Since I started in August 2015 to welcome refugees in Munich, 2016 in Idomeni camp and from 2017 on in Thessaloniki I have been writing texts to inform about the situation.
Sometimes also as a kind of therapy for myself.
I have been invited to read from my texts, speak about my experiences and give seminars.
In the years 2018-2022 I got €36.237,39 donations from friends and people in solidarity from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, France, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Spain, Romania.
In 2023 I already got €200
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
„No one is guilty.“ she said „Even an angel could not make it. No one is guilty, not the people who are seeking help, nor you. It is not not only about tiredness, about you don’t have the energy, it is in the nature of distributions that people are coming to take stuff, they are leaving, they don’t care about you“.
As we had different times it is difficult for me to accept it, but yes - I think these are wise words.
I will try to ignore during the next months the lack of „thank you“, of „good afternoon“ or all the indifference people are showing us every day. To ignore that they don’t respect the place nor us. That the majority only cares about themselves.
No one is guilty.
I felt bad that I had begun suddenly to speak about these bad feelings. I was thankful that we had this exchange of thoughts.
Today I have been an archaeologists. I removed one layer after the other. 4 layers of labels for a box. Years of clothes (and other) distributions.
“They don’t see us”, I expressed my feelings when we had a little later a discussion how to proceed this year.
Since a while now we are thinking how and if to continue our distributions. People are coming like in a supermarket. They don’t see us. They just take what they can get and leave.
Do we want it this way? Is this solidarity?
Actually, I want to be seen. Not only because I am not payed for that, but also because this is my understanding of solidarity: that we recognise each other. Solidarity it isn’t a one way road.
Well. I took al labels off. Somehow it has been a liberating feeling.
I was looking for families we want to give a special Christmas present with special food- and hygiene stuff. I was going through this notebook in which we had all the families we called during the first 2 years of the pandemic. Almost 200 names. So many difficult memories, so many good ones.
Most of them left the country. In Germany they will not have work and money and a life. K hope they have someone who supports them as we did.
„For shopping“ they replied when I asked them why they came to us.
Ok… they don’t speak very well Greek but still it has been kind of an affront.
Then I realised that they have been here last week, so I had to tell them that they can take next week new foodstuff. „But only a little shopping last week.“ - I insisted on our rule of every 14 days. „But only a little shopping“ the two women repeated and told me that another organisation gave them more. Yes, once a month. And: they stopped because they don’t have funds anymore. And asked if they can send the people to us.
„But only a little shopping“, they said again and I turned around, ditched them with a „see you next week“.
…later I heard that last week they have been irritated that they could not get mild detergent from us. The „shopping“ wasn’t just due to their elemental Greek. They really think we are like a free supermarket…
Things are getting somehow more difficult every week.
A good moment for all.
She arrived with her mother and ran immediately into the room. Maybe 8 years old. Hyperarousel. I guess high-grade traumatised. It wasn’t the first time they came and I still try to forget how she made the last time a mess in the clothes room.
I took her immediately out, told her to sit on a chair and for some lucky reason there was a box in which I put a paper and some colours.
I gave her what she needed: a frame.
She was drawing until her mother was ready. She was with her concentration in the box. She hang on, she finished it, encouraged through my “bravo” I gave her in between.
She could calm down.
When she left she hugged me. Quietly.
A good moment for all.
[I miss to work in my field.]
Brings back memories of Summer 2015.
Sadness for all the people who fled and flee their country, anger for those who cannot imagine what these people are going through. Despair how the situation got even worse during the last 7 years in Lesvos, in Greece, in Europe.
Need a break after the first hour.
Will continue another moment when my heartbeat gets normal again.
Guys, take co-traumatisation seriously!!
„Good bye“ she said to the hundreds of little plastic balls in 4 colours we have at the moment.
While her mother chose clothes I juggled for her, I played with her and at then I was drawing something on the balls and she could not believe that these balls should be hers now.
An Afghan girl, 2 years old. Not completely traumatised. I don’t know since when they are here, nothing about their way to Greece. But maybe she is born here, maybe not in a camp, maybe with a complete and somehow healthy family.
I don’t know. But she acted and reacted and interacted normally. It was possible to interact through playing.
Most of the children who are coming to us, most of the refugee children I saw during the last 7 years couldn’t do that.
„Goodbye“ she said to the two boxes full of balls, but she took four of them home. On one I had painted a face, on the other a heart…
One in 30 families speaks English or Greek well enough that we can communicate.
One in at least 30 people is polite and nice and it doesn’t matter that we don’t have a common language…
…there was that afghan man, my age, no word English. But he was so nice and I decided to give him a bit more than we are giving usually.
I tried to explain when he can come again. To read in the phrase book the words „2“ and „week“ in Farsi, I needed my glasses. He tried to read it - and I understood that he also needed glasses.
I gave him mine and we laughed so much, trying to tell each other that we are old and need glasses to read. And as we know laughing is an international language.
These situations are so rare and so beautiful.
I am wondering what the refugees from Ukraine are thinking - or feeling - when they come to us to take food.
There is the banner we had with us in the first weeks of war when we were standing every day at Aristotelous square to demonstrate for peace and against the Russian invasion.
Most of them don’t know very well English.
Most of them are so good for us because the are polite and say „thank you“.
In three languages the word „peace“ is written in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
I don’t know what they think or what they feel. But I hope they understand that they came to a place where we are supporting the oppressed and not the oppressors.
250 days of war and no end…
We ask them nothing. Everyone can come and tell us he/she needs food/clothes/whatever and we give them what we have.
All we are asking is to write the name and the phone number.
Today two women even could not give me the name or the phone number, just wrote their name in Farsi.
I hope no police control ever will stop them, they will be lost - or back in Turkey.
What's up with the people?
We met in order to decide how (and actually also if) we will continue. "We" that's 3 people who are running the place now since years. With coming and going volunteers. With activities for the climate, solidarity activities and all around: organising and serving the people who rent the room that gives us money for our rent. Trying to get donations. Coordinationg the volunteers from another organisation, handling them, mostly young people, mostly from abroad, mostly in Thessaloniki for fun, mostly with different expectations what help and support means (it. is. boring! It is not. not. not at all. exciting!). Organising the donations, the money, the emails. Cleaning the place and and and...
We met and we tried to find a way to spend less time there but to be the same efficient.
And we decided to cancel an activity which was great for the people but for us so exhausting: The weekly market on Saturday.
I am sad for the people, but I cannot hide how relieved I am that we don't have to be there every Saturday from 9 to 9, to find volunteers, a driver and to do the distribution with up to 80 families.
During the last weeks I had two groups visiting us from Denmark and Germany.
They love what we are doing. They tell me that we are doing great. They even thank us.
Yes, it is great. But I am thinking more and more that this work need to be done by governments.
I took some days off. I am back: new volunteers from a College. Every day 2 other people. For 2 hours. A lot of organisational work for us. Today we sent someone to another organisation to bring us some bags full of shoes that we need so much. Tomorrow a delivery. We are thankful that we can buy foodstuff, but we have to be there in order to receive and to carry them. Every day refugees and locals who need food, clothes. People who want to rent the room. No rest.
Why do I write that?
I will not feel bad if one day we decide to close the place.
I will be sorry for the people. Not sorry for us.