The Little Sisters

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This post is about a 27km walk from Regelsbrunn to Schwechat. We go to church in the morning and to the airport in the afternoon.

We woke up in the house of the Little Sisters of Jesus. They were a small community of Catholic sisters who had devoted their lives to their faith, and to doing good to others. And since an Austrian branch of the Way of St. James passed through their village, they kept a spare room for pilgrims. That’s where we stayed.


“Actually, one could say” Sister Claire remarked over breakfast, “that you are also pilgrims of sorts.”

We smiled. Coming from Sister Claire it had a ring of truthfulness to it. She told us how they, too, had walked the Austrian Way of St. James just two years earlier. They were over seventy years old, and they had lived in the community most of their lives.


The Little Sisters of Jesus went back to 1939, when their community was founded by Madeleine Hutin, a Frenchwoman who chose to go by the name of Little Sister Magdeleine of Jesus. Today, more than a thousand Little Sisters lived in dozens of countries, deliberately seeking places where life wasn’t so easy, or where the faith wasn’t so widespread.

This was also the reason why Sister Magdeleine had founded this particular community in Regelsbrunn in the 1950s: just a few dozen kilometers to the east, the border of Slovakia was looming and behind it, the shut off world of the Soviet Union and its satellite states.

When I told them that I found the name Little Sisters of Jesus to be quite endearing, Sister Monique gave me an amused look and explained: “There is no way we could be the Big Sisters of Jesus, now, right?”

from the church to the airport

It was a Sunday, and the Little Sisters went to church at nine. At first we were a bit shy, but then we chose to go with them. Brad smiled when she saw that there was a little Ukrainian flag on one of the churches on the altar. I asked the priest about it after the mass. He told me that he was a missionary from Poland, and that he had lived in Ukraine for three years.

We left the Little Sisters of Jesus at around noon. Then we followed the bike path until there was no bike path anymore. We walked on some grass for a little while. A massive highway appeared in our way, and we had to walk around it for a while. Then we were back on the bike path.

The walk from Regelsbrunn to Schwechat led us not past the airport, but right throughย it. We walked past the parking lots and the roofed-over walkways, past people with suitcases and people with backpacks, and it all felt a bit odd.


We walked for a long time after that. There was a container village that housed refugees right behind the airport. From the outside it looked better than the Harmanli Refugee Camp in Bulgaria, but we didn’t know what it was like on the inside, and the people we saw outside were all on their phones. The whole thing reminded me of a container village that I had seen in Uzbekistan many years earlier.

The bike path led us through a park, past a huge area that looked like an oil refinery, and then back into a residential area. We thought about pitching the tent somewhere, but then we got worried about breaking the law.

In the end we stayed in a hotel room in a very quiet street.


the walk from Regelsbrunn to Schwechat:

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