‘May we meet again’

It’s Thursday afternoon, 4 PM. We enter Camp Moria for my last night shift. So many familiar faces as I enter the camp with a crash bag strapped to my back. ‘Hello my friend, how are you?’ is what I hear from all sides and funny enough, it feels good and familiar to walk here. I consider how remarkable it is to know so many people in such a short time, of the many people that have been stuck here for a long time without any prospect, often for months. Once I arrive at the medical cabin, the most familiar faces are waiting for me: the translators with whom I have gone through so much these past weeks. We have seen every emotion in every extreme version and I have felt them all with full intensity. Sadness for the loss of others, happiness when someone smiles in surprise because I greet him in Arabic, disbelief because of the many horrible stories, but mostly the sense of being powerless to do something about the despair here. So often I pulled my hair in frustration and stood with my back against the wall, frustrated about how little you can do. Life stands still for many here, with all the trauma of the past fresh in the flashbacks they have at night.

Panic attacks resulting from these flashbacks have made the most impression on me and as I put away the crash bag, a familiar face passes me that has left a bigger mark on me than he will ever know. It’s the face of a tall striking Syrian man, who smiles at me with a twinkle in his eyes and hurries towards me to shake my hand. I hardly recognize this face from last week, when I looked into his eyes for an hour; eyes which were filled with horrifying fear, to get him out of his panic attack. A very intense hour in which only he and I existed; him hyperventilating in his reliving, me with my hands on his abdomen and forehead to make him focus on his breathing and on me. Breathing with him, repeating endlessly that he is safe here and that he will be alright. But will he? Yes, I’m certain of that, but the question is when. We talk for a while and he is on his ‘way’ again. I smile, enjoy this moment and am happy to have been able to mean something for him in this bizarre world called Moria.

As if it was predestined, I see more men this evening, more men I have treated when they were in a totally different state the last time I saw them. My first patient: the Afghan man with auto mutilation, whose sutures – which I applied myself – I remove. He is doing better and I can tell he is clean shaven. Sometime later the boy from last night’s fight, who has dutifully come after I have urged him last night to have his wounds checked out. But, like any other shift, I hear awful stories and see grown men cry like babies out of desperation and grief. It frustrates me to no end that they have no perspective and the sense of being powerless overwhelms me. How long will this last? Judging from the new containers that have been put in place of the tents that were removed, the end is nowhere near.

At 11 PM my shift ends and I leave the cabin. A group of men is outside and the boy from last night’s fight addresses me. ‘Best doctor, you help my friends!’. He points towards his friend who is suffering from a headache. After that, at two others and he has a question himself. I’m sorry my friend, but my shift has ended and with it, my time here. I tell him that my fellow doctors will help him and shake his hand in confidence, knowing that this hard, but also very rewarding work will be continued by the many great volunteers succeeding me. Unfortunately this is necessary, but I hope with all my heart that this bizarre world of Moria, that you have to experience to understand what it’s like, will not exist for long after today. I walk my – for now – last steps in Moria while the translators wave goodbye to me, hoping that soon they will be able to go wherever and whenever they please. We don’t say goodbye (“We won’t die, right!?”) but ‘may we meet again’. With these words, I leave Moria. I am so happy to have been able to do something worthwhile here, but am also afraid for the many people for whom this bizarre Moria world will be the harsh reality in the coming months.

Text: Tessa Schrijver
Photo: Tessa Schrijver