Elliniko II

When we left Elliniko II on Saturday we knew that we were going to come back.  We were not able to leave all these people behind yet.

We found out that there actually were three camps in Elliniko: One in the hockey stadium, one in the West Olympic Arrivals and one in the old airport building.  We have heard that they are planning to clean up the camp Elliniko II (the one in the airport building we visited) the coming week and bring the refugees to some other camp. It is said to be a well-organized one.

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When we visited the refugee camp Elliniko II for the second time, the welcoming could not have been any more heart touching. There were only a few people outside and we did not know the children playing there; except one: the little boy with the dark curly hair ran up to us as fast as he could and jumped in our arms. He was leeching on to Jil and we thought he would never let her go again.

That day, after the little boy was satisfied only holding Jil’s hand, we met Chalil from Afghanistan.  He has lived in Greece for nine years and has been working with refugees for quite some time. He is now coordinator of this camp. We told him that we had already been here the other day. Chalil was surprised about us coming here alone without an official organization. Still, he was thankful that we had time to help.
Inside the old airport building was a huge mess, mountains of clothes, sanitary products and food. We started to collect the heavy jackets and winter clothes to put them into boxes.  The goal was to put some order into the chaos. But when we left, everything still looked the same. We felt like no matter what we do, it is not enough to make any difference. No matter how big the effort, it would always be too little.

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Jil with Chalil

When we stepped out of the hall we saw the “boat refugee foundation” and two women from the UNCHR entering the camp. They were setting up a table to hand out food. All the refugees were gathered outside the gates. One by one they came in and had to show their papers or permission to reside (we don’t really know) in order to get food. We were sitting a little bit aside with some children. Because nobody noticed us being there we were lucky enough to be able to observe it.

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Refugees waiting for the registration and the food packet

Sitting there with the children, they started teaching us some words in Farsi and we told them the names in English. We were about to leave the camp but our young friends insisted that we would go upstairs with them. That is where the refugees actually live in their tents, inside the arriving hall of the old airport. We were not sure if it would be appropriate to go upstairs. It was their private place and we did not want to disturb them. But the kids were so stubborn and they didn’t let us go. Hand in hand they led us upstairs and invited us into their „homes“.

Looking back we don’t know why we were hesitating. Out of every single tent we passed we heard “hello’s”, “how are you’s” and “thank you’s”; kids ran up to us, we saw hands waving at us and big smiles everywhere. Everyone seemed happy to see us.

Sahar and Farhad’s place was in the corner of the former waiting hall of the airport. His mother invited us to sit down with them. We took off our shoes and sat on the blanket they have spread on the cold floor to make it as much comfortable as possible.  Sahar, Farhad, Farzad and some other children brought their backpacks with a notepad and pencils. They showed us their drawings; some of them were incredibly good for their age.

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The hospitality of this family was prodigious. Their mother handed us a plate with an apple and an orange. We split it up and shared it all together. That family had nothing, but they still gave us everything they had left. We both forgot the time while we were sitting with this family, drawing and smiling. We felt so comfortable and welcome, like we were one of them. But in fact the differences could not have been bigger: We did not have the same language, but we understood each other; they had nothing but still they shared the little bit they had left; they came from the other side of the world but we met here in Athens; they have a different culture, different customs and they do believe in a different god than we do, but that wasn’t of any importance, because in the end we are all humans.

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„Tomorrow, tomorrow? “,  Farhad asked when we had to leave. We answered with a “maybe”, knowing that there would be no maybe, no tomorrow, no reencounter. But how can you explain that you are going back to your wealthy life, leaving them behind? How could you possibly tell them that you are not able to help them out of their situation? That you wouldn’t be able to ever see them again.

We already miss you so much and wish you all the best for your future.
May your dream of peace come true some day.

So much love,

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