On 18 Dec 2014 Fondacija “ACT Foundation” (ACT Serbia) team visited the asylum seekers (from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Morocco and other countries) transiting through Serbia in search of a better life.
At their temporary accommodation (if one can use that word for the dilapidated old brick factory with no windows) in Serbia they find themselves in appalling living conditions, especially now that the winter has set in.
It was around 10am on 18 Dec when our ACT Serbia team arrived to the abandoned brick factory at the very entrance to the northern city of Subotica with several bags full of winter coats, sweaters and socks. In an instant, we saw 30+ asylum seekers (mainly young or mid age men) who politely walked towards us. Most of them were from Afghanistan, fleeing from the Taliban. The scene was truly touching. They were overjoyed to see the warm clothes and quietly, with dignity, distributed the same among themselves. Soon we saw some beautiful smiles and initiated conversation with some of them who speak English to find out more about their life’s journey.
We mainly spoke with one young man whose command of English was perfect. He said that he used to work as an Interpreter for the Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, but after they left the country his life became miserable. His father was killed by the Taliban and he decided to flee the country altogether and embrace the asylum seeker’s life of uncertainty in total surrender. We were pleasantly surprised by their politeness and smiles regardless of their desperate condition. They told us they have been walking for days and that now, at this brick factory, there is no place for them to even sit down, not to mention to sleep. It is also very cold so sometimes they light a camp fire and stand around it. “We just keep on walking in order to keep warm”. There is no food, no water, no toilet facility of any sort – they are just surviving.. Then one of them said “God will help us” and the others nodded – this truly touched our hearts.
Biba Mohan, President of ACT, said: “As we were about to leave, my daughter sent them a flying kiss. I observed the expression in their eyes – in that very moment, time stopped and the world seemed perfect…. This is the magic of love and service. More than the winter clothes it was the human touch, expression of love and support beyond all barriers that warmed their hearts. This is the spirit of ACT. I am proud of our team. “
We did not know what to expect and thus requested one of our male friends to join us. Later on, one of the ACT volunteers went back on her own and purchased and distributed hearty meals for all of the asylum seekers. Overall, this initiative left a deep impression on all of us.
ACT Serbia will continue gathering used clothes and donations for the asylum seekers, but we also hope to inspire and invite other citizens of Serbia to visit this venue (which is literally several minutes by car from the entrance to Subotica), express their love and support, and donate whatever little they can.
A lot of food will be wasted during upcoming days of festivity – let us not forget that just around the corner there are people who are starving and freezing in the cold!
ACT Serbia team