Refugees welcome - some kind of a blog
Ich bin zu buchen mit meinen Texten und meinen Erfahrungen...
You can book me with my texts and my experiences...
In Thessaloniki many people are living in the streets. From 1 June thousands of recognized refugees across Greece and about 2000 in Thessaloniki are in danger of being evicted from their accommodation in state-sponsored structures and will lose their financial support.
Many organisations are still working on a low-level, so there is not enough support for them. We try to find ways to support the homeless refugees as well as the families who lost / will lose their houses or live under difficult conditions in houses (without furniture or financial support).
We are already giving supplies (food, clothes, blankets, sleeping bags or hygiene products) that have been donated by Greek people or international private organisations. There are not many funds from European organisations, so we still need private donations. THANK YOU!
Der Herbst ist da, langsam wird es empfindlich kalt. Wir sind in der 4.Woche eines erneuten strengen Lockdowns, d.h. die Organisationen können wieder nur weniger oder gar nicht arbeiten. Wir versuchen sehr kleinteilig zu helfen, so gut es die Situation zulässt, versuchen weiterhin die Miete auch jetzt zusammen zu bekommen, wo wir keinerlei Einnahmen durch Vermietung unseres Saals haben.
Was wir weiterhin mehr denn je benötigen sind die Mittel um helfen zu können. Von den Spendengeldern können wir dann wenn die Geschäfte wieder öffnen auch die lokalen Geschäfte unterstützen, indem wir bei ihnen einkaufen. Ein wichtiger Aspekt im Griechenland der ökonomischen Krise und inmitten einer Situation, in der ein Virus nicht nur die Gesundheit, sondern auch die Wirtschaft zerstört.
Thank you again and again Heimatstern e.V. to make it possible to have backpacks, food, shoes, sleeping bags, babymilk and -food, sanitary items in big numbers in the most uncomplicated way... Irgendwann errichten wir euch ein Denkmal mitten in Thessaloniki!
Since I moved to Thessaloniki 3 years ago, I got € 25.228,21 donations from friends and people in solidarity from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, France, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Spain, Romania.
That's amazing! That's solidarity!! Das ist großartig! Das ist Solidarität! Thank you! Danke! Ευχαριστώ! Ευχαριστούμε!
Zwar kann ich keine Spendenquittungen ausgeben, dafür kommt jeder Cent zuverlässig bei der Hilfe für geflüchtete und bedürftige Menschen an - jeder noch so kleine Betrag ist hilfreich. DANKE dafür!!
IBAN: DE14701500000903121812 / BIC: SSKMDEMM
Ελληνικός λογαριασμός: GR8602602060000100201430994 / BIC: ERBKGRAA
We are not all equal... These days in Greece we are only allowed to leave our houses for a few reasons and have to send an sms or have a paper with us. Police is checking. Police stands in every corner where they know that refugees are coming along. And they check them. Ask them to pay a fine. Make them problems. I can walk along and they don't even look at me. I don't look greek, but I don't look like a refugee. That makes me different. That's why they don't check me... We are not all equal.
In the facebook memories I saw that we celebrated some years ago that day with some friends they met during their first years in Germany: people who helped as volunteers in camps, as I did. We became friends. My syrian friends in Germany. One moved away from Munich. One is studying at the university, the other at a school. Both are speaking excellent German.
Asked what has been the most difficult the last 5 years, they answered both independently that they did not expect that everything will take so much time until they can finally start to study. And that they did not expect that life in Germany is so difficult with expensive apartments, difficulty to find a place to study and to work for a little money compared to the high living costs.
But they made it both! 5 years after they arrived, after a long time in camps, they now have their lives. They still miss their families, whenever fights are going on in Syria, they are afraid for them. The young brother grows up without the one, the sister misses the other... seperated families. „One day we will go together to your city“ I say. And I mean it.
Happy anniversary Nader and Muhannad! I am glad you made it 5 years ago!
Photo credits: Anna Alboth, July 2020
A friend from Adelaide/Australia asked me to write a text for her sermon about 1. Thessalonians: "I remembered that you are living in Thessaloniki and that you are working with refugees."
I heard her sermon a few days later on their church's podcast.
The same day she told me that a member of the church wanted to donate us 800 AUD for our work.
One week later we had 460€ for our work.
When I wrote a thank you-email, with pictures from last day before the second lockdown in Thessaloniki, I told her that even if I would know her, I would not have words for that. But a completely stranger, from whom I only know the name, who gets so involved in our work, sending us money and solidarity really overwhelmed me.
Sandy, who preached that Sunday morning and used my words, send me the money and I love it that her PayPal account has this signature:
"I acknowledge that the land on which I live and work is the traditional country of the Kaurna people. I respect their spiritual relationship with their country and honour their elders both past and present for they hold the memories, traditions, culture and hopes of the living Kaurna today. I commit myself to work alongside Aboriginal people for justice and reconciliation in this land."
That's the world I want to live in!
It was good to be for 5 days in another context and not involved in the refugee one... until I was walking this morning to the train station and came along Victoria place. Which is empty now. Where are all the people gone? Only a few families in some corners. And right in the moment when I crossed the place it started to rain, waking up a family. The faces of the two children waking up on a place in Athens under some blankets in a autumn rainshower brought me suddenly back...
One of our syrian volunteers went with a family to an organisation to get some advice from a lawyer there, concerning their asylum rejection. The advice from the lawyer has been: “They should go to a lawyer”.
I cannot blame them, I know the organisations are overwhelmed with so many refugees in Greece. But… seriously???
Yesterday I sent away 5 people from families who wanted to sign in to take foodstuff, clothes and pampers from us.
They stood there with their refugee papers that every big organisation needs to register them, but that we don‘t want to see. We want to get in touch with the people, we want to meet them, we want to get them involved, we want to know them, to help each other, not to do a charity program. Of course not everyone is aware, but we strive for that.
How can we get in touch? How can we call them? „Arabi, arabi“ was the only answer to my „Do you speak English? Μιλάτε Ελληνικά;“ How can we communicate if they give not even a try to learn a few words in a language we speak in Europe? How many of these non-conversation-conversations do we have to do on the phone?
It is not nice to send people in need away. But if we want to continue for a longer term, we cannot squander our ressources, such as time, energy and the items which we have to organise constantly.
„You might like to write this story“, he said.
In his town in Syria, close to the Turkish border, there hasn‘t been electricity for one year. In the night no one left the house, the dogs became dangerous because they ate the bodies of the deaths in the streets of the town during the first years of war.
He decided to leave Syria and to cross the only 19km away borders to Turkey, where he stayed the next couple of years, always with the hope to go back home.
„It was the most beautiful day in my life“, he said, and he told me how it has been when he crossed one night the borders and saw that there have been lights, there has been electricity. „To see these lights after one year has been so beautiful.“
He could not go back home. Also Turkey became dangerous. Now he is in Greece, where he has electricity every day and night. He is making plans, he does not want to stay, and it’s not about the stray dogs here...
14/10/20„How was it for you to be separated from your wife?”, I asked him when he came back yesterday after weeks he spent in a village at the olive-harvest. “It was ok.”, he replied. She was here and I was there, I came twice back. “Yes, I know, but how was it for you, how did you feel?” – a question, I know, very far out of his way of thinking. “It was ok”, he repeated. And added: “At home everything is clean. There not so much, we had to do it.”
…this is when the conversation came to a halt.
The mother not in good condition. The girl, 10 years young, completely overwhelmed and with her poor Greek not able to translate what the mother expects her to translate. The boy 6 years old and frozen. No eye-contact, no sounds, no reactions.
When I ask the girl to chose a toy, I give him a box with little animals and he starts to play with them immediately.
Still very quiet, still without sounds, but he smiles. He looks at me, even interacts when I try very carefully to get in touch with him, expresses something.
This have been the "good 10 minutes" that I try to give people who are in these difficult situations.
...next time his sister!
"Can you cook 50 more portions tomorrow?", she asked me yesterday. "We have new arrivals of people living in the streets. In between families."
...families who are homeless and cannot/don't want to stay in the overcrowded camps around the city... This is happening to those who are "allowed to leave the island": the next desperate situation.
He speaks enough Greek to communicate. “We have been in a camp in a small town. It was not good. We were only speaking arabic all the time. Also in the other camp. When we came to Thessaloniki it was better. My children are going to school. They learned the language. We are with you, with Greek people.”
This man, father of 4 children from Kurdish Syria understood what inclusion is and that camps are making everything worse. He likes to be in Thessaloniki. He doesn’t want to leave Greece for Europe. “Thessaloniki is good. Only one problem we have: No work.”
02/10/20 Tag des Flüchtlings - Text für die landkreisweite Kundgebung in Lörrach
Wenn ich von meinem Balkon auf die Straße schaue, sehe ich Menschen auf der Flucht. Wenn ich aus dem Haus gehe, sehe ich Menschen auf der Flucht.
Warum? Weil ich zwischen den Plätzen, den Bauruinen und den Verstecken im Westen der Stadt und dem Tageszentrum, in dem es Frühstück, Mittagessen, Kleidung, Waschmaschinen und Duschen gibt, im Zentrum, lebe. Und weil ich es wahrnehme und nicht wegsehe.
Woran ich sie erkenne? Sie sind müde, haben meist die falschen Schuhe an und tragen ihr ganzes Hab und Gut im Rucksack und in Plastiktüten. Und weil ich schon seit 5 Jahren mit diesen Menschen arbeite und lebe.
Was ich so sehe?
Ich sehe Menschen. Meist müde Menschen.
Ich sehe Not. Kleine Not. Große Not. Die allergrößte Not.
Ich sehe Mitarbeitende die nicht mehr können, aber müssen. Ich sehe Freiwillige wie mich die nicht mehr können und wollen dass das alles aufhört, die aber solange es nicht aufhört auch nicht aufhören können, weil für sie das gilt, was für jede und jeden gelten sollte: Das könnte ich sein, wenn ich nicht zufällig hier geboren wäre.
Was ich sonst so erlebe?
Unsere Lebensmittel-, Kleidungs- und Windelverteilung 2x in der Woche, bei der Menschen kommen, die seit 4 Monaten keinen Cent mehr von der griechischen Regierung bekommen, weil sie nun Asyl haben und das neue Gesetz es vorsieht dass sie sich nun selbst versorgen (in einem Land in der ökonomischen Krise, in dem die Jugend in andere Länder zieht um eine Zukunft zu haben, in einem Land, in dem sie niemals von staatlicher Seite die Möglichkeit bekamen die Sprache und die Regeln des Landes zu lernen. Dies haben Organisationen versucht zu übernehmen.
Ich erlebe dass Organisationen schließen müssen, weil sie kein Geld mehr haben.
Und ich erlebe immer weniger Freiwillige und immer mehr Arbeit, da die Not nicht weniger sondern immer mehr wird.
Was ich aus Lesvos mitbekomme von Freund*innen und Kolleg*innen?
Mit Billigung der Europäischen Union hat Griechenland ein neues Lager in wenigen Tagen mit einfachsten Mitteln hochgezogen, die Menschen gezwungen dort „einzuziehen“: in den 9 Tagen und Nächten in denen die Menschen die Hoffnung hatten dass nach dem abgebrannten Moria Camp etwas Besseres kommt, ließ die Polizei die NGOs (Nichtregierungsorganisationen) vor Ort nicht zu den Menschen durch um Wasser und Essen zu verteilen und verbreitete zeitgleich dass es im Camp alles gäbe. Dadurch gaben sich die Menschen nach einer Woche geschlagen. Inzwischen wissen wir, dass es dort nun einmal am Tag Essen und einen Liter Wasser gib, Duschen gibt es keine, wenige Chemietoiletten und auch Strom ist nicht vorhanden, die Menschen dürfen zwischen 8 und 18h das Lager verlassen, aber nur eine bestimmte Anzahl und am Sonntag durfte niemand gehen, die Erklärung dafür „Es ist Sonntag“.
Nebenbei gesagt: Auch der Presse wurde ab dem 2./3. Tag der Zugang verwehrt. Die Bilder die Sie kennen durften in der kurzen Zeit gemacht werden, in der die Presse Zugang bis einige Meter vor dem Zaun hatte. Der Zaun ist inzwischen höher.
Viel, viel mehr gibt es zu sagen über Lesvos, Chios, die anderen so genannten „Hotspots“ der Europäischen Union, über den Vktoriaplatz in Athen, wo hunderte Menschen in unwürdigen Zuständen leben und sich zurück nach Moria Camp sehnen, wie viele sagen.
Viel mehr aus Thessaloniki, wo ich seit drei Jahren lebe und wo ich gerade gestern für 50 Unbegleitete Minderjährige T-shirts, Unterwäsche, Rasierer, Rasiergel gepackt habe. Das, was wir gerade in größeren Mengen hatten, denn auch wir helfen ausschließlich durch Spenden. Es sind 14-18-jährige Jungs die aus Lesvos wegdurften und die nun in einem Hotel leben, 3x am Tag Essen aber sonst nichts haben. Nichts.
Niemand will in Griechenland bleiben. Hier gibt es keine Perspektive. Schon kaum für die Einheimischen oder Eingewanderte Europäer*innen wie mich. Alle wollen nach Europa. Nach Deutschland, in die Niederlande, nach Schweden, Belgien… dort wo sie Verwandte haben.
Europa macht einen großen Fehler am Dublin III Gesetz festzuhalten.
Europa zeigt sein unmenschlichstes Gesicht in der Flüchtlingspolitik – und in Griechenland sehen wir das glasklar.
Vor 2 Jahren war ich bei einer Podiumsdiskussion in die Schweiz eingeladen. Damals habe ich als Einleitung gesagt „Wir sind wütend. Und wir sind sehr müde.“
Es hat sich nicht geändert. Nichts ist besser geworden, Nicht für die Menschen auf der Flucht, die ich jeden Tag von meinem Balkon aus, in den Straßen und den Orgnisationen sehe, und nicht für diejenigen die – bezahlt oder unbezahlt – versuchen ein wenig Menschlichkeit zu zeigen.
Wir sind wütend. Und wir sind müde. Auch heute.
Everyone who is coming to us had a life before being "a refugee". As a husband, a daughter, a worker, a student, a house owner.
Today I learned a lot about bees. Before the Daesh burned his behives, he had 100 of them.
Before they had to flee, everyone of them had something he or she can tell us.
I love to listen and to learn.
And I love to see how someone is flourishing for a moment.
3 years they are already here. 4 of the 5 children are going to school and speak Greek. “Will your parents start soon their Greek lessons?”, I asked yesterday. “They will not learn Greek.” – “Why? You also learned the language.” – “They don’t need it, we will go to Germany.”
I am so tired of that sentence and that argumentation…
There is that family that popped in last Saturday. They have twice an asylum rejection from the “Hot Spot” in Leros and had to leave the camp there. They found themselves in another town in the north of Greece, the police sent them to Thessaloniki, and there they stayed in the street with the two children. The woman so young…
We could give them immediately food and fruits and water, could organize a one-week-stay in a hotel, they get supported by the Refugee Day Center and then…? There seem to be no place for them. Nowhere. Not in the war in Syria, not in peace in Europe.
So many people, so many of these stories, so much suffering…
We discussed how to proceed with the distributions. We decided to ask the organisation that helps us so often again if they can support us with foodstuff. I felt bad because I know they have so much work, are - like we are - only a few people with huge tasks. I sent a message with a few words - - - and got immediately a reply „great, we wanted to ask you anyhow.“
And only ten minutes later we got money we need for lawyers and to pay some nights for emergency cases who are in the streets. An amazing bugded and someone who will go with us next week to buy foodstuff in large quantities, and on top they will send a palette with other foodstuff and things we need.
Thank you Petra and Tilman to be with us. Thank you Heimatstern e.V. for supporting us all these years and everytime when we get desperate (as an organisation or personally).
„I was busy with other things the last week, can you tell me what happend in Moria camp?“ - an international volunteer who is thrilled about „helping refugees“... I mean, I am glad that he asked, but I would be happy if young people also would have enough time and interest to get informed about what is happening in the country where they are staying and to follow up a bit on the current situation in which we are.
„I am a journalist. When I wrote a critical article, the Daesh came an shot at me.“ - he showed me the scar and we spoke about how religion can evoce wars.
„I arrived in February and then the lockdown came. I am every day at home with my 3 year old daughter.“ she said and we said we will find a Greek teacher for her and that she will come to help us on Saturdays when we need volunteers.
„Madam, do you have a notebook for me for school?“, she asked me - and it turned out that she and her sister need each 4 notebooks, a pencil, a rubber and a sharpener. Luckily a friend is collecting all the material that children forget in school and never take it back.
She spoke very quietly. With the scarf and the mask it is difficult to see a person. „My sister is 6“ she said when I asked her if they also have children at home. „Yeah, you are also so young.“ I said, and she replied with a shy „thank you“. She spoke an excellent english and had to leave her home when she was 19.
... some of the people who came yesterday to our distribution. Some human beings. Some forgotten people who try to survive their new life as refugees in a country where politics does not want to have one of them here and tries to show this with it‘s laws, tries to starve them out... not only on Lesvos island.
The new camp in Lesvos is a prison. Nothing else.
The new camp is a prison. A prison in the sun, the cold, the wind.
The new camp is a prison. Without enough water, toilets, space.
The new camp is a prison. And Europe accepts that.
The new camp is a prison. The new camp is a prison.
The new camp is a prison!
Photo credtis: Elias Marcou / SOOC, 19/09/2020
„I want this finally to stop“, the child said after waiting a long time in the line to get food and clothes in our distribution...
...I my dream... I saw his angry, tired, desperate little face. I kneeled down to him and said „Me too!“, trying not to cry. „How old are you?“, I asked him and he replied „a little older than young.“
In a dream you can do what you never do in reality: I went away to hide somewhere and cried over all these people...
(Later on in that dream the alarm of the building was activated and we have been locked for an indefinite period in the building. How symbolic )
Of course there are these annoying families. It starts when we call them and it is impossible to communicate because except arabic / farsi / kurdish they don‘t speak a language at all.
But there are wonderful families. Women who try to teach their children (usually they bring one of the 4, 5 up to 7 children) to say „hello, how are you?“ and „thank you“. Children who go to school an speak already quite well Greek. The woman alone with 6 boys, the smallest 6, the oldest 17 who lost his leg in Syria, where all of them lost their father / husband.
I try to make a bit fun when they choose between the food and hygiene stuff and to give them a little bit of dignity in that undignified situation they are in. And so does the girl who cares for the clothes and try to find for them what they need.
I hope we can continue for a while to support these families who are since 4 months without support. I hope they can keep their dignity.
Please sign and share!!
Petition - Fire Moria Camp: Call for urgent evacuation and radical change
I always thought wearing a uniform says a lot about you. I think you can hide behind a uniform and behind a mass.
Police denies today press access in Lesvos. Yesterday they denied access to NGOs to bring water and food to the desperate people who had no food or water for 3 days. Threw tear gas to men, women and children who are more than unarmed.
What kind of person do you have to be to do that work? How can you give up all your humanity when you put on your uniform?
Cannot laugh anymore at the policemen who is whistling the traffic while the road users don't need him because there are also traffic lights.
What we should not forget:
- The situation on Lesvos Island is not a surprise or a suddenly and unpredictable disaster.
- More than 12000 people (and many more thousands if we count those who could leave Moria camp and have been dropped in the streets of the mainland) are not displaced now, they have been already displaced before.
- Greece plays it's part in this European game, as well as Europe.
- The Greek far right government is elected by the people. They wanted a far right government.
- Only because you did not see the people in a row in a street, on a cemetery, on a supermarket parking, they have been there in this camp that burned down.
What I am listening when I am listening.
“In 5 days we have to leave our room. We are 20 families like that”. He is one from the families who could leave Moria camp a few months ago. They put the families in a hotel, gave them 3 times a day food and told them when they will have the stamp in their paper, they have 30 days to leave the room. To leave without any support.
“I will take a lawyer, then I get my passport quicker.” He is – like many others – dreaming of a life in Europe. Sweden, Belgium, Germany or England.
“In Syria I had everything, here I have to ask for everything, It is difficult for me.” He studied biochemistry and had a good life until the bombs fell on Aleppo.
“I had 100 beehives. Daesh burned them all. The honey was like a river on the ground.”
“I borrowed last year a friend 100 Euros. I never said something, but now I need it. He gave me 20.” He had cash card to live with his wife and the two children until the new law. Now he has nothing and tries to get through the family.
„They don’t know the city, they don’t have money, they have to leave their house soon.” Two women who are since 2 years in Thessaloniki. Who have been like many women every day at home with the children.
“I am going to school since 3 years, of course I speak Greek.” At my request the parents let translate her daughter that they don’t speak Greek or English.
…some of the sentences I was listening when I was listening. Only some.
Dear friends everywhere in the world. Thank you for asking since yesterday how things are going in Greece and in Thessaloniki.
We are sad, and first of all angry about the situation in Greece, on the islands, in Moria camp - since years.
Many of the people who come to us to ask for help have been there, facing in the next days to be thrown in the streets because the short supported housing will end.
We expect that the Greek government will bring more people to Thessaloniki (more than the 400 unaccompanied minors who already arrived yesterday night and will arrive today). But they will bring them and let them without any support - as they did already and as we can see in Athens at Victoria square.
Thank you for asking how things are going! We really appreciate that!
We ask you kindly to help us to continue to help. We are running literally out of money - in times when we need it most.
We have a crowdfunding since a while and many of you supported us. Thank you for that. We try to go on with collecting money: https://oikopolissocialcenter.blogspot.com/p/help-us-to-continue-to-help-who-we-are.html
If you prefer to support me on my personal account from where I am supporting different projects, you can do this here:
IBAN: DE14701500000903121812 / BIC: SSKMDEMM
IBAN: GR8602602060000100201430994 / BIC: ERBKGRAA
Thank you for your support, for your solidarity, for your help!
We say it since years: Europe must act!!
After war and flee thousands upon thousands traumatised people had to live for years under inhumane conditions in Moria camp.
Greece had the OK for that from the European Union.
Now this camp is burned down.
Thousands of traumatised refugees are now without any shelter and are facing their next traumatic experience throughout a series of traumatic experiences.
I guess Greece has no plan what to do.
I guess Athes and Thessaloniki will have the next days and weeks more men, women and children in the streets.
I know that Europe must act!! Finally!
„I was really glad that you told us also your personal impressions. I liked that you also spoke about the difficulties and did not pretend that everything is great.”
…Of course. I have to tell how we feel. And we feel overwhelmed with all the needs around us. With the organisation of the place and the activities. I did not think that this is something special to admit. But yesterday I learned that in many organisations, people present only the nice and beautiful picture of the situation.
Well. Our picture has many colors. Also grey and black
„What is your motivation?“, she asked me.
A beautiful question.
That I believe in solidarity I said. That I think that the world only in a solidarity way can work. And that I found people who want to work and live in the same way. And that I am grown up with the knowledge that every person can provide something to the community. That’s why I like to encourage other people to share time, money, knowledge, love and whatever they have to give.
“Is there anything don’t you like how refugees behave and you would like to let them know?”
First the question wasn’t clear, but then we replied both almost the same: It is so difficult if families are already since a year or two in Thessaloniki and (especially the women) still don’t know any Greek or English word. And this results in a behavior that we would like to let them know: “We want to communicate with you. We want to know from you. We would like to share things. We would like to have you in our community and in our society.”
I always love to have groups visiting us.
I love the (critical, philosophical, political) questions.
I love the interest, the other point of view, the view from the outside.
And it helps me always to see the reality a bit more: We are doing many things. And “we” are only a few people. But we want. And we do.
I love to have groups visiting us.
They evoke that I remember beside all the organisational issues my passion, my love, my commitment.
5 years ago I was in Munich at the train station helping to welcome thousands upon thousands exhausted refugees. Today I am in Thessaloniki and still see every day refugees: In the streets, in the organisations, at the distributions. I don’t know if I ever thought it will stop one day. Probably I was at least hoping that it will stop one day. It doesn’t. People still have to flee their homes. 5 years ago and still today we are doing the work the governments and the European Union should do.
„All we say now we will read later in your balcony talks“ he said. We laughed. This balcony talk was - like most of the balcony talks - kind of therapy. To reflect the day, to share experiences and emotions of the long day we had behind us. But it was also the attempt to find a good way how to proceed with the distributions.
Fact is: there are so many families who don‘t have more than a house. Many times they don‘t even have a table, a bed, a chair in that house, no fridge, only the plastic plate and -cup they get from the organisation that supports the rent. Fact is also: most of them don‘t speak one word english or greek after some years here. Another fact: we are tired. Tired from our time we are spending, from the fundraising (we never have enough money, nor goods), from the neverending needs.
It was an exhausting day. It was a good balcony talk. I needed it before I went home - after almost 13 hours.
Balcony talks - about education
„And what is your sister doing?“, I asked the young guy.
„Oh, nice. What?“
„She is going to school.“
Not the first time I realised that „studying“ is not about university, but about going to school after being older than let‘s say 15. Not the first time I realised that it is a privilege to grow up in a world where „studying“ is getting a profund education after 17 years of school. Not the first time I realised that „I want to study“ doesn‘t mean people have the degree to go to university, but it‘s about learning the language of the country where they find themselves now.
Words show us so much about culture. And about expectations. About education.
Since 14 years they are living in Italy. They left their country with a 1 1/2 year child with a disease and a 2 month old baby. Like so many families I see nowadays in Greece. How dare people to think you want to leave your country with a neborn baby? There are always good reasons to leave your home.
6 years ago they found an opportunity to meet the family in their homecountry, that‘s when they met my friend the last time. A few months later also he had to leave. His brother-in-law tried to explain me that he had to leave, a fact that I already knew. I guess he experienced many times that he always has to explain why he left his country.
His nephews (14, 6) and his niece (15) are so nice children, I am so sorry that I don‘t speak italian. This is also what refugees are facing when they find a new home: if they meet, they still have their native language. With their friends they speak the new language and the rest of the family, living somewhere else, cannot understand them. It was difficult to communicate with the poor english they had, but we understand each other with our hearts.
His sister tried to say many times „Thank you for all you do“ and „It was so nice that we could meet.“ I understood her. „Well“, I said. „It‘s family.“
It always feels like „We don‘t do so much“ or „We only have a few people we are caring for.“
But then we have a visitor from abroad, interested in our activities and we start telling. And while we enumerate our activities we realise that it is a lot. And it is a lot for only a handful of people who is organising it as volunteers.
„You are making such a difference“ I heard yesterday. „We try“, I replied.
And that‘s what we do: trying to make a difference for some people in that mad game Greece and Europe are playing with refugees. It is only a bit. But it is a try.
Balcony talks - about books
„I had a teacher when I started to learn English, he said to me: first you read, then you copy it in your brain and then you start to speak. Unfortunately I don’t like to read.“ We started the conversation because I was reading a book and he asked me in which language I was reading.
„I am not used to read. We don‘t have books, we don‘t read books with the children, it‘s not like in Europe.“ - „I know. We have so many books here, but none of the families ever wanted to take a children‘s book.“ - „When the children go to school then, I hope they will learn also to read and to write.“ - „They will!“
And then we spoke about the situation that all the fleeing children in refugee camps, on places and streets, in small apartments and forced to go with their parents from one country to the next will not learn how to write in their mother tongue. Hopefully at least they can go to school regularly to learn how to write and read Greek.
What are they afraid of??
97% of the population is orthodox. Every single baby get baptized, if the parents are believers or not. There are many non-biblical, only religious/churchy holidays and customs. Greece is one of the few countries in the world which declared Christianity as a state religion. The only which declared Christian Orthodoxy as state religion. Me as a protestant am not seen as a member of a church, but of a cult. Not many people heard about Martin Luther and the reformation. Orthodox church is everywhere. In schools, in politics, at the military, in most of the shops in the form of icons, and first of all in the heads of the population. Sitting on my balcony on a Sunday morning or like today on a curious holiday I hear from many apartments the Mass they watch on TV or listen on radio. I cannot avoid it.
AND THEY ARE AFRAID A FEW REFUGEES COULD CHANGE THEIR RELIGION?? Seriously??
Four years ago I arrived the second time in Thessaloniki. Still with no Greek, still not knowing where this would guide me.
I only could stay for 3 weeks. I remember how happy I have been to have more time than the first time. I remember how I started to go to the camp every day. How I distributed food in the streets evey morning. How I spent many afternoons at the Oikopolis balcony.
My 5th August here thus.
For me everything changed since that day I arrived four years ago.
The situation for refugees in Thessaloniki and Greece also changed - for the worse.
"Oh, you are German?", he said. "So you love Greece?", he said, "1,2,3" he counted in German and asked "What is better? Germany or Greece?"... very inventive of course for a German living since almost 3 years abroad and always hears the same statements and questions.
But then he asked me "What do you thing about what is happening in Germany, that the muslims overtake the country? And that they also want us to accept that?"
"This is racist." I replied. "OK, then I am a racist", he said and smiled at me.
"I am sorry, but I don't want to listen to you anymore", I said, leaving the shop.
...Glad I can be very clear now also in Greek.
„I don’t want a place, a community that works how the world outside does.”
We don’t want racism, sexism, homophobia, selfishness and indifference.
We want solidarity, humanity, community and to speak out what we don’t like to find solutions for all of us.
We are working on that, for that. With all our heart, soul and energy.
It is not always easy, because many people who are coming to us are in need and don’t know that kind of living and working together.
That creates periodically problems and many times already we had to say good-bye to people.
It is time to have a break.
And time will show who will go with us together in the near term.
Balcony talks - about the near future
„I don‘t know what will happen with all the people who will lose their jobs by the end of August. Today I read an article about it.“
The organisations will stop their housing projects for refugees. Due to the new law everyone with asylum status has to live by it‘s own (without any support). The housing will be taken over by the state, and just a small number of apartments will exist.
All the refugees who are working as interpreters also will lose their work. Falling from a good salary back in bad jobs - if possible to find. Not good for the ego. Neither for the financial surviving.
All the greek people who found work the last years will be unemployed. Not good for every single person and family. And a nightmare for the economy and the already depressed population.
I am struggling with the „When we will have our passports we will go to Germany.” Or the “We will try to cross the borders and to reach Germany or Belgium or Sweden”. I am struggling, because I know that it is not that easy to reach the countries illegal, to stay there legally and to have the life they think they will have there.
“In Moria camp people don’t speak about Europe, they only want to have a safe place”, we heard the other day. Yes, maybe this is human: We always want a bit more. And then more. And more... And if we are surrounded by people who tell us about their dreams, we start to follow their dreams. If there is a move towards Europe, I guess no one can resist.
Especially in a country where the government tries everything to make it difficult for refugees and where it is hard enough even for locals to find an apartment and a job.
Two days ago we met a young journalist from Lesvos island. She was the first of all the people visiting us the last years who was asking the right questions.
Concerning our work, our mental wellbeing after all these years, our perspective.
She did a good job. Some of them and also the answers we gave, are still in my mind.
Balcony talks - Babel today, no common language.
„I want to learn English“ - the first sentence he put in the translator to show me when I brought him the food supplies he had asked for. Not „I also need this or that.“ - I hope we will find enough volunteers to teach also him.
„If you pay 50€ more they will rent the house.“ - a tip to look as soon as possible for an own apartment, because the hosting in a hotel room by an organisation could end very quick. There are so many rumors in the internet, I don‘t know how many times we heard „In two months this and that will happen“. The hope dies last. We know. „They cannot tell us to leave the hotel if we don‘t have a new place to stay“. - unfortunately they can as we see these days.
„Since one year we cannot have children, so my wife needs a surgery.“ - this was new! - later it turned out to be a health problem that limits the life of the woman in general. „They come from the village, they don‘t know about the life outside of their place. So he cannot say my wife has a gynecological problem, she has every month pain, he just can say, we cannot have children, because this is what they do: children.“
„He wants to be rich.“ - we understood. For many people in the world this is the goal of their life. Even with a common language we cannot help here...
I am living close to the Refugee Day Center. Like many days when I am on my way, I saw a group of about 15 people walking there - obviously homeless refugees (tired, walking slowly, UNHCR backpacks, plastic bags in their hands).
Maybe new arrivals. They did not know that the Day Center is closed on Saturdays... hope they will find out how to survive in the streets during the weekend.
After an afternoon full of refugee issues, -children, -biographies, -stories...
... I was on my way home... when I saw at the corner a afghan family: 3 children, maybe one in the pram, the grandmother, a couple, and the pram full of bags with their belongings.
Sitting on the pavement, waiting.
I went on on the other side of the street - and turned after some meters around to go back to them. To do what? I don‘t know, I just felt, I cannot go home and sleep well without asking them what they need right now.
When I almost arrived, I saw a guy saying hello to them, it seemed they had waiting for him. A relative, a friend I hope. Hopefully not a smuggler who promised them the paradise somewhere else... I hope they sleep well tonight.
Balcony talks - About war
„From which city are you?“ - „Rojava.“ - „And you?“ - „Aleppo.“ - „But you know, we are not from the city, like Thessaloniki, we are from the village. We were living in the village. People came to work to Aleppo. So many factories there. If Aleppo is dead, Syria is dead.“
„And now the war lasts already so many years. Nine years.“ - „Ten years.“ - „When the war started it was 2010, I have been in Damascus and then I went back to my family.“ - „Yes, ten years, but nine years ago the war became really bad.“
A moment of silence.
Nothing more to say. Pictures I have in my mind from the newspaper and social media. Pictures they have in their mind from their experience before they ran away and became refugees.
Balcony talks - About language
„There is another child from Kurdistan at school, but we speak Greek with each other.“ - „Yes, if you would speak kurdish, the other children would not undrerstand you.“ - „Yes, and this would not be polite.“
I translated what we said in English for the italian girl sitting next to us.
„We always try to find the language that everyone is speaking. And if there is no common language, we are translating.“
„Yes. So if she want to ask me something, she could ask you in english and you could translate it for me in Greek.“
A kurdish boy and a german woman in Greece... in Greek.
Balcony talks - About work
„We cannot ask the organisation to help us, they kicked us out of the apartment.“
„Not the organisation kicks you out, the government does it. What we are talking about now is something different. Ask them to help you to find work. To find Greek lessons.“
Three years they are here, coming from Irak. The new law now creates problems - or let‘s say the reality: to speak the language is the base to find work, difficult enough here. Yes, also the woman has to look for work, both, father and mother.
No one waits for them. No work waits for them, it is hard.
„We wait for our passport“. That means: get the passport, travel to another european country (guess where) and apply there again for asylum.
What a inhumane, what a stupid game.
The reality here: living end of next week in the streets with 4 children, with no job, no money, some clothes and toys they took today from us and the feeling that the organisation betrayed them.
I don't need donations only for emergency cases. Sometimes it is a story like that:
A Kurdish family, trying hard to build a future for the children. I found in the donations we got the other day a beach ball and with a timetable of the boat that is going to the beach, I put the money for the expensive tickets, telling them that I would be happy they could spend a beautiful day on the beach.
Yesterday he told me that his wife had asked him "Why does she do that for us?" - and I could not bring this question out of my mind. So I wrote him in the evening: "Because you deserve it. And if you don't know the word ΄deserve', translate it, it is important."
A bit later I saw that he uploaded this post.
That's sometimes how I am spending also your donations. Thank you so much!!
Balcony talks – about being illegal
“I could not come to the lesson, I had something to do. A friend who is in Athens called me and asked me to take care of some people. They arrived today from Turkey, they were walking 4 days from Evros to Thessaloniki. I went with them to eat something and showed them the station.”
“Take care of the station, police is there. Better they stay in the city center. And don’t go with them, go in front of them and they follow you, a bit farer away.”
“What do they want to do?”
“They want to take the train to Athens tonight.”
“But police is checking the trains!”
Balcony talks - about gender roles
The conversation started when I asked him who is cooking at home for the 4-person family. „My wife.“ I was laughing, because he is the one who knows how to cook and is the chef every Saturday for the 250 meals we are cooking for homeless people.
Well, actually the conversation started with another guy who asked me if the wives of the Syrian and Kurdish men who are here can cook on Saturdays. I am sick to ask him why not the men, so I kept silent, but I had this question in my mind when I came to the balcony.
“But I m helping. You know, we are the same.” He continued. And I know that it’s true, I see them together, I see him here and I am very glad about it.
“Last week my son said to my daughter: “bring me some water. You are the girl, I am the boy, you have to bring me.” And I told him that she is his sister and not his employee.”
“”Why does your wife not wear a hijab?”, people are asking me, and I say that I don’t want to tell her what to wear. But then they tell me in the Quran you can read that the men I higher than the women. But it says the wife is your sister, your mother, your friend. And I tell you something: The problem is not the hijab, the problem is here…” – and he tapped on his head. “Here is the problem.”
He knows that the problem is in their minds and that it everyone’s decision how to behave and how to treat each other.
I am glad to know people like him.
He tried to give me the 1 year old child while his wife joined the first time her English class. Of course I asked him to take care of his daughter. I gave him some toys and some books. He put the girl on the sofa, took his phone and did not stop staring at the screen until his wife came back. Then he gave her immediately the child back in her arms.
I was so sad. For the woman. For the child.
Children need inputs. Children need education. Children need mothers AND father who care. Also on the flee. Maybe even more then.
Police is arresting refugees and lock them in cells with the promise of papers. Not yet been seen some days later. Still in cells? Pushed-back to Turkey?
Police is active around the places where groups distribute food on a daily basis. Even though they did not come again to the distribution point, they are around where they know that people are gathering. Refugees are afraid to go there, so they even stay without food.
Refugees hiding somewhere in the streets, volunteers instead of the government supporting them, police arresting. That's the time we are living in.
Since five years: (male) refugees and me:
„You have children?“
„O, sorry.“ / „Why?“ / „You still can have, Insallah.“
I learned not to reply anymore to save my energy.
He spoke a bit Greek. That they are living in the camp without a tent, I understood. And that they had an apartment before the new law was implemented. Could find a place in the camp for a minimum of protection instead of living in the streets. Five children, one of them with them yesterday. Not the youngest, but the second young, always good for compassion if you come somewhere to ask for food, pampers and baby milk.
We don‘t need these „tricks“. We know them anyhow. We give what we have and we cannot give what we don‘t have.
He asked me to come a bit beside to tell me again „No money, no house, nothing“. „I know“, I replied. „So difficult, no money, no food.“, he repeated.
Only one story from those we hear every day. No new story. But the story of his life. And of the other family members. Not replacable. Not repeatable. One life. Destroyed.
I left for the other room in order to bring the pampers. „Please“, he came behind me, „paper...“. It took a while then I understood that he was asking for wet wipes. I told him the word in Greek and he tried to remember it.
He just turned 7. His family fled Kurdistan some years ago. His twin is in another country with a relative. He is here with his parents and his 4 year old sister. He is a lovely guy, the parents really care to educate the children with all the needed love. He is going to school since a year. He learned Greek. Because the family had to move in another place, he also had to change school. Yesterday all the children got their certificate, only he did not get it, because he started in the new school in another class than he started last September in the first school.
When his father told me yesterday how sad he has been, I took immediately a paper and made him a certificate. He put it on the wall.
Dear teachers. It is so easy to make a boy happy!
I am even too tired to write again something about the World Refugee Day.
Picture: from a 5 year old girl in Thessaloniki: "This is a dog. And this is my sister [she is living with her uncle in Germany since 2 years], this is my father, and this is the world."
Asylum office reflections #1
Is it because I am German why it has a certain connotation to hear the security shout “Men in this line, women and children in this line”? Is it because I read too many books about the selection at the ramps where 6 million women, men and children arrived and did not see each other again?
OK, these families met again to enter the gate to the Asylum office. And they also came back again. But still. It leaves a bad feeling to see scared people who get separated from their husbands, wives, children and fathers.
Asylum office reflections #2
All these young mothers. All these mothers. All these children. All these pregnant women. I unconsciously start to ask myself: born at home? In a warzone? On the flee? In a camp? In the streets? In a Turkish or a Greek hospital?
I did not give birth, but I guess it is not easy to be pregnant and to get a baby in a foreign country, even though you manage it to be in a hospital. Somewhere where you don’t know anyone, you don’t speak the language and you don’t know your future.
At the Asylum office the women at least have something to do while th
ey are waiting: They have to take care of the children, have to push the pram, have to give them water, milk, something to eat.
I am sometimes sad to see the young girls with already two or three children, but then I have to call myself to order, because I don’t know enough about their life, their values, their needs.
Asylum office reflections #3
The girl beside her mother. The boy beside his father. The girl pushing the pram, the boy doing some karate kicks.
I guess during these times the parents are more role models for the children then in times of peace in a family home. The boys see the men in the queue, smoking, scratch in the crotch, speaking loud with the other men and showing that they still have something under control. The girls stand beside the prams, being with the mothers, showing the one nice shirt they have, the new shoes and the beautiful made hair.
Role models. Can be wonderful. Can be difficult.
Asylum office reflections #4
I don’t speak Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, Dari, Pashto, Kurdish, no African language, no Kurmanji, Punjabi.
But I understood that many people are looking forward to get their passports to “go Germany”.
And I know that they will be disappointed. And I know it will be dangerous for the society to have many people who will not learn the language, will not find jobs and will not be included in the society.
The first obtacle is though the Greek Asylum Office that asks the asylum seekers to write an email to book an appointment. The disappointment starts here, in front of the fence after waiting for hours in a queue.
Asylum office reflections #5
The numbers of Covid-19 infections are once more arising these weeks after the lockdown. The Asylum office doesn’t accept people without facemask. Some guys could not even stand in the line because they did not have masks.
I think it makes sense in terms of safety.
Unfortunately the same guys were sitting close to each other in front of the Asylum Office and close to many other people.
Unfortunately people left the Office and gave their masks to other people.
Unfortunately everyone stands in the queue very close to the next.
Social distancing is not possible for asylum seekers. Not in any camp neither in the streets.
Asylum office reflections #6
Sitting in the sun for 4 hours I was thinking today how human beings are able to adapt to situations, How normal it is for the children to sit in the morning at 6 in a bus to the Asylum Office, to wait there, to play in the mud, to run between the mother in the one and the father in the other line. How normal it is for them to hear the security shout, to fear them, but to get used to it.
I have seen so many children in 3 different camps in Munich and Thessaloniki. I studied trauma therapy to understand them better. I see them and my heart is bleeding. Lost childhood.
Textes and pictures - Thessaloniki 11/2017 - 03/2018
Texte und Bilder - Thessaloniki 08/2017 - 11/2017
Texte und Bilder - Thessaloniki/ Munich 04/2017 - 07/2017
Texte und Bilder - Thessaloniki 12/2016 - 04/2017