The northern Greek border village of Idomeni has become a makeshift home for thousands of refugees who cannot leave the country and while most are living in horrid conditions in fields and tents, several have been welcomed into the home of a Greek grandmother who knows what it means to lose a home.
One local, 82-year-old, Panagiota Vasileiadou is welcoming refugees into her home. The daughter of Asia Minor refugees appreciates, recognizes and has compassion for what these people are going through after losing her family home during the Second World War and growing up in a home of refugees from Anatolia.
“I was seven years old when our house was burned down, she says in a video interview for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (below), adding that “We didn’t have a spoon, fork, bread or clothes. The only thing we had left were the nightgowns we were wearing.”
She provides food, water and shelter for her guests using her monthly €450 pension and whatever her children can give.
“This old woman made our lives easier”, says Baraa, an Iraqi refugee. “I thank her so much and she represents the Greek people and what Greece stands for.”
In absence of a common language— guests usually speak Arabic and Panagiota speaks only Greek, her guests address her as “Mama”.
“My life changed because I have company in the house”, explains Vasileiadou. “I talk, we laugh. Even though we can’t understand each other.”