War and refugees: evil will not have the last word

War and refugees: evil will not have the last word


The first-person account of a volunteer who lives on the Fernetti border (Trieste, Italy) with Slovenia. The embrace of an entire community of Ukrainian refugees.

Source: Città Nuova

I live a few kilometres from the border where the Ukrainian refugees are arriving. I wondered what I could do and, first of all, I wanted to see how the reception had been set up in the same hotel where years earlier I had taught Italian as a volunteer to Afghan and Pakistani refugees.

So I go to the place and find out that some people have started to welcome incoming people so that they can use the bathrooms and offer them a hot drink, water, juice, sweets, apples stuffed animals and toys…

As soon as the buses enter they are stopped to check the passengers. It’s only then are they allowed to disembark. While providence is set in motion, in a splendid way Police, Carabinieri, Unicef, Civil Defence and the UN Refugee Agency play different but very important roles.

Those, like me, who knew the manager of the premises, made themselves available immediately, and they organized themselves in a group by word of mouth who availed themselves 24 hours a day.  Those who can speak Ukrainian, Russian, English, others bring needed items, others again give their time and cars for rides. It is a continuous supplying of goods that are given with smiles and the word of thanks in many languages. 

One lady leaves me with big bags of nappies, snacks and juices, telling me that she has received an inheritance of money and thought she would use it for this.

Through a friend, three people from the Adventist Church arrive. They are very sensitive and socially active and so one of them, of Ukrainian origin but in Italy for many years, makes herself available together with her daughter.

A young Ukrainian man makes himself available for the night but he doesn’t have a car: how do we get to Fernetti?

“I’ll pick him up”. He’s doing a doctorate in Trieste. He is from Lviv. We talk about his country and we try to understand, to listen to our versions, our perplexities, our thoughts. I stay with him until midnight to help.

I realise that special care must also be taken for cleaning the bathrooms; after the ins and outs of a flood of people. After washing and disinfected them, in the evening I see that they are almost as presentable as in the morning, I never expected that!

What a pain to cross the eyes of mothers with their children!  An old woman gets off the bus with difficulty. She is crying, she has a head cover on her head and she is in her dressing gown: she throws herself at my neck, I cry with her, we say nothing to each other.

I receive the heartfelt embrace of a boy of perhaps 12 years old who, unable to speak my language, with this outburst thanks me for my help, and makes me realise that we can hope for a better world.

We manage to get hot soup for mothers and children who have been travelling for two days.

We need to organize for covid tests for everyone because they do not continue immediately to another destination in Italy, but stop in Trieste one night at a parish: a doctor friend makes himself available.

An elderly couple, however, cannot find accommodation: they come to our house and the next morning we accompany them to take the train to Naples where their two children and grandchildren are waiting for them.

During dinner they open up. He speaks Italian with a Neapolitan accent, she is of Russian origin. They come from Kircuk. Ten days in a shelter underground, having escaped during the bombing of the houses next to theirs, they are alive by a miracle.

We courage each other, knowing that as long as there are people ready to see in the other person a brother, evil will not have the last word.

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