Day 8: Central Bus Station


Sunday, 27. Sep 2015

Yesterday evening I was at the central bus station from 8pm until midnight working both as a volunteer helper and an Arabic translator. I only had a few smaller encounters. There were also a large number of Afghanis around, with whom I cannot converse as their language is different.

First encounter

As I arrived, a young Afghani minor was sitting with a group of volunteers. He was supposed to be taking a train to Zurich the next morning at 7am where relatives were going to meet him. He had originally tried to take the bus to Zurich but the driver would not allow him to board on his own because he lacked the required documentation. By coincidence there was a group of other people waiting for a bus to Zurich at the time. We asked a group of young women on their way home from the Oktoberfest whether they would be prepared to accompany the young man to Zurich – we had been informed that underage persons could travel without a passport if they are accompanied by an adult – and they agreed. We arranged for a telephone translator to tell the young man of his luck in his own language – nobody present at the station spoke Farsi. The young Afghani was able to board the bus together with the adults with no further ado. I asked the woman accompanying him to let me know when they had safely reached Zurich.

Second encounter

Another Tunisian volunteer and I started looking around for refugees in order to offer them something to eat or drink. We meet two young Syrians from Halab. They would have liked to travel to Holland but there were no free spaces on any buses for another two days. One of the young Syrians had been travelling for two weeks, the other already for 45 days. We had a long conversation about the best and fastest way to reach Holland. At one point one of them asked me:

  • Are you from a Help Organisation?
  • No, we are volunteers
  • I thought you might be because of your clothes (we are wearing green soccer/football net vests over our jackets) We are wearing these so that we can be recognised. They look terrible, we know!
  • No, it’s ok. We have seen crazier things.
  • What do you mean by that?
  • Well, there’s some kind of festival going on here.
  • The Oktoberfest?
  • Yes, I think so. There are a lot of strange people walking around.
  • Ah – yes. You will see a lot of things which are strange to you in Germany.
  • Oh yes, we’ve already seen some weird and wonderful things.

A bit later, the two of them turned up at the volunteer stand and ask whether they can help us at all. One of them said:

  • You helped us arrange our bus. I would like to make it up to you.
  • We’d like to help you back get safely to your destination. Then you can help your people there. There isn’t much to do here at the moment. We’ll be going home soon ourselves.
  • People have been extremely helpful. Some even came to Hungary to help us. Even tourists in Greece were helping us. But, you know, sometimes I am ashamed. Not because I am a refugee, but because of the way some other refugees are behaving.
  • What do you mean?
  • Some don’t behave themselves. They don’t even throw their litter away.
  • Take a look at the Oktoberfest visitors – they make just as much mess.
  • They’re drunk and don’t know what they are doing. We are sober and do. We should behave ourselves.

Third encounter

Three young Syrian men were waiting for a bus. One of them was an air-conditioner technician, one a car mechanic and the other a bodybuilder. Their shoes were in a state, so we organised new pairs of shoes for each of them. One of the three took me aside and said to me:

  • I would like to put some money towards the shoes
  • But the shoes were donated
  • I didn’t come here as a beggar – I don’t like the feeling (he sounds a little down)
  • Listen, brother. Everything here was donated. You make sure that you get where you need to get and settle in first. Once you have done that, go out and help the others who follow after you.
  • God bless you, brother, thank you! Please tell the others thank you, too! “Danke vielmals, Thank you. Thank you.”


I returned home at midnight and continued to work on an article I am writing. At 3am I finally went to bed. Just as I was closing my eyes my mobile vibrated with an incoming text message. I took a look – it was a message from the young woman telling me: “The young man has arrived safely in Zurich.”

Translated by Elaine Cole


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