It was a cold day in October 2015 at Tabanovce train station on the border between Macedonia and Serbia. I was sent here as part of the ADRA Emergency Response Team, to do communication for the ADRA network in connection with the refugee influx.
The previous weeks I had been to Hungary and Serbia to cover the crisis, but this was my first day at the Macedonian border. It was a particularly cold day – one of those days were the wind goes through your bones. Being a Norwegian, I had packed some woolen underwear, but was still shivering even with wool clothes.
Britt Celine fra ADRA Norge er på grensen mellom Makedonia og Serbia med ADRA Macedonia idag. ADRA distribuerer matpakker til flyktninger som kommer med tog fra Gevgelija.
Publisert av ADRA Norge Onsdag 21. oktober 2015
It was crowded at the train station at Tabanovce as the refugees exited the train which they took from Gevgelija, the nearest Macedonian city from the Greek border. There must have been 1500-2000 people. The few tents put up for shelters were quickly filled up and families had to find other places to eat and rest. Luckily it was not raining.
One family approached me and asked for jackets for the little ones who were shivering in the freezing cold wind. We had none, and there were none among the other NGOs either that day. My heart broke for those children.
This is how I met Mohammad and his family. They fled from Syria together with their uncle and aunt and children, altogether 12 people, and they told me they were heading to Norway.
When I met them, they have been travelling for 14 days. Mohammad told me: “We came with the boat from Turkey to Greece like many other refugees. It was the most scary experience. Travelling is very difficult. Look at the children – they don’t have jackets.” he said. His sisters both had warm winter jackets and a hat, but their young cousins had none.
The family sat just by the edge of the platform. When a train passed, Mohammad’s little sisters put their feet up at the platform, but were still only centimeters away from the passing train. The youngest sister held out her hands towards the train to warm herself when she felt the heat from the train.
When one works in emergency settings, one normally needs to focus on the work to be able to do it. There are just so many people in need and if one takes in all the stories, one will be heartbroken. Normally, I do not give out personal information in project areas, but as I talked with this family, I decided to do it anyway. I needed to know that they made it to safety in Norway.
The days went. ADRA Macedonia bought warm winter jackets for children with funds from Norway. From the very next day and forward, ADRA was able to help refugee children stay warm.
I thought about Mohammad and his family a lot. Where were they now? Did the children get jackets? Did they have enough food?
Then, about a week later, I got a friend request on Facebook. It was Mohammad. He sent a picture of his siblings. They were in Sweden, only one day away from Norway. It made me so happy.
I kept in touch with him through Facebook as he and the family were sent to different asylum centers in Norway. The first place they stayed was in cabins in a mountainous area where Norwegian people use to go for holidays. Then the family was sent south, before they at last were granted permission to stay.
It turned out they were to live not far from where my parents live – which is also not too far from the ADRA Norway office. I went to meet them and they served me a lovely dinner. I was also invited to the oldest daughter’s wedding last December and Mohammad and his family joined the ADRA Norway 25 year anniversary commemoration in April.
Sometimes, the people you help, can end up as your neighbours. I feel so blessed to have Mohammad and his family as my new friends and neighbours.