How I view their “journey” as a Greek.
Refugees in Greece are estimated to be around 100,000 by the end of the next few months.
I am sure most of you are aware of the current situation in Greece with respect to the refugee crisis, but for those who are not I’d like to dedicate some time, and some space in this blog, to write about those people who are leaving their homes in Syria, and going through that Odyssey, seeking for a better future.
Greece is a country that has been through a lot the past few years. Now, I am not big on politics or economics but I’m good with people, and maybe I don’t know all the details of how Greece got to where it is today but I know that the people are tired and angry. While this economic mess is taking place a new crisis came along to test the people; refugees. Most of them travel miles by feet from Syria, or other countries, to Turkey, where they pay tremendous amounts of money in order to pass from the Turkey coasts to the Greek islands, such as Chios and Lesbos. Needless to say that the boats in which they travel do not meet any safety standards, they are too small and too many people board them. The result is many people, including babies, drowning in the process. Bodies of several people and infants/kids have been found on the coasts of Greek islands.
Most of those people are educated, they had jobs in their countries, houses, a life. But how can you stay when your life is in danger? Currently there are more than 12,000 refugees stuck in several places throughout Greece trying to survive. The borders to our neighbour countries have been closed, refusing access to the people, with a result of them living in horrendous conditions. The past few days have been cold and rainy; every time I open the television I see kids crying, coughing and walking in the mud. A number of people are trying to help. There are volunteers such as red cross, doctors, people who share their food, even their homes with them; but there are also people trying to benefit from them, charging them 10 euros to charge their phones, asking them for over 2,000 euros to be transported from the Greek borders to the German borders by feet and trucks, asking them to pay 150 euros to be transported from the port of Athens to the borders with Macedonia but never showing up after they’ve collected the money.
But the point of this post is not to inform you about the situation, neither is this blog another form of Greek media. All that I can share is my feelings and my opinion on these tragic events. Last Sunday me and my boyfriend went to a nice restaurant, relatively close to my house, in order to celebrate his grandmother’s birthday along with his parents. The restaurant we went to was Mexican, if I had to comment on the price range I would rather place it as tripadvisor or other sites do — $$$ — and the food along with the atmosphere were perfect. We had a ton of guacamole with nachos, so much that none of us managed to finish their main course. I remember that my stomach was about to explode by the time we were done so we went to Starbucks afterwards to get a coffee because I was too sleepy to drive home.
There are two ways home, and I chose the one which is seaside because the weather was good and I thought it would be nice to drive by the beach. At some point the road became too trafficky, which is unusual for the specific road on a Sunday afternoon. Suddenly, I realised we were driving by the old airport. Athens’ old airport is at Elliniko, an area which is very central, in comparison to Athens’ current airport (El. Venizelos). So, after the new airport was made, the old one remained empty, like a huge ghost playground. Like an
“airport for lost souls”
That is one of the spots that they have “placed” refugees until a better solution comes up. I think the people staying there at the moment are about 2,000. The traffic jam was caused because several of them were crossing the road to go to the beach to wash themselves, because the old airport has no showers. Another reason could be because people were driving slow while looking at the hundreds of clothes hanging everywhere around the space of the airport, like an old neighbourhood of venice maybe, just depressing instead of charming. Kids were fighting; it was cold and nobody was dressed warm enough. I was returning from a $$$ restaurant, with my belly stuffed and my mind empty, and though I do not necessarily believe one should feel guilty about what he/she has, I do believe he/she should feel happy and acknowledge that others do not.
I’ve heard and read about refugees on the news since summer, I knew that things were hard, but that was different, because I saw it and suddenly I imagined for the first time being in their shoes, and that’s probably not even close to how it actually is. This situation is beyond sad and it took me too long to realise how much. I feel very lucky, because that’s what it is; a matter of luck. Every one of us could have been born in one of those countries and we would be going through that same exact situation.
I decided to share my experience not because I expect any of you to shed any tears, but mostly because we all need to understand how lucky we are to have a home that we can go back to when it’s cold and a plate of warm food to eat when we’re hungry. A lot of people are sensitised by this situation and are trying to help. Me and my boyfriend are applying to red cross in order to start volunteer work, people from all over the world are coming to help; i recently saw a video of a Dutch girl making plastic backpacks for the people out of the leftover lifejackets and plastic straps on the beaches of Greece.
There are websites such as doctors of the world where you can donate money to support the cause. I understand that not everyone can donate or actively volunteer, and that is completely okay in my opinion, just as long as they at least become aware of the situation and try to raise awareness themselves.
If you have kids, loved ones and a house, go today and hug them, give them a big kiss and tell them how grateful you are for the things you have in your life. Speak to them about those people who weren’t that lucky. Talk to them about their struggles because they have a long way ahead of them and they’ll need all the support and love they can get, physical or spiritual. I’m not gonna say big words such as “we can make the difference”, because I don’t think that we can but we can at least give them hope. The situation is way out of hand and governments of the European Union, including Greece’s, are not handling it with enough sensitivity and empathy. I understand that they aren’t making Europe’s situation any easier but in times like that we are called to show our humanity even when we don’t necessarily have anything extrinsic to gain.
Please, become aware.