Who Travels Alone?

We see so many mothers with children, and surprisingly the occasional father of military age…not sure how that happens. People who left Poland with aunties and puppies, extended families, nursing babies, baby kittens. Three refugee stories from today:

—A woman close to my age traveling alone, no particular family connections. She has a brightly colored blanket on the bed to which she has been assigned, with several stuffed animals and brightly colored pillows and other treasures she has received from the donations given by the people of Poland. Where would she like to go? She is content to stay at the refugee shelter where she is now, where medical and other services are available and where she is making some friends. (This is all what I believe she told me in Russian, so maybe it is not 100% accurate, but close enough.)

—A woman and her son from Odessa arrived at TESCO today. She told me that it was her son’t 16th birthday. I asked if she had a husband back in Ukraine and she said “No, I am free as a bird.” At dinner tonite she reported that she would be leaving tomorrow for the Czech Republic. (Sometimes people are resettled quickly and in other cases it takes weeks.) I asked her to get her son and when he came in I started a round of Happy Birthday. I wasn’t really sure if it was appropriate to do this but everyone in the dining room joined in and applauded at the end. Everyday celebrations like birthdays are important, even in the worst of times.

—Another woman whom I have talked with whenever she comes into the dining room, c. 50 and not traveling with children or parents but some more distant relatives, told me tonight that she will be returning to her home in northwest Ukraine near the Belorussian border where her husband is in the military. She seemed resolute in this decision and told me rather matter-of-factly, but cried when I hugged her.

Lest you think that all I do is sit and talk with people all day….we work a 12 hour day, almost all of which is on our feet. We get in at 9 in the AM and start making paninis and coffee for people, hand out cake and cookies, serve lunch for a couple of hours midday as people make their way to us through a line (both lunch and dinner generally a veggie, a starch, meat and some sort of salad; sometimes these come in odd combinations such as today when we had mashed potatoes and also potato salad!!!!). Every several hours counter spaces and floors are cleaned to try to prevent any contamination/disease. Afternoons can be a bit slow so it is possible to take a break, and then it starts all over for dinner. You may not know this but a have always wanted to be a barista, so every afternoon I have been doing coffee and tea duty (but no lattes and cappuccinos!! All instant coffee and tea). We leave at c. 9, picking up things like wine or ice cream or yogurt for breakfast on the way home , then have wine and do things like write this posting, then go to bed as I will do right now. Good night!!

2 thoughts on “Who Travels Alone?”

  1. Love reading your stories, Helen– what an important job you are doing and knowing you as well as I do, I can see the conversations and the hugs that I know mean so much to the people you are meeting.

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  2. Thank you so much, Helen, for sharing these stories with us. And for sharing your open heart with these people who are so far away from their homes and loved ones. Sending you a million hugs from Santa Fe.

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