The case of a well-dressed young Hungarian woman with the refugees at the Eastern Railway Station in Budapest

What happens when you have 5 minutes until your train leaves and there are three thousand migrants standing in your way? The personal account of Rita Perintfalvi. For the original article please click here.

“The train to the Promised Land: the refugees and me, waiting/longing for the early morning train.

The newspapers are filled with stories about the refugee crisis, I know. But I was there this morning, wanting to catch the early train to Vienna to get to work, as I do every week. The train was to leave from a different platform than usual. I quickly realised that it was because this platform could be cordoned off and the police could form a protective shield around it. I had 5 minutes till departure, so I had to rush, when I was suddenly faced with hundreds of refugees in front of me, who were waiting outside the cordon, filling up every square-centimetre of space, double- or triple-fold. They were standing in silence in an orderly fashion, but in a tense state of alertness, waiting for the opportunity to get even a few centimetres closer to the dream train that would take them to the Promised Land, Germany. They clutched their tickets in their hands, the same ticket I had in my hand. I didn’t know what to do, but one thing seemed certain: that 5 minutes was not enough for this many people to get through a security check.

That is when I started to panic, “Oh, my god, I will miss my train, and I will be late for work.” This fearful thought suddenly seemed pathetically petty to me when I glanced at them. They must have picked up on my panic, and as I was a fashionably dressed white woman without a veil, they quickly understood that I wasn’t one of them and that they were “preventing” me from catching my train. The train that I would be allowed to board, while they most probably would not be…

And what happened next? They could have reacted to the situation with spiteful selfishness and could have closed ranks in front of me to block my way, and then I would never have gotten through, as I was alone and there were hundreds of them. They could have taken revenge on me for their futile and increasingly desperate wait. Or they might not even have “done” anything: it would have sufficed if they had just been standing there, indifferent and inconsiderate, ignoring me. Why should they even pay attention to me, after all? Why would I be important and special enough for them to take notice? I had just arrived 5 minutes earlier, while they had been waiting there for who knows how long – perhaps days or even weeks…

But they did notice, and they smiled at me reassuringly and with their rudimentary English encouraged me to advance, which was by no means an easy task in such a crowd. Suddenly, a tall young man who could easily look over the crowd to see what was happening, cried out in Hungarian, on the one hand to his fellow refugees, on the other hand to the operational police officers lining up in front of the cordon, to help them notice me. He simply shouted: “Hungarian!” Never had that word held as much weight for me as it did then. It meant that I belonged to a privileged and special caste. It meant that I had the right to board their train of dreams. The sea of the crowd suddenly parted in front of me, much like the Red Sea in front of Moses. They must have responded to some inner voice or murmur, as the call of the police failed to break through the crowd. The refugees gave each other the signal and made way for me, many of them smiling as I passed them.

This smile was shocking and gave me food for thought. I started to ponder the question, what does all this mean? Why are they smiling at me when I am the one who gets to board the train while they must stay there waiting? Then I understood that the smile was a sign of their HUMANITY, which they were able to preserve in the face of INHUMAN times… That is what I saw. Even if this is not what the newspapers want us to read about.”

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