“Do not stop, keep going .. keep moving!”
As we sailed towards the Greek coast, our boat’s engine suddenly broke. We still had to travel about two kilometers to Lesbos Island. Issuing an emergency call to the Greek coast guard was pointless after several attempts to get help had already failed. The only chance we had left, was using two plastic paddles and several men who jumped into the cold water to push the boat with its passengers fearing for their lives.
Lesbos was considered the island where refugees could get their papers for the onward journey within a maximum of two days. But what happened there, was shocking. “I’ve been here for ten days, still have the same clothes on, have not been able to shower, and I’m sleeping in the dust, so that I can keep my place in this huge line of people to get my papers. How long do I still have to wait? I have no idea.” I have heard this statement from many Syrians, whom I met in the port city of Mytilene on Lesbos. Some of them had been waiting even longer. They didn’t have any money left; they had had to spend all of their savings.
After six weeks in a hall with 250 refugees I consider myself – despite the noise, the lack of privacy and the cold – happy compared to people in other camps where it is much more difficult. Here in Kusel I feel the warmth of this place, how helpful and friendly the volunteers are and how we have been greeted here the locals.We spent our first night in Lesbos on the road, soaking wet, shivering with cold. We knew that we didn’t have any chance to reach the camp, where we had to be registered. Because the Greek authorities have issued a strict regulation that forbids refugees to rent a car, to reserve a hotel room or even to use the public buses. Our only option was to walk the 45 kilometers to the camp – and that’s what we did.
The city center turned out to be huge camp where – according to local media – 20,000 refugees were stranded. There were tents in every corner. Hundreds of people stood in for their papers, jostling one another, were beaten by police. The city had been transformed into a giant toilet because the refugees were not allowed to even go to a hotel and had to wait forever. We had to wait eight days in this environment, sleeping in the tent and killing time, before we finally got our papers, with which we then were able to leave the island and to sail to Athens with a ferry.
“Do not stop, keep going … keep moving!” Running the heart piece of this escape across several national boundaries. From one country to the next, from one place to another, always accompanied by the uncertainty of what lies ahead. And the concern of not having the required identity papers – as in Greece or in Serbia – afraid of being arrested by the Hungarian police, where you will be kept without food or water in a cell and will be mistreated. Any such thing that still extends your difficult journey and postpones the reunion with your family when you finally reach your destination in Western Europe.
When you have to travel very long distances through the mud in continuous rain, it consumes especially the children to exhaustion. You cannot imagine how the goal of that arduous journey looks like, will lose their patience and eventually just want to give up. heir parents will have to always be there with the only possible sentence in their ears: “Do not stop, keep going … keep moving.”
It took me two weeks to reach Germany. I thought the waiting and suffering would now have an end – but I was wrong. I have submitted my papers at the reception center in Trier, where I had to spend three nights on the corridor because there were no rooms available. These three nights were the worst of what I have lived through. Then came the buses, and the security forces told us we had to board them and go to Kusel. I had never heard of Kusel. We were told there were rooms for us. But when we arrived in Kusel, there were no rooms. Only tents and halls, each for 200 to 250 refugees.
As a journalist who documented her entire flight with photos and videos, but who by exhaustion lost her ability to write, I have simply felt a warm welcome that helps me to return to journalism and to be writing again. It gave me the opportunity to again feel comfortable and to immerse myself in the atmosphere in which I was before. I am then far away from being a refugee – at least for a few hours. But the waiting is not over yet.