What we saw at Keleti

Tom Illmensee
Sep 3, 2015 · 2 min read

Tonight my daughter Iris and I walked to Keleti station, the transport terminal in Budapest that is currently home to thousands of refugees from Syria, Turkey and Afghanistan.

Iris carried a huge bag of apples and oranges (we nearly cleared the inventory at the market). I carried another huge bag with juice boxes, granola bars, candies and toys.

We met families. Mothers who smiled at us with their eyes. Fathers who beamed with pride. Children who laughed and said “thank you.” Old people who — despite their weariness — seemed to us the strongest people on earth.

The fruit went fast. And each piece we handed out was met with kind smiles and heartfelt thanks.

The juice was very popular. Such relief in the eyes of each person who approached us. These are 89 HUF orange juice boxes — and they were like little miracles to the families who got them.

The granola bars went fast. We handed them out like batons at a relay race.

The fruity candy went to kids between 5–16. Or to their mothers with a wink from me — meaning that I understood they may come in handy later.

The toys! My friend Lacika predicted we would be swarmed. And we were. I have never seen such delight over a tiny plastic tiger.

Iris and I waded through the tent city under the station on the Metro level. It’s stuffy. And filthy. And buzzing with love. Above ground, under the lights of the international media we stood amongst the protestors. A banner was carried high: “We want peace.” Someone waved a Hungarian flag nearby.

A family of six sat on the ground about five meters from the train terminal. The mother begged her 6-year old to stop hitting her on the head with a pink balloon. The eight-year old tickled the two-year old. Dad wandered from their camp to the protest zone.

A buffed and polished reporter stood poised with his microphone. A boy about 5 walked over with a sign made from a pizza box: “Help us save our children from homelessness.” The camera guy pointed the camera at the reporter, but his eyes were on the kid.

If you’re able, support a family at Keleti — and anywhere else refugee families are camped. Let them know there’s love for them as they travel along the strange and often lonely road.

Photo credit: BBC.com


Tom Illmensee

Agile researcher. Lean designer. Musician with a telecaster. Husband. Father. Truth-seeker. Always in random order.

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