20 September 2015

Refugees welcome

A man lived with his wife and two dogs and three cats in a village in the north of Germany. He ran a small business and in his spare time he took out his pony and trap, driving the long straight field tracks among cows and corn.

When he found out that his village of 500 inhabitants was going to house 27 refugees in a house next door, instead of worrying about terrorists and crime and headscarves he volunteered to organise a donation drive. The council would provide the house with beds and refrigerators and wardrobes, the bare minimum, and the village would provide the rest.

Within two weeks the villagers had collected crockery, TVs, sofas, towels, games and mops, coffee machines and bedside lamps and blankets and spare bedding. Everything in fact that makes a dormitory into a home. One evening twenty people arrived to unpack and sort, to carry furniture and stock kitchen cupboards, to hang pictures and set up stereos. By the end of the evening the three flats in the house had been made homely, welcoming. They are now organising German lessons, driving rotas and legal help. The man is my brother. I am very proud of him.
I am currently writing a book about my mother's wartime experience. The centre piece is turning out to be their fearful evacuation to the east of Germany and her return home in flight ahead of the Russian army.
In 1945 she walked, separated from her parents and sister, hundreds of kilometres to escape the devastation, dependent on the kindness of strangers. She was twelve. She died last year. I like to think our support for refugees today is also done in her memory.