About Skin

WESTGATE STREET 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(photo: John Stadnicki)

 

 

 

Here I watch the day.

The storm over. A memory on glasses, on broken shoes.

My shadow reflected

on the opposite wall

sits still.

Borders? I have seen one.

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Photo: ‘Border’, Maria Stadnicka, 12-September-2015

As the refugees’ crisis is widening across Europe, the public opinion becomes more polarised, with people supporting the Schengen agreement for settlement whilst others oppose the migration from the Middle East and Africa. In England, my decision to collect and deliver donations to Calais has been welcomed and facilitated by family, friends and work colleagues on one side, and criticised on another side on social media by a few online acquaintances which disagree with the idea of personal intervention in a problem that should be left to the international political factors. And this is how, on the way to Calais, the concept of ‘border’ started to emerge in my mind as my new British passport was scanned at Dover. Watching the ferry depart I thought of Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian ethnographer which summarised a valid point on this matter. ‘Borders? I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people.’

With this is mind, I entered the refugees’ camp in Calais on Saturday and observed the difficult living conditions of thousands of mostly young men, lucky enough to have walked or travelled for weeks in search of stability and peace. Dreaming maybe to be accepted in Britain whilst waiting for help from a country which they see a promoter of fairness and humanity. Some have been there for months, others just weeks.

Thousands of tents were spread across the camp but there were people still living in cardboard shelters, in flip-flops and T-shirts with autumn coming and the rain slowly settling in during the next months. People I met looked at me with curiosity and friendliness. One welcomed me and asked if I had a good night on the way there. Another asked for a pair of shoes or trousers. And more and more slowly surrounded the van. But having just fifty boxes of supplies in the van made the distribution impossible. What about the people in need of supplies, which could not communicate in English, nor French, could not ask, could not arrive at the van, could not reach for my help?

People living in the camp need help and support, and donations are slowly going and are being distributed by very few charities and private companies as well as volunteers and locals. Packing and then safely and equally distributing food, clothing and other necessary materials to thousands of people is a process which takes time and logistics. This positive action can only be successfully delivered before winter comes with more help from volunteers and strong support from the international community. As the European budget is spent on numerous emergency summits, the conflict between decisional factors becomes apparent and the people involved in helping the refugees in Calais get a sense that the governments have no real understanding of what needs to be done on the ground.

The governments do not have understanding. But governments, with their complicated power structures, are not people. They are, at this point, the borders. Those volunteers spending their time and resources, dedicated night and day to help the refugees are my example of humanity as well as my hope. I have heard their names (Riaz, Maya, Christiane, Vincent, Clare, Toby) and their voices on the phone helping me help others. I have not seen their faces, nor their colour, but I have seen their actions, their beliefs and values, which made me write this to ask for yours.

 

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Photo: Volunteers receiving donations for Calais refugees, John Stadnicki

Thought

 

to M. M.

 

Even without a language

I walk that way

marching towards the watery sun

with anger.

It never rains inside of an egg

so

I choose to deny

the sea born

in my rib cage

and go on

being allowed to hope.

chairPhoto: Maria Stadnicka

Fractal

At night I can only look at you
through a keyhole.
Sitting on one knee, on the floor,
I go on writing my thoughts
on pieces of cloth.
Locked in a motionless day
I keep busy
cutting my memory in perfect squares
to check how small
you became over the years.
I measure and trim
the infinite distance
between the rooms in my heart
with blunt scissors
and wish
we had more time or at least
we had more courage
or beauty.
But all we did in those days was sleep.
We were very good at keeping quiet
until the moment
silence, at last, settled in.

2015/01/img_3982.jpg Photo: John Stadnicki

Thought

All the necessary preparations
were done. This is
what they will say when
the truth will eventually come out.

Although she never arrived
like everyone else
during the visiting hours
she almost made it.

If she had waited for a bit longer
someone, maybe you listening now,
would have noticed
the eventual passing
of such a miracle.

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Photo: Maria Butunoi

What Happened with Clare

to Clare B.

Clare didn’t wear
green trousers anymore.
It was a kind of winter
so she decided
other colours were
better suited for her there,
as she sat on the cross.

Her face had lots of
squares and dots and lines on it.
I remember at one point
some glue.
Her face had music.

Clare didn’t say much but
I noticed how she put down
the empty cup
and replied ‘well, good bye then!’.

Her giggle melted in a slice of bread,
flowing over a blank canvas.

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Photo: Maria Butunoi