Update: Amena and the Refugee Cat

September 23, 2015 •
Amena and her cat made it to Croatia and are likely still on the move.
Chelsea Charping is a writer for Samaritan’s Purse. She is traveling across Europe to report on our response to the refugee crisis.

Last Tuesday, I met a refugee girl named Amena* who was traveling with a cat across Europe. On Sunday, I ran into her again—this time at the Croatia-Slovenia border. Since the last time I had seen her, she and her family had crossed through all of Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia. She and Jacques, the cat, were sitting on the bridge to Slovenia, quietly waiting for the police to move the barricade.

Amena had made a friend who spoke English fluently and was able to translate for me, so that this time we could have an actual conversation. She asked me how old I am, whether I’m married, and if I have kids. I asked her how her journey was going, where she was sleeping, and whether she needed anything.

Although she politely declined any aid, I made sure she received one of the food parcels that Samaritan’s Purse was distributing. Many of the refugees come from middle- or upper-class backgrounds in their home countries. Now that they don’t have necessities, they often don’t know how to ask for the things they need.

Amena and the refugee cat.

Amena and Jacques, the refugee cat.

Amena told me that she’s hoping to travel to Germany with her family. Her friend is hoping to go to Switzerland. I had to leave soon after we distributed the food parcels, so I don’t know whether they even made it past the border. When I left, people were cheering for the police to remove the barricade. She and her friend were still sitting quietly; they said cheering wouldn’t help them anyway.

I gave Amena my card, and, although she doesn’t speak English, I asked her to write to me when she gets to her destination. Her family has already been traveling a couple of weeks, and they have no idea when they’ll finally get to Western Europe.

Still, I was encouraged to see that they had all made it to Slovenia in good health. (Jacques was healthy too and was likely the happiest of all as he lay purring between Amena and her friend.) Their spirits were still up, and failure didn’t even seem like an option. As I left, Amena sat in quiet resilience with a slight smile, and her father laughed beside her.

Amena’s family and her cat have humanized the refugee crisis for me. I was elated to see how far they had made it. People don’t leave their homes and everything they know unless they’re in a desperate situation.

Tonight, as I sleep in a hotel next to the coast where refugees are landing, I pray that Amena’s family finds safety, along with the thousands of other refugees traveling with them.

*Name changed for security reasons.