It was 8th of March 2017, the day was still more like a winter day, gray, cold, but at least it didn’t rain. Women in exile had done the call to celebrate the International Women’s Day in Eisenhüttenstadt . We would go together by train. Meeting time was around 10am, meeting place was Alexanderplatz.
When I left home still many people where going to work, to school … so arriving to Alexanderplatz gave no feeling of celebration of the International Women’s Day but arriving to platform 1, one could to see a big number of women, greeting each other, chatting, the good mood was in the air, immediately I recognized the meeting point, they were the women from Women in exile.
The excitement was present, for many it would be their first demo, for others time to meet again, and many were going back to Eisenhüttenstadt, the Lager where many of them stayed for the first time, it’s a Erstaufnahme Lager, so many of them knew each other from their stay inside.
While waiting for the train, people from SOLIMATE, wanted to do a picture of the women, since their project is also supporting Women in Exile, the light was strange, bright at time, then dark, sometimes blazing, it made difficult the work for the camera girl. But finally there was a moment of “light” stability and they did the picture.
Ahead we had 2:30h travel to the Lager, it’s in the border with Poland, no direct train, we had to do one change and once we arrived to the town, take a bus for 30 min until we arrived to the Lager. In the train we were around 50-55 women traveling to more or less the end of the world, chatting cheerful, the children up and down, seeing the train as an amusement park. It was a moment to get in touch with people that you didn’t know or with whom you normally don’t have the chance to speak much. So the first part of the trip went good.
Once we arrived to the Lager, at the door there were police, although normally there is always a car, now there were several cars and vans. We started gathering and the goal was that some women went inside the Lager and give flowers to the women, to break the isolation, to show that they are not alone, to give them the courage to continue, to join us, to understand that many people think that Lagers should be closed, that they are not homes but prisons and people inside have done nothing wrong to be there, they don’t deserve it.
But police was implacable, no way to make them understand that a Lager is not a prison were people could not be visited, that the goal was only to give flowers, to remind International Women’s Day. Not only they didn’t accept the idea of entering the Lager, but they “invited” the group to move 100m away from the gate.
While talking with the police, women went loud, women after women took the microphone of the loud speaker, and made clear that “lagers had to be closed, controls have to finish, discrimination has to finish”, “equal rights to everybody”, “stop deportation”, “we are here (refugees) because you are there(German/western governments)”, “That (lager) is not a home is a prison”, “ohh lele oh lala solidarité avec les sans papier”.
Anyways women from the Lagers joined, trickling in, one by one, those who were going out or coming in, some stayed, others smiled and said thank you for the flower, maybe next time we will see them at a meeting.
When women were not talking in the micro, the music was playing, many were dancing, other chatting, other giving out flowers and flyer’s, other taking care of the food and drinks. After around 3h we decided to go back, so it was announced a small demo to the bus stop, since the police didn’t give permission to a spontan demo.
The small demo, as the rest of the day, was full of power, of outrage, of decision to continue fighting, of continuing being loud.
Once in the station we found out there was no more trains going back to Berlin, there was a bus substituting the train, but the bus didn’t have enough places for everybody, so some people were left behind waiting for the next bus to come. That’s the everyday situation people in lagers have to cope with, few buses to the lager, trains being canceled, never knowing when you would arrive.
One thing is clear, it was not the first time to be in Eisenhüttenstadt and it won’t be the last, while the keep lagers open, we will return.