The Author: Bianca Bortoneanu
At first I did not want to talk about this experience. But now I believe it is quite important to share what I've lived through, together with my ROM team for a few days in Serbia as we were helping the refugees at the Hungarian and Serbian borders.
I am not quite sure yet if it was empathy or something else, but from the first moment I was invited to join the group I felt in my heart that I have to be there, with the refugees, to truly understand the truth about the refugee crisis in Europe.
I am not a person who talks a lot. And I still do not have much to say because so much happened in those three days that cannot be expressed with words. Simply, you must be there, feel everything, see their eyes, and get involved to begin to understand.
None of us in the ROM Community Refugee Response (RCRR) team and EUS (IFES Serbia) team could sleep well any of the nights throughout the duration of our action. Guess why? Because all these people, all those children, all the despair in their eyes, and all their stories of hardship – all of those and more kills you slowly and touches your heart deeply inside. In our team there was not a single soul that did not cry at times.
Let me give you some examples. Many among the refugees are mothers and children, little kids walking with big bags in their hands. We saw many people with hurting feet, supported by crutches and wheelchairs; people who were tired, exhausted, sick.
Someone told me that they decided to finally escape after their neighborhoods were bombed and family members killed. Families walked for miles through the night to avoid being caught by soldiers who would kidnap their young men and force them to fight. So they had no other choice but run away as far as they could. Those people have left behind literally everything, their memories and their whole lives.
I remember someone telling us that the neighboring countries, those who share the same or similar culture with them did not want to help them. “And yet you are Christians and you love us!”, they said.
And what was truly amazing in all of this was to see a sense of unite shared between all of us who came to serve the refugees. At any given time several different groups would come at the same to help with food, water, and other things that the refugees needed. Quickly we would all become as if it were one team, standing side by side in the spirit of Jesus.
On this occasion I would like to make appeal to those who are critical of the whole refugee movement in Europe and of us who are trying to make their journey a little bit easier. Stop judging people and their actions! Stop create barriers between us, and try to put yourselves, for a moment, in their position! Nobody leaves his or her entire life behind in a land thousands of kilometers away and risks everything to reach a safe country for no reason!
Try to think what would you do if you were one of them walking through the dusty cornfields in a faraway and strange land?
Bianca Bortoneanu, Bucharest, Romania