The waste separation was simply over. Nothing worked with the translation program anymore. How is an app on the smartphone supposed to explain which garbage belongs in which bin? In German-Ukrainian translation? So Danuta Friesel received photos of the garbage, together with the question: Which bin should it go in now?
The photos had been sent to the 38-year-old kindergarten teacher from Wilmersdorf by the woman from Lemberg whom she had given shelter to – together with two children and a Yorkshire terrier puppy that had managed to escape from the Ukraine to Berlin in a jacket pocket.
Danuta Friesel is one of the many people who have taken in refugees from Ukraine. Your guests are now back in Lviv, but they can come back at any time.
On Sunday Danuta Friesel was in the Red City Hall – the Berlin Senate had invited helpers who had or have accommodated refugees. A gesture of gratitude. At the same time, the meeting was also an information exchange: authorities and institutions were represented and gave answers to the many questions associated with this commitment.
It is not possible to say exactly how many refugees are housed privately in the capital. Franziska Giffey (SPD), the Governing Mayor, spoke in the Red City Hall of 55,000 people from Ukraine who live in Berlin. How long in each individual case is unclear.
Danuta Friesel and her husband’s commitment continues to this day. They remain in touch with their previous guests. On Sunday, the teacher received the message that there had been three rocket alarms in Lviv. “The agreement is that the family can come back immediately and without registration if the need arises,” she says.
It must have been a very pleasant six weeks of living together. Although Danuta Friesel’s children are not the same age as those of the Ukrainian mother who took them in, they got along wonderfully. There was also harmony between the two women.
The commitment came about spontaneously: Danuta Friesel brought food to the main train station. She wanted to support the people who arrived, since it was still cold in the first days of March. When she saw the refugees, scarred by the horrors of war in their homeland, Danuta Friesel and her husband spontaneously decided that they had to do more than just cook food. So they took the family in, arranged through private contacts.
Not only Danuta Friesel and her husband showed heart and commitment. There was also support from a completely unexpected source. Her landlord lives in Frohnau and told a fruit seller, from whom he often shops, about the Ukrainian family who now lived with his tenants. The dealer then packed fruit and brought it from Frohnau to Wilmersdorf to the Friesel family.
When the Ukrainian family returned home after six weeks, it was a tearful farewell. It was a difficult decision for the Ukrainian mother. Her own mother still lives in Lviv, the daughter had an urge to support her. On the other hand, she had responsibility for her children, who were protected in Berlin. The solution to this inner conflict is the agreement that the family can return to Wilmersdorf at any time.
A pensioner from Spandau spontaneously took two people and their cat into his four-room apartment when he saw the exhausted people at the main station.
Everything is going well with his fellow tenants, his question now was: Can someone help him with the energy costs? “I’ll get a bill soon,” and of course it will be higher than usual. “I’d like a small fee,” he said. But Franziska Giffey, who had thanked all the helpers profusely, could not make him a concrete promise.
Diana Ziegler from Rummelsburg took in a family of six. She came to the Rotes Rathaus to talk to others, but also to criticize the administration: “I find it shameful how the situation was when the refugees arrived. Nothing would have worked without the volunteers,” she said in a round of talks.
The city urgently needs to make housing available. In addition, the information provided is confusing. “I know almost no one who would have taken on people through the federal government’s mediation sites. You organize yourself privately.” That is why there is a lack of control over who took people in and how they lived. Diana Ziegler has set up a network to support refugees with around 100 volunteers.
The language barrier is always a key issue. Many refugees want to learn German as quickly as possible. Until they make it, they need help from people like Diana Ziegler.
It was a little easier for the children to settle in, says Ziegler. They have found a welcome class where they are learning German. The family is preparing to stay longer in Germany. It is far too early for her to return, says her mother.