That Collection of Soaps

Putin and the Ukraine are the latest example in a long sad line of history. Another madman invades his neighbors.

The past repeats itself.

We watch the news each night and wonder, will Putin resort to dropping nukes? Or will he let his despot buddy Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko push the button in Belorussia? I watch the maps showing a 50 kilometer long procession of tanks heading inexorably towards Kyiv. The Ukraine is the country on the other side of Poland, which is the country on the other side of – us.

I take walks. I do the daily shopping and welcome my routines. Yesterday morning, coming around the corner I saw stacks and stacks of boxes in the plazza in front of our Town Hall. I went over and checked them out. They looked like supplies, the kind you gather and send as disaster relief or to refugee camps.

Back at home I immediately logged into our town’s Rathaus website. I guessed correctly: our town square is Ground Zero for goods to send east. The Ukrainians need sleeping bags, clothes, shoes, socks, coats, blankets, and food, and bottled water, and toys, and games, and (this one just about did me in) stuffed animals for little children.

The invaded Ukrainians need bandages and medicine and soap and toothbrushes and combs. I have a collection of these items along with pocket sewing kits, all saved in case a house guest spending the night forgot to bring their own from home.

… Or  someone in a war zone who left their house without the time to consider such mundane articles as the bombs began to fall…

I made a package and labeled everything in German and English. This morning on my way to the plaza I stopped at a bakery and bought some Butterbrezeln and belegtes Brotchen (buttered pretzels and sandwiches). The Rathaus website suggested snacks for the volunteers would be appreciated.

This morning at 9:00 workers are loading a giant transport truck. Over a dozen volunteers are packing boxes, sorting items into piles (a large one of sleeping bags). I set my little bag on a long table where a sign hung saying, Medikamenten und Hygiene. Someone directed me to place the bakery items by the coffee machine set up for the volunteers. A huge bag filled with pretzels was already there.

The transport truck in the foreground

And I’m crying as I write this, even as I think in the worst of times some people show their finest qualities.

The truck leaves tomorrow afternoon and is scheduled to arrive on the Polish-Ukrainian border on Monday. The action is organized by the Heck Spedition GmbH and the international YMCA. This is a time  to come together and give aid where we can, in whatever ways we can.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2022.

Here is the information from the Rathaus website.

Hilfstranport für ukrainische Kriegsflüchtlinge

Für einen HIlfstransport nach Medyka an der polnisch-ukrainischen Grenze sammelt die Heck Spedition GmbH, unterstützt durch den CVJM, von Mittwoch bis Freitag, 2. bis 4. März 2022, Schlafsäcke, warme Kleidung, Schuhe, Socken, neue Unterwäsche, Decken, Riegel, Babybedarf, Pampers, Spielsachen, Kuscheltiere, Bürsten, Kämme, Medikamente, Pflaster, Verbände und ähnliches.

Sie können die Sachen zu den folgenden Annahmezeiten auf dem Gerlinger Rathausplatz abgeben:

  • Mittwoch, 02.03.2022, 13.00-19.00 Uhr
  • Donnerstag, 03.03.2022, 09.00-19.00 Uhr
  • Freitag, 04.03.2022, 09.00-15.00 Uhr

Wer den Organisatoren bei Annahme, Sortieren und Verpackung, helfen möchte, kommt einfach zu den Annahmezeiten auf den Rathausplatz. Willkommen sind auch kleine Snacks zur Stärkung der Helferinnen und Helfer.

Der Transport wird am Freitag, 4. März 2022, starten und soll am Montagmorgen am Zielort eintreffen.

Kontakt: Heck Spedition GmbH, Telefonnummer 07156/43580

Wir danken allen Spenderinnen und Spendern sowie allen Helferinnen und Helfern für ihre Unterstützung an den Aktionen!

PTSD. Helping Refugees: Part 3

I go one afternoon a week to where refugees are housed and provide therapy for a woman I will call M. [1]

When I decided to take the plunge and volunteer, I had no idea what that would look like or what I’d be doing. For the last thirty years I’ve worked as a massage therapist. I’ve treated people across the health spectrum: Pregnant. Disabled. Patients during chemo and radiation therapy. Triathletes to couch potatoes. People seeking relaxation, to a man in need of pain relief years after a helicopter crash. My abilities as a therapist deepen with each person I attempt to help.

I’m licensed in both Europe and America. I kept my US credentials current by doing periodic workshops. I did this for decades, until the weekend seminars felt like I was reinventing the wheel.

I briefly considered doing massage with the aged after we put my mother-in-law in a nursing home near us. But my grief as I accompany Mama in the twilight of her life makes it too personal. When I learned a refugee needed massage, it seemed like the perfect way to stretch myself as a therapist and as a human being.

M. and her family fled from an earlier war zone; they’ve been in my village for over a year. M. is severely traumatized. She existed in a catatonic state for many months. Loud or sudden noises trigger panic attacks and migraines and a voice moaning in her head. Her entire body is a field of pain. Most movement is agony.

Within minutes of beginning our initial massage, M. began sobbing. She cries through every single session. It’s ‘just’ nerves.

No one in her family will tell me her story. I have bits and pieces, cobbled together from talking with her doctor and the volunteer organization. She discovered a dead body.  Was it suicide, or murder? Was it a family member? She was raped more than once. Twice, ten times, one hundred? One man or many? Someone known to her? Looters? Soldiers?

Like I say: I have bits and pieces.

I first met the German liaison when she took me to the refugees. She gave me the barest of details, less than five minutes before I met M. I’d be working right away, without any volunteer training or medical protocols in place. For me the single most important question was: Who had requested the massage therapy?

It was M.

NOTES: [1] To respect the privacy of those involved I have changed names and identifying details, and use initials only. Part 4 to follow.