We met our traveling companion outside the Polish Consulate in Dublin in the company of Andrzej and Dagmara. With limited understanding of the potential stress for our journeyman we headed for the airport. It’s funny often when unfamiliar travelers meet for the first time, there is often a common goal established. The same destination, the same need to arrive. In this case we quickly established a simple bond, we all knew this was a trip for the best. Whether it was the gift of tobacco, a simple word of understanding or a simple act of respect and decency, in moments we were bonded together as journeymen. This was going to be a change for all of us. The flight was great and trouble free.
As promised by Barka we were welcomed by Janusz and Leszek at the airport. After a short trip to Władysławowo we were welcomed by the staff and for our friend the journey had ended but in many respects it had only just begun. This is a chance to begin again and the comfort of a new staring point can not be underestimated. From here everything changes and despite the hard path the opportunity for a new life is born.
After delivering our new friend to Władysławowo, we were transported to Chudobczyce which was like discovering a new world. Barka is just amazing, seldom do you arrive in a place where the feeling is so community based. We were shown to our ‘Hotel’ and straight away room and food was provided. Tired and grateful we slept well looking forward to the next day where we would be introduced to the team and shown how Barka works.
Day one was an early start for us but not for the community. We were brought on a tour to see the all of the areas work within the community. Farming, pigs, lambs, goats, agriculture and building new facilities, the list of work is endless. It’s great to see the passion and dedication people had in their work. Seldom does one see such a community of effort and excellence. Chudobczyce is no small undertaking and at over 70 acres, it’s an impressive place to say the least.
Lunch was served to us in ‘Andrzej’s Palace’ a beautiful old building which is being lovingly restored. We were served great food throughout our stay, most of which was sourced directly from the farm.
It’s hard in some ways to summarize briefly the enormous benefits of Barka’s work but evidence of their successful community approach is there for all to see. This is a community run by people who understand the path to recovery and in the case of Chudobczyce, Barka has built an ideal environment where recovery and re-building of lives can be achieved in a meaningful and respectful way.
From what I understand about Barka’s philosophy it is not to provide a sort of short term fix but rather to take a long term approach which is committed to recovery and rehabilitation. Sadly we often looks for a rug to sweep our problems under with no real forethought given to providing a sustainable solution.
Society has also created a world where through illness, misfortune or just poor decision making people sometimes fail. Through a downward spiral some are drawn inexorably towards a narcotic or alcohol driven tranquilized state to try and cope with the distress of outcast status. In our eyes these people are failures but in truth we as a society have failed them.
On route to the airport we dropped Andrzej and Dagmara back to Barka in Dublin. I was taken by the fact that our journeyman had time to say goodbye to some of his friends who were gathered nearby. In my mind I saw them as a street family with no recourse but to survive on the fringes of both society and the law. The scene was of one of support and well wishes for a family friend embarking on his journey for the chance for a new start and hopefully a better life. Sadly, even those on the street know that their situation is untenable and their survival is too often uncertain.
Homelessness, destitution nor alcoholism is not a life any us would freely choose but sometimes in despair this life is forced on those at the fringes of our society. My experience of Barka has shown me that there is a way that can save those who reach the wall. Once reached, Barka offer a real and committed road to salvation and the chance of a new life.
We will never solve our problems by hiding them only by confronting them and working together to solve them.
My respect to the team at Barka for all their wonderful work.