Once we were talking about young generation of Kurdistan – he told me he doesn´t agree with patriarchy there and that his generation try to change it. We started to talk about feminism and he told me he is a feminist – it is funny, because in my country there is very few men who would said this about themselves, even in my generation
Zuzana Lenhartov :: Age 28 :: Czech Republic :: Sociologist
It bothered me to just watch the suffering of people fleeing the war, refused by politicians and part of the public of my country and of the European Union. I wanted to help them somehow and show to Czech people that refugees are human beeings, not only some “refugee wave” or “tsunami,” as they see in newspapers. I did it also for myself – I don´t want to look back in time after few years and have to be ashamed that I just watched everything and did not rise against it.
I started helping since September 2015, when I went to volunteer in Roszke, Hungary. With few other volunteers I started the organisation “Pomáháme lidem na útěku/Czech team” (http://plnu.cz/). We sent more than 3,000 volunteers to different sites on the Balkan route, where help was needed (Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Greece). We are doing an informational service for our volunteers. I came to Idomeni two times: first was only for a week in March, and the second time was for 16 days in the beginning of April. I had to go back in Czech Republic and lead the organisation; communicate with volunteers, donors, media etc, so unfortunately I couldn’t stay there more, although I really wanted. I´m planning to come back in the summer.
What reactions did you get from family and friends before coming? My boyfriend, my friends and colleagues supported my decision to come there, they are really nice (especially my boyfriend- it really requires great patience, because I have no free time since September 2015). But with the family it isn´t so easy – my mother and sister help me, but my father does not support the refugees. So we aren´t talking about it, it´s kind of a taboo. My grandmother believes to the media image of refugees and Muslims and is scared every time I go volunteering. She believes they will kill me or rape me. I´m trying to explain her the real situation, but I´m not very successful with it.
An influential / defining moment you had on the Island or Idomeni. The feeling of hopelessness, “No future.” Abnormal situation, where people are forced to stay in muddy field in humiliationg conditions and nobody knows what to do, how to care about your family and children…. I could have seen my self in this place, if I was less lucky and born in a different country than I did- it could have been me. One very nice experience I had was when I went for a walk to the hills above the Idomeni with one of my refugee friends. “Walk out of that shit for a while”, as he said. We were walking and talking about the nature in our homelands, about mountains, about food, about the political situation, patriarchy and feminism… it was a glimpse of normality in those abnormal conditions.
I was terribly dissapointed about Europe and its resignation to human rights. It seems Europe in my imagination was much better than it really is. But I confirmed my opinion it doesn´t matter on religion, nationality, etnicity… There are good people and there are bad people. And even in such a terrible condition you can find friends and extraordinary solidarity. Solidarity between volunteers and refungees was the most beautiful thing I saw in Idomeni, and it gave me faith in humanity again.
Have you experienced moments of crisis or trauma?
I’m doing this for a long time, so this experience wasn´t new for me, so I haven´t experienced any trauma or crisis, I just experienced an anger. I felt a rage – How can we let this be happening to people fleeing a war?
Do you remember anyone in particular among refugees or volunteers? Yes, I remember many people- refugees who were helping us in the warehouse, volunteers who were coming for donations for distribution, great people from Czech team… Although it sounds weird, Idomeni is a place where friendships are born easily.
A special friend is S. He is refugee from Kurdistan and he was in Idomeni with his wife and their small son. He speaks very good english, so he was our “informant” about the situation and news in Idomeni. I really liked him – He was clever, and had very good overview of the political situation and the situation of refugees in Idomeni (it also means he had no hope about opening the borders). He wanted to get to Great Britain, because his friends from childhood live there and he knows they will help him.
We were talking everyday for two or more hours and it was really refreshing – We both wanted to talk about something else that refugees, borders and volunteers, So we were talking like “normal” friends about normal things – about friendship, our countries, our favourite food… Once we were talking about young generation of Kurdistan – he told me he doesn´t agree with patriarchy there and that his generation try to change it. We started to talk about feminism and he told me he is a feminist – it is funny, because in my country there is very few men who would said this about themselves, even in my generation. But we have lot of men who think Muslims are agreesive opressors supressing women´s rights smile emoticon
What are you taking with you back home? I´m very determined to change the situation of refugees as much as I can. I´ll try (with my Czech volunteer friends) to change the public opinion and media coverage of this crisis, as we are trying since September 2015. We sometimes have an oportunity to talk with Czech politicians, so we will try to change their mind and convince them to start helping refugees much more than Czech republic do now. And of course, I´ll work for our volunteer organisation and try to make the situation of refugees better in the places, where they actually are.