This is an excerpt from testimony by Czech playwright Anica Jenski from Bapske on the Croatian-Serbian border.
I must be hard. Incredibly hard. My soul says so. In order to survive the misery it sees. I must be incredibly hard or I will fall to bits. This is what my soul thinks while my body is making moves which are helping people. People on the run. This is what my soul thinks while my mouth is saying words which it does not want to say, but which it must say.
We do not have any. We cannot. Only for children and for babies. In a few hours, you will reach a camp, where there is everything. (I just hope so.) No, I can't. We do not have any. I feel hurt when I see the expression of the men, women and children I have rejected. The situation is becoming critical. We do not have men's shoes. We do not have blankets. We do not have sleeping mats. Tea has run out. Water is running out. But we improvise. So that people would survive. Even my soul improvises. So that I would survive.
It is most painful with children. We do not have enough shoes. But a child wants some shoes. I check his feet. You do have shoes, they are not wet, there are no holes in them. I reach inside them. They are dry. I cannot give you another pair. I must keep it for other people. For those who are worse off. I tell him and his mother.
The expressions of those people I have rejected. I must be hard.
We do not have running water in Bapske. We only have the water we have purchased. We have one box of powdered milk for babies. It is already open. There is no spoon in it. And there is no time.
We have run out of feeding bottles. A girl is putting the milk into cups which were originally intended for tea.
Later on, I give the last feeding bottle to a mother with a baby. She wants to feed the baby straight away. She seems in despair. The baby does not want to drink. It will be OK, it will be OK, I repeat to myself. After all those hours without sleep I being talking to myself. It will be OK. The baby will surely start to drink.
I run into a warehouse tent for a small warm jacket. For a one-year child. We do not have many small jackets. I hope against hope that I will be able to find one. There is no light in the tent. I use my own torch, looking anxiously for a small jacket. Outside, a small freezing child is waiting. He has only a thin t-shirt on. That is not good. It is early in the morning and it is cold. I should be back with them now, putting his little arms into the jacket. They are usually so frozen.
The situation becomes impossible. There are now so many people that the narrow track in the field is full. I search for small children and babies. I touch their arms, legs, pull up their trousers and discover that they are barefoot. Then I think of the old women. The disabled, the sick women.
I hear shouting. I hear the volunteers shouting as well. They shout at the angry crowd: Calm down, please. Think of your children. Mothers with children, please move into the field. It is safer. My hands shake. I weep. I smoke. I weep and smoke and am angry with people. Not with the refugees who are subjected to panic which quickly spreads in the crowd. I am angry with the Serbian bus drivers who have suddenly opened the doors of some 30 buses and let 1800 refugees onto the narrow road. I am angry with them because they do this for money, so that they could drive quickly back and charge more people for the transfer. To rob them and to let them out like animals. I am afraid there will be a stampede and people will die.
I clasp my hands and I pray. I pray to any higher power. I pray for those children. My prayer is wordless.
During my weekend in Bapske I slept, in all, for four hours. Towards the end I fell down on the ground several times. But on my way back to the Czech Republic I could not sleep. I constantly heard the despairing crying of those hundreds of children. I was tormented by the images of me holding wet children, tearing their wet t-shirts off them, their trousers wet with urine, their wet socks and dilapidated little shoes. Under the wet clothes I found their ice-cold skin, deformed by wetness and damaged by them walking in broken shoes. Where are they now? Where are those children on whose frozen feet I tried to breathe? Where are those mothers with their babies? Under such conditions, mother cannot breastfeed. On their exhausting journey, they lose their breast milk. Where is the six-week-old baby wrapped in a wet blanket, for whom I found dry clothes? What has happened to those children to whom I have not given dry clothes and new shoes, whose nappies I have not changed, and to whom I have not given any milk? I am no longer there.
The complete text in the Czech original is HERE