I first met Verena Fink when she was visiting Australia from Germany a few years ago. She returned home to Munich just as Angela Merkel opened the borders to a wave of refugees. Verena was one of the many who went to the railway station to welcome them.
She has been supporting asylum seekers ever since, and has made her home in Thessaloniki, in Greece, the target for many asylum seekers who launch their fragile boats from North Africa, across the Mediterranean Sea, hoping to eventually make their way to a safer life in Europe.
Verena shares thoughts of her Christmas with us.
In Greece, a seafarer nation, it is a tradition to decorate ships. The last years the tradition came back and the Christmas trees have – at least in my city, the 2nd largest city of Greece, Thessaloniki – beside it decorated boats.
I learned about that tradition in my 2nd year after I moved to Greece and wanted to have for Christmas also a boat. It was then impossible to find one and so I made a little cardboard one that I put since then on Christmas beside my little Christmas tree.
In Germany the Christmas tree is decorated during the 24th of December and when it‘s getting dark in the afternoon the candles are lightened and Christmas begins.
This year – as so many years before – on Christmas Eve many refugees tried to reach Europe. To reach Greece by boat. Do they think boarder police is celebrating Christmas and is not so alert? Was the weather fine?
I don’t know.
I don’t know because 24th and 25th of December are the rare days I try not to think about refugees and the situation we are in in Greece. I tried yesterday and today not to think about the people who are freezing at the Polish-Belarus boarders. At the Croatian- Bosnian, to list only the coldest European borders at the moment, December 2021.
I needed a 2-days-break in order to have the energy from tomorrow on again.
The little boat reminds me that Greece is a seafarer nation. That it’s not the people, the fisherman who are doing the pushbacks to Turkey. That the Greek people are a welcoming country. A people who knows about diaspora, about being a nation without a country. It reminds me that Christ is born in a stable and is the one who is with those who suffer. Who knows about cold and being on the flee from his first moments of life.
The little boat reminds me that Jesus is born for us and that he came to bring peace and not borders. That he came to give also me the energy I am losing sometimes but that I need in order to continue together with all the other people in this country to help the people who are living not even in stables, but in the streets, in camps and in inhumane situations.
The boat beside my little tree and the native place I got 25 years ago from my parents-in-law reminds me that we are humans. And that we should act like humans. As fisherman or as whatever our profession is.