Skip to main content

Poetry Friday: World Refugee Day

This week Monday (June 20th) was World Refugee Day, an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. 

Our poem for that day in the poetry anthology that we read from every night after dinner was this poem by Brian Bilston.  The poem and his masterful use of poetic technique to powerful effect is best appreciated without excerpting, so I encourage you to check it out on his website.

On our lunchtime walks, we pass a low wall near a cul-de-sac. For months now, someone has been clearing out things and giving them away, so we are used to walking past the wall and seeing books, DVDs, dishes and more with signs saying they are free to take home. 

But today we saw something different. Today we saw a note, weighted in place with a rock.

A note with a rock on it. Only part of the text is shown. The text is written in German. It reads: Ich kam mit Kindern aus der Ukrainne. Seit 1. Juli haben wir eine Wohnung in...

Here is a translation of the note (with names and places redacted for privacy, and some corrections to capture the actual meaning of the words):

I came with children from the Ukraine. From the first of July we've rented an apartment in [place redacted]. It is empty.

My 4-year-old daughter will play with your toys. 

Many thanks!

[name redacted]

Reader, we wept. 

The gratitude of this note from a mother about to get the keys to an apartment - a completely empty apartment - where she's going to live with her child(ren), was a stark reminder of how much we have. 

(Side note: I presume this mother has only been in Switzerland a short time, and as an immigrant I have so much respect for the mastery of the language she has shown in this note).

We walked on, talking and coming up with concrete ways that we could do more to assist the refugees in our area.

You can show your support for refugees online by adding a banner to your online photos, and uploading your photo to this page on the United Nations website.

photo border with a placeholder clipart image in it. The border of the photo says Whoever. Wherever. Whenever. I stand #withRefugees

Books are wonderful tools for helping children understand the experience of refugees. For the youngest readers, the book written by Hollis Kurman and illustrated by BarrouxHello! A Counting Book of Kindnesses, (Otter-Barry Books, UK) / Counting Kindness: Ten Ways to Welcome Refugee Children (Charlesbridge, US) presents the realities of the refugee experience in simple, accessible terms, and ends on a hopeful note by reminding us that we can make a positive difference in the lives of those displaced from their homes. 

You can read more about Hello/Counting Kindness and how it came to be in my interview with Hollis at Cynsations. Hello/Counting Kindness would pair perfectly with We Belong, written by Poetry Friday's own Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Carlos VĂ©lez Aguilera, which celebrates diversity, and affirms that we all belong, just as we are. 

My poem today is a found poem, inspired by this thank you note and the slogan of the UN Refugee day.

Poem: Whoever: [name redacted] I came with children my 4-year-old daughter  Wherever: from the Ukraine an apartment in [place redacted]  Whenever: from the first of July my daughter will play I stand #WithRefugees © 2022, Elisabeth Norton

Our Poetry Friday host this week is Catherine at Reading to the Core. Hop over to here to get links to the other poetic goodness that awaits you today.


  1. Oh, Elisabeth, both the note and your post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing all of this.

  2. Elizabeth, you feel like a friend...for me and for those in need. I absolutely love the tenor of this post and the found poetry in a note on the side of a road. Weaving it into the UN slogan is really smart and effective. I will find that banner and use it. Thank you so much.

  3. Bilston's poem reminds me (a little too much) of the 2020 Huck Award winner ROOM ON OUR ROCK, which was a book that could be read forward and backward to the same effect.

    I agree that we need to do more to help the refugees in our communities!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Poetry Friday: Thoughts about History and Timelines

History is a timeline of events, each event a dot too small to express the millions of experiences of a given day week month year of a given war earthquake flood famine drought tragedy Each dot on a timeline is a period, a pause that says “Stop! This is something you should know about.” The timeline pulls us inexorably forward, the dots behind us growing smaller as we look back over our shoulders. Some merge with the line, too small to stop anyone in their tracks anymore, the stories around that dot lost to time. But some dots are not diminished with time. Some dots will always make us pause to remember. ©2021, Elisabeth Norton, all rights reserved Our Poetry Friday host is Tricia over at The Miss Rumphious Effect. Hop over to her blog for all of today's poetic inspiration. I'd also like to highlight a wonderful poem 9/11/02 or One Year Later , written by my friend Jennifer in honor of some of the first responders to 9/11. 

Poetry Friday: Spooktober

I've been immersed in poetry and verse in the past couple of weeks - first in a Novel in Verse virtual workshop led by the amazing Nikki Grimes and Padma Venkatraman, then in my own work as I dived in deep to apply all the insights and tips that I took away from that experience.  Poems arrived in my inbox this week, via the Academy of American Poets newsletter featuring a selection of poems for Indigenous Peoples' Day.  I particularly loved the poem by Rainy Dawn Ortiz that starts: Something Else. Some one else Some where else That place is here, In my home, We are here. You can read the rest of the poem and learn more about the poet here .  One of the things I love about being a part of Poetry Friday is the inspiration to play with different poetic forms. Thoughts about poetic forms were milling around in my mind when they bumped into Inktober, an annual event in which illustrators create a drawing each day during the month of October. Sparks flew and an idea was born. I searc

Poetry Friday: The Party is Here!

 Welcome everyone to Poetry Friday! If you're new to Poetry Friday, you can read more about it here . I've been chasing deadlines all week, but poetry always provides a welcome pause in the busiest of schedules. Perhaps because of the kind of writing I've been doing (which is not related to poetry at all) it was a bit hard to get started on a poem this week. I looked at a few of the poetic forms I've bookmarked over the past months, but in the end, turned to one of my favorite forms, the acrostic .  Thanks for joining the Poetry Friday party today! Add your link to the party below. You are invited to the Inlinkz link party! Click here to enter