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Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes… or… refugees in Berlin

September 20, 2015

After thinking about this for a few weeks, I just had to put something into writing.

Recently there has been a large influx of refugees into Berlin. Call it what you will- it’s not really the ‘hoarde’ or a ‘swarm’ or whatever the media is calling it: It’s an influx of individuals, with families, with lives, jobs, histories in the countries they left.

They are not here to snatch away our resources, to rob us blind, rape our children and have a ‘free ride’ at our expense. Most of them probably aren’t even here by choice. Their journey to find somewhere safer than where they were before has simply carried them here. Maybe they’ll be sent back. Maybe their journey doesn’t end here. But right now they are HERE, in Berlin, not even a kilometer from my home.

I have watched that excellent TV ad that is absolutely on-point, showing a child in a Western country living her life, celebrating her birthday, playing with friends etc and how this life with which we can fully identify as ‘Westerners’ very quickly changes, becoming full of fear and violence and then sickness. It blew me away (actually, I choke back tears everytime I watch it) and I couldn’t stop thinking about the people who have made it this far with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

I imagine the street on which I live, where my child goes to Kindergarten, where I do my shopping being destroyed by weapons in a war in which I want no part. I consider what I might scramble together in the mad dash to leave my collapsing apartment building: The safety of the kids would be first priority. Would I even have time to collect our passports? What about our other papers? (I’m not but imagine you’re a doctor in your home country. But you have no ID or proof of your years of study and training. Would your new home allow you to practise medicine? Probably not.)

I think about my travel options: How would I make it to the border and in which direction would I head? How would I ensure my family’s survival? How far would I stretch my morals and personal values to do this? What if, heaven forbid, I lost one of my children in the chaos of the masses also trying to leave the country?

Not even mentioning the terrifying and dangerous journey to escape imminent death (?) because that’s simply to big and I’m not sure I could do the emotional trauma here justice.

Once arrived at my ‘destination’ (aka, the country whose government is ok with me staying there), there wouldn’t be any comfortable beds, nor a choice of new clothing and shoes off the rack.. not even really the choice of nutrition. The language is likely to be strange, I wouldn’t know where I was, what the cultural norms are, where I get stuff that I need… I might not even be able to read the language for that matter.

And in the long-term, I would want to go back to my home country but how would I even start? What if my country didn’t even exist anymore?

I know that all of this barely even scratch the surface but they’re enough to motivate me to do something, anything to help these people. People who really are just like you and me and just want to live their lives in peace and without fear, in a safe place.

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