It’s a marathon, she says over Zoom. Into the microcosm of the arrival centre.

It’s a marathon, she says over Zoom. And we just nod, later we laugh about some things I don’t remember. The translators’ container in the arrival center has two tilted-open windows, letting in the humming, rattling buzz of the microcosm born on March 4th.

Ebbs and flows, the world on the other side of the street – a different galaxy, and new faces keep peeking in in lemon-yellow vests. The white walls house a collection of “Train of Hope” name stickers (I love it), some flyers and a living map of the center. The map is built out of colourful lines and arrows and cryptic acronyms and yellow matchstick men* – the volunteers. I’m struggling to put experiences into words, then I remind myself that I’m a writer.

Blueberry, mango, lime, vanilla, ananas and passion fruit – the imaginary tastes of the vegan, gifted yoghurts remain. The coffee and Semmeln, the Ukrainian mum from Kyiv oblast now helping as a volunteer, the French, and the Canadian who lived in Kazakhstan, kids and their drawings everywhere, the Ukrainian women folding clothes with the volunteer to bring order into chaos, people who come to eat and people who need a place to stay – for two nights before their next train or for an elusive chunk of life. After cutting cheese at 8 a.m., speaking DE-EN-RU-FR and jumping in to translate at the registration tables – the weight of the week crushes down, I meet the Ukrainian girls, I want to help. Later that afternoon (comment from the off: after writing work mails from a patch of green, dip into other realities): S., one of the volunteer coordinators, draws around the map and inspires with her problem-solving passion and resilience, we chat, I show her the resources of the train-station-microcosm, and the rest is one more different story. Story, community, school of life.

The Russian-speaking team of volunteers have been doing an amazing job and need help to cover the work! Know someone interested? Send them the doodle link for the intro/training sessions (taking place on most Tuesdays and Fridays) so they can become part of the community: