Snacks along the Railroad Tracks in Hungary

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We all take comfort in food, and in the sharing of food. Perk up a sad day; Celebrate a happy one. Share a meal to show you care; Hand out some sweets to put a smile on someone’s face. It’s the Italian grandmother way of doing things: food equals love. It’s the easiest, basest way in which we interact.

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The Hungarians are building a razor-wire fence along their 100 mile border with Serbia… and it’s nearly done. Only one section remains open, about 50 meters wide, where the railway tracks link the 2 countries. Every day, thousands of refugees and migrants walk those tracks, about a 3 mile trip from the last road in Serbia to the first road in Hungary.

And just before the police bus, sitting ominously on that first Hungarian piece of pavement, is a makeshift camp run by volunteers, mostly Northern Europeans who have driven down to sleep in cars and welcome the new arrivals.

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In one tent, a couple chops giant Hungarian beets to turn into a stew.

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In another, volunteers ladle out mushroom and barley soup. Families take their bowls and picnic by the tracks or on any patch of grass that hasn’t devolved into a muddy mess over the last few rainy days.

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Another group, realizing this place is just a pass-through point, has bagged lunches: a sandwich, an apple, a cookie, and a bottle of water.

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There are folks wandering around handing out bananas, raw carrots, apples and oranges.

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There are boxes of food that will last a while on a long journey: chocolate croissants, cherry flapjacks, energy bars, cans of tuna, chocolate wafers. And boxes of food that make you scratch your head and wonder if all this generosity isn’t a bit misplaced: raw green peppers, cans of grapefruit syrup, anchovies.

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As the refugees stream in they pack their bags with the donated goods, and move on. They board a bus to Hungarian camp, or they run through the corn fields to evade police and find a smuggler to take them to Budapest. The volunteers want to do more to help them – something real, something worthwhile – but this is about all they can do. The equivalent of handing out gatorade in a marathon: a silent cheer that you finish the race, wherever your finish line may be.

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