I enjoyed being at Torwar very much. Always on my feet, always running around doing useful things, helping people, co-ordinating the many tasks and the many volunteers at our venue. I didn’t interact with the refugees that much, because for the most part they wanted to be left alone. On some occasions, they’d ask us for help, but they didn’t really look for company – they either fled with family or made friends on the way, so we provided them with things they needed, rather than hang out with them. Although I did make some friends among the refugees too, spent a bit of time chatting to them and trying to help in other ways.
For example, I befriended a young woman traveling alone with two cats. I started chatting to her because I’m a huge cat person, and that was how I found out that she was all alone. I was very concerned, as she didn’t know where to go and didn’t have anybody abroad. I gave her all the safety precautions and safe contacts we had access to. Her only plan was to get on the first train she can catch, which happened to be going to Prague. She was lucky to end up in Brno and I follow her Instagram story every day. She is safe and sound, made friends with refugees and locals in Brno and sometimes posts happy picture of her new ‘family’ sightseeing and having lattes.
Fortunately (for the refugees), Torwar will cease to serve as a reception point from 8 April. This is because we experienced a big drop in the number of refugees coming to us and the few who remained were transferred elsewhere.
I do miss Torwar every day though, I miss being needed and being able to help, and I miss the wonderful atmosphere. The trust and co-operation, the ever-present selfless willingness to help, the friendship sprouting everywhere naturally and effortlessly and the gratefulness from our refugees… but of course I am happy that we no longer need to run this place. This means that we don’t have as many people in need anymore, which must be a good thing. Let’s just hope it stays this way.
In hindsight, I do realise that I was lucky, and my job was easy. Both because I worked at a transit point/reception point/or a sleepery, as I call it, but also because the first wave of refugees was made up of those who, as we say it, had somewhere to go. They either had the resources or the connections abroad, so they could afford the luxury of fleeing. The real disaster will hit when the poor and the hopeless will flood Poland – the refugees running away having experienced the war, as opposed to running away before it.
This is not to undermine the tragedy of what ‘my’ refugees experienced. There were some dramatic cases in there too. But luckily, the vast majority of people I worked with, managed to safely escape and moved on elsewhere. I am so grateful that we could help them and that they are safe and sound now and I hope things will stay this way.
I leave you with a picture I took on my last day, when I walked around the venue to say goodbye to it and all the memories made there. I hope to visit Torwar some time again soon, hopefully in completely different circumstances.