Last Saturday at our church, we had an event that was part of a series on Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. That particular night was about Goodness, specifically how even through difficult circumstances, there is a lot of good to be found. That night a family of five (most especially the mother) presented their story of fleeing Ukraine as refugees of the current war. I was intrigued to hear about their experience, especially since my parents were refugees from Hungary around 1946.
While the mom was speaking, I found myself on the verge of tears several times. Throughout the talk, she cited Bible verses that had given her encouragement. She talked about their decision to leave Ukraine, which included leaving her parents behind. It took them five days to reach the border, with hundreds or thousands of cars creeping along the roads. Many people along the way offered them food and clothing. Gas stations gave out a limited supply of fuel. When they did reach the border, others helped them with paperwork, etc., and they entered into Poland.
Soon after, they were offered beds and showers at a convent. It was their first safe place where they could rest and get cleaned up. That was another highlight of the goodness of others. In five more days, they were able to come to the United States. They received a lot of help, during the total of these ten days, from the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, of which the father is a member. Eventually the mother’s parents also came to the United States, in an even shorter time frame.
After the talk, I approached the mother to thank her for coming, and mentioned that my parents had been Hungarian refugees. Then I started crying and had to quickly escape. After so many years, and the fact that my PARENTS, not me, were refugees, I didn’t understand why I was reacting so strongly, and perhaps I never will. I was amazed that after the Ukrainian family’s ordeal, the mother was able to stand in front of an audience and not break down.
I won’t go into it much here, but I thought of many reasons why my parents situation was a bit different and possibly more traumatic, but not necessarily. For one, it was a much longer process for them; they were refugees for perhaps five years, not ten days. Their travel to the United States was much longer; perhaps about two months by boat and train; no jets for them! But there could be other reasons: emotional, family background, financial, and other factors.
In the end, I’m very grateful that the United States accepted them and that I’m here today.