December 17, 2015

ADRA Volunteers Hear Harrowing Stories in Slovenia

Trans-European Division

Volunteers with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency heard harrowing stories daily as they provided basic supplies over the past two months to 110,000 migrants in Slovenia, a major entry point to Europe in the continent’s migrant crisis.

As they handed out food, water, personal hygiene products, and warm clothes at the railroad station, they met a 28-year-old Syrian migrant who told how seven members of his family were beheaded because they were Kurds.

The migrant shared how one relative had to witness her daughters being killed. The remaining 13 members of his family decided to flee to Europe.

“All we want is a normal life,” he told the ADRA volunteers as he gratefully accepted food and water.

Such stories motive the volunteers. One Adventist retiree has volunteered three times a week for 12 hours at a time since the beginning of the migrant crisis earlier this year.

“I’m retired so I have time. Besides that, I love working with people and the co-volunteers here are great,” he said.

He said every day is different and he does actually experience pleasant moments. But he added: “Some days are just shocking. And those shocks stay with you for a while.”

The volunteers met another Syrian family who left for Egypt two years ago. The father was a civil engineer but could not find work. In desperation, the family decided to head to Germany.

One of the family members, a young man, turned to the girl next to him and said: “This is my love. We have been happy together for the last two years. We’re waiting for our whole family to be safe in one place, and then we will get married.”

Like other ADRA offices around Europe, ADRA Slovenia is a donor office, providing support to Greece and Serbia. It is just one of the many ADRA offices and other humanitarian groups providing help in Lesbos, Greece; Dunkirk and Calais in France; and almost everywhere in-between.

As of late November, 280,940 migrants had entered Slovenia this calendar year. They are still coming despite the winter weather. Almost half of them pass through Brežice-Dobova, the area where ADRA Slovenia is concentrating its efforts. Here ADRA volunteers collect and sort in-kind donations, with personal hygiene products and baby products getting a high priority. ADRA Slovenia has a primary responsibility for taking care of refugees at the train station in Dobova, where most migrants enter Slovenia and are registered.

The volunteers and coordinators deliver and distribute basic supplies to around 3,000 people per 12-hour shift, although the numbers of migrants are declining because of the cold weather. The last two weeks in November saw ADRA care for 30,464 people. The total for October and November reached 110,000 people.

Each of those numbers is a story, a story of fear, despair, and now of hope — even with an uncertain future, volunteers said. A young man on a train told how he traveled by car, bus, boat, and train all the way from Afghanistan.

“I want to go to Germany,” he said. “We were lucky to have a real boat. The boat was crowded with 65 people, but the sea was calm, so we arrived safely. On the way we heard rumors that it’s possible we will not be able to stay in Germany and will be forced to go back to Afghanistan. But for a chance of a better life we are prepared to take that risk.”

To find out more, visit your national ADRA office website or donate on the ADRA Emergency Fund webpage.