee ready, and the office crew taking care of us. A huge thank you to my mates from the night shift for that awesome team. I really enjoyed working with you guys. I also want to thank all people who supported us from afar, all your encouraging messages were precious to keep us going on.

I am grateful I got the opportunity to contribute giving back a tiny bit of dignity to desperate, exhausted people.

But what I have seen in Röszke also makes me angry, terribly angry. If it had not been for civilian initiative, for volunteers, these tens of thousands of people we have seen passing by in only a few days would have been left without any supplies, food, water or medical care.

Now back home, I follow the news and see European countries shutting down their borders or at least increasing controls one after the other. The message is clear: we don't want the refugees to come in. Means: we don't want to provide people who put their lives at stake to survive with protection against persecution, granted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. European countries rather build walls and fences. Have we learnt nothing from history? Have we still not understood that no wall, no fence, no tear gas and no sanction will prevent desperate people from trying everything to save their own life? Where are the humanitarian core values that once built the foundations of our democracies?

I feel bad sitting here, with everything I need and more, knowing that thousands of people out there need help. I cannot solve the issue, I cannot help all these people. But I can bring relief to some of them. And I know they need and appreciate what I do. I will never forget the elderly woman who had walked from Greece to Hungary in ballerinas, how grateful she was when I managed to find her a pair of comfortable, ugly sneakers. How she hugged and blessed and kissed me. I will never forget the man who begged me for shoes because the ones he was wearing had no sole anymore, how happy he was when I showed him where to get new ones. I will never forget the woman who cried because she had no food for her twin babies, how she too hugged me for accompanying her to the medical tent to get bottles and baby food, but did not even want a cup of tea to warm herself up. I will never forget all the people who came for tea and coffee in the middle of the night, and started joking with us as soon as they had had a first sip. I will never forget the man who shook my hand again and again to thank me for a simple information, and worrying because my hands were so cold at three in the morning. I will never forget how children's eyes light up when they see soap bubbles. I will never forget these sad and exhausted faces of people crossing the gate, looking up in surprise and smiling just for a “sabah il-kheir”, good morning in their own language.

I thought I had seen despair and misery before, but this experience at the Serbian-Hungarian border showed me there is always something worse. And that this can be in well protected Europe. And while one country after the other starts implementing measures to prevent people of seeking protection on their territory, these people will not stop trying to find freedom and peace. And if it is safer to put their children into overcrowded dinghies than staying at home, they will do it. These are human beings with each their own story. They are not “just” seeking a higher life standard. They are seeking a future for their children. They are seeking life in dignity. They are refugees. Europe will not collapse and we will not live in misery if we help them. Who cares if I cannot buy 30 pairs of new shoes every year, but only 25, if this allows five people to have one wearable pair of shoes? It is our duty to live up to our own values and give them this possibility. Because we can.

I am back home now, in a comfortable house. But I hope to go back to the field soon, because I can do something, no matter politics, no matter fences, walls, tear gas or sanctions. Because I can.

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