Refugee story: Svetlana (Mar ’23)

Living in a place disconnected from the world she has left behind, Svetlana finds connection in an experience which is so normal that it would probably elude an outsider’s glance.

The shop is warm and well-lit and music plays in the background. The volunteers serving Svetlana are friendly and engaging, making her and other customers feel at home.

“Leaving Ukraine has not been easy,” she says. “Especially psychologically. But this place is soothing. There is a translator who speaks our language and that is also welcoming and… gentle.” She smiles.

At the Dignity Centre, Svetlana is receiving refugee aid, but for her it doesn’t feel like it. And that’s the point – the experience, in all its rather routine normality, makes a world of difference.

The aid refugees receive doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. Here Svetlana can ‘shop’ for items based on her personal needs. There are even little ‘treats’ like biscuits and gherkins.

“‘We come to the Dignity Centre for more than food. It is a meeting point, somewhere for conversation, but we also just like to be here. It is more like shopping back in my hometown with its warm attitude, like a family attitude. It feels, somehow, normal.”

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