When you live in the heart of the English countryside, as we do, it would be so easy to stop listening to the news or reading the newspapers and bury one’s head in the sand. Everything around us seems so calm and peaceful and our worries are so trivial compared to what is going on elsewhere in the world. Where, for instance, hard-working, honest people are fleeing their homes and country just to stay alive and having to seek refuge in a country where, in most cases, they do not speak the language, have never experienced the type of weather and have to rely entirely on the hospitality, kindness and generosity of local people whilst hoping that they will eventually be able to make new homes and find work to support their family and once again be happy.
My OH has recently gone out to Norway to visit and help some friends who have just built an hotel in Norway, north of Bergen, which was due to open to tourists this month. However they have had a change of plan and, more importantly, heart and are opening their doors to Syrian refugees. Oslo is currently experiencing an influx of refugees and they are struggling to house them all. So everyone is being asked to help if they can.
Yesterday evening the refugees started to arrive, having being bussed up the mountain from Oslo. They had never seen snow or experienced sub-zero temperatures. They were tired, hungry, frightened and with no feeling of hope left in their lives. They did not know what to expect and so when they arrived to be welcomed at a warm hotel, with hot meals, comfortable beds and people that wanted to help them, they were overwhelmed. Kindness in their lives has been non-existent, they have lost the ability to trust people and they have no idea when they will ever see their extended family or their country of birth again.
I don’t think many of us can imagine the level of fear they have lived under. Nor can we understand having to leave our homes with just a few things that can be carried in one small bag. Someone has given them ski clothing, the hotel owner is providing all the meals until they can be re-located to a home and found some work. How long that will take is anyone’s guess, so his generosity is limitless. There was a meeting in the village of the local residents and only one family was aggressively opposed to the refugees being there and that was because the father feared for the safety of his own daughters – he wants the refugees sent away, out of his sight and mind, so that he can continue with his peaceful life. I can’t understand that attitude but then I cannot understand the war in Syria. These refugees must be feeling so unwanted.
What I do know is that my OH has just telephoned me to say the refugees have started to smile again and one family said it was the first time they had all smiled in months – I cannot imagine not smiling in a day let alone a month. We have a long way to go to help these people and restore them to a proper life and even longer to achieve peace in the Middle East but we have to keep trying.