I have written before about this, oh that was so long ago, in 2006. Since then I kept as quiet as I could about the fact, I tried to amuse impressions, I clowned, I ignored questions. I can’t do that any more! The word has been said, the evidence is present and the report has been written: We don’t welcome refugees in Ikaria because refugees do not come to our shores alive. This is the devastating truth, the truth that I couldn’t afford to speak out openly about in 2006. I am sorry, readers. I am out of breath. Go on and read John Psaropoulos’ article in the IRIN. Please don’t add comments under this entry. I don’t want comments because no comments are needed. The only thing needed is action and loud protest!
«The unidentified 10- or 11-year-old was one of two bodies that washed up on the Greek island of Ikaria in the eastern Aegean on 19 December. The other was that of a man in his 20s.
Subsequent storms have since reclaimed the dozen-odd life jackets that washed up on the beach at Iero that day; but it is still littered with packets of Amoxipen, Spandoverin and Diclopinda – antibiotics, painkillers and anti-nausea medicine that were among the refugees’ possessions. Turkish fruit juice boxes also litter the shore along with a pair of hotel slippers from the Istanbul Holiday Inn, encrusted with barbed seed pods.»
«Ikaria, and the sea around it, are named after the mythical hero, Ikaros, who plummeted to a watery grave after flying too close to the sun. He and his father, Daidalos, had constructed wings out of birds’ feathers held together by wax – a flimsiness born of desperation not unlike that of today’s refugees, who attempt to cross the Aegean in unseaworthy vessels wearing useless life vests.
The island sits at a relatively isolated longitude exposed to the north winds that sweep down from the Dardanelles to Crete. This means that it acts as a net for the bodies and wreckage of shipwrecked refugees and migrants that shoot past the islands of Samos and Chios to the north and east. For migrants to find themselves on Ikaria means that they have lost their way, and they rarely arrive here alive.»
«More bodies have surfaced recently – some in an advanced state of decay. On 5 January, a young woman was found bobbing in the shallows of the north shore, 10 kilometres from Iero.
“She was completely naked,” remembers Kalliopi Katte, the doctor who lifted her onto a stretcher. “It was an awful sight because although she had her arms and legs, her face was missing. There was no skin or flesh. It was just a skull.” The woman’s belly was bloated, not from pregnancy, but from the gases emanating from her decomposing bowels. Katte believes she had been at the bottom of the sea for about two weeks.
Like the other bodies, it too had to be cut loose from a life vest that failed to save the woman’s life.
The patch of coast where the body was found is so remote. Katte and three firemen had to carry the body up a mountainside for an hour to reach the nearest road.
“The bodies are always found after strong northern winds because they’ve sunk to the bottom of the sea and the weather brings them up against the rock,” says Katte. “The bodies have been eaten by fish – they’re not just decomposing.”»
«Some 3,771 refugees were recorded as dead or missing in the Mediterranean last year. In Greek and Turkish waters alone, 320 people have drowned or gone missing just since the beginning of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration. Yet these figures do not tell the whole story.
Even in death there are degrees of misfortune. Some dead are recovered, identified, and shipped home for burial. Some are listed as missing but never found. Some are found but remain unidentified; and there are those who are never sought and never found, because no witnesses survived their shipwreck, and no bodies washed up. The sea has claimed them without a trace, so they form an unknown statistic.
“Often in the straits we find life vests and other objects from shipwrecks in the nets,” says fisherman Nikos Avayannis. “I once found a backpack. We took it on board and searched for a survivor but didn’t find one. We delivered it to the authorities. It had clothes in it, some headphones from a cell phone and some documents.”
Avayannis believes that the owner of the backpack may have ended up part of that ghostly statistic of unclaimed, undiscovered dead. “If a body hasn’t been hit by a propeller and chopped to pieces, it floats and gets thrown out onto shore. If the current takes a body onto jagged rocks with caves, it’s possible that it will never be found.”
The rumour that fish are now eating dead refugees has turned many of Avayannis’ customers away. “A few days ago, as I was selling fish, two or three of my customers said, ‘as long as people are drowning we are going to abstain from fish.’»
«Greek law demands an autopsy after every non-natural death. After that, the fate of a body depends on whether surviving relatives are available to identify it. “When relatives decide to bury them in Greece, it is usually done in the Muslim cemeteries on Rhodes and Kos. If they are Christians, they can be buried in one of the local cemeteries,” says Erasmia Roumana of the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR. “The other choice is repatriation of the body, usually taken by Iraqi nationals.” For Syrians and Afghans, repatriating the bodies of family members to their war-torn countries is not an option.
When bodies are found, they are taken to Ikaria’s hospital. There, doctors pronounce death and take hair and tissue samples, which are preserved in brine. The entire package of paperwork and DNA evidence is then forwarded to the nearest district attorney – in this case on the island of Samos.
Surgeon John Tripoulas is still haunted by the experience of examining the body of an eight- to 10-year-old girl who had been in the sea for weeks, and was so close to disintegrating, rescue workers had to lift her up by her clothes. Her flesh was “saponified” he said – a term meaning it had literally developed a soap-like consistency.
“I’ll never forget what she was wearing,” says Tripoulas. “Pink sweatpants with a Mickey Mouse patch; white boots and a pink overcoat. Her facial features were not visible – [they] had been lost to the sea.”
This information, included on the death certificate, is perhaps all that is known about the girl; but even this may prove vital in one day informing her family of her ultimate fate.
“We use anything we can for recognition, such as clothing or jewellery or a manicure,” says Katte, the doctor who recalled helping to retrieve the young woman’s body on 5 January.
The only identifying objects on her faceless corpse had been five carved gold bracelets, now buried with her in a mass grave at Ikaria’s cemetery.»
Let me repeat: don’t comment.
Befriend with sorrow and act.
Ikaria, February 18, 2016
.A gift to our followers. What Nana and I have blogged about in 2014 as seen in Google Image Search. This is our archives exposed. 😳
Enjoy with thought and care. ❤
Warm greetings to everybody from a stormy Aegean sea!.
Happy New Year!
With this commemorative entry Eleni and I would like to thank all our visitors, especially those who didn’t just browse but took a minute to read one or two entries of our sisterly blogs during 2014. It was another difficult year for Greece but neither of us blogged much about that lately. That wasn’t our topic. We were more involved in doing things and influencing others to do things. We were involved in moving ahead, following visions and creating visions. And that’s what we hope to go on doing in 2015. Good heavens, this island helps our trade. Don’t ask how, it’s hardly possible to explain it in words. Instead, let’s turn to the power of images. Use Google Image Search to see samples of what we have blogged about last year. We are saving you the typing, so here they are: this link is for…
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⭐ ⭐ ⭐
(cropped from source)
You know, the last thing Ikaria is known for is church life and monasticism. The people are very religious in a natural, casual way, indifferent of formalities, nevertheless always showing a sincere and full respect of higher forces which control our destinies. Whether one believes in the salvation of the soul or not, religion provides consolation because, salvation taken apart, it does speak about the soul while economics do not. And believing in the soul, the existence of a soul, whether this soul is immortal or not, is something very important in the life of the island. Religion also provides occasions for celebration and community gatherings. It also offers an explanation for natural things as well as for «luck» : God’s will. And natural things and lucky or unlucky circumstances are also important elements in the consistence of Ikarian life. To cut this short, we have churches – a lot of big and small churches. They are, so to speak, our guardians, houses of God, houses of the spirit (soul) of the community: «be good and be good to each other» (be good to God).
But what about monasteries? Thereupon we are a failure. Although there are a few monasteries, there is no monastic tradition in Ikaria, at least none as strong as in some other islands. In my opinion, besides our natural dislike for discipline and formalities, the most important reason is that the island is poor and cannot sustain monastic communities. The rocky soil produces hardly enough for the population so the Ikarians, even though devout believers, could not afford, so to speak again, professionals in prayer, experts in salvation. Like everything else in Ikaria, the tending of the soul had to be done by the poeple themselves with the occasional help of an educated priest or solitary monk.
Yet, there are exeptions. If monasteries didn’t thrive, small hermitages were abundant in the slopes of Mt Atheras. But let’s not think that these retreats were inhabited by anchorites who pursued unification with God like in Mt Athos or Sinai. Though little is known about the lives of these people, it’s obvious to me that they were more or less ordinary men and women who either by some misfortune or simply because of taste, discarded the joys of the marital bed and the comforts of village and family life. They walked away from the world, seeking solitude, entrusting their fate to their labouring hands, to good God and to Mother nature. I am all respect for them. It’s hard to believe that in am island as virgin and wild as Ikaria and in a time when most settlements were of the kind of «lost villages» (see, entry), there were people who sought even more solitude and peace! Out-of-the-worldness must be some sort of second nature to us. The outer the better, the further the better, the remotest and most inaccessible is the best, ask my friend Nana & co about it!
Anyway, this entry was not meant to be a dissertation of the religious ethics of the Aegean. I have come to Ikaria for the winter and recently my friends, the explorers of OPS Ikarias, in the course of a project to create a long-distance trail from one side of the island to the other, have been in love with a wild area under the tops of Mt Atheras where according to local legends various groups of monks lived in different periods of time from the 15th century to the 1800s. I saw the photos and I found these landscapes absolutely enthralling.
What made men and women walk out of the world and settle in places like this? What kind of experiences were they after? Were they looking for God? Did they want be gods themselves? Was it because of a practical reason such as piracy, oppression, social disorder and percecutions? Or is it something inherent to the human nature? Escapism? Some people just drop everything and go?.. Is that it? 🙄
I have always been too committed to everything I do and to everybody I love to even think about escaping. But as I am growing older, sometimes I am tired of the world and this makes me wonder. Until I sort this out, you take a good look at those rocky wildernesses. Take a good look at those vast views to the mountains above, the sea straight ahead and the skies all over. I am inviting you to find your answer.
_Blog Review Ikaria 2014 # 11 The Explorers (2a)_
Είμαι η Νανά to agrimi και σήμερα στο μπλογκ της Ελένης που παρουσιάζει διαλεχτά μπλογκς για την Ικαρία, γράφω για τον ΟΠΣ Ικαρίας.
Είναι μια χαοτική παρέα που αλλάζει συνεχώς, άλλοι έρχονται, άλλοι φεύγουν, σημαδεύουν και φτιάχνουν μονοπάτια, παραδοσιακά ή καινούριες διαδρομές, κάνουν πεζοπορίες, ορειβασίες, ψάχνουν, εξερευνούν, φωτογραφίζουν, στις πτυχώσεις των βουνών ανακαλύπτουν κρυμένες ομορφιές που δεν φαίνονται.
Είναι ο Ορειβατικός Πεζοπορικός Σύλλογος Ικαρίας, μια ανεξάρτητη, δημιουργική ομάδα ντόπιων πεζοπόρων και ορειβατών που κι αυτοί δεν καλοφαίνονται, δεν έχουν, ας πούμε, πινακίδα ούτε γραφεία, όμως θα καταλάβεις την παρουσία τους από τη συστηματική δουλειά που έχουν κάνει στα βουνά και την εξίσου συστηματική προβολή της στο ίντερνετ.
Για χάρη τους, επεμβαίνω στη σειρά blog reviews about Ikaria που κανονικά γράφει η Ελένη, και προσθέτω στην κατηγορία «explorers» το ιστολόγιο του ΟΠΣΙ που είναι συνάμα, ημερολόγιο δραστηριοτήτων και εκδρομών, διαδικτυακό βιβλίο πρακτικών και κατάλογος προτάσεων για βόλτες με τα πόδια στο νησί, δύσκολες ή εύκολες, χειμώνα ή καλοκαίρι.
Για όποιον ξέρει τη μορφολογία της Ικαρίας αλλά και τον χαρακτήρα των κατοίκων, ο τίτλος «Κλείνει προς τα έξω, ανοίγει προς τα μέσα» είναι μάλλον κατανοητός και οικείος. Ειπώθηκε πριν πολλά χρόνια σαν ατάκα από την Ελένη σε μια πεζοπορία, καθώς προσπαθούσαμε να περιγράψουμε το νησί: απ’ έξω απότομο, άγριο και κλειστό, αλλά από μέσα μια αγκαλιά.
Αυτό είναι το πρώτο μέρος του αφιερώματος. Κάνοντας κλικ στο μικρό εικονίδιο, ανοίγει θεαματικό fullscreen Slide Show φωτογραφιών στο Flickr. Κάνοντας κλικ στο μεγάλο εικονίδιο, ανοίγει η σχετική καταχώρηση όπου διαβάζει κανείς την περιγραφή της δράσης και των σκηνικών, με πρακτικές πληροφορίες, χάρτες, σχεδιαγράμματα, κτλ. Όπως πάντα, τριγυρίζοντας το ποντίκι πάνω από τα λινκς και τις εικόνες, διαβάζεις τίτλους, αποσπάσματα και περιλήψεις.
Για σχόλια καλά είναι κι εδώ, αλλά καλύτερα πήγαινε στο μπλογκ τους, επίσης και στο facebook group : hikingIkaria
… .Οκτώβρης 2008: Εκδρομή γνωριμίας