Confusion in Budapest

Little Notes

September 3, 2015

No. 2 Son has been inter railing across Europe this last month through what is being described as the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.  He’s traveling with seven of his school friends who all finished their A-levels together in June this year. Starting in Amsterdam, they moved onto Berlin and then started going east; Prague, Budapest and finally Zagreb. Their travels will culminate at the Outlook music festival held on the beaches of Pula, Croatia.

With both of my sons, I learned long ago that the only way to keep my sanity was to operate on the basis of “no news is good news”. I was, therefore, not overly concerned with his sporadic communication.  A few days ago though, on Sunday morning, he texted — bad news that came in three parts.

“Hey ma, I’m sorry I lost my credit card and I need money today to pay for a train ticket and accommodation. I have cancelled it but can you please put money in my friend’s account so that he can buy my ticket? We’re at Budapest train station.”

After we worked out the details of his friend’s account, he texted again and said, “I’m feeling super ill as well. I think I need to see a doctor. About to be”

“About to be what?,” I asked. “Sick?” Sinking heart coupled with rising panic emotions surged through my body.

He answered, “Something has just happened at the station so there’s a lot of confusion. I’m”

“I’m what?!?,” I texted back. My numerous texts and attempts at phoning him for the next twenty minutes were, needless to say, met with a blank screen and his voicemail.

So there he was, penniless and unwell, in Budapest’s Keleti Station along with thousands of Syrian refugees, fleeing war and persecution, all trying to get to Germany to seek asylum. And here I was with my active imagination and the internet, which I scoured obsessively and incessantly for any up to date information I could find on just what exactly was happening at that train station.  Permanently Jet Lagged Husband and No. 1 Son were more sanguine as they ate their breakfast calmly and told me there was nothing I could do and that I would just have to sit back and wait until we heard from him again.

Three hours later, a text came through saying, “We had to show our passports to prove we were English. On the train to Zagreb now. x”

I was overjoyed that he was safe but saddened by the irony of the situation. While No. 2 Son and friends were enjoying their school leavers’ freedom, they were surrounded by people who could not claim that right because they had the wrong passport. They were left behind.

In the past few days, articles on how to help the refugees who are seeking safety in Europe have been written including these two helpful ones that I read in The Independent and The Guardian. Closer to home, during his secondary school years, No. 2 Son has raised over £2000 by skating in marathons for UK-based The Refugee Council.

N.B.: This post was originally published on My Contents Have Shifted.

Above: No. 2 Son's grandparents, my parents were also refugees. They fled from a war torn China to America where they met each other and were married. Here they are with me, their eldest child of four.

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Peter Dekker
Peter Dekker

Congratulations with your Son’s #2 ‘s graduation, good for him to see the real world. What a nice picture from you and your Mom and Dad! We send our best wishes, good luck with the website.
Best regds
Peter and Sarah Dekker

Kim Follett
Kim Follett

Hi Christine
So glad No. 2 son is safe and hopefully feeling much better.
So excited about your new website! Best wishes and can’t wait for your next post xx Kim


great story! as a fellow fabster- i was riveted by all your same fears for No. 2 son. and i marveled at the ease with which your other men could finish their breakfast without a panic attack in sight! glad No. 2 is safe and sound- and i’m ready to try to channel the Zen energy of your other men during crisis!! how do they do it??