A refugee’s story doesn’t always get laid out on the table. Sometimes they are revealed one piece at a time. Letting them out more quickly threatens to break a dam of closely held feelings. The tasks at hand are getting oriented, adapting, and surviving in unfamiliar territory. The pull of home is strong. A life has been left behind and with it people, places, and comfort.
Sometimes a story bursts forth. It’s been held like breath in a tunnel. The first shaft of light lets it go.
At the end of a shift at the Help Ukraine, Valencia shop a middle aged woman arrived. She had a lot to say. The woman came to Valencia at the urging of her daughter. Her house in Ukraine was still standing. Everything surrounding her house had been reduced to rubble. The bombs had stopped. Her house was empty.
“Someone will move into my house and take it! That leaves me with nothing. I don’t want to be stuck in Spain relying on others!
My daughter tells me to stay, but I will go home! I want to sit in my kitchen and drink tea.”
The Sheriff of Mariupol:
The Sheriff tried to teach me the proper way to fold a plastic bag. I laughed and said, “Nunca!” He smiled. Then he got busy. The Sheriff never sits still. There is always something that needs to be done, done again, and redone.
One day I looked over his shoulder as he shared a video from Mariupol. Somewhere in the translation I missed that it was a video of his home. All I could see were fallen doorways and brutal piles of rocks.
The Sheriff saw memories…the door that wasn’t there, a warm greeting, steam from a pot on the stove. He wiped his eyes and went for a walk.
A Soldier’s Family:
A handsome and very busy 4 year old found a plastic sword on the shop’s toy shelf. His swordplay was carefully choreographed. I’ve seen the same moves outside of our window in Seattle, Washington. I don’t know what young boys are watching, but they all make the same moves and sound effects when they imitate it.
This 4 year old stopped slaying imaginary dragons every few minutes to check on the baby in the carriage. He’d wave and smile sweetly at his sibling.
Busy 4 year olds are exhausting. You never know what they are going to get into. I let this kid’s grandmother know I thought he was delightful, and very intelligent. She smiled in agreement. Then she turned on her phone to share her small family’s experience.
She played a video showing her beautiful cottage home. The soundtrack was a constant barrage of artillery fire. The small group of volunteers who watched that video swallowed hard.
Then with great pride the woman showed us a photo of a young man in full battle gear. He was standing in a Ukrainian field cradling his rifle. It was her son. We looked around the room to his wife, infant, his 4 year old son, his mother…
There were no words. There were tears in our eyes, and a clear understanding of the cost of war.
Help Ukraine, Valencia! New refugees arrive in Valencia every week. More are finding their way to Help Ukraine, Valencia. The mission is to provide food, clothing, basic necessities, and welcome. If you can help, please message Donna. She’s accepting donations from the U.S. through Zelle. Thanks!