I knew who I married, so it was no surprise to me when Jeff called me last night right before I turned out the light to go to bed. Looking back, I’m just surprised it took him so long.
Jeff is the reason we became foster parents back in 2004. ‘We have so much. We should share it.’ So I did what I always do and I figured out how you go about becoming foster parents. Social workers, forms, 30 hours of parenting classes where Jeff was the only man, because the state only required one parent to attend the class (usually women), which he found ridiculous. That’s who I married.
Back to the phone call – Jeff has been friends with ‘Joe’ for a very long time. They are kindred spirits. Kind hearted, introverted guys. They deal with difficulty the same way. They go inward. Joe was at our wedding and he’s been through his share of ups and downs since then. But this particular down is international news.
Today, Joe is sitting in Poland waiting for his girlfriend and her family to get out of Ukraine. He was back in the US when the war started and immediately flew back to Poland, Joe met her years ago through her brother, who is his close friend. She has a 20 yr old son fighting, and a 13 yr old. She has been refusing to leave them and her parents and brother. Men 18-60 must stay and fight. But yesterday they could hear bombs exploding in their town. They are gathering their things and will try to get to the Polish border.
I can not imagine the terror. In fear for your life, but you have to leave some of your family in harms way, so you can save those you can. A true Sofie’s choice. Hugging loved ones that you may never see again. Horrifying.
And they can’t go to the US unless they fly to Mexico and walk across the border, asking for asylum. And even if they do that they will likely be separated in ICE custody for months. We treat immigrants and refugees like criminals at the US border. Don’t get me started. Imagine what they have been through and then to be held separately. The trauma of it. No. They will need to stay safe in the EU.
She and her family are not out yet. But Joe is already scrambling to prepare a soft place for them to land. Hence the phone call from Jeff last night. ‘What if we were that soft place? Just until we can help them find an apartment. Maybe in Santiago or Lugo, or somewhere else in Galicia. And arrange a school for the son.’
I didn’t even flinch. This is the guy I know and love. He’s the guy who would have the other half of his sandwich wrapped up and then give it to a homeless person walking back to the office after we had lunch every day. He never made a big deal about it. Kindness. He will always be that guy.
‘Do you need me to stop walking and go home? Get things ready?’ I asked him. ‘They’re gonna be freaked out.’
There will be bureaucracy involved. That’s my job. The canary in the Spanish bureaucratic coal mine. We all have our superpowers. But Jeff said he would figure it out.
‘They aren’t out yet. Ours can be the address they give the refugee agency when they cross the border into Poland. Joe will arrange for plane tickets to Santiago and I can make sure everything is ready in the house. Besides, you’ll probably be nearly home by the time they arrive. Do you think you’ll be home by Easter?’
I will now. For sure. He seemed to have thought it all through. ‘Clean out my office and put all that stuff in the barn. We could get some beds in there. IKEA in Coruña is your best bet.’ He said he’d already thought of that. ‘I wish the cabins were built.’
Jeff sent Joe the link for Idealista – the rental listing for Spain. But one step at a time. They speak English so we need to find an English speaking school. At least initially. Learning Spanish can come after they catch their breath.
I light candles at every church I enter on this trip. A daily occurrence, to be sure. Usually one for Jeff, one for our parents, one for our kids, and one for peace. I’ll add another now. For this family who will be running from a war they had no part in starting.
To the readers of this blog – if you are so inclined to pray – please include this family in your prayers as they begin this journey across Ukraine today. They will truly need all the help they can get.