Eindrücke aus erster Hand
Wir haben mit Freiwilligen über ihre Erfahrungen gesprochen. Ihre Antworten geben wir hier nach Themen sortiert wieder. Zusätzlich sind sie nach den drei Ankunftsorten sortiert: Hauptbahnhof, Südkreuz, ZOB
Die meisten Interviews wurden auf Englisch geführt. Wir haben uns bewusst dafür entschieden, sie nicht zu übersetzen, um sie möglichst originalgetreu wiederzugeben.
Die ersten 48 Stunden
Die ersten zwei Wochen
Routinen und Strukturen an den drei Stationen
Zurückgehende Ankünfte von Geflüchteten
Team-Reflektion und Herausforderungen
The first 48 hours
When did the help for arriving refugees from Ukraine start?
27th (or 28th?) february evening, meeting train EC40 from Warsaw scheduled for approximately 2216
These are only fragments of what I have been told and might be covered in more detail by the others mentioned: travelled to the border by car (3 day trip?) the first people on site wanted to hand out little welcome paper bags and were shocked to find out that no official organisation or institution had even begun to think about the situation or prepare for it.
27th of Feb
March 1st at 2AM
Describe the general situation of arriving refugees at the station before support for arriving refugees started.
I am not aware of any refugees at the station before our support arrived. Although I expect there were some there – not in any visible numbers.
A lot of disoriented and needy people appearing to be refugees; most of them seemed to be stranded at Südkreuz, not knowing where they ended up and where to go. A first support had already started by a hand of people wearing vests (without a system) and some supplies were already provided; everything seemed to be chaotic; the volunteers tried (unsystematic) to help – focusing on helping single cases and being overwhelmed when bigger groups (>5 people) arrived.
When I arrived at 2am on the 26th, there was no coordination. There was only an Edeka Cart that volunteers replenished and water. We were standing on the streets.
Someone arrived at Hbf first and sent a few volunteers to ZOB to check if there are buses with refugees; after it was confirmed, so everything started.
What were the first steps taken?
The first day there was already food. We were there and already calling for help saying: “I’m at the station and if you want to help you can come here and help here”. And then the first thing that we would do is to write signs so the people getting off the train would see that if they didn’t know what to do they could go talk to that person. And then very quickly we understood that we needed food and water, and so we would go and write it in the group: “If you come and if you can bring food or water, bring things like sandwiches and stuff like that.” And vests I think were a thing on day two already or day three. And we were on the platforms at that time. And right so firstly we in the first 48 hours I would say everything was handled right there and then you would meet somebody you get off the train, and find our their need and help them with whatever it is, get to Köln, or get to a hotel, or get to the Amt or whatever they need. And after that when also DB came in and made us move and everything.
I saw a social media post (likely facebook or telegram) stating that a group would be going to Hauptbahnhof to meet refugees. I was not part of the group that organised this happening. We waited on the platform for the train to arrive with several boxes of food to give out. Many people came to the station to offer accommodation, and rides to accommodation. Online, we established a telegram group to coordinate accommodation/rides that were not offered in person. When the train arrived, first we worked on the platform, and then at the request of the bundespolizei/station staff, one level down on level OG1, to accommodate people. We paired each group with an accommodation host and a driver. My primary role at this time ended up being coordinating accommodation hosts and drivers in the telegram group, to match with refugees waiting for help with us in OG1. This role arose ad-hoc (perhaps from me paying attention to the telegram groups and not being able to communicate in Russian or Ukrainian directly with refugees at the Hauptbahnhof). This continued until around 0300 when everyone had been accomodated.
Opening of different Telegram groups (the exact order is something would know about). The first Telegram group I joined was the big non-station-specific group. When I joined it on Monday morning (28.02.) I immediately reached out to one of the administrators () to ask if I could help remotely, as I wasn’t back in Berlin yet. The group seemed chaotic and incredibly fast. had a brief phone call with me, explaining the needs around updating group members on the arriving trains and buses. in the following 24-48 hours I started developing a process of manually reading out the data from different sources (DB page, flixbus page etc), trying to find more accurate, better structured ones and trying to optimize the process while feeding the TRAIN/BUS ARRIVALS channel as close to 24/7 as possible.
Aufbau von Supportstrukturen vor Ort (Direktion/Koordination von Volunteers, Aufbau von mehreren Foodstations (ab 3.3 eine große Foodstation), Koordination von ankommenden Donations (ab 3.3 zusammengelegt mit der Foodstation), Supportsstrukturen für LGBTQIA, Supportstrukturen für BIPOC-Geflüchtete, Supportstrukturen für Menschen mit Tieren, Kinderstation, „Ruheort“ für Stillende, Supportstrukturen für „Ghostbusses“, Aufbau eines Infodesks, medizinische Hilfe, ab ca Mitte März psychische Hilfe, Hygienestation, Kleiderstation
On site: We just waited for people in front of the buses. When they arrived we offered them water, and advice for going on the trains or on further buses. I asked on the 25th where I can go to help. There was no information as to what to do. The only platform that was used was the volunteer sign up list.
It was the end of February and the beginning or March, and ZOB is way less protected than Hauptbahnhof, and it’s not that great of an infrastructure there, so people just got off in the middle of the night. And on Thursday still nobody went to ZOB. Like we were sitting in a heated office space of DB with the Senate douchebags and everybody, and I kept talking about ZOB, like okay, we are good here, we got it going, it’s not good but we are talking to each other. When is somebody going to ZOB? I think the first Senate person went to ZOB after one and a half weeks or so and they just didn’t care because nobody, the media didn’t look at ZOB, everybody looked at Hauptbahnhof because I don’t know why. That reminds me of actually the back office work. They were in contact with FlixBus, they got the numbers directly from the drivers in the bus and everything, it was amazing I mean if that even possible, if you take out the actual work and just see at the organisational structure that was what happened was amazing. People did such an amazing job to make this work, got the information, so we knew there’s a bus coming with 50 people or two people so we could prepare for whatever is needed.
Eindrücke aus erster Hand
Ankunftshilfe für Geflüchtete
The first two weeks
Describe the general situation of arriving refugees at the station after support for arriving refugees started.
There were a lot of volunteers and other people at the station to offer support for arriving refugees. We were, in fact, overwhelmed at one point by volunteers and one of my roles was to tell arriving volunteers that we could not use their help and they should return in a few weeks when the situation was not so much in the news. This was (as far as I can tell) caused by television news stories showing volunteers converging on Hauptbahnhof to help. Facilities included: free food and drink, free onward train tickets and onward bus journeys, an information desk, childrens corner, pets, initially, accomodation coordination with volunteer hosts (this was then replaced at some point, I cannot remember exactly when, with government provided accomodation)
Die Supportstrukturen sind mit der Anzahl der ankommenden Geflüchteten gewachsen. Als Teil des Orgateams der Foodstation(Wir waren zu dritt und haben uns im Schichtbetreib organisiert) kann ich über die ersten Wochen nur was zum Ablauf der Foodstation/Donationannahme/Verteilung von Donations an die Hygienestation etwas sagen, für alles andere hatte ich keine Zeit bzw ich habe es nur am Rande mitbekommen.
Grundsätzlich war es super chaotisch durch die oft unkalkulierbaren „Massen“ an Menschen, die täglich angekommen sind. Aufgrund von Kälte und oft spät ankommender Geflüchteter war die Foodsation im 24/7 Betrieb bis zum 17.03.2022, wir haben täglich mit ca 30.000 Portionen Essen und Getränken gerechnet, was im Regelfall auch notwendig war. Diese wurden zusammengestellt durch vor allem Privatspenden, privat organisierte Großmengen an fertig gekochten Speisen durch Restaurants, geschmierte Brote/Lunchpakete vom DLRG, den Johannitern etc, aber auch privat organisierte Großspenden von Firmen. Im Anschluss daran hat ein Catering die Versorgung übernommen, allerdings vor allem am Anfang mit einigen Schwierigkeiten, z.B der Kalkulation von genug Essen.
An die Foodstation war auch die Donationannahme angegliedert, von dort aus wurde die Hygienestation sowie kurzzeitig eine weitere Lebensmittelausgabestation versorgt.
At the beginning. The first days after the invasion I spent all of my time at demonstrations and that didn’t feel like enough. And then I actually messaged Vitsche because they were calling for volunteers and they said that there was a sign-up sheet and I could sign up and then they would get back to me. And I didn’t have patience for that because I was so on edge that I didn’t want to wait for somebody to call me back from a sign-up sheet for volunteering. But then I found this Telegram group, it wasn’t called Berlin Arrival Support, it was called Ukraine Berlin Arrivals or something. And they said that I could just come, and should bring a vest. And also on my second day I signed up to be a coordinator. I didn’t know what that meant, I just did it. And then when I showed up I. was there and she was a coordinator and I asked her: ‘So you are a coordinator, what does a coordinator do?’ And she said ‘I don’t know, you do this, try to keep an eye on things’. And I was like okay. And that’s how it started. I came with a friend and he bought two vests in a 99 cent store. They were orange, so we brought two orange vests. And then I did two days at Hauptbahnhof and I did a day at Akuts, which was horrible and I never went back there. Horrible for several reasons, because of the way they treated the refugees, they had to stand outside in line in the cold because the building was full. They had one building for Ukrainians but it was full straight away and then people were standing for hours in the cold. Eventually they put them all into buses and shuffled them around and they left for other cities. And then the ones who were left in the evening spent a whole day there. It was I don’t know 4 pm or 6 pm. The only ones that were left there were POC men standing out there in the cold. POC men were the ones that no one could find a solution for. And also the way they treated volunteers because there was a social worker who was like the boss of everything but she wasn’t very nice and she just sort of was a little bit dismissive being like do this do that. And then we had to knock on people’s doors and tell them to pack their stuff. I was with two Ukrainian girls actually volunteering as well, the ones who were in Berlin already longer, and then we were knocking on those doors and she said that it was like a concentration camp, people were sleeping and you were waking them and telling them to pack up and leave. And so I never went back to AKUZ. Refugees and volunteers at Hauptbahnhof on March 1st, so like the 4th day, were already downstairs in UG1 where everything would happen later because before they were a little bit further up, that’s what I was told. At first they were on the platform, and they were somewhere on the ground level or something and then they moved to UG1. So when I came they were already there. And we were just hanging around, waiting for the net train, and the first info sheets started popping up plastered around just this glass cube with information on how to get to AKUZ etc. I remember that at some point there was a fixed team of coordinators. N., who by his profession, he’s a sound engineer, he also worked a lot of concerts, so he knows a little bit about crowd control, what he did was everytime a team of volunteers got briefed, he took them throughout the station and placed them at strategic points so everytime that there’s a 45 degree turn on the way down from the platform to UG1, he placed somebody there and basically their job was just to say “Go that way”. We had I don’t know 15 or more people placed throughout the station at all of the ups and downs of the escalators so people didn’t get lost. So we did that at some point, that worked very well. At some point a security firm did that as well as long as it was necessary and that’s the way that people were guided through.
It started with the founding of the Telegram channels, and there were people who got a lot of information in, and people who would be the first contact for newspapers etc. They knew the Telegram channels, that’s where it’s all happening. So they would go there to try to find somebody to speak to. They would go to Hauptbahnhof and try to find somebody to speak to but if they were in their office trying to figure out what’s happening at Hauptbahnhof and at ZOB they would talk to somebody from the back office. And actually what happened on the ground, we called it on the ground, was only possible the way it happened because the back office did a shit ton of work to organise, to direct sources, to direct resources, to where they were needed. And in the first week I would say the process was: there were people who went to Hauptbahnhof or ZOB and worked there and in the back office the whole organisation for that to be working happened. So they created the first shift plans, they created the first working structures, I think on day two it was the first time that we called somebody coordinators. That was basically people who would be there in a time frame and would take more responsibility, basically what it has been later as well but it actually happened on day 2, and that was all coordinated from the back office. So I joined Telegram channels when the war was I think one or two days and I talked to there, and I was trying to figure out where I can be helpful, should I drive to the border, what should I do, what are my resources that I can offer. And then I was like, is there somebody at the stations? And everybody didn’t know, and thought I was gonna go and check. Then I went there, and it turned out nobody was there and I was like okay, I’m here now, nobody’s here and nothing’s happening. I talked to the Bahnhofsmission, but they were not prepared at all. And then we opened up the Hauptbahnhof Arrival Support Telegram chat with 8 people. I think it was over 20 thousand at some point but that was on February 27th 2022 and it started from nothing. The state was not there. I think I have in my calendar when the state was there for the first time. So everything happened simultaneously. I was at the station and reporting about what’s here, what’s not here, what we need, what would be helpful and I reported that into the back office through Telegram, and they would make something useful out of it. They would make all sorts of things. I told them that the Ankunftszentrum Reinickendorf was so far away, and people didn’t know where to go, and they created a flyer and then they would put the PDF into the Telegram chat. And if you had capacity, you could print out that flyer and bring it to the Hauptbahnhof. So they would organise so much in the background. After the first train came, it was so obvious that we needed people who spoke Russian or Ukrainian. So I would tell the back office that we needed native speakers, and they would make the info post in the Telegram group saying if you speak Russian, if you speak Ukrainian go there, you can bring food. They would organise information so you can talk about it, organised in this situation because it was very all over the place. But that was actually what made everything work. And they were in the first week when there was no accommodation by state, they would be calling hotels and they would organise transportation and actually also pay for it. Well I obviously cannot speak for native speakers, but I can say that many people came there for personal motivation because they maybe have Ukrainian roots or have Russian roots and want to show support in favour of Ukrainians and be helpful just like everybody else. I also saw that people who were native speakers had a totally different experience being in contact with the people who just got off the trains. And I can imagine why because when I speak English to them, it’s just different and I feel when some of the refugees got off trains and then somebody would greet them in their native tongue that would just open this very safe space. That was just not there when I speak in a different language and I feel that was very supportive for the refugees. At the same time that was very hard for the native speakers because they would have to deal with way more emotional load that I would, because people shared stories. And they shared them with me as well but I’m very positive that it’s a whole different thing. So I feel like that experience is probably fundamentally different. Yeah right, I mean my direction was simple tasks like making sure somebody got a ticket or that was possible, but when it got into just more complicated cases, like I have my grandmother and she wanted to come and to sync up and meet in that city or maybe call somebody who’s still at home, or knowing somebody is in a car on their journey right now and we want to meet them there, and just things that were more complicated that was something that native speakers would take on. And like I said before, not only took care of that urgent problem then and to make sure that was happening, but also to take care of everything that came with it on the emotional level. Because obviously many native speakers are from Ukraine and at some point many people who arrived at the stations would come back to volunteer later which is a whole different level.
So I think it’s three main parts. One is being able to communicate, being able to find out what’s being needed. English is okay, it’s helpful but it’s not enough, so communication is the one thing. The second thing was basic necessities, food and water, and sometimes a sweater or new shoes because people walked 30 miles to cross the border and they wouldn’t have shoes anymore. And then it was transportation. In the first days most people wanted to travel somewhere else. So the people who would arrive in the first days knew where they wanted to go, they started knowing, I want to go there because I know people in Paris, I know someone in Copenhagen or whatever. So I think it was transportation. There were not so many people who didn’t have a clue. I think after a week or so, maybe five days, that got way more. People just went away and didn’t know where they were going. For the internal work I think if you want to put it into one word, the most important and most challenging thing was always communication. That was I think what caused the most trouble. When there was trouble, it was always communication. There were so many people and people coming from different angles and perspectives and when they tried to get together it turned into problems sometimes.
At Südkreuz, most of the refugees arrived by bus. Many of the refugees were overwhelmed, traumatized and/or weakened. They needed a moment of arrival, partly medical help and reassuring conversations. Many (especially children) had too thin clothes (and shoes, sometimes only sandals) for the winter temperatures and no change of clothes (some children had wet themselves and also had no change of clothes); babies, infants and women often lacked hygiene products, in addition, there was a large demand for medical products (mostly painkillers, medicine for colds/flu or medication for chronic diseases such as diabetes; products for wound care). In addition, most of the refugees needed something to eat and drink.
Hardly any arriving person had a plan or a place to stay. At the beginning, however, there were almost no possibilities (or a central position) for a state accommodation of the refugees in Berlin and the responsibilities were not clarified; in most cases there were no contact persons; the existing facilities were completely overwhelmed and overcrowded.
Especially for refugees with „special needs“ (= at the beginning about 90% of all refugees), such as children, (pregnant) women, larger families, people with illnesses or disabilities, third-country nationals, unaccompanied minors, etc., there were no housing options.
It happened several times that the intake of medication or wound care was not possible for days during the flight, so that a (quick) referral to hospitals, doctors or nursing facilities became necessary – however, these were mostly overcrowded, did not accept and the situation was extremely chaotic (people in need of care were brought back to Südkreuz several times from the hospitals and/or turned away in all public reception facilities).
Many Corona cases (in some cases ~10 proven cases per day) – in the beginning there were no accommodations for these cases either (volunteers were instructed to send Corona positives to subway shafts for overnight stays).
A team of 4 translators would be sent to welcome the refugees off the busses, check for emergencies, help with luggage and if the busses were to go further, provide food and water (sandwiches, sweets, fruit juice…). Depending on the type of emergency people could be sent upstairs to get checked by the malteser’s sanis (after malteser arrived), police was on site, a coordinator could eventually be called and in some events notruf could be called. For the rest of the refugees coming off, most would then be sent/helped to the wartehalle and their needs would be checked: if they had relatives in berlin/germany/western europe, a driver would take them to where they needed in berlin (relatives’ or hauptbanhof/flughafen) and sometimes to neighbouring cities. If they had no one, which in the first weeks was mostly the case, a housing solution was looked for, in the first days a lot of people got sent to private housing (people offering/renting rooms), and then most to oranienburg strasse except for old people, families, people with invalidities, or people that weren’t medical emergencies but needed to be checked into a hospital, for whom we tried to provide private housing (more comfortable) or sometimes hotel rooms. In the wartehalle, food (warm and cold), drinks, hygiene products, german sim cards (ortel mobile), bags and suitcases and at the beginning, clothes were also provided.
Als ich zwei Tage später (1-2 März) wieder zum Berlin HBF gefahren bin, um zu helfen, war ich erstaunt, wie sich alles verändert hat. Im -1 Stockwerk war eine Volontär-Struktur mit allem, was nötig war (Essen, Kleidung, Sprachmittler etc.) aufgebaut. Da ich mitten am Tag gekommen bin, waren auch meine Dienste als Sprachmittlerin nicht wirklich nötig, es gab mehr als genug Sprachmittler und andere Volontäre. Ich vermute, am ZOB war die Situation anfänglich genauso. Die Volontär-Gruppen haben wohl auch dort innerhalb von einigen Tagen eine Struktur aufgebaut, die es ermöglichte, den ankommenden Menschen schnell und effizient zu helfen. Über die Volontäre am HBF habe ich Informationen über Volontär-Gruppen in Telegram erfahren und mich dort eingeloggt. Darüber bekam ich die Anfragen über die aktuellsten Bedarfe, auch die Benachrichtigung, dass am ZOB Sprachmittler am dringendsten in den frühen am späten Abend, nachts und in frühen Morgenstunden gebraucht werden. Ich fokussierte mich seitdem auf die Hilfe am ZOB und half dort in frühen Morgenstunden, soweit es mir möglich war.
A kids‘ corner, a food and drinks station were set up, as well as tables for donations (clothes, phone chargers, baby food etc.), a table for sim cards (donations) and the registration, drivers‘ corner, housing team, registration table for volunteers
What organisational structures were made on/off site?
clearly identified on-site coordinators, and regular briefings for all volunteers at the start of their shift about what should happen.
Foodstation betreffend: 24/7 Schichtbetrieb im Wechsel (mit Übergabe)von 3 Coordinators, ca 15 Shiftleaders (täglich helfende Volunteers mit mehr Überblick) und tagsüber ca 100 Volunteers durchgängig im Schichtbetrieb, Nachts deutlich weniger Volunteers.
So that started on the first day to go to the refugee reception centre in Reinickendorf, and a person would go with the whole group, they would take ten or twenty people and would go into the S-Bahn and go there with them to make sure they are getting there. And also that was when everybody wanted to help and were like, hey I have a car, and then we would be like, hey if you have a car and want to take people just come to Hauptbahnhof and wait there. And if people would get off we would match them with a driver and they would go to Reinickendorf. And then I think after 5 or 6 days the BVG sent the buses. And they would go. But at that point Reinickendorf was already full all of the time and they would go to different spaces in the city. And I mean there was already so much racism happening at Reinickendorf. They wouldn’t take in black people, and they would have to wait outside in the cold. But they were full very early at night usually so we would have to come up with alternatives and it took over a week until this city was able to manage that, so a lot of the time we would take over still and organise hotels and everything.
Infostream (building a team and shift plan, maintaining the channel); answering questions in the telegram channels (often multiple ones per minute), about how to volunteer, when to come, who to talk to, etc; The google forms sign up page and visualizations of how many volunteers were signed up when and where, where we needed more people etc; starting to build topic teams (donations/supplies, psychological support, unaccompanied/accompanied minors, signage, housing, translators, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, (international) travel information, drivers etc)
Office, accommodation team, room, and BAS was formed as I was away.
Helper, translators and coordinator (flat hierarchy); Off site (e.g. Telegram): Limited structures, Group members partly recognisable as Süd coordinators (user name or avatar logo).
one of the first steps were sorting the supplies (make an inventory).
Some of the volunteers appeared to take longer shifts, even though a shift system wasn’t established yet. Those people started monitoring what there is to do and who does what in particular. During takeover of 2 shifts, which in the beginning of March where 3 at a day/night; the „coordinating“ volunteers came up with roles that seemed to be necessary or establishing themselves. Such as
- Coordinator – keeps contact to the orga/back office-team, receives money-donations and organizes the purchase of supplies if needed (money is given to the coordinator of the next shift); keeps the key for the van of Heilsarmee; keeps valuable donations (e. g. Power banks) and hands them out if needed; makes sure the other volunteers know the jobs and are in the right places to help
- Supplies – keeps track of the supplies and keeps contact to a person who organizes the supply chain for SüdX ; organizes the incoming donations (food as well as clothes, etc.); organizes transports to Hbf if theres donations we can’t use at SüdX
- Telegram monitoring- keeps track of telegram groups (communication with volunteers, other stations); makes sure there’s enough volunteers at all times (in agreement with the coordinator)
- Volunteers – welcoming and assisting the arriving people (in consideration to briefings by the coordinator and the FAQ of the telegram-groups)
Accommodation: Organization of the accommodation and written drafting of the procedure to avoid chaos and mistakes. Creation of 2 flyers with the most important information for refugees on the one hand and for hosts on the other hand.
Moving into office of Deutsche Bahn – thereby division on site into „office“ and „working outside“; use of vests (with color differentiation of language skills).
In the first days/weeks communication for problem solving was mainly done by one open telegram group (“SÜDKREUZ Berlin Arrival Support”) – it was hard to monitor or moderate because of the fast growth
Volunteers were organized into teams depending on their abilities/language, supply team (food, hygiene products and such) which would bring stuff from upstairs (were it was stocked into tents, containers and a volunteer provided cooled container), a housing team in contact with people offering housing and translator appointed to families, driver team, food team, sim card team, welcome team, all of which would have at least a coordinator on site. There was a registering system for when volunteers would arrive, which would change every so often. Housing also had a database of contacts and some form/number that could be contacted for people wanting to offer housing.
Ein Orga-Team vor Ort am HBF und ZOB, sowie Housing- und Driver-Teams,
non Russian/Ukrainian speakers were in charge for the supply, housing and driving purposes, the rest were volunteering as translator (Polish speakers were in charge of communication with the bus drivers transporting refugees from Poland)
A main telegram channel was created to communicate the expected time of arrivals for the busses, ask for volunteers (zob/hbf), and in the beginning was open to all so also would be used for questions. Coordinators had a specific telegram group. You could plan your shift ahead on an online excel document so coordinators would have an idea of how much volunteers would be there at a given time, and you could also see that number and know when you should rest and when you’d probably be most needed.
Informations- und Orga-Gruppen in Telegramm. Es gab mehrere Telegramm-Gruppen, jede von welchen ihren eigenen Zweck bis heute erfüllt: Austausch der Sprachmittler, des Orga-Teams; ein Kanal, welcher über alle für uns relevanten Busse und Züge berichtet, sodass wir keinen verpassen; Chats einzelner Personengruppen wie z.B. der Studenten der HU-Slavistilk.
Auch bei Facebook haben sich viele Informations- und Hilfegruppen für die Ukrainer/innen organisiert.
A telegram channel was set up (time table for the bus arrivals)
Who was contacted and why? Which side initiated the contact?
I met the station manager because she came to the platform I think on Tuesday and she seemed like she knew something because she was talking to people. And I asked her if she was in charge. Because all the time I was waiting for whoever was in charge to show up. At that time I thought well, I’ll be gone once they show up, whose job it is. And then I saw her and asked her: “Are you in charge here?” And she told me she was the Bahnhofsmanager, and we exchanged contacts and from that point on started to organise together. And also started to plan the move. We had everything at the platform which was actually okay with the nbers of the first and second day because it was like 30 to 50 people per train but already on day three it was five hundred. So it was not happening anymore and we moved downstairs.
They told us where to go. They also needed a whole Monday to try and figure stuff out so we were already there Sunday, Monday and on Tuesday I met her for the first time. I remember someone saying on Monday that people are, like management level, in meetings, they are preparing stuff. And I hoped they were taking over soon, which they never did, and on Tuesday we got together, and we made the move which also opened up more resources. We needed tables, and the station manager would tell us that we were getting tables, and then DB Security people would come and bring Bierbänke, it was helpful. DB was actually a very helpful partner. For the most part. They were like, we gotta make it safe, this is not safe, and I mean I was happy about it too because every night we would pack up and bring our stuff somewhere. Because it couldn’t stay there. And we moved downstairs, we had DB Security to take care of the stuff. That was good and that was, it was cooperation, it wasn’t like they wanted us out or something. They have rooms and everything, right, it’s the Bahnhofsmission which is I think a thing of Stadtmission. That was the very first thing I did, I stepped in there and was like hey we are a loose collective of people and we are trying to help, I’m wondering what’s happening at the station. And I was asking if they were preparing stuff, getting ready for what’s happening. But it was Sunday, there was just a volunteer who had their Sunday shift and she was like, well I went to the platform when the last train arrived and I was looking but there was nobody. So I just went back. And I wondered what the people who were managing stuff at the Bahnhofsmission, if they were preparing for anything, because refugees were coming, they were on their way right now, they were fleeing right now. And she was like not that I know of. And I reported that back to Telegram and said, let’s get ready, because people are going to need help. I’m pretty sure that the back office was already talking to the Senate people who were doing stuff via text message. I think the first time I met them at Hauptbahnhof was on Wednesday, so it was going on for four days already and the Krisenstabsleiter showed up at Hauptbahnhof for the very first time Wednesday. They were already texting with G., I know that because she was trying to make stuff happen and they showed up on Wednesday and it was also the day when we started the Krisenstab in the Hauptbahnhof. The first Krisenstab was just the Polizei and the DRK and me and C. and the two dudes from the Senate just standing in a circle. And I had the most overview because I was there all the time, I was like 20 hours or something everyday and went home and came back, because everything was so fast and so fragile, and so much needed to be done. And they were, actually none of them had all the infos that we as the Arrival Support had within our network. We had so much information, so much sensitive information. And that day the Krisenstab was founded. Right, and I think that was the Krisenstabtsleiter. D. was the stellvertretender Krisenstabsleiter and the other dude was actually the Krisenstabsleiter and he was so overwhelmed, he didn’t know what to do. And I came to him and I was like well we are all set at Hauptbahnhof, we have Conny, we have support, go to ZOB because at that point nobody was at ZOB, it was still just us. I saw it in the groups and I saw what would happen at night at ZOB. That was scandalous, which you probably know already. And the first thing I asked him was like okay what about ZOB.
Unendlich viele Volunteers, DLRG, Johanniter, Sage Restaurant mit Clubkommission im Hintergrund, eine Gruppe aus mehreren Köchen verschiedener Restaurants in Berlin, Privatkontakte zu Lieferando, Amazon, etc, DB, Div. Senatsabgeordnete, div. PolitikerInnen, div. Presse, BrasilianerInnen in Berlin, etc. / Die meisten kamen auf uns zu oder kamen durch bestehende Kontakte zustande, wir als Koordination hatten keine Zeit um uns neben dem Hauptbahnhof vor Ort um etwas anderes wie mind. 6 Std Schlaf am Tag zu kümmern. Wir haben auch mehrere Runden durch die Geschäfte am H BF gemacht um so täglich die am Abend übrig gebliebenen Speisen abholen zu können, z.B. bei Dunkin Donut. Wir haben neben der Koordination vor Ort (genug Volunteers an jeder Station/an jedem Tisch, Einhaltung der Hygienemaßnahmen, Reinigung, Direktion/Aufteilung/Weiterleitung von Spenden, etc) vor allem die ankommenden Lebensmittelspenden organisiert und zeitlich geplant, soweit möglich.
It must have been in the beginning of March 2022. The first time we went into a tent, and it opened pretty quickly afterwards, was like mid-March. They were in the mi pretty quickly. The people from BaMi were there first, Bahnhofsmission, and then Stadtmission came and they started talking to us and asking what we were doing and they said they’re gonna build something. And then they told us there’s gonna be a tent. And we had a couple of meetings with them, we started doing daily coordinator meetings or at least tried for a bit.
BVG for the use of the facilities and cooperation.
Am ZOB gab es wohl einen Informationsaustausch mit der Verkehrsleitung und den Maltesern, die ihren Hilfedienst Anfang März oben auf den Parkplätzen aufgebaut haben.
Ich weiß noch genau, dass wir um Polizeikontrolle vor Ort am ZOB gebeten haben, als wir bei den Bussen Menschen gesehen haben, die besonders vulnerable Geflüchtete (alleinstehende junge Frauen) angesprochen haben. Da bereits Berichte kursierten, dass diese Gruppe Geflüchteter unter kriminellen Handlungen auf dem gesamten Weg aus der Ukraine nach Deutschland leidet (u.a. Prostitution), haben wir selbst diese Gruppen in Schutz genommen und baten darum, eine Dauer-Polzeistreife auf dem ZOB einzurichten. Es hat aber auch noch lange Zeit gedauert, bis dort wirklich eine Polizeistreife stationiert wurde. / Ich vermute, die Volontäre haben den staatlichen und städtischen Strukturen gemeldet, wo bedarf besteht und es wurde dementsprechend reagiert.
Police (protection of the refugees), Verkehrsleitung at ZOB (to access the bathroom in the waiting hall for the refugees; later they also gave us the main radio set to announce the incoming buses that were relevant), Malteser (for the infrastructure, they set up tents behind the main site that were heated since it was cold and the waiting hall didn’t have enough room)
In an early stage contact was made by Schöneberg Hilft who offered support in whatever is needed. Turned out to be a long term cooperation (support/accepting financial donations/fundraising, information, mental support, housing).
At one point early on contact appeared with Heilsarmee Berlin who also gave us a lot of support (using their bus for people to get warm, later providing gas tanks heater, providing pavilions etc.)
First contact to Police in the station was established when we asked if we could store the supplies inside/in front of their station overnight, in order for the supplies to be secure.
First contact to DB, with Sicherheitspersonal encouraging our work. We temporarily moved upstairs (waiting area with benches tables), here DB drove us away, then we moved to the Buses directly (most of the refugees at SüdX arriving with Flixbus).
Store owners/employees at Südkreuz were contacted on site.
What were the main difficulties you faced during the first 10 days?
Overwhelming numbers of volunteers / donations; At this point I was not involved in coordination enough to become frustrated with any organisational issues; Lack of concrete and ambiguous information to give out at our information desk: as an example, informal advice: do not apply for refugee status because… some kind of change is planned. (this change being section 24 temporary protection)
With the infostream I realized very soon that it would be impossible to keep this work up on my own and in first zoom calls with other people who would make up the very first backoffice. I realized there was much more structural work to be done. I especially wanted to free up time so I could improve moderation, information flow within the groups, answering questions, getting clear statements out and making the telegram groups more useful tools. There was a lot of work done twice and parallel structures built because people working on the same thing didn’t know about each other, which then led to a lot of confusion for others wanting to use or work with these structures because it was rarely clear who was responsible for what, who could give reliable answers, whose statements were a good base to work off of. My first task was to make myself superfluous, so I started documenting my process and workflow in maintaining the TRAIN/BUS ARRIVALS channel and started putting out calls for remote volunteers. Then I started onboarding people, setting up a 24/7 shift plan (and recruiting specifically for night shifts) and supervising the new team members’ first shifts. After about a day I was able to divert more of my attention to answering questions in the chats and I started trying to build teams around topics that I saw popping up in the chats. I messaged people offering support around a certain topic or asking for connection points related to a certain topic and asked them to take over coordinating and “collecting” other people wanting to work on or already working on these topics. I set up smaller telegram groups for them. The goal was to “sort” the overwhelming flow of information and updates coming into the big chats into many smaller work groups who would take on these topics and build sub-structures, document their work, centralize, so they could be reached out to and coordinated with. This was… somewhat successful. Aduito being used for a while at some stations, the psychological support group who had members visiting central station for quite a while (later with official purple vests in coordination with StaMi) and the infostream team are structures that grew out of it to stay. Many of the other groups might have organized things for a short while but fell apart quickly. The situation was so hard to overview and so dynamic and fast that many of the parallel structures created during this initial time continued developing on their own and it became clear later that it was better to leave them alone as the not ideal, but running systems they were. I visited Südkreuz and central station for the first time on Friday (I think? or Thursday? March 4th) and the on the ground structures didn’t perfectly reflect what was going on in the chats and were often too overwhelmed by keeping themselves going to even consider structural work or improvements on a larger scale (instead a lot of them built their own incredible systems, for example the incredible food station at central station. I spent my first day at Südkreuz, Ostbahnhof and Central Station mostly listening and taking pages over pages of notes on what people needed and what their problems were. I remember the “outside help” of the two totally overwhelmed Stadtmission employees/volunteers who were assigned to be the “officials taking the load off our backs”, and the frustration around the dissonance between that promise and the reality of a situation us volunteers barely managed with 150 people at a time and countless food, clothes and hygiene donations from outside sources. The long list of things the food station needed (among others electricity) and them struggling to even meet one of the requests while also realizing the weird situation they were put in (the expectation they were supposed to somehow “take over”). I feel like sometimes the repeated attempts to use these official resources took more time than it would have taken to find our own solutions (I don’t exactly remember if the 500 sandwiches or whatever number it was that the DLRG ended up delivering every day were a result of the BaMi’s efforts.)
Defakto haben wir uns die ersten Tage bzw. Wochen innerhalb der Foodstation/Donationannahme komplett selbst organisiert ohne Hilfe von offiziellen Stellen bzw direkten Kontakt zu anderen Koordinators, die z.b im täglichen Austausch mit DB, Senat etc waren. Neben völliger Überforderung und krassem Schlafmangel hat es aber durch gute Organisation, Absprachen und großes Vertrauen irgendwie funktioniert, innerhalb weniger Stunden/Tage mit „Fremden“ ein Großunternehmen aufzubauen bzw zu strukturieren, was ich bis heute noch abgefahren finde. Krass finde ich auch das Corona am Hbf nicht existent war bzw die Politik so gehandelt hat als wäre dies der Fall. Ich bin glücklich das es keinen Coronaausbruch innerhalb der Foodstation gegeben hat, wir hätten keine Kapazitäten für Ausfälle von „verantwortungsübernehmenden Menschen“ gehabt.
Create structures, distribute tasks according to skills and qualifications, establish processes, and have or get the confidence to make decisions.
In the beginning, there was still a lot of chaos, both on-site at Südkreuz (because structures were only slowly forming) and with the authorities in Berlin. In the beginning, the volunteers could only act to the best of their knowledge and belief under pressure, because there was a lack of time, structures and knowledge. In addition, in the early days there were more „problematic cases“ for which there were no solutions/help in Berlin.
Main difficulties on-site: how and where refugees are accommodated; how non-refugees (e.g. homeless, etc.) are dealt with when they ask for supplies; violence and resentment by third parties; mental strain and overwork; questioning of own loose structures
Lack of or unclear legal informations, especially for non-ukrainian refugees from ukraine (students/workers). Human trafficking, also linked, lack of legal checks for volunteers/drivers/people proposing housing. The number of volunteers wasn’t a problem, however because of emergency some volunteers’ behaviors (racism, seism…) were not checked, reported or seen, in general underreported which at times led to more difficulties for refugees.
Nicht genug Sprachmittler/innen zu bestimmten Tageszeiten, fehlende Polizei, wenig Platz zur Versorgung ankommender Menschen
An overwhelming number of the refugees, mental overload for the volunteers (translators and the housing team especially), you got “torn apart” as soon as you spoke Russian/Ukrainian with the refugees you assigned yourself to; at times we were understaffed when it came to translators
Eindrücke aus erster Hand
Ankunftshilfe für Geflüchtete
Routine and general structures at BAS stations
Describe the general situation at the station after the first 10 days
For the first months: A clearly established routine of meeting relevant trains, and helping people either to onward travel or government support provided in front of Hauptbahnhof. Further questions and more complicated questions answered at our 24h info desk.
Die ersten Volunteers kennen sich/können einander zuordnen. Erste funktionierende Strukturen haben sich etabliert, ohne würden aber die „Menschenmassen“ auch nicht „bearbeitet“ werden können. Viele Volunteers haben „eine“ bestimmt Station/Tätigkeit gefunden und entwickeln/erarbeiten sich darin immer mehr Wissen. Organisationsstrukturen können sich besser auf die sich oft täglich/stündlich ändernden Situationen reagieren. Auch der Ort „Hauptbahnhof Berlin“ ist für immer mehr kein Mysterium mehr, viele kennen sich schon gut aus und wissen, wo sich z.B Toiletten, bestimmte Ausgänge oder Gleise befinden.
In general, to be a coordinator always meant having an eye on like the general situation. At some point we implemented some sort of workflow. It meant not to get too deep into very specific problem solving, because then that took your attention off everything else. For private cases but also trying to keep an eye on the general situation. In the beginning when there was a lot going on we had several coordinators on shifts, of course, like three or five.
We decided how many volunteers are needed organically because everybody at some point developed their special team, according to what they were good at and what they liked doing, what they maybe already knew how to do, like what I mentioned with N. who distributed the people through the station and there were those running briefings, and then there were those on the platforms, then those taking care of supplies a little bit. Info desk as well became a thing quickly and I did get into specific cases but not necessarily a normal case where somebody needs a complicated ticket but bureaucratic things. I pretty quickly ended up where you have to call Verwaltung and yell at them ‚cause that’s what I do. So I think that’s how it was, so everybody just slipped into where they were. At the first weeks the shifts were long. I think for a while I didn’t go to work at all, I think for a week or so, and spent literally the whole day there. And it ended around one sometimes later because the last train that scheduled at 10:05 or 10 minutes after ten or so would often come in quite late because they stopped it at the border, they took people out, they split it into two and it was very crowded. So I’d usually stay till one or something. And do you mean what, when you ask “What would you do?”, was it me personally or… We did briefing meaning when you tell volunteers what’s going on and what they have to do, where to go, who to ask. I think at the beginning we did it as soon as a group of people came together when it made sense to do. That happened pretty quickly. At some point then we had a schedule every half an hour or so but in the beginning I think there was none.
A main type of support frequently given was information, people wanted to know everything, getting around the station and people were sort of regressed to a level of functioning that I am pretty sure was a lot lower than it would usually be for those people in their normal lives. Some of them were completely helpless, like they were holding their phone in their hands and when usually you would google something and they were asking the simplest questions of us, they were not in the state of finding those answers themselves. And we would accompany them to the bathroom, oh those poop coins…The Reisezentrum is also a different company. Reisezentrum was a huge thing, there was a huge Reisezentrum team, and their station leader compiled this crazy folder that contained all the ways, all the routes through Poland back to Ukraine, that started being relevant at some point and they would also constantly research and keep updated all sorts of transportation through Europe, they would research on any types of discounts that were available in any given country for Ukrainians and stuff like that. Those were things that the Bahn people, they didn’t know, they were beyond their scope. I remember that the purple vests showed up quite quickly. Those were like volunteer psychologists, and ultimately the coordination was taken over by a guy from some sort of church-Seelesorge-thing. Ana they had their own group, had their own onboarding process, they actually checked whether people had any sort of psychological training but honestly they tried their best, but they were not suited for the job because they were German psychologists, they were either students who, like you had to have a Masters degree in psychology, which doesn’t give you anything about field work. It’s a scientific degree, it’s not helping. And then there were those who were already training to become psychotherapists, and in Germany the “aufsuchende Arbeit” is not part of the training. And it also has a lot of distance, so they were not very skilled in actually approaching people and having them, making them talk to them. They approach them quite clumsily, sort of asking them “Is there something that bothers you?” and of course nobody would be like yes. And then a couple of Ukrainian psychologists actually showed up, and what they did was they went to the platforms, they carried people’s suitcases and they just naturally started talking to them, you know, that’s a different approach.This was for the refugees mostly. That was another thing, like those psychologists of course didn’t speak Ukrainian or Russian, they could not interact with them. But they could also mingle with the volunteers and try to interact with them, but they didn’t.
It was busy but well-organised. When I started early/mid-March there were frequent briefings (every half hour?) when new volunteers arrived. There were already people assigned as coordinators who would help.
When I started volunteering there already had been established structures on site (see 3.1.3. for a detailed description). There was a lot of volunteers and regular briefings done by coordinators, and also a lot of arriving refugees who were assisted by translators (main contact people for RU/UA speaking refugees) and non-RU/UA speaking volunteers for showing directions. Volunteers had different tasks: staying on the platform inside of the station, helping people get tickets in the Reisezentrum, translating, giving out food and supplies, cleaning, helping people get in/off buses, finding accommodation and drivers, counting people and checking Telegram chats. My initial impression was that it was very well organised albeit a bit chaotic due to the sheer numbers of refugees and people needing help.
More streamlined organization (less chaotic), though at times not efficient, spacial organization changing very often. No or only slight lack of volunteers in late march and early april.
Kontrolliertes Chaos. Dieses Gefühl hatte ich jedes Mal, wenn ich am ZOB in Schicht gewesen bin. Das hat mich aber auch erstaunt. Mein großer Dank hiermit an das Orga-Team, welches das Ganze zusammengehalten hat.
There was less chaos since the structures were clearer. Everyone knew what their assignment is, there was a habit to the process; also the refugees first shock was different to their state of mind after they arrived in the net days; for the translators it was also different to cope with the emotions of the refugees since it became also a “habit” more or less
What were the main difficulties you faced after the first 10 days?
From an information perspective, management of changing information and of rumours/informal statements.
Für mich persönlich als Orgateil der Foodstation waren vorallem die letzten Tage vor Übernahme durch ein Catering ziemlich heftig, weil wir immer weniger Spenden zu Verfügung hatten für eine täglich unkalkulierbar steigende Menge an Menschen. Auch die Gesamtsituation, z.B. kein fließendes Wasser vor Ort, kein Starkstrom (die gesamte Foodstation lief über eine 1 (!) Mehrfachsteckdose), nicht genug Lagerfläche, kaum Kontakt mit offiziellen Stellen, die Zusatzbelastung, das wir uns zusätzlich noch um den teils stündlichen Abtransport von Müllcontainern kümmern mussten sowie die Tatsache, das gerade in der zweiten Märzwoche der Senat Lebensmittelpakete bei z.B. der DLRG abbestellt hat um sie woanders hinzuliefern, während es am HBF immer krasser wurde, hat es nicht vereinfacht. Nach Ende der Foodstation bin ich in die Coordinations rund um das Infodesk gewechselt mit Hauptaufmerksamkeit auf Nachtschichten, da diese grundsätzlich unterbesetzt waren. Das hat komplett meinen Schlafrhytmus zerlegt, auch ein Jahr später ist vor 3 nachts ins Bett gehen immer noch unmöglich. Ich musste mich hier erstmal neu einarbeiten, was aber gut geklappt hat. Die Nachtschichten haben letztendlich sowieso immer die gleichen Menschen gemacht, man kannte sich ziemlich schnell. Krass waren hierbei vorallem die Verantwortung und das „auf sich allein gestellt sein“ in schwierigen Situationen. Von schwerer Gewalt, Missbrauch in div. Formen, Tonnenweise Urin/Kot/Kotze über Drohungen jeglicher Art war alles mit dabei, oft nur mit wenigen Minuten Abstand. Oft lag, vorallem in den Nachtschichten, hier auch die komplette Verantwortung bei den nächtlichen Coordinations (in den ersten Wochen 2-3 Coordinators pro Nacht, später 1 Coordinator wie 1 Volunteer pro Nacht),auch Polizei und vorallem Security haben sich da voll auf uns verlassen bzw die Verantwortung zu 100 % an uns abgegeben. Ich habe viele Entscheidungen getroffen, für die definitiv andere Stellen zuständig gewesen wären, die dem aber wissentlich nicht nachgekommen sind (z.B ein wochenlanger Kampf für die in Obhutnahme von 5 minderjährigen Kindern durch das Jugendamt, bei denen beide Mütter (eine davon schwanger) schwer alkoholabhängig waren und aus ihrer Unterkunft rausgeworfen wurden(sowie in Tegel und im Stamizelt Hausverbot hatten) und daher wochenlang (!) auf der Straße bzw um das Stamizelt „lebten“), während die Kinder, die kein Hausverbot im Zelt hatten (sic!) immer mehr verwahrlosten). Solche Situationen/Entscheidungen waren Alltag und nicht Besonderes!
I think boundaries are definitely a thing between volunteers and refugees because in such a sort of non-organisation there are no strict rules. I think that for StaMi volunteers it was pretty clear that you are not going to give your private number to a refugee which a lot of us did to see that they arrived safely and whatever. I remember this one time, there was an older woman who was going to her relatives in some sort of her relatives and she didn’t read latin letters at all. And so I had to explain to her where to get off the train and her phone didn’t work so I called her family from my phone and then I asked the conductor to tell her where to get off and then the daughter called me when she got in safe and stuff like that. And then through Telegram as well my contact was given to everyone and their mother and people would contact me from wherever and ask questions which at some point got too much. So first thing I did was hide my phone number on Telegram which would be a smart thing to do for everybody and then when people would contact me I would always ask them who gave them my contact. I tried to sort of cut off those communication lines and tell them not to give my number to anyone. I’m just a volunteer, I am a private person, this is too much. I did help them but I tried to stop it. This is from personal experience but I imagine that it goes the same for others. And then of course digesting everything that you hear. What was part of the briefing at some point was not to ask people questions just out of your own interest because it might lead them to a place where they don’t wanna be in their head. Don’t ask where you are coming from etc., focus on the future, see if you can help them work on their plans and where to go etc. There was a phase where I don’t know why tensions were rising and people started to get rude.I got yelled at once by refugees but there were worse things that happened. I think people got annoyed by how they were treated, they expected less bureaucracy, they expected to be welcomed in an easier way and I think they thought that we were part of the official German organs that’s why at some point we put up a sign “We Are Volunteers” and “Don’t yell at us”. And I do remember that some people were quite, honestly they were sometimes a little bit entitled like they said “Oh no I’m not gonna live in a mass thing I want an apartment”. And they were also racist. I was asked several times if I put people somewhere I said yes, the first question was “I hope there are no gipsies there”. They are extremely racist in Ukraine of course. And in the beginning we had this huge privilege, there were like several hotels taking in people. We had one hotel that wired with us for quite a while. I think they gave all of their rooms for free. Some private persons paid for rooms, Ibis then all of those churches through housing later. That was practical and there was where we put mothers with children or something like that.
It could be hard to get info on what needed to be done for new volunteers. There were a lot of refugees arriving and sometimes it was hard to manage people hoarding supplies, or it could be hard to find a translator when refugees needed something urgently (but ultimately at this stage we had plenty of supplies and plenty of translators).
Lack of structures, connections to official /authorities
Unclear decision-making: Most of the time decisions being made did not include non-coordinators, it was unclear who and why was coordinating (as I found out later if was mostly random and decided by a coordinator on site: if a volunteer seemed responsible enough and had free time they were asked if they wanted to coordinate); Disregard of any ID-checks: Basically in the beginning anyone could get a vest and volunteer as long as they said they wanted to. On my first shift I asked in the office, assuming a person sitting there knew what they were doing if i should prove that I registered as a volunteer/confirm my name and the answer was no; Disregard of mental health: Translators were constantly exposed to horrifying stories and a range of very strong emotions of refugees and there were no checks on other’s mental well- being. We had a 3 minute talk given by a RU-speaking coordinator how it was important but there was never a follow up. Non-RU/UA speaking volunteers seemed to not understand the amount of pressure that was put on translators. Lack of information: Refugees asked questions that surpassed the knowledge of volunteers, out of desire to help lots of misinformation was spread, especially when no coordinator could be found.
– In the beginning, there were no clear responsibilities, so work processes/tasks were often unknowingly handled by several people at the same time. Meanwhile, the superordinate organisation „Berlin Arrival Support“ (BAS) was formed with a „back office“ that saw itself as the head of all volunteers working at the arrival points. Many of the volunteers, however, did not understand the structures of BAS or were unaware of its existence. As a result, decisions were made unknowingly in parallel by the back office, at stations, or by individuals.
– Due to the emergent formation of the volunteer collective, there were difficulties in decision-making processes.
– Since the help of volunteers was usually considered essential and there was often no replacement, there were often long working hours and overwork. Especially volunteers who had been there for a long time and had a good overview felt more obliged to help or to step in when there were too few volunteers. In addition, working with refugees was often emotional and sometimes traumatising. Many of the volunteers therefore had to break off their volunteer work, had breakdowns or even long-term psychological sequelae.
– Often, volunteers started the volunteer work without thinking about the future and suffered after a few weeks/months from the idea that the state of emergency has no end.
– In the beginning, there were more physical attacks on volunteers by external people ( mostly because they felt attacked or excluded by the help for Ukrainians)
Non-ukrainian refugees from ukraine legal situation very much unclear, problems with oranienburgstrasse.
As a translator it was stressful to be “torn apart” when you spoke the language because everyone had a question, needed help, needed to talk, to cry, to show their videos/pictures, to share their sorrow; the journeys to the hospitals were very exhausting, hard to cope mentally (cancer patients, kids especially); the job to stay calm and take all the input without having an “output” was hard because you couldn’t burden your friends with it; the best solution would have been a mental health coordination for the volunteers on site as well (a cooperation with Berliner Krisendienst) → the psychological distress
What organisational structures were made on/off site?
On site: clearly identified coordinators continued to be present at all times. Special interest groups formed out of natually-specialising volunteers: info desk; volunteer desk; hygiene; reisezentrum. We developed a station leader role, for people willing to take responsibility in one of these areas without the full chaos of being a coordinator. / Off site (e.g. Telegram): telegram groups for each above mentioned special-interest station; several coordinator telegram groups. Various forms of periodic coordinator meeting on video platforms.
On site: Einführung von Walkie Talkies für Coordinations, durch Westenfarben gekennzeichnete Zuständigkeiten innerhalb der Volunteers, Einchecken aller Volunteers am Volunteerdesk incl. einer (kurzen) Einweisung, ausgewiesene Namen und Sprachkompetenzen auf den Westen, nach einigen Wochen das explizite Fragen von einem bekannten Personen mit bestimmten Kompetenzen, um (Informations)Wege zu vereinfachen, Erstellung von Informationsflyern in div. Sprachen, Tafel mit aktuellen Zugankünften mit ggf zu erwartender Anzahl Geflüchteter, bei Ankunft voller Züge eine Aufteilung von Volunteers unter Berücksichtigung von Sprachkenntnissen entlang des Zuges sowie einer anschließenden Kontrolle über dem Bahnsteig, ob niemand vergessen wurde, tägliche/wöchentliche Meetings innerhalb von Coordinationsstrukturen, Sicherstellung, das alle relevanten Positionen im Hbf „besetzt“ waren (Reisezentrum, Infodesk, Gleise etc.), Das achten darauf, das Menschen, die viel Verantwortung haben/keine Pausen machen können(z.B. am Infodesk) Pausen machen/nach Hause gehen, (In der Nachtschicht) Protokoll für den Krisenstab führen, Nachts sich in der Dudlerpassage befindenden Menschen zählen, …
To check in about what’s going on, if there’s a specific problem that keeps happening and that needs solution, if there’s information that everybody should know, and then at this point I think we also did a coordinator Telegram group, because otherwise it was very difficult to get information to everybody who needed it. But we did get radios pretty quickly which was nice.
At first the problem was that we didn’t want to centre ourselves. Because everybody said it was about the refugees. But then ultimately when we talked to different people who knew about communication, knew about press work, they said that we needed a couple of faces to represent us because that’s what would make us relatable, that’s what people respond to. And that we needed, in order to make a stand for ourselves, to be some sort of organisation. And then there was a debate about whether we would do that. I mean there was a back office, it was created ultimately by several people. They did technical stuff as well, but that work was separated from what was happening at Hauptbahnhof day-to-day. I don’t even know what they did all the time, they did have a lot of press requests as well I imagine, but that was the big back office, but then there should’ve been also a Hauptbahnhof back office you know. They didn’t, so those two things didn’t actually coincide in the day-to-day. So ultimately specifically Hauptbahnhof was pushing to give us a name, because we felt like we needed to take a more of a stance, we got tons of press requests. At first we didn’t talk to press at all, then there were a couple of people who talked to press as private people, and then we felt the need to call us something and then I remember I did an interview with like a Scottish radio journalist, and that’s the first time I said Berlin Arrival Support. And I was really scared that some people would be angry with me. And they were debating the possibility of becoming like an actual project, and there were several possibilities to do that, several organisations who would be able to take us under their wing. But there would have to be contracts signed, things done and that was never our strong suit, so ultimately nobody was ready to take that on and put on that hat. And so that’s why when LeaveNoOneBehind came along, and there is not even an official cooperation contract with them, that was heaven sent, because literally without them with anything else that would not have worked out. Because someone would have to take some sort of official responsibility and nobody did. That’s the downside of like a too base-democratic structure because you couldn’t get everybody to agree. In German there’s a difference between “Konsens”, Konsens means I really agree, and then there’s “Consent” in German as well which means I’m not a 100 percent happy with this decision, I don’t agree completely, but I can live with that and I will not cast a veto that will slow down a process. But that’s what we were trying to do, and that’s what we are still trying to do and that’s why we are not good at making decisions. We are trying to get everybody completely on board, listen to everybody’s problems and we don’t feel comfortable going ahead if we feel like there’s somebody not happy, not 100% happy with what’s happening and that’s why we are standing still. Coming to how things are running now, that’s a problem. And those people, and there’s a lot of them, are silent. My idea was to start a discussion on how to go on after the end of March, and my idea was to make this discussion on Telegram. Why? Because it’s of course not a great conversation tool, but on Telegram everybody can read those messages in their own time and answer them in their own time. And if we do a meeting we get 15-20 people together, and it’s not a lot, that’s just half of who we have. And so maybe through Telegram more people could participate. And then we posted this long message with a couple of questions, and a couple of people liked the message, that’s it. And then we started asking those questions singularly. And a couple of responses came. And whichever way you go, it’s never perfect. But there still has to be some way to go on, because we are, we are not capable of making decisions, we are not capable of setting a course, we are not capable of moving.
The volunteers did what they were good at. But there was no way to prevent people from being unhappy with others. We did set up an Awareness Team, and it was supposed to be there specifically for if somebody behaved in a way that was problematic. And it was more like this person behaved in a disrespectful way or is being sexist, racist whatever. And that’s what their task was. I don’t know how many cases were actually handled. We did have a case with a volunteer… I was never part of the Awareness Team, but because when that happened there were only two of out five people left on the Awareness Team, because others stopped volunteering, I was sort of involved with that. And there were these complaints about this one person, and a lot of us wanted to ask if we could’ve had the decision power, if we could’ve just done it we would’ve liked to send this person away. But we didn’t have any specific decision-making body for that, we didn’t. We did actually even draft a code of conduct. We had a meeting about that. And then we never went through with that. I then did another vote for people joining the Awareness Team, done through a process, which was several steps. One was nominating people for the awareness team, then asking those nominated whether they would be ready to join the team and then having everybody vote on whether they want those people on the team or not. And 6 people, no 5 people were nominated for the awareness team, but only one of them actually agreed. It would be weird to vote on one person whether they would join the Awareness Team or not and ultimately then we didn’t, it sort of fizzled out. And so without the proper Awareness Team to enforce the code of conduct we didn’t go ahead with the code of conduct either. And it’s just there in some Google Drive.
The back office it was only a small Telegram group, it was I think 10 people who signed on and off, some of them were there all the time and some of them were like okay, I’m on my day job now, I will be back and I will do work in the evening, and everybody would know. Stuff was organised on the ground as well. If there were people who were there already and who had a car and could pick up stuff, Covid tests, masks, then we would do it there, obviously. But if there was the Bild-Zeitung giving me their card… In the beginning we didn’t care about press, we didn’t really want to engage, and so I would just send a picture of the card into the group almost like “That dude was here, do with that what you will.” I think what’s really important to point out is that it was both happening at the same time. People working on their computers remotely made what was visible in the stations happen, at ZOB, Hauptbahnhof, and Südkreuz.
On site: Regular volunteers formed teams e.g. accommodation, supply, food, etc., so they would return to a station they already knew how to handle and there were coordinators who eventually were responsible for each section. / Off site (e.g. Telegram): Many Telegram groups e.g. an overall Süd group, coordinators group, groups for different teams. Google Drive set up for coordinators to share information.
On site: First accommodation structures, on site coordination, lose contacts to BAS including accommodation, supplies and general coordination
On site: Clear roles (coordinators, translators, accommodation, supply, medical teams), regular onboarding and briefings, updating each other when leaving/taking shifts.
Off site (e.g. Telegram): There were several Telegram groups that I know of: main SüdkreuzBAS group, a coordinators chat, Orga-chat that i was never a part of, a food team chat, a supply team chat), Adiuto Channel for supply, a Train/Bus arrival channel and a Broadcast channel used to inform coordinations about main changes/new information.
Semi official chats for translators and german volunteers.
On site: Housing-Team, Driver-Team, Translator-Team, Orga-Team, Helfer-Team
On site: the radio set with Verkehrsleitung of ZOB; better cooperation with the police and Malteser
Off site: Group channels for translators and supply
Who was contacted and why?
There was a station krisenstab, which I was not personally involved in, but which involved various organisations involved in this relief effort.
I don’t know how exactly StaMi got involved, I can’t tell you. I just remember that in the beginning they thought that they would also take over everything that’s inside the station. First we were somehow told that for whatever reason the Feuerwehr will take over which didn’t make sense. THW did build a tent in front of the station that was blown away. There was a storm and that tent just flew through Europaplatz. So we thought that they would take over but then they never came. And then the two-three women from StaMi started talking to us. They also tried to take on the role of representing us in Krisenstab, but we would not be represented by others. And then somehow I ended up in Krisenstab as well, I don’t even know how, and then I just stayed there. Krisenstab was a giant room full of people that were not nice to us, like they would talk down to us. In the beginning it was led by Deutsche Bahn, and then at some point SenIAS took over. But SenIAS was always there. Police, DRK, Feuerwehr, Bezirksamt, Gesundheitsamt. In the beginning it was twice a day. I think at 9 or 10, and then once again at like two or something which was very stressful. They discussed everything: arrival numbers, logistics, what would have to be provided and what not. We said that there’s no vegetarian sandwiches in the tent and we would be looked down upon like why would you want that. It was hard to be heard in there at all. The Beämter-people were just coming from fundamentally different places that we are coming from. Ours is wanting to help people, theirs is having to help people and trying to do that in a pragmatic and budget-safe way. And of course some of those rules make sense. I mean if they told us to get rid of stuff that we’ve built… At some point someone built a little corner with baby beds under the stairs and they said to put it away because of fire hazard, because those beds were not safe, if something ignited we would have ten babies there that would just burn. And I mean that’s legit, that’s true. Those rules do make sense. But of course to us in those moments it felt like they were destroying everything that we’re building up, right. And then they were not really offering viable solutions because, for example, when that baby thing was taken down they said that if somebody needed some peace and quiet, if there’s a mother with a kid they should go to BaMi. But BaMi was at the other side of the station and if that mother has three kids and has to feed one she can’t leave all of the others and go to BaMi! So that’s what would happen. And sometimes there were no solutions. For example when they took away the clothing donations there was no other solution, there’s no clothes in the station, that’s it. In the Krisenstab there were always two different tables that they filled out, like Excel, one was for decisions and one was for tasks and part of them not taking us seriously is when we would ask for something and they said yeah yeah and then it was not put down in the table, and everything that’s not in the table is not in the protocol and ultimately it’s not gonna happen. And several times we had to go “I want this written down. Do it”. And still sometimes they wouldn’t do it. So they were just like having us there but they were like yeah keep talking. So at some point it was just decided that because the need was not seen anymore to do it twice a day, then they decided to do it twice a day, then ultimately then it went down to twice a week, I think Monday and Thursday. I can’t remember if it was ever once a week. And then it stopped. So for a while for the first couple of weeks the toilets were open, they just opened them and everybody could go for free. And the toilet company complained that they were losing money and they would give us coins, like bags of those coins. And everybody would have them in their pocket and they would give them to those people who needed to go to the bathroom. At some point I remember there was a coin station and there would always be somebody standing there with a bag of coins giving them out. Shittiest task. Ultimately volunteers had them too just in order so that people wouldn’t need to randomly harass volunteers for toilet coins. We made it a one place. I think we did get coins basically until May. But we would also use them by then. We would also use the toilet in the tent and the DB Lounge, at some point we were also allowed to use the DB Lounge. Which was first for the coordinators, we did a couple of meetings there and then they got annoyed. Then they didn’t wanna allow anyone in there anymore and there were also discussions about why we would not be allowed in there and StaMi and the Welcome Guides would. And we were not completely sure what the actual deal was, got different information from different sides. And that’s not even something that we would be able to discuss with the station manager because the DB has all of those sub-companies, and the Station and Service, the DB Lounge, is a different company than what she manages.
Moabit hilft was very active, their style is different. So what Schöneberg hilft did was really support, they asked what do you need, they provided. If we didn’t know something, if we asked questions they answered without judgement, they were like a good parent. Others are different. There were several situations where we got into fights, where people got loud, and where instead of supporting us, we were criticised for not knowing something, we were criticised for not accepting their wise counsel. It was like my way or the highway, if you don’t do as I tell you, I will not help you anymore. And that was problematic.
And they did scandalise a couple of things that were, of course shitty, but not as much of a scandal as they made it out to be. And then we distanced ourselves, That’s it. In the beginning a lot of organisations supported punctually, brought in stuff, be it blankets or food or whatever but there was no specific long-standing cooperation that I know of.
So the Krisenstab, I think started on Thursday and it was twice a day, at 9 am and at 3 pm. And it was arrival support, it was DB, the Bahnhofsmanager, the Senate dudes,, Bundespolizei and the other Polizei, I don’t know what they are called. Actually the Feuerwehr came sometimes too, BVG was there very early on. And funnily enough LAF managed to not show up there until May or something, the LAF they were just like, they knew what was happening there and they just stayed out of it. And we would meet every morning at 9 and would be like what’s the state of things, what happened through the night, I would give feedback about what happened at night, say 2000 people stayed at Hauptbahnhof tonight and everybody would be like okay. Stadtmission was there as well. So actually they showed up pretty early. A funny thing was, when everyone talked to me they were like yeah we don’t wanna take away your space, we don’t wanna push you out of the picture, we wanna honour the work you are doing. And I would be like, well please take over, I wanna go home, and I know everybody kinda felt this way, like we don’t want this responsibility, this is insane. Who is taking over? When are you taking over? And everybody would be like, well, they framed it as we don’t wanna push you out of the picture, but actually they didn’t wanna take the responsibility, they wanted us to keep having responsibility. I think because once you have responsibility and shit’s on fire, you are responsible and that way they were not responsible. And I remember there was one situation where I talked to one of the Stadtmission dudes and he was like, how do you imagine your work, what’s your part supposed to be? And I looked him in the eye and I was like, please take it off my hands, take it away from me, because it is way too much for me as a person and for everybody here to be responsible for. All that is happening here. And then he looked at me and was like, okay I got it but sadly it didn’t really work. There were two people who were sent from Stadtmission who were supposed to kind of lead the situation but they were overwhelmed and I think one week later they threw the towel. And they were like out and I saw that they really don’t have an overview so I stayed as well. But they were also there, they also were at Krisenstab. So the situation after five or six days was more or less that officially Stadtmission is now leading the operation, technically they were not, we were still managing everything, I was still there.
Heilsarmee offered help and was therefore asked for support like supplies or benches
I am pretty sure that Schöneberg hilft e.V. contacted us themselves and offered help (e.g. we used their bank account for donations). I also assume that the police was somehow contacted because we then got a police car with several police-people parked 8-18 near our office.
How were decisions taken at your station?
There was an extremely chaotic and heated coordinator telegram chat channel. Usually decisions were made by rough consensus in that channel, but it was extremely heated at times. Over time, as the number of coordinators has significantly decreased, the level of chaos in that channel has significantly decreased, and it remains our primary method of decision making.
Durch online-Meetings oder durch Besprechungen von verantwortungsübernehmenden bzw. sich in dem Bereich gut auskennenden Volunteers.
So the people who were there from the beginning were pretty much on the same page about the fact that we didn’t want to make decisions for everyone because all the time it was about everybody. If nobody would’ve shown up, then nothing would’ve happened as well, so we were saying all the time that there’s no leaders, there’s no hierarchy, everybody is putting in what they can as long as they can. But it actually turned into problems because the people that came to help, in hindsight I can see, were looking for leadership while at the same time they would criticise leadership. So when decisions were made it would be criticised and I think that is totally fair and at the time they needed that. They were like, when is somebody going to decide this, why is nobody deciding this. At the same time when that would happen, when it would be like, okay we are talking to Süddeutsche now, they would be like, who said that you can decide this. At the same time it was just what it was, everybody was very emotional, everybody was in a high-alert state, especially all the people who were in the first five days, I think after this it was already different, because there was already structure. If you come there and there’s already structure it’s very easy to look at it and criticise whatever is there and I think for the people who were there very early and who spent a lot of their time there… People looked at them and expected stuff and they forgot that all of us somehow ended up there, nobody got there and was like, we are doing this, everybody was like yeah I just wanna help and then it happened to turn out this way. Actually the help for the refugees, well at least most of the time, I know that there were also disagreements about things like if we should pay for people who want to go back to Ukraine. And people were like no, and some people were like yes we do whatever they need, we don’t put conditions on our help. And there were very special cases where there were disagreements but I think the consequences of the trouble were on the level of organisation not on the level of help.
There were usually weekly Zoom meetings between coordinators. Eventually this was extended to include all regular volunteers who wanted to attend. Decisions would be voted on by this group in meetings and sometimes with polls on Telegram.
There were several layers of decision-making:
– Orga-Team consisting of around 10 people that was mainly talking decisions about structuring the whole thing (I am pretty sure that for a while on-site volunteer coordinators were not part of any decisions and the only was to get your point across was to find someone from the Orga-Team. We had a list of people and their responsibilities but from my experience a lot of communication attempts were futile).
– Coordinators who could then discuss those decisions or complain about them during “big” coordinator meetings that emerged a bit later, I’d day from mid-April
– Coordinator meetings also included active volunteers starting from the end of May, not sure about this timeframe but this happened fairly late in the game
– Food and supply decisions were taken by the leads of the corresponding Teams and they also included volunteers
– Regular volunteers also made decisions on site when it concerned their area of expertise, a lot depended on a coordinator.
As much as I can tell, «main» coordinators were volunteers who had come first and tried to set up ZOB. They would take most decisions along with other coordinators which for translators would be the first people to come at ZOB or those that’d be here the most often (main coordinators would chose), and for german speaking coordinators it would most often be people that befriended the main coordinators. I don’t remember volunteers picking who their coordinators should be. At no point was some kind of general assembly called, or telegram used to ask volunteers opinion, the decision process would mostly belong to the main coordinators, which could at times consult with the team(s) concerned by the decisions. I have no recollection of translators being ever consulted until malteser takeover was announced, which was by then, pointless.
They were made by the main coordinators and their “close circle”, a sort of clique; it was not very transparent to me, it felt more like a nomination from the one above with whom you got along more or less. I still don’t know how it was decided that somebody becomes a coordinator.
There was no communication about that with volunteers that came regularly, but not on a daily basis. The more often someone came and the longer their shifts were, the more likely was the chance that the get into this “inner circle”. It didn’t feel like it was decided on your competence if you become a coordinator, you just needed to be with the right people somehow. At that time, it felt random for a few of the translators as I remember.
Please describe the online-offline registrations for shifts.
For general volunteering, we used volunteer planner, although this was never checked or strictly enforced, so many volunteers also just showed up at the station. Registration happened on paper at the volunteer desk, along with ID+vaccine check and briefing. Individual stations, as mentioned above, sometimes made their own internal calendars/spreadsheets to help ensure that experienced volunteers were available. Coordinators used (and continue to use) a shared google calendar.
We did not use the volunteer planner from the beginning. There were several discussions about whether to implement actual shifts but we never did. At some point we did start using the volunteer planner… Before that we had a Google Sheet. So some people did a Google Sheet where you could sign up and then that sheet also gave an overview of how many people were there at what time which was interesting to look at. And we decided against limiting the shift because we wanted to make it as convenient as possible for people to come in. Cause somebody might not like to take up a shift if it starts an hour earlier than they can make it from work or something.
There was the Volunteer Planner website. I can’t remember what happened before that, I kind of remember people just showing up at first. For coordinators/some teams there were Google Sheets where scheduling was coordinated.
In the first few days, the volunteers came spontaneously to Süd. They followed the calls via Telegram. A briefing and organisation took place on site. Most of the time, there were too many volunteers. From 9 March until the closure of Süd on 17 July, we used the Volunteer Planner.
I started just when volunteer-planner.org was first used for shift-planning of volunteers and a Google-Sheet for coordinators. There were shifts for translators, volunteers and Polish-speakers to talk to bus drivers. Later it was also possible to come to a shift without registering but that was highly not wished for.
The system changed several times for both. Offline for most of the time was some variation of an excel document, the database was lost several times, it could contain people’s names, phone number and ID number after some point. You would arrive, someone would check you in the document, assign you a role depending on the needs capabilities/languages. You’d be provided a hi-vis vest if you didn’t have one and you’d pin/tape your name and languages (sometimes role). You’d be asked how long you expected to stay (ma of 12 hours though not always respected). Offline you’d pick your day and time slot and role. The system changed vastly over time, first excel document, then specific website with a specific number attributed to you, then specific site that most people wouldn’t use (unpractical, some people didn’t hear of it, and regulars would often come on the same shift at the same frequency).
Die Volontäre sollten/konnten sich über eine Tabelle in Google Drive für ein Zeitfenster eintragen. Man konnte aber auch so vorbeikommen und sich von der Orga eintragen lassen.
The online registration form came later where you could enter your name and the hours you could stay on site (several categories existed: 1) translators, 2) non-RU/UKR-speakers usually in charge of supply (pouring out coffee, giving away food, stock up donations etc., 3) and polish speakers in charge of communicating with bus drivers) The offline registration form was coming to ZOB, register at the table, telling your name and the time slot you could stay on site, and start your shift. In the beginning, you needed to show your ID to register, but the problem was the data base (an excel file) got “lost” several times. I still don’t know what happened: If the file was deleted or what it meant that all of our personal information that was saved up there was “lost”.
Please describe the shift structure and the schedule-timetable
There was no shift structure for general volunteers: they could arrive and leave at any time that suited them.
In der Foodstation waren für Koordination 10-12 Stunden vor Ort normal, wir haben aber darauf geachtet, das andere Volunteers irgendwann den Absprung nach Hause schaffen. In der regulären Coordination wurde es, da ich ja fast nur Nachtschichten gemacht habe, mit der Zeit immer härter, weil immer weniger Volunteers regulär nachts da waren. Gerade in den letzten Monaten haben sich ca 10 Personen die Nächte aufgeteilt, auch, weil wir das Infodesk nicht unbeaufsichtigt lassen konnten. Ich hab pro Woche mind. 4-5 Nachtschichten gemacht, was definitiv belastend war. Aber: viele Menschen, die Nachtschichten gemacht haben, sind zu guten Freunden geworden. Definitiv sehr solide, verantwortungsübernehmende, im Leben stehende Menschen. Anders hätte es aber auch nicht funktioniert!
People who came up after two weeks when there was already a coordination system and briefing system and all, I feel like they have a whole different experience. And the people who work now also have a totally different experience. But what I did after I came back I would still do the Krisenstab thing because the guys knew me, so that was helpful not having changing faces all the time. That was okay. Also maybe because that’s just something that I’m okay at talking to people and making a point and that worked pretty well. But at the same time everything got bigger and bigger and bigger, all the press work, dealing with donations and everything that needed to be done at that point, building a website.
I think in the beginning schedules were fluid, people would come and go whenever but eventually they became 3 hour shifts (9-12, 12-15, 15-18, etc.). Coordination shifts were less structured, and could be any length of time as long as someone was present.
3h for volunteers and 6h for coordinators
The shift structure can be divided into three different periods:
1. In the first weeks 24/7 shifts could be realised at Süd. As time went on, however, it became increasingly difficult to cover the planned shifts with German/English, Polish and Ukrainian/Russian speaking volunteers.
2. From 07.05., Süd was closed from 0:00 to 6:00 and from 29 May to the following day from 21:00 to 06:00. 3. From 22.06. opening hours from 12:00 to 21:00.
There were shifts 24/7, volunteer shifts were 3 hours but one could easily book several shifts and I don’t think everyone really controlled how many hours people spent on site (it depended on the coordinator a lot). Südkreuz used volunteer-planner to check how many people and who shows up for a shit, it was also used to communicate the numbers of volunteers needed. At one point there were too many volunteers and we had to send people who just randomly showed up home. Coordinator shifts varied between 3 to 12 hours. I think at some point it was a competition of who volunteered the most and never left the station.
On the volunteers’ side there was none to speak of, some volunteers had affinities/possibilities for night/morning/day, some people would come as needed, some would do both.
Die Zeittabelle in Google Drive war in zweistündigen Abschnitten getaktet. Man konnte sich aber für beliebige Zeit eintragen.
The shift slots were at 2 hours intervals, you could enter your name for several shifts
How did you do onboarding?
Near the beginning, when there were many arriving volunteers, the volunteer desk ran a briefing every 10-15 minutes. This briefing was given by experienced volunteer desk volunteers, based on a deck of notes. The briefing took around 10 minutes. It was offered in whichever languages were available from the volunteer desk volunteers, but primarily English.
I only did this a few times but onboarding to supply area specifically I would walk new volunteers around the supply area and explain everything by showing them what was going on and giving them a task to start with.
Introduction in basic knowledge and rules, process and handling of arriving persons, role assignment of volunteers
At first when we had a lot of new volunteers we did onboarding every three hours using an onboarding sheet (i think we still have in on Süd drive), that was changed several times, but I don’t think I was ever a part of any of those changes so idk how they happened. Onboarding was done by a coordinator usually in English (sometimes in German) and a separate smaller onboarding about mental health was done in Russian for translators if there was a RU-speaking coordinator on site. Onboarding styles differed quite drastically (e.g. I was always trying to be nice and funny but very firm).
Regularly the translator’s coordinator would do a small briefing for newcomers, otherwise you’d ask people already present.
Ich als Volontärin kam am ZOB an, meldete mich an der Anmeldung mit meinem Namen, Tätigkeit und dem genauen Zeitfenster, in dem ich helfen kann. Ich bekam eine Weste, schrieb an einem Stück Klebeband meinen Vornamen und meine Sprachen auf, in denen es mir möglich war zu kommunizieren.
At the very beginning, during the busiest hours, every 30 minutes one coordinator gathered a group of new volunteers to explain them their work (in English) with a megaphone
Please describe the vest system: how they were distributed and what colour system was used.
The vest system was an easy target for committees looking to make work, or for people looking to redesign the system. One of my roles as coordinator has been to tell people to stop trying to redesign the vest system unnecessarily. Our vests were coordinated across the Hauptbahnhof with several other organisations which worked in the station. In the initial phase, we had some yellow vests and some orange vests, and we tried out a few different meanings for these vests. After a substantial redesign we settled for most of the time on this structure:
Somebody had a connection to a guy who runs a production company for movies and he brought us a set of old radios and he was also the one who brought us the grey vests. So at first yellow was for volunteers, orange were coordinators just because we had less orange vests, because people were told to bring them and most brought yellow vests because it’s the most common. And then it somehow changed to yellow non-native speakers, and then orange Ukrainian or Russian speakers and then DB and BVG started complaining that that’s their colours. And then eventually DB ordered the green ones for us. But we kept the grey ones.
For BAS volunteers:
general volunteers: dark green
station leaders: dark blue
volunteers able to speak ukrainian or russian work a large yellow patch on their vest
Other organisations we coordinated with here include:
DB staff in various roles
Bahnhofsmission (light blue)
Stadtmission (light blue and green/orange, for two roles within stadtmission)
BAS volunteer vests were distributed after briefing, at the volunteer desk. We requested that vests were returned at end of shift, but we had no enforcement of this.
In den ersten Tagen: Grau Coordinations, Blau Stationleaders (gab es in den ersten Wochen nur in der Foodstation, danach auch an allen anderen Stationen), gelb für Volunteers ohne Ukrainisch-/Russisch-Sprachkenntnisse, orange für Volunteers mit Ukrainisch-/Russisch-Sprachkenntnissen, Nach einigen Wochen wurden auf Grund der Tatsache, das es nicht zu Verwechslungen von Mitarbeitenden der DB in orangenen Westen kommt, auf Wunsch der DB die Orangen & gelben Westen durch Grüne ersetzt. Housing trug erst blaue Westen, später Pink. Psychologischer Support trug lila, Menschen vom Senat weiß. Stamimitarbeiter_Innen trugen hellblau, vom Senat bezahlte Helfer_Innen and den Gleisen pink, Welcome-Guides gelb. Kinderschutz und DRK trug rot. Die gelben und orangenen Westen waren Privatspenden, die ersten 20 grauen Westen von einer Securitryfirma. Alle anderen Westen wurden gekauft bzw von der DB gekauft (afaik)
Vests (and name tags) were picked up by volunteers themselves. Coordinator would help if they were new. Coordinators – Blue; Translators – Orange; General volunteers – Yellow.
At first we had orange vests for Translators and yellow vests for everyone else. Coordinators had a pice of tape that said COORDINATOR on the backs of their vests. Later we had: Blue for coordinators, Orange for translators, Yellow for everyone else. At first people just showed up, got their vests from the office, put a piece of tape with their name and languages they spoke on the vest and left. Later we developed a registration system where one had to sign up in a list (name, address, phone number), show your ID and negative COVID-Test-Result and only then get your vest.
At the beginning there were only yellow vests (maybe different for main coordinators but I don’t remember). Then BAS provided vests with different colours: yellow for non ukr/ru speaking volunteers, orange for translators, dark green for coordinators, white/blue for main coordinators.
At the beginning you should bring your own yellow vest to work there, they asked for it in the channels; and they also asked for donations; the vests for volunteers were donated by people. Later, BAS provided 4 colours: yellow for supply and non-RU/UKR-speaking volunteers, orange for the translators, green for translator coordinators and supply coordinators, and blue for the main coordinators which were only worn by Malteser!!! (Schichtleitung (shift supervision) and Teamleitung (team supervision)). The BAS coordinators were not entitled to wear the blue vests although those belonged to BAS (as I later realised). Malteser just took over and assigned the colour.
Please describe the tasks translators had.
We had no specific translator role, and as coordinators we made effort to be clear that volunteers which were able to speak Ukrainian or Russian were providing all kinds of general assistance, not translation.
Möglich klar und einfach, ggf zusammengefasst, aber ohne wichtige Dinge auszulassen sowie die eigene Meinung mit einfließen zu lassen, das Gesagte zu übersetzen.
Translators generally had a “normal” task like supply, greeting people at buses, trains, etc., but they would also translate in these areas. When there were less translators than areas they would move around to help where needed.
– Communicating with the refugees, finding out where they needed to go, if they had
any plans/relatives/urgent needs etc.
– Translating complicated cases to non-RU/UA speaking coordinators
– Communicating with DB employees in the Reisezentrum
– Going to doctor’s appointments/translating on the phone when urgent
Welcoming people off the busses, be the intermediate between a family and the housing/driver team/malteser’s sanis and sometimes police and notruf. Asking the bus drivers how many people were on the busses. Usually translators would take care of the sim card table (to explain people how it worked, what they had the right to). Explaining to people the asylum process. Calming down refugees.
Die Translators empfingen die Menschen direkt am Bus, nahmen eine Familie /eine Person mit und sprachen mit ihnen. So klärten wir die Bedarfe und konnten entscheiden, welchen Algorithmus in gegebenen Hilfestrukturen wir nehmen sollten. Wir gingen mit Menschen zu Kleider/Essenständen, zum Housing-Team um nach einer Wohnmöglichkeit zu suchen, zum Driver-Team, um die Menschen in die gefundenen Unterkünfte oder zum Hauptbahnhof zu fahren.
Going to buses, asking if people needed help, helping them with the luggage, listening to them, comforting them (there were a lot of tears), coordinating their needs (getting a driver if they needed to go somewhere, organising rooms with the help of the housing team (filling out forms and waiting for their call), accompanying the refugees to the hospital etc.) → everything 🙂 basically handling all the direct contact with the refugees and caring about their needs (coordinating cases and handling everything that needed to be done; the other teams assisted more or less) All the mental pressure was put on translators and there was no communication with them, no psychological support
What decisions were made by coordinators, what decisions were made by volunteers?
At the beginning, there were usually enough coordinators around that most decisions were made by coordinators. Decisions that general volunteers would be involved in were on what course of action to be recommend to arriving refugees.
Oft abhängig von der Uhrzeit und dem jeweiligen Wissen der Volunteers/Koordinations. Nachts war es im Regelfall absolut gleichgestellt, tagsüber bestimmt anders. Für mich war der Koordinationsjob auch eher eine Vermittlung von den am besten wissenden Personen für die jeweilige Frage an den Fragenden bzw den Überblick über die Gesamtsituation behalten und in Notfällen die Kontaktperson von Polizei, Security etc zu sein oder in Situationen deeskalierend reinzugehen. Aber nicht alle Koordinations haben das so gemacht, viele waren z.B. hauptsächlich am Infodesk und haben Fragen beantwortet.
I think information flow was good. Ultimately it always depends on people being willing to read stuff at all. Some just don’t. Some people constantly complained about the amount of messages which on one hand I get but on the other hand I don’t see any other way. And so information flow is on the one hand making it as easily accessible as possible and on the other hand being diligent about wanting to get information. And if you don’t make an effort to take your phone and read then you can’t complain about not being informed. We had a group for coordinators, another general group and then one for station leaders. Meaning somebody who’s responsible for a specific station, for hygiene, or for food, or for the kids corner. They all had their own groups as well. And then there was a group for all station leaders.
Most decisions were made my coordinators or frequent volunteers.
Depending on the coordinator. Decisions were often made in consens between working helpers or just depending on the most practical, efficient and/or for the refugees most convenient solution. Sometime decision were made based on the experience of previous days
Most of the structural decisions did not include volunteers and/or on-site volunteer coordinators. Volunteer coordinators could decide in cases of calling a tai and paying for it, buying bus tickets, going to the pharmacy to get non-prescription medication, giving advice to a refugee and distributing tasks between volunteers. Volunteers could make decisions within their stations but could not really influence any structural changes or lack thereof up until summer.
From a non-german speaking volunteer pov, virtually all decisions were made by coordinators and none by volunteers, though inside of the translation team there would be unofficial rules.
The structural decisions were made by the coordinators. At the beginning, there were coordinators for housing, those for supply, for Polish speakers, for translators and so on. Most of the coordinators didn’t speak the language so they also didn’t fully realise the situation the translators were in. Only the translators coordinators were mostly native speakers (or studied the language). Those coordinators were in charge of assigning the translators to buses and overview the situation on arrivals in general. The individual decisions about the cases, however, were made solely by translators. Only if it was a difficult case that needed special attention, the translators consulted the coordinator in charge.
Where at the station were volunteer and support points located?
From day 2 until around August, in UG1, one level underground. At the same time, the Stadtmission operated a large tent in Washingtonplatz which was the primary support/waiting area for people seeking accommodation from the Berlin government (vs. making an onward journey). From around August, BAS was located inside the Stadtmission tent until 1st October. Since 1st October, BAS has no refugee-facing support point. DRK runs a public infodesk, and BAS works closely alongside DRK, mobile in and around the station.
Zeitlich unterschiedlich. Die ersten Monate gab es keine Räume für Volunteers/Koordinations. Nach ein paar Wochen gab es einen Container am Washingtonplatz, indem (wenige) Dinge (z.B. tagesaktuelle Armbändchen für Volunteers für die Registration, Geld etc) gelagert werden konnten sowie ein Computer stand, der hauptsächlich für das Reisezentrum genutzt wurde. Walkie Talkies wurden bei der Bami geladen und konnten dort von Coordionators „geliehen“ werden. Im späteren zeitlichen Verlauf hat Housing zum arbeiten den Container „übernommen“. Den ersten „richtigen Ort“, an dem man sich auch mal hinsetzten konnte, gab es erst mit dem Umzug des Infodesks in die ehemalige „Kidscorner“ Ende Juni 2022. Ansonsten gab es am HBF in der Dudlerpassage die Foodstation, eine Hygieneartikelausgabestation, Einen LGBTQIA-Stand, einen BIPOC-Stand, die Tierhilfsstation sowie kurzzeitig eine Station des DRK.Im UG1 gab es außerdem eine Kidscorner(erst von Volunteers, später durch den Senat betrieben), ein Infodesk, einen Ticketstand der DB, zeitlich begrenzt div. Essenstationen sowie eine Kleiderausgabestelle, eine Corona-Teststation (eine private, eine durch den Senat/DB genehmigte reguläre). Am Washingtonplatz gab es bis Ende September ein durch die Stadtmission betriebenes, vom Senat finanzierte Zelt mit Sitzmöglichkeiten und Catering sowie zeitlich begrenzt div. Ausgabestellen für Sim Karten von div. Anbietern. BAS war außerdem im Reisezentrum sehr present.
Südkreuz was based outside near Flixbus stop. There was an office provided by DB (for volunteers to use) and various gazebos/tents set up for different stations outside. Eventually we got access to “The Edge”. A new unfinished building owned by (Vattenfall??) And we set up food, supplies, kids’ area, and tables for people to sit and wait/eat. People also walked around inside the train station and there were posters put up but we were not permanently inside.
Indoors: small break room, used as a volunteer office, provided by DB. Outdoors: station forecourt, equipped with light garden or party tents, later with more stable tents from THW In addition, the EDGE (appro. 400m2 of office space in the shell) was private rented and used as refugee shelter, supply and meeting point
Several areas were set up: an office from Deutsche Bahn near Edeka im Bahnhof facing the FlixBus stop where most of the refugees were arriving by buses from Poland. This office was used for storing valuables, vests and also as an office for the accommodation team. Outside was a tent with food (soup, sandwiches, beverages), a tent with supply (mainly hygiene products and clothing), an Info-Desk, and an area with tables/gas heaters from Heilsarmee used by refugees to rest. There were volunteers on the platform inside of the train station. Later (around the 20th of March) we were approached by one of the Vattenfall people and offered an unfinished space (the EDGE) on the ground floor a couple of meters away from the bus stop, that was later used as an area for storage, supply, food, and rest. Marko should know more about the contract details, I’ve seen it twice while showing it to the police. By the middle of April we had a (very stinky and disgusting) tent provided by THW and Senat that was seldom used, the DB office and the EDGE.
During march and maybe a bit of april, the Wartehalle was dedicated to refugees and you could find all different teams in there but the supply team (upstairs). I don’t remember when the Malteser came or if they were already there when I came, but they stayed upstairs (containers, one dedicated to sanis/tent, army beds, quiet corner for kids), with sometimes one or few of them coming down. Then (april? later?) it was decided the warterhallee would return to its initial use and refugees could only be welcomed in the tents upstairs. A BVG bus was provided so translators could stay warm between waiting for buses. Net to it would be a volunteer table where translators would sit (when warm) and under it stock food and water to give out to refugees.
Anfänglich wurde die temporäre Wartehalle am ZOB genutzt. Erst im April-Mai haben die Malteser ihre Zelte und Container auf dem Parkplatz oben aufgebaut und die Hilfsstrukturen wurden alle dorthin übertragen.
At the beginning of March, the waiting hall of ZOB was used for the arriving refugees only. The whole room provided different stations as mentioned before. Nobody else except for the refugees was to enter the hall. Also quite soon at the beginning (a few days later after BAS started their mission), Malteser set up several tents upstairs at the parking lot are above the bus station: I think 3 at the beginning (Sanitäterzelt, food tent, bed tent). Later it became: 5 tents (food tent, kids tent, 2 bed tents, 1 supply tent); a refrigeration system (a whole container only for food products that needed to be stored in a refrigerator, such as sandwiches, cheese, meet, lettuce etc.), a food truck for the volunteers, 5 Malteser containers (2 Sanitätscontainers, 2 office containers, 1 shift supervisor container), 2 bathroom containers.
How and why was money spent?
My experience of cash donations was random passers-by wanting to hand over eg. 20 euro. I usually put it in a bo in the coordinator drawer. I did not deal with receiving non-cash money donations. We had(/have) a link on our website to direct people to.
For the first months as coordinator (until around September) I was unaware that BAS had a large quantity of cash, and consequently was not actively involved in spending money. After that, I pushed on our volunteers to spend money fairly aggressively on: train tickets (when a free ticket was not available), hotels, food and drink for refugees (after the Stadtmission tent closed and free refugee food ended at Hbf)
Sometimes people walking past would give us cash. Would give it to the lead coordinator to document and add to wallet/safe. I raised €7500 and spent this mostly on supplies and food, and some miscellaneous things like train tickets, household items, books. I kept control of this money though and just bought things myself so it was never in Südkreuz accounting but probably worth noting because we did spend a LOT of money to keep our section running.
Monetary donations have come from individuals, such as passers-by and visitors, but also from school classes and companies. They were collected by the coordinators in a wallet to which each shift coordinator had access. Later we started to keep a record of each shift’s income and expenditure. Mostly private individuals (clothes, children’s things, toys, seats, prams, etc.). Money spend on: Food, Transport, Hygienic, Office /Tech, Supply, Medication
Volunteers and passerby alike, if it was up to 20 euro I would just take the money and put it in a wallet that we had and that was kept with a coordinator on site. If it was more I’d write a note saying thank you so much. We had a small notebook where we would put all the money we’d gotten and spent and at the end of the shift would count the money and put all the info down. We also had Sophia doing accounting, checking if we had receipts for money we spent. Maybe some people took the cash and never put it in the wallet but I have never heard of anything like it lol.
We had a betterplace set up that was connected to the Schöneberg hilft’s bank account. Caitlin (Supply Coordinator) also raised several thousands euro in New Zealand and was using the money to buy things necessary for refugees. Documenting refugee supporting actions in the train and bus stations of Berlin 2022 We also had this Schöneberg hilft card that we used for paying in the pharmacy but I have no idea how it was done. People would also bring clothing/shoes/things/supplies/food. Money spend on: Tai, Food, Supply, Bus/Train tickets (ÖPNV later)
Money had various uses, almost all for refugees: tais, hotels, supplies (that could also be for volunteer use), paying back some gas to the drivers.
Meistens kamen Berliner/Innen mit ihren Spenden direkt auf uns zu. Alle Spenden gingen direkt an die entsprechend aufgebaute Station im Hilfebereich. Ich kaufte z.B. rezeptfreie Medikamente.
All donations came from private people, who either brought food and drinks, or gave money. With the money, the supply team was able to purchase things that were needed the most. There was warm food that somebody brought, however, I don’t really remember who that was. We always had soups until it became to warm outside and they got bad. Water was handled by the senate and Malteser. From the deposit of the water bottles, we could also purchase things. Fritz-Cola donated a few cradles of soft drinks as well from time to time. The sim-cards were donated by a phone shop (a nice owner who also purchased the sim-cards for his own money at the beginning and gave them to us, way before the big companies donated sim-cards to the refugees) not too far away from ZOB.
At the end, when the donations stopped coming, I coordinated the supply team to purchase things that were needed for their own money which was returned by BAS right away. It always felt like ZOB was under BAS‘ patronage, but somehow people felt like ZOB was the black sheep of BAS. It was not until I was added to the Orga-Team-group on telegram some time around April/May?, that started the communication with the other satellite stations. The coordinators before me “stashed” their know-how, their knowledge that they had from BAS, and never shared it with anyone else, be it other coordinators or translators who were not in that chat group. It felt very undemocratic to me. It felt like they wanted to be needed, to be “irreplaceable”. The communication was never transparent, the decision-making either. They went to the meetings with Senias, the ZOB supervision and Malteser; and I don’t remember who elected them to be in charge of that. So in that sense, I was always wondering how that process emerged. Especially, again, those coordinators (non-native-speakers) represented the volunteers, but never really communicated with most of them.
Where did food donations come from?
I was not involved much in fresh food donation as part of BAS – at the beginning, there was a food station, but this rapidly transitioned into a contracted system paid by the government. We regularly received end-of-night donuts from a donut shop in the station, until some part of that shop’s management chain decided it was not allowed. During our time in the Stadtmission tent, there were other fresh food donations (in addition to the free food provided under contract).
In the very first few weeks when BAS was involved, from tables in UG1. During the stadtmission tent times, by stami employees and volunteers from their food station. I am unclear on behaviour in the first weeks as I was not involved. During the stadtmission tent period, food was handed out by the existing food station which took general food service hygiene precautions (screens / gloves / etc) In recent times, it has been a continued battle for me to persuade volunteers to not give out dated fresh food to refugees, because we do not at present have (in my opinion) the ability to do so hygienically.
Es wurde eine überall im UG1 ausgeschriebene Donations-Abgabestelle direkt neben der Foodstation eingerichtet sowie das Infodesk informiert. Dann wurde, je nach Kühlkette bzw der Dringlichkeit der Ausgabe das Essen ausgegeben. Konsequentes Maske tragen, konsequentes Handschuhe tragen mit regelmäßigem wechseln, regelmäßige Müllbeseitigung, regelmäßiges Austauschen von Volunteers am den Ausgabestellen, alle Volunteers wurden eingewiesen (hab selbst lange in der Gastronomie gearbeitet, kenne daher die Grundregeln), Ausgabe/Verwendung von sauberem Einweggeschirr falls notwendig,
Yeah. The catering was actually the good thing that happened, after it happened. It took a while to get there. I remember when the senate dudes told me: “From tomorrow on we are organising catering.” I was like, yeah nice. And then they told me they had 2000 sandwiches. And I was like, what for an hour or what are you talking about. And he was like, no for tomorrow, and I was like yeah no that’s one train, we have 10 trains coming dudes get your shit together. And then I recognised they were concerned about how much it would cost but yeah. Actually what happened there was maybe more about the communicating side of everything. In the beginning I very much trusted them to do a good job. I really thought that the city of Berlin has capable people and they are going to be able to manage this crisis. And when these dudes showed up I was like yeah, they are going to handle it, I trust them. And when they told me they would manage catering from tomorrow on, I would broadcast: From tomorrow on catering is going to be provided by the Senate. And it didn’t happen, it took over two weeks until there was sufficient catering, and there was a huge loss of trust because I would say those things, because I trusted they were true, but they just weren’t. And I learned afterwards that I just trusted them for no reason.
Private people, like grandmas, made sandwiches and when you listen to it’s nice and heartwarming. The food station built up pretty quickly. And it’s astonishing what kind of system they have built there. They had a big area net to the stairs to the tram in the Dudler Passage. And they made their own logistics. Very well I remember. Someone drew the whole area plan and made a plan of where items got stacked where we bought a bunch of Ikea stackable boxes, put the things in there, restaurants contacted us, hotels, private people who wanted to bring stuff and they just did. And it would be different every day, whatever we got. Sometimes it was like a giant stack of pizzas, sometimes it was something else, baked goods, tonnes of baked goods. It wasn’t stored long-term, everything was eaten straight away, because they didn’t have any running water…So everything was eaten straight away, basically the only thing that needed to be stored and could be stored was packaged sweets and stuff or muesli bars and fruit. But of course that’s also edible stuff, and sometimes some baked goods but they are not good the net day either. And of course they had to see and ideally of course they were not always able to keep stuff off the floor because it attracts rats and everything. And the food station people I remember were there for 20-24 hours a day, they had a little corner under the stairs made up where they slept for a couple of hours and then just went on working. The first day when the food station was shut down and they put up a caterer, the caterer left at 10 pm which was before the last train came in. And although they said that hygiene was so important they left unpacked sandwiches just stacked upon each other, just dry bread with some cheese between it, and they wouldn’t even separate it. So if you grabbed one you would definitely touch three others. And that’s what they left on the table for the night. The catering got there quickly. It was the first thing they took down, the food station. Two-three weeks. That caterer was then exchanged after a couple of weeks as well.
Edeka gave us crates of leftovers every night. Mostly baked goods; cooked a lot; Soup and sandwiches from different source; private donations from the public; Berliner Tafel (not “fresh” food but bars, drinks, candy, etc.); Spendenbrücke (not “fresh” food but bars, drinks, candy, etc.); Food Sharing
All set up on a table. People could take anything themselves except soup, tea, and coffee was served by volunteers. We never really had limits on how much people would take though we found it helpful to keep a lot of what we had hidden and replenish as needed so people wouldn’t take so much. There was a document all volunteers were told to read about sanitation of food areas, wear gloves, etc.
Food Lead Kseniia who cooked sandwiches and soups at home; Foodsharing, Edeka am Südkreuz leftovers everyday after 21, a school near Tempelhof that started giving out lunch leftovers, X cooking dishes, – cooking soups once a week starting mid-April to make Kseniia’s life, easier, – Sandwiches from ZOB while they had a food-truck, – Soups from UBS e.v. https://ubs-ev.de (from that point on Kseniia only cooked for, Sandwiches from Hauptbahnhof that were provided by a catering company hired by senate
At first: a food tent with two-three volunteers responsible for giving out soup, beverages and sandwiches; Later: two volunteers in the EDGE giving out food. There were never any real restricting of the amount of food people could take at the beginning and also homeless people could get food. Later we had a rule that one person could only get one sandwich.
Not sure that there was any at the beginning, we also had food lying almost on the ground. Later there was a document created with hygiene rules, volunteers were wearing gloves. We also marked the food with dates, had two fridges to keep the food and regularly checked of the food was fresh.
Private people and they were purchased from the money. The supply team made sandwiches (Malteser always helped), somebody donated the soups until May; the food truck made food for the volunteers
Masken waren eine Vorschrift, da die Corona-Pandemie immer noch im Laufen war. Die Geflüchteten haben sich gewundert, dass wir immer noch Masken tragen, den in der Ukraine selbst sei die Pandemie nun vergessen (was auch vollkommen verständlich gewesen ist).
Who was giving supply donations and how was it handled?
For most of the time, the largest non-food donation station was hygiene station. In addition to that, early in the process, there were clothing and pet stations. BVG allowed us to use a large part of their U-Bahnhof for storage, behind the tables which we distributed from. When this area was closed at night time (during the summer), security guards paid by BVG/government guarded this area.
Gab es nur in den ersten Tagen am HBF, wurde dann wegen Brandlast von der DB verboten, Ausnahme Hygieneartikel, die in einer extra Hygienestation ausgegeben wurden->keine Selbstbedienung von fast Anfang an!
Members of the public gave many supplies in the first couple of months. Items in need were added to Adiuto website and people would arrive with them within an hour or so. Later we saw a significant decrease in public donations. • I was buying a lot with my donation money mentioned above as was Kseniia. Spendenbrücke
It was all laid out on tables and people could take what they needed. Eventually to prevent hoarding not everything was put out on tables at once. Towards the very end I created a menu system where supply was not put out for people to take themselves, they had to ask for what they needed from a list. This was a result of frequent returners taking the same items everyday, and a huge drop in donations meaning we couldn’t stay stocked if people were taking everything they wanted. We also separated items, e.g. diapers, tampons, etc. were opened and separated into smaller packages so we would have more to go around.
It was stored in plastic and cardboard boxes (I’m not sure where these came from, I guess they were left with donations early on). Items were grouped together. May be of note: Sometimes we would get very strange donations from the public we would have to turn away or throw away, heavily used items, etc.
People passing by or coming specifically to the station would give: Clothing and shoes: at first we tried to sort it, then gave up and stopped accepting it at all. Things: there was one a group of kindergarten-workers who donated a lot of drawing supplies and books for kids, people also donated toys, cutlery, cups, pots and other random things needed by refugees. Sometimes they just left random shit they didn’t need so we had to get rid of it ourselves. Supplies: we had a Adiuto list with everything we needed and people would come to the station and leave things there. It was one of the tasks of the supply team to keep track of it.
It was because of hygiene concerns that it was decided to centralize clothes donations.
In the wartehalle in boxes where people would pick themselves what they needed. When all was moved upstairs, there would be small stock in the welcome tent, and volunteers would give it to refugees if they asked for it. They could also find other supplies in the supply tent(s)/containers. In tents or containers. Hygienic products with hygienic products, technology products with technology products. Most in clear boxes, on shelves or tables.
Big packages with Hygiene products were split into smaller portions: the big pampers bags for instance were divided into small plastic bags for instance, so we didn’t have to give away a whole package, but only a few diapers. Our supply people, some of them had cars, and they purchased the things on their own. We had a tent as a storage room, and a refrigeration system for fresh products.
How was accommodation structured?
In the first days, accomodation was offered on an informal ad-hoc basis by volunteers. After that, accomodation for refugees was for the most part handled by the government of Berlin, via the TL arrival centre. Volunteer involvement here usually involved taking refugees to the contact point for this (stadtmission tent) at the Hauptbahnhof. BAS housing team also operated from various locations (sometimes inside the Hauptbahnhof) to provide accomodation for special cases: people who for whatever reason could not be reasonably accomodated at TL. Initially, very chaotically. Subsequent to that, by the BAS housing team with their own protocols. At Hauptbahnhof, this usually took place by volunteers bringing refugees to our infodesk for further help, and then infodesk specialist volunteers communicating with housing specialist volunteers. Money was spend on hotels and tais to hotels.
People came and wanted to help. And actually that was something that the Senate engaged. They got a guy from Karuna, and it was like they knew each other for a long time already so they were friends or something like that. And they would hand it over to him. And I talked to the Senate people and was like, this is the worst,we already know about han trafficking cases that happened, we already know because people came running back. There was a person who jumped off a balcony because they didn’t feel safe and came back to Hauptbahnhof and told us about it. But they were like, well no, he’s handling it, he knows. And when I talked about this issue of han trafficking this dude, he was a very old white guy, he felt very offended, like I have worked in humanitarian work for thirty years now, I know what I’m doing… But they didn’t even check passports or anything, they didn’t even check IDs. They would just match people and there was this horrific situation when there was a family standing there in front of this crowd, and then somebody would raise their hand and they would come in front of everybody and go home with them. And then everybody would clap and cheer. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen because obviously sometimes there were people that nobody would raise their hand for. And it was so dangerous and I don’t even wanna know what happened behind the scenes. We talked to the Senate guys and I could tell that they just don’t have a different solution, they don’t have different accommodation. And they set up this whole thing and they let it happen this way. And I told them, well at least you have to check the personal data, you have to write down who’s going to whom. They were like, no with data security we cannot really do that, and they just let it go. And I don’t even wanna know, well I do wanna know of all the cases that ended up badly that we do not know. Because there must be so many, so many because we know about people who came to Hauptbahnhof with bad intentions. I mean nobody talks about this anymore but it was… Probably you remember that also in the media it was so instrumentalised. Giffey came and took this picture. Do you remember? When Giffey came to the station for the very first time, she took a picture with a Ukrainian woman holding her hands, and the woman was looking up to her and it was in the scenario of people with signs. Oh my God. And it was framed as helpful Berlin being helpful, but actually it was dangerous and it was so inconsiderate of the situation. There were already shuttles to Reinickendorf but the Senate didn’t have enough spots for everybody so that’s why they let it happen. It was the fifth or sixth night when it started that people had to stay in Hauptbahnhof because we couldn’t help everybody anymore. And we would talk about it in the Krisenstab, and we would be like, well 500 people had to stay at Hauptbahnhof tonight, a 1000 people had to stay at Hauptbahnhof tonight. Why don’t you set up sleeping trains and everything, and everybody was like, well we can’t do that. In the end they did do that anyway but at some point 2000 people stayed at Hauptbahnhof overnight. And there were also cases where almost like a mass panic would happen and stuff like that. And in the Krisenstab people would not react to this information, and we said: “Do you guys want to see a picture of a baby sleeping in a cardboard box? Or what do I need to show you that you realise what the problem is here?” Because they would be like, well thank you for your information on what happened. And I was like, this is not just information, this is something that everybody has to deal with, people sleeping in a train station. And when the Senate dudes heard about a picture of a baby sleeping in a cardboard box, which actually happened because it was cold, then they suddenly reacted, because they knew that would look bad. And then night trains would be organised, and actually in hindsight I feel like a lot of the things they did had the motivation of securing political legitimacy. And not helping the people. It was making sure that it looks okay. And I mean there are pictures of a baby.
In den ersten Tagen/Wochen wurde viel privat organisiert, da kann ich aber wenig zu sagen, da ich nicht beteiligt war. Ab der zweiten oder dritten Woche gab es am HBF einen Schlafzug nachts, in dem Geflüchtete „schlafen“ konnten. Hat aber bei weitem nicht gereicht, jede Nacht haben teils hunderte Geflüchtete in der Dudlerpassage auf dem kalten Boden/auf Bänken „geruht“ bzw es versucht. Pro Nacht konnten ab ca Woche 3 in der Bahnhofsmission ca 40 Personen auf Feldbetten übernachten, es gab auch einige Übernachtungsmöglichkeiten pro Nacht in Hotels. Im späteren Verlauf ist Housing vom ZOB zum HBF gewechselt und hat ab dann auch am HBF privat vermittelt. Später gab es noch die vom Senat organisieren Übernachtungsmöglichkeiten in Tegel sowie in dem Messe/ICC-Hallen.
In den ersten Tagen wurde es privat am HBF direkt organisiert, oft ohne zu wissen, wer eigentlich die „Anbieter_Innen“ der Schlafplätze sind und wo die Menschen landen, wenn sie mit den „Fremden“ mitgehen.. Fand ich persönlich schwierig, gleichzeitig wäre ohne dieses „System“ aber alles komplett zusammen gebrochen, so wurde wenigsten ein regelmäßiger „Abfluss“ an Menschen vom HBF sichergestellt und die Menschenmasse verkleinert. Kann ich grundsätzlich aber wenig zu sagen, hatte anderes zu tun. Später lief alles über registrierte NutzerInnen über das Housing-Team vor Ort, siehe auch die vorherige Frage. Vor allem im späteren Verlauf wurde Geld für Hotelübernachtungen für Notfälle ausgegeben, z.B. wenn die Personen wegen einer Behinderung nicht nach Tegel konnten etc. Dies lief/läuft entweder über housing direkt oder wird von Volunteers gezahlt, die das Geld dann von BAS wieder überwiesen bekommen (haben).
Private accommodation ended pretty quickly. I never had a lot to do with it. I just remember that this Träger that usually works with homeless people, Karuna, was supposed to take it on. But their own people were weird, and we were supposed to share a container with them in the beginning and we were scared because they were weird. And they were supposed to take over the Vermittlung, they were supposed to check people’s IDs and stuff. I don’t know if it worked out or how it worked out. After a couple of weeks people were not giving private accommodation anymore through showing up at the station. The Housing set up in UG1 like a couple of benches and they were making calls and placing people somewhere. And then sometimes a driver would show up and bring them there.
A list of private offers for accommodation for refugees was made on site. People just approached the office where a table was set for organising accommodation for refugees and asked to help. These people offered their homes, rooms, couches. At first this was done on paper. Quickly after two weeks an online system was established and eventually more than 300 offers were given, many of them multiple times, meaning when refugees left an apartment, the host offered it again. The hosts were called when a refugee was in need for private accommodation. The ID or passport of the refugee and host were copied in order to keep both parties safer. Females were not sent to male’s homes unless they were part of a whole family. The hosts were called and came to pick up the refugee/s. In the digital list there were several columns. indicating name, address, room number, location, languages, time of stay, availability for picking up during day/night and so on. Two main things changed over time: 1. The small welcome centre in Reinickendorf that some of the refugees were sent to originally was replaced after two months by the larger centre in the old airport Tegel; This was accompanied by direct transport from the central train station (and in some cases very difficult transport attempt from Südkreuz) so in common cases we would send refugees to the central train station with a volunteer or alone and they would take the direct bus from there to the welcome centre. 2. When accommodation was still needed the private accommodation was slowly shifted to one offered by churches. There were a few churches that worked closely with the volunteers in Südkreuz. Salvation Army, the good heart church and more. This change was made first because interpersonal problems started emerging between private hosts and refugees, and also the challenge to find accommodation for people of colour that were usually males that studied (mostly medicine) in Ukraine. Additionally the number of needed accommodation decreased and was limited to people that did not want to registered in Tegel or knew they were to leave Berlin in the next days.
On site, upstairs, where tents with military beds, and at some point a warm container fitting 4 such beds. Private housing was handled by the housing team. At first there were some checks but not much, but quickly more information were asked of the persons providing housing.
Die Frage kann am besten das Housing-Team beantworten. Von der Seite der Translator sah es so aus: ich nehme eine Geflüchteten-Einheit in meine Verantwortung, fülle ein Formular über die Größe der Einheit aus (Personenanzahl, Geschlecht, sind Kinder dabei?) und gebe das Formular dem Housing-Team. So weit ich es mitbekommen habe, hatte das Housing einen Pool an vor allem Privatunterkünften. Die Volontäre des Teams setzten sich mit den Menschen direkt in Verbindung und reservierten Plätze für Geflüchtete.
Private people could register on a site (I don’t remember the name anymore); there was a data base for the housing team that they had access to. As a translator, you fill out a form, gave it back to the housing team, and they called you on your phone as soon as they had a match.
Either the data base or people came to ZOB, filled out the application, and the housing team entered the information into the data base themselves
How was medical care given?
By directing people to DRK, that was based in Stadtmission tent
Durch das DRK vor Ort, welches aber nur tagsüber da war. Nicht durchgängig war ein Arzt vor Ort, innerhalb des DRK lief viel über Volunteerarbeit durch Fachpersonal. Billig & sehr peinlich für den Senat! Es gab minimal Privatspenden für Volunteers, wir durften aber nichts offiziell an Geflüchtete rausgeben. Fall tritt auf-> je nach Sprache Kommunikation mit Volunteer bzw Koordination ->entweder direkte Info an Coordinator oder Infodesk, von dort aus via Walkie Talkie medizinische Unterstützung angefragt oder, falls keine da Krankenwagen geordert.-> Verantwortung haben im Regelfall die Coordinator übernommen bis zur Abnahme durch Fachpersonal. Falls Übersetzung notwendig wurde falls machbar(Corona) jemand zum übersetzten mit ins Krankenhaus/zur DRK Station geschickt.
Sometimes members of public would donate medical supples. We had a medical cupboard in coordinator’s room with was accessed in collaboration with the pharmacy at the station. Coordinators would also take refugees to the pharmacy if they needed help. Medication available from drug stores (allergy spray, throat lozenges, vitamins) were available the The Edge but had to be documented that they were given out.
Donations came from pharmacy at Südkreuz, passerby and volunteers. Drug-store items could also be given out by a coordinator, we also had some medicine from Ukraine that people brought with them. It was overall very challenging and unclear as we rarely had doctors on site. I would just go to a pharmacy, ask and then do what they said.
We had a step-by-step guide developed by the medical team that can probably be found on Drive. My rule was: if people need urgent medical assistance we call 112, if they can wait we call a doctor’s office nearby (I remember there being also a phone number that could bet you a random available GP that was not that far), if they need medicine we go to the pharmacy and ask.
Depending on the situation, either Notruf was called right away and then a translator or the translators’ coordinator would speak with them and could accompany the person to the hospital, or if not an emergency or unsure, they’d be taken upstairs to see the malteser’s sanis, a translator would translate as needed and then the decision was made by the sani or by consulting the person depending on the type of problem. Donations came from people or volunteers. Checked by supply team if actually needed or if it could legally be given to people. Most medical supplies the malteser provided, though quite a few crutches and wheelchairs were provided by volunteers/people.
Die dringenden Supply-Anfragen kamen über Telegram-Gruppen. Dies betraf auch Medikamente. So habe ich persönlich auch rezeptfreie Medikamente auf dem Weg zum ZOB eingekauft und mitgebracht.
Malteser were providing the medical care in their Sanitätszelt. The ones who needed medical attention needed to go upstairs where Malteser set up their tents; accompanied by a translator who spoke both languages(RU/UKR and German). In cases when there needed to be more done than check the blood pressure and the temperature, an ambulance was called.
Up until the end of September, onsite coordinators and station leaders used radios provided by the german government. These radios could intercommunicate with the child protection and stadtmission groups, on other channels. At the info desk, we had a large whiteboard which was used to display upcoming train times and any other relevant info, and volunteers were encouraged to come and look at the board if they were not doing anything. Towards the end of summer, as we moved away from having a fixed base, and our group was small and experienced enough that we moved to a flatter model of a telegram group specifically for communication between/with whichever volunteers were onsite.For the online internal communication there were many per-topic, per-station telegram groups. For the offline eternal communication there were meeting with Krisenstab to communicate with other bureaucratic organisations involved in the relief effort. I was not directly involved, but observed that the volunteers who were were frequently frustrated by those interactions. The online eternal communication were through social media team. Website.
The internal information flow was always an issue, but that’s why we tried to do meetings and we started separate telegram groups. We tried our best but of course it wasn’t optimal. Then at some point we had a separate update channel where we would post daily updates from Krisenstab. When we were in Krisenstab we would always write protocols and then take turns who would post the update in the update group. That worked out well I think. At least five people were there responsible for this. At some point the issue got brought up about how we were going to transfer that information and what we did was in the morning we always asked for reports from the night shift to bring into Krisenstab. Like an hour or so before Krisenstab we were like “Good morning, anything we should mention, what happened in the night shift?” Because they also started counting people. The funny thing was, Deutsche Bahn was counting people who were sleeping inside the station but they were clever because they wanted to bring the numbers down right, they wanted to get everybody out as quickly as possible. So Deutsche Bahn security only counted people who were actually lying down. If somebody sat in the Dudler they said that it’s a normal person waiting for their net train. Although it was a mother surrounded by five children definitely not travelling on the net ICE to Munich. They wouldn’t count them. So they counted sleeping people so that’s why we started counting people as well and we had different headcounts every morning. So we got reports from the night through the groups to the Krisenstab and then we had an update channel where we posted updates from the Krisenstab to everybody.
On site internal communication:
We had walkie-talkies, one was with a coordinator and one with someone in the office, later
we had two in the office, one with a coordinator and one in the EDGE. Then we also had a coordinator phone and the EDGE phones used for communication. We also had a whiteboard in the office used either for informing everyone about people with
Hausverbot, then later for train and bus arrivals.
Online internal communication:
Telegram groups and a broadcast channel, I mostly used DMs and called people.
Offline external communication:
Rules of thumb: never talk to police unless things happen, if politicians pass by call dedicated person
Online eternal communication:
no idea how it all worked
On site internal communication:
Radio sets, first for the coordinators, then for the most regular volunteers.
From early on coordinators had walkie talkies, after the month of so, volunteers in the team would sometimes have them. At some point the main coordinator got a wk to be in touch with Verkehrsleitung and coordinate with the BVG.
Online internal communication:
Group chats for translators, for supply, for coordinators; as well as a ZOB arrivals channel.
Mostly through semi-official groups, though those same channels would also accomplish the eternal communication role.
Offline eternal communication:
Meetings with Senias, LAF, the ZOB dispatcher team, Malteser supervision (as I said before, I don’t know who exactly it came about that a certain person went to those meetings; who decided on that). Main coordinators and some coordinators would have phone numbers to talk with LAF, malteser, and such.
Online eternal communication:
Group chats for translators, for supply, for coordinators; as well as a ZOB arrivals channel
Die Volontäre, vor allem die Translator, bekamen Briefings von den Teamleitern vor Anfang der Schicht. Zudem war die Regel, dass wenn ein Translator seine Schicht beendet und noch nicht alle seine Fälle mit den Geflüchteten geregelt sind, übergibt er/sie den Fall und die Menschen persönlich. De facto, ging ich mit einer/einem Voluntär/in zu der Familie/dem Mensch, denen/dem ich gerade geholfen habe, aber den Fall nicht abschließen kann, hin, stellte den/die neue Translator vor und erklärte, was Sache ist und was noch gemacht werden muss. All andere Kommunikation zwischen den Volontären geschah direkt vor Ort, ohne Vermittlung.
Eindrücke aus erster Hand
Ankunftshilfe für Geflüchtete
Decrease in the numbers of arriving refugees
How and when did the 24/7 volunteering time change?
Around mid-summer, we ran out of enough volunteers to keep the info desk open 24/7 and began to close at night time, after we had helped everyone we could find from the last relevant train, the EC40 at 22:16. A few weeks later, we moved into the Stadtmission white tent, which was open 24/7 and so we ended up in a hybrid situation where there was a public place for refugees which always had someone from stadtmission and sometimes (on no fixed schedule) had volunteers from BAS. This resulted in some of our volunteers staying late/overnight again – as the Stadtmission tent was a better location for finding people who needed help. On 1st october our operating structure significantly changed again – we now operate alongside DRK, who are present on fixed hours during daytimes and evenings, and BAS volunteers have found a useful role in providing support outside of those hours, especially early in the mornings. Since October 1st, we moved to a model where very experienced volunteers can come to the Hauptbahnhof without a coordinator present.
As far as I remember at central station 24/7 volunteering stopped once we got the kids corner and moved into it (at the end of June). The main concern was leaving our things unprotected overnight, exposing it to stealing, being peed on, vandalising and so on. The senate planned to open Dudler Passage to the public again and stop the nightly security detail (who weren’t very reliable when it came to watching our infodesk anyway) and neither senate, nor DB or any other agents offered useful alternatives or solutions overnight.
Am 25.06.2022 gab es aufgrund von völliger Überarbeitung der noch verbliebenen regulären Menschen, die Nachtschichten gemacht haben die letzte Nachtschicht, damit wurde auch der 24/7 Betrieb eingestellt. Das Infodesk wurde in den Tagen vorher mobil gemacht(bzw auf Räder gestellt) und wir konnten es so nachts in den von Security bewachten Hygienenstationsbereich in der Dudlerpassage schieben.
People still going there because it is gratifying, even if there is not a lot going on, everybody you help, every single person that says thank you it’s extremely gratifying. I think there is no such thing as altruism because in the moment where just a small thank you gives you gratification it’s not altruism anymore. That’s what it gives to you, that’s what boosts your ego, your sense of being a good person, your sense of doing something worthwhile and that’s what it is.
The shift structure can be divided into three different periods: 1. In the first weeks 24/7 shifts could be realised at Süd. As time went on, however, it became increasingly difficult to cover the planned shifts with German/English, Polish and Ukrainian/Russian speaking volunteers. 2. From 07.05., Süd was closed from 0:00 to 6:00 and from 29 May to the following day from 21:00 to 06:00. 3. From 22.06. opening hours from 12:00 to 21:00.
Starting May 7th we cancelled night shifts due to lack of coordinators, volunteers and lower number of arriving refugees. We also got a key for our office so we could lock it at night. The key was then kept at a bakery on the platform. We then slowly but surely reduced the volunteering times until we closed the station on the 17th of July.
At ZOB there was no such change as buses still come by night.
It never changed at ZOB. It’s still 24/7 until this day.
How, when and to which extent has the state (or a state supported organisation) taken over the tasks of volunteers?
The Stadtmission provided a large amount of support up until 1st October, although for a long time operated very separately from BAS. This included accommodation and an information point. This closed on 1st october, and so was a reduction in what the state had taken on from our early work. Since 1st October, the DRK has operated (under contract from the Berlin government) a team of Welcome Guides focused on helping refugees arriving on trains, continuing either to TL or on onward journeys. This was the core activity of BAS volunteers in the early months of this relief operation, and I am happy that the government has entirely taken over that portion of our work. This has allowed BAS volunteers to take on new roles that complement this – for example, having much more time for individual care for special cases, taking/meeting people in other locations in Berlin, working on new regular tasks that have arisen as circumstances have changed (for example, helping with interactions with bureaucracy for registration and bank accounts).
At one point the good thing was that everybody was available all day because they all had people sent out, Abgeordnete, to Hauptbahnhof specifically. And they would all hang out there all day. There was an Einsatzhalle of the police, DRK, Feuerwehr, Bundespolizei and Landespolizei, two different police offices. And they actually invited us to sit there with them which was nice but we never did, we had our own office. And then another space for SenIAS and if something was going on we could always go there and talk to them. That was good. Which then wouldn’t mean that they would listen to us, that was not good. We had the bus team in the beginning because at first the buses left from Hauptbahnhof and people would line up to get on a bus in the Dudler and then get out on the furthest eit that goes out to the bus loop and from there the buses would leave to different places. We got the information from the Krisenstab at the beginning of the day on where the buses would be going. And the bus team did a great job because they researched the places. At some point they noticed that people really wanted to know where they were going and it helped them to dare to get on that bus into the unknown. And so they researched the places and told them this is the city that’s, showed them photos. And that really helped them. Before the tent was up and running we did everything. DB came and said “Take this down because Brandschutz, take this down because hygiene”. That’s what they did, they took out stuff apart, but they did not participate at all. At some point they sent out people in white senate vest to try and talk to us. So they were supposed to talk to us and find out what the problem was and find out our needs and like neuralgic points and then write it down and they did, but ultimately I don’t know what they did with it. Nothing of what we needed happened. It was a little bit ridiculous. And there were lots of them. They sent like ten or so at once and instead of actually maybe helping they just hung around there with their little notepads. And instead of helping they were like yeah what’s going on tell me. StaMi quickly realised that they couldn’t take over the operations inside the station, and in the beginning we did hate each other. But then the tent leader became our fan. He got a BAS sticker on his laptop, and he was really happy to see us. In the beginning I hated him too but then we both hated SenIAS you know like, common enemies. So they had the tent, then we had a meeting in the middle of March when us coordinators went into the tent and saw it, but it was way too small. And it turned out that it was supposed to be double the size, but then some dude from Verwaltung said that’s fine, they could save money, just make it half. And at first we thought that everything at UG1 would be taken down and then everybody would go into the tent. And obviously that would not have worked out. The tent leader then described the layout of the tent, described the layout of the containers and everything. We were shocked, we felt cheated because at some point we were somehow told that we would be involved in the planning of the tent, of course we were not. But then it just ran parallel because the buses started leaving… And DRK had their own little tent in the station and in Dudler at first. And then pretty quickly they took them out of the station completely which we of course criticised, we said there’s tons of people there and why wouldn’t there be a red cross station. And there was also BaMi, Bahnhofsmission. And the Red Cross had a team, two teams of two, Sanis, just walking around. And so if you needed something we needed to find them. Which was ridiculous. Because nobody of the DRK or StaMi was able to take over the organisation inside the station, and we were always inside the station. DRK didn’t have volunteers, at that point they didn’t work like now, they didn’t hire random people to do “Hi can i help you?”. DRK was only there with doctors and first aid people. And StaMi noticed that inside the station there was too much chaos and they didn’t want to get into constant fights with us. I don’t know what happened in the background, but the only thing I know is that they were supposed to take over inside the station as well and they didn’t. We were mean to them as well.
Aufbau eines Cateringservices Mitte März in der Dudlerpassage (Die Ausgabe der Speisen lief aber hauptsächlich über unbezahlte Volunteers), die Finanzierung des Aufbaus des weißen Zelts durch die Stadtmission, um ankommende Geflüchtete mit einer Notration Essen zu versorgen und sie von dort nach Tegel zur Erstaufnahme weiterzuleiten, auch hier wurden viele unbezahlte Volunteers eingesetzt, von ca Ende März bis Ende Mai(?) gab es die „Pinkies“, vom Senat bezahlte Menschen, die die Wegeleitung an den Gleisen übernehmen sollten(ca 30-50 Personen pro Schicht), diese waren nur tagsüber da, genau wie die Welcome-Guides, ca 20 pro Schicht, die die „Pinkies“ Anfang Juni(?) abgelöst haben. Die Organisationsarbeit bzw. die Lösung von Problemen haben aber nach wie vor BAS-Menschen übernommen! Elan und Lust auf Hilfe war eher selten zu finden, vorallem bei den WG-Menschen, sie haben vorallem in den ersten Wochen eher noch für zusätzliche Probleme gesorgt! Bei den Pinkies war das besser da viele selbst Fluchterfahrung hatten, nur leider sprachen sie kein ukrainisch/russisch, dafür wenig deutsch/englisch und viele arabisch, persisch oder amharisch. Definitiv die bessere Crew!
So with SenIAS and Stadtmission over those months of working together we sort of rubbed off on each other a little bit and also because of how much time we spend together day-to-day there was some sort of mutual understanding. I know the background and functioning are still very different, they started appreciating us way more. I think they appreciated us more than we did them. But we sort of you know, we got along mostly. And then when it changed from SenIAS and Stadtmission to LAF and Red Cross everything was, everything that was before that was for nothing. When we found out that that change is gonna happen, was in August, and so for over a month we’ve been contacting the LAF saying “Hey we are here, this is what we are doing, please give us a space in those new structures that you are building”, and we wrote them and we called them and we did this and that, but in the new structures there was no space for us. They just kept blatantly ignoring us as much as they could from the beginning. Our container was set up I think three weeks after the Red Cross structures opened and they acted as if they didn’t know anything about us. It was just an afterthought. They just wanted to keep us at the back. And then we asked for coins, we asked for cleaning the container, we asked for security, we asked for trash to be removed, They gave us none of it. And then so first we had a couple of regular-ish meetings and then not even those meetings took place. The Red Cross is an extremely bureaucratic organisation compared to Stadtmission, I personally thought that the Red Cross was more of a social thing but they are not. They are extremely bureaucratic. It was ridiculous at the time when you know there was a couple of weeks where trains were ending at Ostbahnhof, and our volunteers went there because the welcome guides didn’t go to Ostbahnhof. And we said we ran out of masks and we asked for a couple of masks to give out at Ostbahnhof. And they said no, the masks were for the Red Cross. And we said that they were for refugees, we are working for the same refugees. But no, they were for Hauptbahnhof, and then the woman who was the boss of Hauptbahnhof at that time gave us one pack of masks and that was an exception. That’s how they work. And so LAF also gave us one contact, that was a lady and ultimately I think she’s nice. But she was out there as a buffer to deal with us. She is not the one who makes any decision that concerns us, she’s only there to communicate and so they did that on purpose so they never put us in touch with an actual decision maker. And so she was ultimately the one who said “From what I see I see what you need, I see that it would be easy for us to have somebody from the security to stand there net to our container or at least go there a couple of times a day but I know that because if rules YZ it doesn’t work. And we don’t have money to give to you, you will not get those coins, you will not get whatever you are asking, and I’m just as a person I’m telling you see if you can get any other money.” Umm and that’s what she suggested then to help us look into funding. That’s how it came to be.
DB took over after the 17th of July (but no structures appeared, I think they mainly redirected people to Hbf)
Right now, the drk has taken over all operations since september/october, though work is still delegated to the malteser. No volunteers are accepted on site. The work for social workers consists in redirecting people who need to, to TL, and dealing with special situations, in principle not by interacting with volunteer organization.
Especially from October 1st when DRK took over, volunteers were not welcome anymore. They were not even allowed to use the bathroom on site (the Malteser area was fenced up so only employees with an ID could enter it). It was the official DRK rule.
Eindrücke aus erster Hand
Ankunftshilfe für Geflüchtete
Team reflection and challenges
Feedback: gains, mistakes and wishes
Extremely motivated volunteers, for the most part in a place where they were able to deliver immediate relevant help. Extreme ability to adapt to changing circumstances within seconds to days, in contrast to more structured organisations that we work with who have, for example, unchangeable contract terms defined on a 6 month/1 year timescale. In hindsight, and based on other organisations I’ve worked with in the past, I think that many of our coordinator level volunteers took on too much, and fought battles they could not possibly win, resulting in burnout. This partly arises from initially not having much experience in volunteer and relief work management in the coordinator team at the start. It would have been nice to involve people with more experience managing this sort of operation. However, for various reasons I can’t really figure out how that would have worked in practice: bureaucracies are bureaucratic and slow to get started; the first responders tended to have very powerful personalities which did not necessarily accept the presence of other opinions. The coordinator team was laden with conflict and strong personalities and minimal leadership structure. Mostly people just rage-quit over time until we had a core group which doesn’t fight so much.
There were many organisations involved at Hauptbahnhof with targeted purposes on support volunteers. I don’t feel like they conveyed much knowledge into BAS, but for the most part they all provided the specific things they were there for.
Almost all coordinators have burned out during this project, for various reasons – for example, dealing with bureaucracies that work on a 1-year timescale; dealing with other coordinators who, although aligned on the basic principle of helping refugees from Ukraine, had strong other opinions. For general volunteers, the emotional challenges came from listening to refugees stories, and from bureaucracy not able to help them in the extremely free-and-flexible way that BAS volunteers tended to work at Hbf.
If i were to do it all again, i would take time to actually set things up. Because we always tried ourselves in finding quick solutions and at the same time those quick solutions can be ones that don’t work long term, that tire out people and resources, that take so much energy that it takes your attention off what’s gonna happen in a week or two or three months. So actually setting up systems and mechanisms and cooperations, protocols, meetings, all of that office stuff that will keep us going in a more structured way. Because in a way that strength is also weakness.
I think mostly people would have wished that the organisations we worked with could have been more flexible, because our BAS tradition has been extremely flexible.
Psychologists sort of stayed apart, they didn’t dare to actually get into the action and that’s why I don’t know how well that actually worked out. And then I organised a couple of support sessions with a German crisis psychologist and with a couple of Ukrainian psychologists, so they did a couple of support sessions. But that was at a point where it was quite late. I guess I should’ve done that earlier, but I just didn’t have the capacity. They did that a couple of times and then it sort of fizzled but I think in the times that they did it it did help. It would’ve been great to be able to do that earlier. Somebody wrote like a self-care instruction, a little manual message that would be broadcasted through some bot, regularly through all of the channels that said yeah drink enough, take a few breaths, talk to somebody.I don’t know if this was helpful, I think with those automated messages at some point most people don’t read them anymore, but you know even if it helped two people or something it’s already better than nothing. Things such as burnout I can’t even say because at some point I spent most of the time at DB tower, I didn’t witness a lot of that. What I did see through Telegram, people not showing up was that was a lot of people. Yes, they did disappear. They said they were gonna take a break and then they didn’t come back. That happens a lot when people notice it’s too much, or that they just need to get on with their lives because they cannot leave their job or uni or whatever family, that happens quite a lot. I can’t tell you about a specific case where somebody had a breakdown at the station or I don’t know but I’m sure that happened.
Basic structures were put in place quickly (before I arrived). There was a motivated team of regular volunteers early on and lots of public support and donations., our spokesperson for dealing with authorities put in a lot of work to keep us all informed of what was going on in-and-outside our station. In general I think friendly volunteers and welcoming coordinators kept people coming back. I think overall the whole thing went well. A comprehensive system was built from nothing and we successfully helped thousands of refugees.
Many motivated volunteers with different sets of skills creating a structure out of nothing and
helping thousands of refugees. There was clear and non-dramatic communication with the authorities, working with and not against
There was however, absolute and utter neglect of mental health of the team, never mentioning it and not having a space to talk about struggles, especially for translators. Letting people return to volunteering too early. Not taking care of shifts and schedules and letting people volunteer for 12 hours straight. Not addressing racism enough and making sure seist/racist/transphobic people are nowhere near refugees. Not including volunteers in the decision-making and deciding on big things in a small round. A lot of burn-out could have been avoided with implementation of regular check-ins, having psychological help readily available. Including more people into decisions that are affecting their volunteering.
There were differing opinions of how things should be done between team leaders who worked closely together. Sometimes someone would just have to step in and enforce a decision which wasn’t ideal but in the end these situations that I encountered were not over anything live-changing. I remember there being disagreement on several topics but basically the strongest and loudest people usually won the arguments and that was it. I do not think there was sufficient mediation or discussion that followed.
Some coordinators definitely face emotional challenges. It was clear when very regular team members would disappear. I don’t think the team handled it as such. I think it’s fine for people to keep their mental health private, but maybe it could have been nice for the team to discuss what was happening
We sort of ignored emotional challenges and never discussed anything (I do not include usual gossip).
There were a few offers of therapy for the team.
I think there was three therapy offers and that was it. I also took part in a workshop about Antiziganismus. I don’t think people had time to care about workshops and then we closed the station.
Maybe more structured group support. It could have been nice to talk about what we were seeing in a group setting. For me I really enjoyed the social aspect of volunteering and when we had meet ups outside of “work” it was really nice, I think in general this helped my mental health in the situation.
Psychological support for sure would have been helpful, I do not remember anything else
Dealing with special situations, most people were resourceful enough to accomplish very difficult tasks. At some point dealing with volunteers that had no business being there (mainly seism), though racism and lgtbphobia is still at times problematic.
Die Kommunikation zwischen den verschiedenen Teams. Die Spenden und der Informationsfluss über Spendenaufrufe. Die Standhaftigkeit des Orga-Teams in Kommunikation mit offiziellen Strukturen (Verkehrsleitung ZOB, Deutsche Bahn, BVG, Malteser, Senat, Polizei etc.)
Most of the volunteers (translators) picked up their job quite quickly. The understanding of how to work with traumatised refugees was there, the empathy, the calmness. Also with most of the translators, the team work was quite okay as well.
Main mistakes made were volunteers not organizing themselves enough to make their voice heard to coordinators. Coordinators (main and non) not consulting volunteers enough, especially translators. Not enough dialogue between ukr/ru speakers and non ukr/ru speakers, both sides were for most of the time very isolated and sometimes at odds. Not enough dealt against racism and lgbtphobia. Too little talk between volunteers and malteser, it turned out malteser as an organization and some people we dealt with were much more ready for dialogue than drk. Too little pressure on the senate, in huge part because only coordinators were involved in decision making.
The communication about mental issues didn’t really take place among the volunteers, everyone was kind of a “loner” when it came to communicating their own struggles after working on severe cases. There was no mental health help set up for the volunteers (especially translators). Once I had to call Berliner Krisendienst myself because of one case that affected me deeply, even though I had professional care on a regular basis. There were no workshops helping the translator cope with traumatised people. No guidelines of how to draw boundaries to your work experience yourself. Within the volunteer structures: As I said, becoming a coordinator was a random matter. You just needed to be within the “close circle”. Also being the representative of ZOB volunteers and attending the meetings was randomly based to me. The transparency was lacking. I understand that it’s difficult to organise that kind of democratic vote, but we had a translators chat (100+ people) where we could have voted and so on. A lot of the coordinators that represented BAS at the beginning (the first 2 months) were non-native speakers. They didn’t communicate with the translators properly so they overviewed maybe some structural and bureaucratic issues, but they didn’t address people working close to those who are fleeing the war. Most of the time, the voices of the translators were not heard or those particular coordinators decided things over the translators‘ heads. Another thing that also stroke my eyes was that the care factor was not as important as it should have been. The aftercare for the translators (after a severe case they were in charge of) was basically not existing, not even among the colleagues and fellow volunteers.
A firm and announced stance against seism, racism, lgbtphobia should have been a given, it wasn’t, it was sometimes reminded but it should have been automatic and policy. Because of the absence of talk between the translators and non ukr/ru speaking coordinators some didn’t understand why the police was there (mostly to protect against human trafficking), and some safety measures were very late or poorly implemented: for example, a ukrainian women through a group on fb/viber/telegram… finds someone who will take her from Berlin to : only after three or more weeks would we ask that person to give their ID to the check in table but there would be no check up and as far as I know that list wasn’t communicated to the police. After some point for the first check in (or everytime the database was «lost») volunteers would have to provide their ID to the check in table and their ID number and nationality would be written which was a huge safety concern as some people were russian nationals or people from dictatures with strong ties to the russian regime. Nothing was made to address their concerns.
There were many cases of discrimination among the volunteers towards minorities. There should have been a stronger stance on that matter. Workshops and sensitivity trainings would have helped. Working with chats, as I already said, to make the structure, decision-making and certain choices more transparent.
There were problems with how decisions were made, most dealt with it with contempt, other befriended (main) coordinators. When someone would show animosity/promiscuity towards refugees or other volunteers they would usually be shown the door but not always depending on the people dealing with the situation. Translators and non ukr/ru speakers could be at odds and nothing was usually done, such relations would only calm down much later (summer) and even then it was on a person to person basis.
There were cases of bullying among translators, cases of sexism, antiziganism and racism. There were talks about it within the team (single people), but there was never a team solidarity on that matter. We could have voted for a trust person who would address those complaints with those who broke the “guidelines”.
Obviously there were and mostly from translators. At ZOB, as people were registered into the check in system, if one had stayed for 12 hours he would then be looked for and told to go home, however this was not always possible. After translators got to know each other better, they would write/meet a volunteer and hand them the situations they were dealing over. Unfortunately at first psychological help was mostly absent and volunteers weren’t pushed to it. At first there were also more than enough translators (they could even be refused and told to try and come at such or such time) yet no effort was made to tell translators to take off days during the week. Some would come everyday. Overall, emotional challenges weren’t handled though they were spoken of amongst most translators.
Of course. To me, it felt like 80, then 90% of the volunteers had a burnout within the first few weeks. By the beginning of April there were just a few volunteers (translators) left. We were always in need of translators, and getting those notifications on your phone begging for translators on site while you’re at home taking a break from everything made you feel extremely guilty. I remember some people decided to scale down the tone of asking for volunteers. For me, the biggest problem was the lack of know-how how to draw boundaries so people left the job behind when they left the site. I observed it many times that there was a kind of “obsession” with volunteering that seemed unhealthy to me. 20-30 hour shifts were never necessary, but people still tried to “break the record”, which seemed ridiculous to me given the circumstances of why they were on site.
The team did not receive any psychological support.
We would wish for more knowledge about legal status and procedures.
We would want sensitivity training, workshops on how to work with traumatised people, “minorities” etc.
Mental health issues, boundaries, mental health supervision etc.
Which German/Berlin organisation would you recommend contacting in case a similar situation occurs in the future?
For the most part I enjoyed working with people from the Stadtmission.
Supply and food providers mentioned above i can recommend. I think we could also get more places on board if this would be needed in the future e.g. more supermarkets. However in general if there was a need to re-open I’d first go to the Telegram groups to re-start what we had, rather than contact a particular organisation specifically.
I would recommend contacting definitely bigger Träger as DRK, Malteser, Johanniter
Flüchtlingskoordinator*innen of your Bezirk
Schöneberg hilft e.V.
Moabit hilft e.V.
Flüchtlingsrat e.V. – information
Berlin hilft – information
Generally churches around your area
Stadtteilzenten and Klederkammer
Berlin Arrival Support
Ich würde die alt eingesessenen Berliner Vereine kontaktieren, die seit mindestens 2015 in der Geflüchtetenhilfe arbeiten. Sie haben ein breites Netz an Kontakten in verschiedenen Strukturen in Berlin, aber auch zu Privatpersonen. Dieses Netzwerk erlaubt, viele scheinbar unlösbare Fragen schneller und effizienter zu lösen.