Thousands of Greeks throughout the nation are responding to the ongoing refugee crisis by practicing their age-old traditions of welcoming strangers and lending support— in any way they can.
“It’s ironic that in the poorest nation in the European Union and the one whose citizens have been hit hardest by EU-imposed austerity, that these are the people showing us true compassion and shining a bright light to the rest of us,” said Marian Steinstater, an Austrian national and reader of The Pappas Post, who reached out to us in a Facebook message.
“We have a lot to learn from the people of Greece,” Steinstater wrote.
In cities like Kavala, Kozani and Trikala in northern Greece, residents stung to action to create welcome centers and mobile medical units to care for crows of refugees who were arriving in their town within hours’ notice and throughout the cities of Athens and Pireaus, residents can be seen in town squares and ports feeding people, posing out essential supplies and even tending to kids with toys and activities.
Eleftheria Baltatzi, a 73-year-old pensioner, was one of the many people who saw images of sick children on television and turned up at the square with medicine and food. “I made toasted cheese sandwiches,” she said in a Reuters interview. “We also have people who are hungry and need help, but these people have a bigger need.”
Kathimerini writer Nick Malkoutzis wrote in a recent post on his Macropolis website that “The effect this kindredness of spirit has in shaping public opinion in Greece regarding today’s refugees cannot be underestimated.”
One only has to look at the stance taken by the northern Lesvos grandmothers Militsa Kamvisi and Maritsa Mavrapidi, he wrote, who in their 80s became internationally recognized when they took a baby refugee into their arms in order to allow its mother some time to rest. “Our mothers came here as refugees from Turkey, just across the way, and they were just girls at the time. They came without clothes, with nothing,” Mavrapidi told Kathimerini recently, underlining the significance of collective memory in dealing with such traumatic situations. “That’s why we feel sorry for the migrants.”
Malkoutzis also cited an opinion poll by research centre Dianeosis published on February 28 suggests that Greek society is still showing substantial understanding. The poll indicates that only 19 percent have a negative view of the island hot spots that are being set up to handle the arriving refugees, while 66 percent believe that Greece should not close its borders to keep out refugees.