I returned to Lesvos today after a week at the Port of Piraeus in Athens. Lesvos has changed. Almost overnight, it went from a place with an urgent mission on high alert to a place of calm and sorrow, anger and relief. The refugees who remain here are imprisoned behind razor wire, managed by the military and guarded by riot police. Most volunteers have moved to the mainland to support the 50,000 homeless refugees scattered around the country. The volunteers who remain on Lesvos are dismantling the infrastructure they created. Some volunteers have engaged in a different type of activism to draw attention to the militarization of a humanitarian crisis. The people of Molyvos face an uncertain future with the loss of tourism. There will be a lot of morning after here.
Most of my week in Athens was spent in my hotel room with an annoying cough but I saw plenty in a short time and heard many stories from friends Nanci (Oakland) and Anne-Lene (Norway) when they returned from the port each night. The dirty docks of Piraeus are now home to 5,000 people in flimsy tents. I have never seen such horrible living conditions, even in the slums of India. There is almost no sanitation, not enough food or blankets or basic necessities.
People stand in lines all day for small meals, soap, baby milk, a used pair of shoes. Volunteers struggle to acquire and distribute scarce resources fairly with almost no help from government or large NGOs. A few days ago, the Greek military served a dinner of rotting potatoes. A 15 year-old girl asked Anne-Lene “Why doesn’t anyone want Afghans?”
The winding road back to my cottage in Molyvos from the ferry was lined with yellow wildflowers and bright red poppies. When I arrived, Elpiniki, my onsite yaya, greeted me as she always does — “Kalimera! Good?”