When loss arrives, if I’m lucky I’m prepared for it. My mother-in-law died at the start of the summer, and we were at her side when she passed. But usually I’m not at all prepared. A vibrant friend from high school died in July, one week before I was going to see her in the States. A month later my father passed away suddenly, just short of his 85th birthday. I was reeling from the losses when I returned to Germany.
I went as I have, once a week for exactly a year, to do massage therapy for a refugee woman I’ve called M. I need my routines back. I have to resume the comforting familiarity of work and my ‘normal’ life.
We meet for a single session. But when I show up the following week, I knock and see the chair outside the door where I always sit to take off my shoes has been removed. I knock again and peer into the apartment. Someone’s taken down the sheets of vocabulary words from the kitchen wall. Still no one comes to the door. Finally I press the buzzer, something I never do because M is hypersensitive to any sudden loud noises.
“They’re gone.” I turn and see a neighbor refugee (Nigerian? Sudanese?). In broken German she explains, “The police came last Tuesday in the middle of the night and took them. They’re gone,” she repeats. “They were sent back to Kosovo.” 
The flood of refugees reaching Europe includes people from earlier wars (like M). In the scramble to provide services for millions of people who have lost everything, hard decisions have to be made about who is allowed to stay. For example, economic hardship isn’t accepted as grounds for asylum. Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and other countries have been declared safe places of origin. And now that the Kosovo ‘conflict’ has resolved, most asylum seekers from that region are sent back.
M and her family applied for years to be recognized as refugees. M’s fragile physical and psychological state were part of the reason they had been allowed to remain this long. But in a midnight action, officials came and woke the family, giving them an hour to pack their belongings.  They were taken to the airport and put on a plane.
I’m really at a loss for how to respond. I sympathize with the officials. Germany takes in more refugees than any other country in Europe. Even the little town I live in received over 600 refugees last year. But it’s another person ripped from my life. Death is final; so is deportation. 
I went home, contacted the Town Hall, and told them I’m prepared to offer free therapy for a new refugee. The need still remains, and I still want to help if I can.
NOTES:  In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. M’s family speaks Albanian.  The deportation of asylum seekers who have their applications turned down take place in the middle of the night without warning. This is to prevent refugees from going underground or into hiding.  They won’t be allowed to enter a European Union country for the next three years.
***POST SCRIPT***: I’m about to start massage therapy for a refugee from Iraq. She and her husband fled last year with their family, but had to leave a baby behind.
10 thoughts on “Loss. Helping Refugees: Part 7”
I’m so sorry for all your recent losses Jadi. Very little really prepares you for such an event especially when it’s a parent you expect to live forever.
I’m so sorry for your new client. Having to leave a baby behind must be terrifying.
xxx Huge Hugs xxx
Your message makes me aware that yes, somehow I did expect my father was going to live forever. Or go on for a whole lot longer anyway. Maybe that’s the blessing in disguise: he died suddenly, went without pain, and was still filled with plans for the future! Big hugs back to you David. xo
So sorry to hear of your losses, my friend! I was also hoping to see our friend from High School, only to hear of her death the week before we left for a vacation in the northwest. It was a shock to my system as well, having known her since kindergarten! I am sorry to hear of the loss of your parents as well. Both of my parents died the same year…it remains in my top ten list of difficult years in my past. I will pray for peace and a sense of balance to return to you! What a heart wrenching story of deportation!! With all you said of M, I am sure the shock was especially hard for her. I hope she recovers, though I know you will never hear of it if she does. That is the harder part of the story, the wondering….loss in death is easier to process than the open ended loss of deportation.
Diana, when aged parents die it’s hard, but it’s a part of life. And the disappearance of M is exactly like you describe it, an open-ended loss. But when Lisa died it was like the world suddenly ripped open. What a great thing that you had been friends since kindergarten! She was a bright light that will shine on for a very long time. My sense of balance is slowly returning, and your prayers are deeply welcomed…
These are heart wrenching stories. My grandparents emigrated from Germany. They never did learn English. I hope they were treated better than we treat emigrants today. I hope M is doing ok. Going back can’t be easy.
I’ll probably never know how the story of M and her family ends from here. But I was part of it for a short, intense year.
Oh, Jadi, this is too familiar. Too many people are uprooted, then uprooted again. Too much violence. Too many deaths.
May this change of seasons bring you a sense of peace and ease, even in a deranged world.
Change of seasons. Yes, please….
A very emotive post, Jadi. Loss strikes most of us at some point, and is very difficult to digest. I also empathize with the plight of the refugees. Here in Greece they are still arriving in their hundreds daily. But we also have a lot of economic immigrants, (Filipinos, Pakistanis, Kurds, Georgians) who are struggling to make a life. The ones I know have work, and a salary, but they are still far from home, from another culture and speaking another language ( greek is not easy to learn). My heart goes out to them…
As an American living aboard I know first-hand how difficult it is to learn a foreign language and go through the long slow process of assimilating. I did this through choice (and out of love), not economic need or because of war. So I have a teeny, tiny idea of what the refugees face.
The rest of us need to respond with compassion if we can — because the situation is not going to go away.