All in Human Rights

“Tired of Giving In”

Sixty-one years ago last evening Rosa Parks boarded Cleveland Avenue bus 2857 in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, paid her fare, and took a seat in the bus’s colored section. When the whites-only section filled up, the driver ordered Parks to give her seat to a white man and move to the rear. She refused. Although she had worked all day as a department store seamstress, she was, she wrote later, no more physically tired than usual. “No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Two Questions

The line between refugee and emigrant may be legally simple to draw, but not here on the ground, where the preponderance of those walking have come from Syria, a collapsed state, both ungovernable and unlivable.

Ali

They left home 50 days ago, Ali said, and for the last 15 days they walked – mostly in the woods and often in heavy rain – across Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary to the Austrian border. In the forest, Ali’s 16-month-old daughter got a nasty rash, which grows steadily worse. Yet, like other refugees we met, the Jasams, with astonishing resilience, seem never to despair.

Optimists

The small road out of town, which led ultimately to Vienna, was lined with discarded clothes and plastic water bottles. We followed it until we came to a police roadblock. When we suggested we would like to take the scenic route to Vienna, we got an emphatic one-word reply: “Closed.” Now we knew for sure where the refugees were, but they have very big policemen in Hungary, so we took the highway to the border.

The Last Road to Hungary

They keep coming and coming, groups of men, mostly young, families with small children – some walking, others being carried – and grandparents. They are heading to the last opening along the border, a rail line that crosses into Hungary, a country racing to erect a high 109-mile razor-wire fence, at the small town of Roske. Half a mile north, a temporary city of tents had been erected on farmland, and dozens of buses lined the one-lane road.