Picture by Saed Atta
A little too late?
June 2017- In between countries. The oud is playing in Greece. Melodies that sound similar to my friends’ hometown Damascus. A young man, I can call my friend worked for a year to put his family through to Europe. Successfully. Unfortunately too late for him, since he left a couple of days too late, arriving one week after the door shut down in Idomeni, Greece. Leaving him wonder after a year and 3 months, if he will ever be able to live with his family again?
February 2016- Borders closing. Three months of camping. Not the usual. 13.000 people on one spot, all with the same energy, trying to climb the wall that prohibits their entrance to the future of more than 60.000 people. An indescribable intensity of Syrian mentality in one spot. What one lives here, will live forever, in the minds of refugees and volunteers. Whoever passed the fields of Idomeni, carries the history that once was written here.
June 2016- Shut down and the beginning of something new. What happens to approximately 13.000 people that are stuck in their last spot of hope and all of the sudden face their only choice to move backwards instead of towards their dreams. The hot spots get filled, the anger increases, the criminality grows, social issues are at their highest. The tension you feel not only in the camps, but also reaching the city.
Many had the chance to find a new home in Thessaloniki, but the opportunities for inclusion, personal and social growth are restricted. Too little job and school opportunities only feed a few. Smiles are common, anything too personal shows their real emotions and they are there. What smiles might cover now, will make wounds grow abruptly in the upcoming years.
2011- Arab spring. The beginning of hate. The try of a new narrative for the people, but just the beginning of an everlasting war, with over half a million of victims, 12 million dislocated people and a lot of misunderstandings.
The first generations to leave their home might count to the unlucky that once had to leave their homes, but they are still lucky enough, to find a new one, not in a camp, but with a future awaiting for them, social inclusion and rights according to west European standards. The first scale of traumas, where dislocation causes family loss and communications problems.
The next generation of the Syrian war is the trap generation. Those caught in Greece, a country they don’t really want to be in, because of a dream, an image, an idea of imagination. The aim of finding a better place than the one, they find themselves in right now. The tension lies within. The constant fear of not knowing where you end up and when you end up there is the knife in a wound, that’s being cut deeper and deeper. The constant fear of maybe being accepted by a country they show no interest in, is a psychological displacement, making their wish for a little stability impossible.
The third generation is the one that has been here over a year. The more time passes, the more insecurity they deal with, within themselves, within the European society, within a union which once stood for peace. Distrust is an immense issue at the moment in Greece that only increases.
Last but not least the generation of volunteerism. Those who stood by for years, watching refugees, standing by their sides, supporting their needs, making them grow, falling in love, sharing hugs, especially with the unattended children, that either learn to love you or hate you.
War, is like a big knife cutting wounds. Losing your loved ones might destroy the lust of life and leave irreplaceable damages and pictures of destruction that form the rest of your life. People might react by fighting for peace or fighting for the fight.
Step 2- Unknown circumstances and the constant fear of disappointment strengthen the trauma caused of the losses during war.
Step 3- Time weakens, even the strongest.
Step 4- What they leave behind. Hurt people, volunteers who took on fights, emotions, love and hate to help with the inclusion of refugees in our society.
What follows next?
The war that continues to live within. After this year, well more than a year it feels like the war is continuing in Europe. We fight, because of the circumstances, refugees within their circles and within ours. Although we all engage in the inclusion of refugees, the more we wait, the more they wait, the more we face social issues. Issues of anger, pain, distrust, hatred, fear, fights, deaths and oppression. A crisis that most carry on for much more than 2.567 km and that changes the European route for ever.
A small introduction into the GEF project: “My life according to me!” A new narrative for Europe.
The Green European Foundation in Brussels with the cooperation of the Green Institute Greece took the decision to run a project in northern Greece, Thessaloniki, a city’s structure that was immensely influenced by refugees throughout its history and lately the current refugee crisis. Its aim is to show the ways of inclusion of refugees in Europe, the difficulties we face among each other. This year Mediaterranea was asked to take on one part of this project and write it according to the given situation in Thessaloniki. The NGO focused on its educational strengths, providing 12 participants with an intense workshop on photography and its upcoming exhibition, creative and technical skills, an excursion with professionals, to learn details on the use of the camera, light and flash for a better understanding of photography and the meaning of photography. The message of a picture. The caption of a moment, as powerful as thousand words. A new narrative by young people, by people that have a story to tell, by people whose lives depend on our approach of the European narrative according to the understanding of their lives.
“My life according to me” with its new narrative has left a mark on me and the way we communicate with people. People we don’t owe anything to, but still feel for them, that no one deserves to be treated this way. People we support or disrespect. People we provide with food and shelter. Some acting like the world lies at their feet, some as humble as they are appreciating the values they have been given.
I wonder if it’s time for a new narrative in this world, or just a little too late, never forgetting the past months, where friends were made and lost, where pain was buried or intentionally increased, where people met to discuss similarities of traumas, that make us vulnerable much, never knowing when and where this war is going to end. Time for a new narrative? Now? I know facing the issues of these kinds of traumas, is way too hard to be able to understand, but the more we try to get to know the personalities that today live amongst us, the more we do for our future, for humanity and for a more peaceful environment!
I met my friend one year ago, today he is finally able to share his story, at least parts of it. A huge step forward in our lives…