The smile of a stranger...

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
Trip End Dec 19, 2009

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Flag of Bulgaria  , Oblast Sofiya-Grad,
Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday was a truly special day. Rich, Sophia and Lizzie were invited to take some presents to Sofia's refugee centre in the suburb of Busmansi. Once again this visit was organised by some of Tedy’s friends and we gladly accompanied them together with a good selection of gifts for the individuals and families that are effectively imprisoned there.

It was very humbling to meet so many people fleeing the violence in Iraq, especially Mohammed and his family. Mohammed is a mathematician, as is his wife and he had his young child, Susu, and his sister with her twin five year old daughters with him too. Mohammed’s brother-in-law had been killed on the streets of Baghdad and so the family took the tough decision to leave for the sake of the children and try and start a new life elsewhere. Only one camera was allowed on the premises but as soon as we have pics we will show you just how pleased all the families were to receive the presents that we gave them.

We also met a guy called Shams, a 28 year old Kurd who left Syria, despite a university education, because he, like so many Kurds, has no official papers and cannot get a job there. Many of these guys are considered as potential terrorists by Bulgarian authorities and many have been kept indefinitely in Busmansi simply because nobody is sure what to do with them. Those that do get legal representation have to wait months for even the slightest progress, although there has recently been a change to the law to make sure that people can only be kept there for a maximum of 18 months. These men were very happy to receive the simple gift bags that had been made for them but Shams was very disturbed and kept asking me "why does God not love me?" and “why am I here in Busmansi?”. We eventually persuaded him to take a gift bag (mainly toiletries) but he left with one of the saddest looks in his eyes of anybody I have met.

On our way out of the centre, as the guards locked the steel gates to the entrance hall behind us I heard my name being called out from high above. It was Shams from a third floor window. He threw me a letter scrawled on a piece of scrap paper. I won’t tell you of everything that he wrote but I will share this, from half way through the letter:

“I am coming to Europe.... to save my life. Thanks for the gift. I am happy because I saw your smiles in your face”.
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