Monday, July 28, 2008

No refuge from ignorance

Around the corner from where I live there's a refugee hostel in a converted church.
It provided the setting for some of the scenes in Trading Tatiana.

When I wrote the book, the system was very different from now.
In those days families would be housed there in flimsy adapted units for months at a time.
The children went to local schools, learned English, made friends ...
... and then disappeared without warning to be dispersed around the country or deported.

These days no one stays longer than a few days.
A fleet of mini-buses sits outside at all hours, moving lost and confused-looking people in and out like livestock.

I walked past yesterday.
3 guys were sitting on the steps outside talking quietly.
I looked into the eyes of a man who reminded me a bit of my brother and wondered what his story was.
What sights had he seen?
What had induced him to leave his home and seek refuge here?

I'd never seen him before.
He wouldn't have been there the previous day and he won't be there the next, when his place will be taken by another refugee with another story.

An elderly English couple was walking towards me.
'Just look at them hanging about,' the man grumbled. 'That's all they ever do. Just hang about ...'

Strange, isn't it?
We were looking in the same direction but seeing very different things.
I saw a fellow human being.
He saw a problem.
I saw a victim.
He saw a scrounger.

I wonder what that young man saw when he looked at us ...


Sharon J said...

Good god! What are they supposed to do other than 'hang about'? Some people and there bloody judgemental minds really rile me!

Every time I meet somebody like you, Debi, it makes my heart feel happier.

Debi said...

I find it so upsetting, Sharon. His words stayed with me all day and I was only relieved the young guy wouldn't have understood.

I'm sure he will have recognised the hate-filled expression on the other man's face though ...

As I always say, the real enemy is fear which blinds people to the humanity of others.

riverwillow said...

Sharon and Debi I am so with you. If I hear another person muttering about "the bloody [whichever ethnic group the Daily Mail is banging on about] hanging around on benefits" I will scream and scream (an adult response I know!). Why can't they see that these are just people like us - a bit good, a bit bad, and a but confused - but most of them have experienced things that are beyond our comprehension and like us that want to live in a place they feel safe.

Sharon J said...

People seem to forget that it's only by sheer accident that we happened to be born in a relatively peaceful and wealthy country. The tables could so easily have been turned.