Among the thousands of people that I saw in and around Idomeni camp at the Macedonian border, I have seen this young mother once before during the time when the refugees in Greece walked a 25km journey with their children to reach the borders. That day while I was dealing with many little situations, something in her eyes called me before the words came out of her mouth, so I stopped to listen “can you help me with a tent for me and my children please?”- I stood there thinking how to act knowing too well there are no tents to give away. I looked back to her saying “just give me a moment please” and I quickly ran to our material distribution point which was very near to where we stood. My colleague soon confirmed my knowledge about the tents situation but I looked at him with a kind of glimpse that I may have borrowed from the eyes of the mother and her children, to which he responded: “but there are blankets I can give you!” – The small family watched me as I walked back towards them and announced “Ok, I’ll go and find you a spot inside one of the bigger tents” I noticed her tears that were struggling to come out then continued “is that okay? I am really sorry but we are out of small tents at the moment” she nodded accepting my offer while she held on to her little boys. “Wait for me here please so I don’t lose you in the crowd, I’ll be back soon to take you to your spot in one of the big tents” but as if I was pulled back by the tears my feet refused to walk away too soon so I muttered “please don’t cry, everything will be okay” and she cried a little more. To avoid confronting her pain which almost overwhelmed my emotions at that point, I kneeled down to the height of her little children to remind them gently about the strength of their mother who’s enduring a difficult time for their wellbeing.
I had wanted her to hear my small words to her children and hope that she would understand that the grandness of her spirit is recognised by at least some of us despite the devastating conditions. I was hoping she would know that she is not a ‘refugee’ asking for a tent, but she is a dignified human who’s a great mother for having taken so much risk in order to give her children a safer life. To her disappointment, she maybe ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the fact remains that having made this tough journey is a testimony to her strong will.
Around us were many others like her carrying their own pain and the pain of their families seeking to feel like human beings again. There was little we could do as volunteers and NGOs with our material support that maybe helps to distract from a dramatic reality for a short while, but the real questions always kept hitting us “when will they open the border? why are they doing this to us? we just want to pass and be safe, do they not see we are humans too?” and we stand there helpless, trying our best to balance between the stretched resources and the unknown answers.