One woman’s strength is helping refugees in Macedonia
The smiling face that greets refugees when they get to the Greece-Macedonia border is that of Gabriela Andreevska.
Gevgelija, Macedonia – For people like Gabriela Andreevska, working with Europe-bound refugees crossing her country, Macedonia, feels like the film “Groundhog Day”.
Every day, thousands arrive from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq ,Pakistan and elsewhere to Gevgelija, on the border with Greece.
Most are completely unprepared for the journey. They know little about what they need to do, and they’re often travelling with nothing except the clothes on their backs.
The Macedonian government provides little for the refugees crossing its borders illegally. That is where ordinary Macedonians like Gabriela step in.
She, along with other activists, provides the weary travellers with food, clothes, information, and hugs.
“I know it’s not part of their culture for me to touch a man, but I do it to let them know they’re welcome in Europe,” she says.
After a few hours in Gevgelija, most refugees board one of the three daily Soviet-era trains and continue on to the border with Serbia.
But for Gabriela, the situation resets.
After a tiring day helping hundreds of people, she has to prepare for tomorrow, when she will do the same thing all over again.
Every day is very much the same for her, but for the refugees it is a new place and another step on their way to a new life in Western Europe.
While European countries make the journey more difficult as a way of discouraging refugees from coming, Gabriela does the opposite by trying to make their lives just a little bit easier.
Al Jazeera film-maker Matthew Cassel spent a few days following Gabriela at the Macedonia-Greece border and the Macedonia-Serbia border.