A clean blanket and a bowl of spaghetti

The borders are shut and tensions are running high in the refugee camps, as people become increasingly desperate about their future. A few days ago, in Souda on the island of Chios, refugees set fire to the rubbish skips as a protest. The fire spread and was only put out after a couple of hours by the fire brigade with the help of the police and the locals whose houses it threatened – but not before severely damaging two large tents used by NGOs and the UN High Comissioner for Refugees, some offices and a load of equipment. One of the firemen was injured.

In the sprawling border camp of Idomeni, in Northern Greece, police had to use tear gas to break up clashes between rival groups of rock-throwing Pakistani and Afghan migrants; incidents of violence along ethnic lines have become a daily reality. At Elliniko camp in Athens, hundreds of people, mostly Afghans, refused to eat because of the quality of the food and because of their belief that Syrians are receiving preferential treatment at their expense.
There are still nearly 60,000 refugees stranded in Greece, although the flow from Turkey has abated since the deal in March between Brussels and Ankara. However, it has not lessened as much as shifted – they have now gone back to trying to reach Italy from Libya, and hundreds have drowned in the Mediterranean in the last few weeks (this route is longer and more dangerous). In total there have been 10,000 deaths in the Mediterranean since January of 2014.

 

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Meanwhile, tireless and feisty volunteers are continuing to give their all to help their fellow man. The Dirty Girls of Lesvos (see previous post, here) have saved more than 10,000 blankets from ending up in a landfill. Hearing the Idomeni camp was to be emptied, they came over and collected around 15 tons of bedding, to clean and re-distribute to other camps. Alison Terry-Evans says: ‘A clean blanket is a small way for people to have a little dignity in an underserved situation.’
Other volunteers are bringing water to camps where there is none; some deal with vulnerable groups; some with cleanliness; some with training and education of the refugees. Some set up WiFi in the camps (like Ilias Papadopoulos or Ben Ridge) or lay wooden floors in the tents, paid for out their own pocket.

Take a look at the video below, and you will see why Iokasti Nikolaidi spent three months cooking, together with up to 15 of her friends, on the island of Samos. Her husband, a fireman, was upset with the deaths he was witnessing. Iokasti was on maternity leave, having just given birth to her fourth child, and had not been out and about. When she went with him to see the hundreds of desperate, dispossessed, exhausted people, and especially the crying kids, she wanted to help. ‘Why don’t you cook something?’ said her husband.

Iokasti called her friends; they started with 30 portions, and slowly built up, with the help of other women, to their record – 4,380 portions one day! Spurred on by a photo of her holding a sick baby – she was initially angry with the photographer for taking it – volunteers from England and the rest of Europe came to help, and people sent money and supplies. Her worst nightmare: when the food finished, and the last people in the endless lines got none, after having waited for hours. This was her last thought when falling into bed at night: ‘If we don’t cook tomorrow, these people won’t eat.’

(In English)

43 thoughts on “A clean blanket and a bowl of spaghetti

  1. What a terrible situation. What is going to become of all those refugees? How will they rebuild their lives? Where will they go?

    Little wonder they are fighting among themselves, their predicament seems hopeless. How lucky they are for the generosity and kindness of the Greek people, whose own lives are hard enough.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It seems as if all that has happened is that the strife and conflict has been moved elsewhere. You’d hope and imagine that different peoples in the same situation would have a fellow feeling and help each other, but instead, the fighting continues, the paranoia, fear and desperation continue. Each man struggles for himself and his immediate family. It’s understandable. You’re right, too, that it’s a problem for all nations, not just the one on whose doorstep the problem arrives.
    καλά κάνει, Ιοκάστη!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Marina it is so hard to press the like button-I wanted to acknowledge this post however. It is so hard to read this. In a few weeks we will be in Athens, then Crete and Santorini (now in Italy). My father financially helps family in Crete-I know the Cretans hardships all to well yet they refuse to leave and come to America with us where I have room for them. Heartbreaking when it is family. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s very hard to leave all you know behind- and here no bombs are falling. It makes you think what it must take to put your family in one of those boats… Meanwhile, the sun still shines and you cannot carry the world’s misery on your shoulders- enjoy your holiday. You are helping by just being here! Tourism is what keeps us afloat at the moment.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t think she’s part of any organization- but she’s been helped by others. Many NGOs are doing good work over here – for example DESMOS, who do fantastic work (I wrote about them in a previous post). Iokasti appears to be a force of nature! She and two others were given some kind of prize by Brussels.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. It is a very sad and difficult situation for all the refugees! I cannot begin to imagine what challenges lay ahead for them on a daily basis. Here in Canada, the government has accepted to take in 50,000 refugees. I agree that all countries should be doing their part!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If every country took in less than that, problem solved. Greece has a population of 11 million, of which 1 million are immigrants (roughly). We had a massive infusion after the end of communism. There were some problems, but mostly they have assimilated well – and a lot who didn’t just went back of their own accord. And those who do, still have a hard life – far from family and everything they know…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Amazing people 🙂
    Thank you for sharing , it makes us maintain our hope in the human race …there are still a few good ones out there ( well … I want to believe there are lots more , they’re just not enough yet , so we only notice a few here and there ) .
    The Greek people are doing a lot and no one is helping them , it is always the ones that have less who are willing to share and help the most .
    Turtle Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not just the Greeks, there are many volunteers from all parts of the world who are helping – here, in Italy, in Germany, in the Scandinavian countries…The ones who are not doing enough, as usual, are the powers that be – because there, all sorts of different interests interfere…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes , I realize that . But you take the blunt of it.
        And about the interests , in Portugal we said we could receive 5ooo refugees , not even 100 have made it here , they’re being hold back by papers and such …

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I cry as a thank you for your post. That from far-off Australia whose refugee ‘our sovereign borders’ policy I deplore on humanitarian grounds. Methinks we owe it to the world to do SO much more! I was a refugee kid after the 2nd World War who found a home Down Under. Had been thru’ bombings, hunger, rape, murder and all other forms of indescribable cruelty for five years. But I happened to be white and Northern European and Christian: so I was simply made to be ‘grateful’ and ‘assimilate’ in oft difficult circumstances re the local and at the time narrow-minded populace. Greece itself has had such a very difficult economic past in recent times . . . . it should not have to face further economic hardship because of ‘closed borders’ north and west! Only to have so many escapees who had totally left their lives behind to escape death oft be accused of ‘economic escapism’!! Do you really think they are just a nuisance: some sort of a joke? Please , world, WHERE ARE YOU?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A lot of people, of all nationalities, are helping – many because, like you, have known what it is to be displaced. The problem lies with the authorities who are nor doing more to solve this, mainly because they cannot agree among themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Just a final comment when you actually should still be asleep. Because of flood disabilities I am but catching up:on speaking my mind . . . I am afraid I personally do find this racial and selfish . . . and I just work on every org I know every hour can sustain and I pray . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I have so many emotions reading this and watching the video. The situation and events are heartbreaking…apocalyptic almost. Then seeing the film I’m in tears, touched by this most inspirational woman who motivated her friends to help as well as cooking herself on a daily basis. Wonderful thought provoking post. Just wish there was an end in sight to this catastrophe and horrendous tally of deaths.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. How terrible for all these refugees. It breaks my heart. Thank you for sharing ~ we don’t see in depth information like this on our news broadcasts.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. ‘All the peoples look the same – they have the same blood and the same blood, it’s from my heart’ …. this is heartbreaking and heartrending and heartwarming. We must do more. More. How can it be down to a fireman’s wife with tiny children and a baby of her own to be doing so much herself and galvanising others to do the same? Where the hell are governments? Where are the people who won the geography lottery and have decent lives. Have more than enough. Sitting working out how they can get more is where. Humankindness is far to rare. I have to do more. I must work out how. Thank you so much for sharing this and polarising my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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