During my Easter visit to Potsdam, I met I., a young mother and sales manager from Odesa in Ukraine. Her husband is a sailor who was in Turkey when the war broke out. He was able to fly from there to Germany. I. and her young daughter had to flee by land, first to Moldova.
I. says she was shocked by the poverty in Moldova – still, the people of Chișinău took care of them in a very warm and caring way. «You could live well in Ukraine», she says. «Ukraine is a rich country.» She has worked in the grain trade and knows the resources of her homeland. But she also talks about the culture, about the numerous art that exists in cities like Odessa. When she was fleeing from the war, she traveled by train, bus, and car. From Moldova through Romania, then Hungary, Austria to Potsdam. She is lucky because almost all the people close to her were able to flee and are now in Germany. She went to Potsdam because a good friend of her mother, who emigrated a long time ago, lives there. She spends her days on the phone, exchanging ideas with friends, her sister, and her husband, who has moved on to Poland, hoping to find work there again. She goes for walks with her daughter, who has a toothache and needs to be treated. She also runs errands and takes care of her appointments at the social welfare offices and at the kindergarten. She is looking for employment. She and her daughter received a lot of help. I. says she is happy because she understood only later how dangerous her escape was. She could not even have imagined that women and children are threatened by violence, exploitation, and human trafficking while fleeing. When I asked her what her perspective was, she said that she lives without perspective and that for the first time in her life she doesn’t have a plan. Many of her acquaintances said that the war might end in June, but how and what would happen then? «I feel like I’ve suddenly woken up. I’m only in the here and now.» And then we continue to talk about Potsdam and its palaces and gardens and that I., as long as she is here, wants to go to Dresden, because the Semperoper and the opera house in Odesa look like siblings.
(This text is a small dedication to a woman and child and their small story within the great history of the world.)
Cover Image Johnny Cohen from Unsplash – Translation: Monika Werner