The Woman from Belgium


The situation in the camp was steadily improving, but remained a scene of degradation. The blistering heat only  added to the energy sapping work.

Yet it was here that I met an extraordinary woman in one of those fleeting encounters that occur throughout a life time, and generally fade from memory. But those of us there that afternoon will never forget her, or the powerful words she spoke.

I had briefly noticed her a few days earlier on the immediate border area. A buxom,

blonde, physically strong  woman in her mid 50s, she worked tirelessly with other volunteers, finding frightened refugees hiding in the long grasses, unaware that they were now in the comparative safety of Thailand.

Back and forth she went, carrying in her arms or on her back, emaciated children and young women too weak to walk further. She held them tenderly, ignoring the vomit and leaking bodily fluids staining her clothes, and placed them gently into the waiting Red Cross trucks and Thai military vehicles  that would transport them to the camp.

Her fiercely determined demeanour, together with her kind smile and words of comfort for each precious bundle of humanity, singled her out from the many others helping out.

A few day later, a story hit the Bangkok Post that was quickly picked up by the international media. One of the many supply trucks travelling from Bangkok airport had been driven off the highway and found later in a side road, ransacked and abandoned. The following day the precious contents – pharmaceutical and medical supplies were being sold in one of the city’s teeming markets.

As always, this type of incident is seized upon, fuelling the cynical view that ‘most aid does not get through to those in need.’

This can have a frustrating and depressing effect on fund raisers, field workers, donors and charities.

With a small group of nurses, and doctors , we were tired, sweaty and disheartened by this story. Sitting in what passed for shade, we sipped warm Coca Cola and between us we tried to rationalise why bad news makes news – the good news – not so much!

Nurses, doctors, healers and carers of every description see good things happening  daily in their work.

Small miracles of healing beste online casino and resolution bring smiles comfort to those in sickness and in pain – wherever in the world that is. Yet random acts of kindness go unnoticed, while random acts of hatred and violence are dramatised and written about. Why is that?

Into our group stepped this woman. I recognised her immediately.

Speaking quietly but firmly she told us the following story;

You are wrong to think like this.

I have been listening to you, it is your exhaustion speaking.

Listen to me. I am not a nurse or a doctor. I am a mother and grandmother and I live in Belgium.

As a child I was raised happily with my family in buy non prescription viagra online Poland. My father was a watchmaker and many of his customers were Jews. I was the eldest of 5 brothers and sisters. When I was 18 my whole family was arrested and we were taken to Treblinka concentration camp. We were all accused of associating and doing business with Jews. My father and 2 brothers were separated from us. We never saw them again. My mother was taken away and never seen again. Over the next few months, my little sisters died of disease. I lost all hope and knew death would be my friend.

I lived in a foul smelling hut with 240 other women and girls.

Each day there were beatings,  rapes and suicides —- each day new prisoners arrived.

One day some Red Cross parcels appeared.  The contents were pathetically inadequate for our needs, but they delivered a powerful message that was far more important.

These parcels told us that there were people outside of this terrible place who knew of our existence; that we should not lose hope but to hang on until help came.

We were not alone.

Hope is the most powerful gift you can give to those who have lost everything. Those parcels sparked hope in those women. I vowed that if I survived, I would carry that message with me always; that I would spread it far and wide whenever I could – to the best of my ability.

Many of those Red Cross parcels would have been stolen, pillaged , ending up in the wrong hands during World War 2.

 But I don’t care  about that. What matters is that some got through to my hut- and no words can describe the message of care and hope they held.

Do not waste your energy on that one truck that did not get through. Think of the many that do – and what their contents allow you to accomplish here.

Now, hold your heads high, get back to work and give these people that message. Can you not see how badly they need it?”

With that she turned and walked away. I never saw her again, and I never knew her name, but we will always remember her words.