Text: Erika Tasini
Photographs: Christine Pawlata
Video: Pablo Ferro (cinematography) and Ivan Antic (sound recording)
The stones on the ancient ring bathe in a soft Autumnal light as Ildiko proudly puts it on her finger and smiles. It’s a gorgeous piece of jewellery, but that’s not the reason why she’s so attached to it.
A biologist and an activist based in the Hungarian border town of Szeged, Ildiko has met many refugees during her years of volunteering. Yet, the Afghan family who gave her this gift has left an indelible trace in her life.
Two families were travelling together, but Ildiko initially met only one: a little girl and her parents, in the company of one more man, were sitting at the city’s main train station. The Hungarian volunteer hurried them to catch a train to Northern Hungary before their 24 hours travelling pass would be over, but they would not take off. The Afghan woman, an English teacher, told Ildiko that they were waiting for their concerned friend’s wife and 6-year-old sick daughter. Disheartened, the woman had no idea of where they might have been taken, due to the girl’s illness.
“I immediately phoned an ex-colleague now working at the children’s hospital and we were able to locate the little girl and her mother” says ildiko. She went to see them at once, but since they couldn’t speak English, communication was not exactly easy. Only when Ildiko repeatedly pronounced the name of her English Instructor, was the girl’s mother finally able to open up.
“If you’re in a foreign country, in a difficult situation, and you do not speak the language, it’s really hard trust anyone.” Ildiko is talking about the Afghan mother. Yet, she is really describing every migrant’s tough circumstances.
When Kimia -- that was the name of the little girl -- was released from the hospital, Ildiko picked her up and brought the two families together. Finally reunited, they were ready to continue their journey. “As I was driving them to the train station” she says “they told me they were hoping to reach Germany, where they had family”.
Just as Ildiko was saying goodbye, the teacher insisted on giving her a ring, the only thing she carried with her along her trip. The Afghan woman wanted to express her gratitude, but there was one more reason why Ildiko should have it:
Surprised and overcome with emotions, Ildiko accepted the present, but, in hindsight, she now questions whether it was a good idea. She feels that the ring, since it was the only memory of her grandmother, was too important for the woman to give away. So, instead of wearing it, she now carries it inside her bag everywhere she goes. “I might meet them again.” she says” and I’d have the chance to give it back - truly a dream come true! ”
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