Lefteris Ioannides, the mayor of Kozani in northern Greece didn’t blink, when he was informed by police that there were hundreds of stranded refugees at the Greek border town of Idomeni and there were busloads heading towards his city.
Within a matter of three hours he mobilized the entire city, but not without a bit of resistance, that he worked to overcome without issues.
A site was located to house 400 people comfortably— the gymnasium of one of the local schools after the initial proposed site at another gymnasium, owned by one of the local Greek Orthodox monasteries in the region refused to allow the facility’s use for refugees.
A team of journalists were in charge of laying down blankets and making the cavernous room more welcoming, while a team of university students helped clean the welcome center.
Using social media, the mayor called on the city’s volunteers to fill the void of items needed— food, toilet paper and cleaning supplies, water and other immediate needs.
As the refugees began arriving on busloads, they were welcomed to their new, temporary facilities until a long term solution could be found by the bickering European heads of state on what the fate of tens of thousands of stranded refugees would be.
The doctors of Kozani set up a makeshift medical center, caring for the needs of the Syrian arrivals. Kozanilife.gr reported that entire families were treated for various ailments with support from the city’s pharmacists, who brought medical supplies from their respective shops.
The mayor himself was on hand to greet the arriving refugees and make sure there was a place for everyone in the welcome center.
A local priest, known only as Father Nikolaos, defied his Metropolitan’s indifference, who refused to allocate any of the church’s spaces for the refugees, and mobilized his flock, as well. Fr. Nikolaos brought food from his community’s community pantry that cared for needy families in the region and made sure there was enough food to feed the strangers, according to the local website Kozanilife.gr