It was just before 6:00 am when the bus arrived at the car park of the Aquashow water park hotel in Quarteira. Inside, 48 Ukrainian refugees saw the end of a long journey of about 48 hours, without stops, that brought them from Warsaw to Portugal, in search of a life in peace.
After, in the last few days, buses have arrived in Olhão and Albufeira, it was the turn, at dawn of this Saturday, March 12, from the municipality of Loulé.
At the Aquashow hotel, where they were able to rest a bit and have a meal, these 48 refugees were received by the City Council, the Foreigners and Borders Service, Social Security and also by health personnel.
The doctor Maria Margarida Guilherme, from the Algarve Biomedical Center (ABC), accompanied the entire trip.
Upon arrival, still barely recovered from the many hours on the road, she told journalists how “everything went without problems”.
Or rather…almost everything.
The moment of greatest tension came when a two-week-old baby, who was on board with his mother, began to show signs of “fever, breathing difficulties and anorexia”.
The newborn ended up being hospitalized in Frankfurt, Germany, where he tested positive for Covid-19.
Later, it was discovered that a cousin, also a baby, but 14 months old and who was making the trip, was also infected.
“It was a situation of greater tension, but it was corrected. At the time, I asked how I should act and they told me that it would not be necessary to test the remaining passengers. The baby and the mother stayed in a corner of the bus, more isolated, and I took three elderly people further away”, said the doctor.
Although no other passengers showed symptoms, all were tested today upon arrival in Quarteira.
Apart from this situation, the doctor Maria Margarida Guilherme reported how, during the trip, she felt the people “calm”.
“There was a family with a more uncertain future… Then there is the fact that the men, for the most part, stayed in Ukraine. I think most people still don't really know what's going to happen. Deep down, they were forced to flee”, he said.
Of these 48 people, 17 are adults (15 women and two men) and 31 children. Most of these people fled from Kiev, lviv and Ivano Frankivsk, cities that were little known, but which are now in the news, for the worst reasons.
All have some connection with the municipality of Loulé, as explained by Sandra Vaz, from the Department of Social Development and Health of the Câmara de Loulé.
«There were connections to the municipality and that facilitated and reassured people», he revealed. Proof of this is that some relatives of these refugees were waiting in the Aquashow car park.
The Loulé Chamber, guaranteed Sandra Vaz, will now work “to receive these people in the best way”.
Especially because the «next phase is integration, with support in the areas of health, education and employment», he revealed.
For the young doctor Maria Margarida Guilherme, this was a «gratifying experience» that not even fatigue can cancel out.
“In the beginning, we had that very romantic idea and we go with open arms. Of course, there are situations of greater tension, but it's all a learning experience. The people were all nice and, even though we didn't understand the language, we understood each other, with the help of Google Translate, of the interpreter», he concludes, laughing.
This initiative by the Municipality of Loulé, which is part of the support and reception mechanisms for refugees from this conflict, was carried out in close collaboration with DOINA - Association of Romanian and Moldavian Immigrants in the Algarve and validated by the High Commissioner for Migration, Secretary of State for Integration and Migration and the Secretary of State for Internationalization. It also had the support of the ABC – Algarve Biomedical Center.