The Aegean’s nameless dead


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hashtag safe passage logoHello 🙄
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 Aegean’s nameless dead
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IRIN: 'The Aegean’s nameless dead' by John Psaropoulos IRIN contributorThe girl was lying across the beach, her face down in the pebbles,” says municipal plumber Pantelis Markakis as we walk to the water’s edge. “What shocked me was when I saw that her hands were turned like this and white like stone,” he says, turning his palms upwards and gnarling his fingers. “I asked a coastguard officer if she was wearing gloves.

 

Girl refugee slipper in the coast of Ikaria: The beach at Iero is littered with refugees' possessions

«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's rocky, jagged coastline is full of coves where bodies, or parts of bodies, can become lodged, impossible to see or recover

«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.»

Dr Kalliopi Katte recalls helping firemen recover a badly decomposed body found in the shallows of Ikaria's north shore

«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.”»

Fisherman Nikos Avayannis (centre) salts sardines for bait.

«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.’»

A mass grave for refugees lies under unmarked, freshly turned earth, beside the graves of the island's residents

«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.»

The Aegean’s nameless dead
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Let me repeat: don’t comment.
Befriend with sorrow and act.

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😐 😐 😐

 

Ikaria, February 18, 2016

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What I believe


 

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Peaceful naked moments in Nas Ikaria

Photo by Danai_lama on Instagram by Danai_lama  (‘Danai_lama’)
taken in Ikaria, featuring in her Instagram

Poetry by J.G. Ballard



What I believe

I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.

I believe in my own obsessions, in the beauty of the car crash, in the peace of the submerged forest, in the excitements of the deserted holiday beach, in the elegance of automobile graveyards, in the mystery of multi-storey car parks, in the poetry of abandoned hotels.

. . .

I believe in the death of tomorrow, in the exhaustion of time, in our search for a new time within the smiles . . .

. . .

I believe in madness, in the truth of the inexplicable, in the common sense of stones, in the lunacy of flowers, in the disease stored up for the human race by the Apollo astronauts.

I believe in nothing.

I believe in Max Ernst, Delvaux, Dali, Titian, Goya, Leonardo, Vermeer, Chirico, Magritte, Redon, Duerer, Tanguy, the Facteur Cheval, the Watts Towers, Boecklin, Francis Bacon, and all the invisible artists within the psychiatric institutions of the planet.

I believe in the impossibility of existence, in the humour of mountains, in the absurdity of electromagnetism, in the farce of geometry, in the cruelty of arithmetic, in the murderous intent of logic.

I believe in adolescent women, in their corruption by their own leg stances, in the purity of their dishevelled bodies, in the traces of their pudenda left in the bathrooms of shabby motels.

I believe in flight, in the beauty of the wing, and in the beauty of everything that has ever flown, in the stone thrown by a small child that carries with it the wisdom of statesmen and midwives.

I believe in the gentleness of the surgeon’s knife, in the limitless geometry of the cinema screen, in the hidden universe within supermarkets, in the loneliness of the sun, in the garrulousness of planets, in the repetitiveness or ourselves, in the inexistence of the universe and the boredom of the atom.

. . .

I believe in the non-existence of the past, in the death of the future, and the infinite possibilities of the present.

I believe in the derangement of the senses: in Rimbaud, William Burroughs, Huysmans, Genet, Celine, Swift, Defoe, Carroll, Coleridge, Kafka.

. . .

I believe in the next five minutes.

I believe in the history of my feet.

I believe in migraines, the boredom of afternoons, the fear of calendars, the treachery of clocks.

I believe in anxiety, psychosis and despair.

I believe in the perversions, in the infatuations with trees, princesses, prime ministers, derelict filling stations (more beautiful than the Taj Mahal), clouds and birds.

I believe in the death of the emotions and the triumph of the imagination.

. . .

I believe in anxiety, psychosis and despair.

I believe in the perversions, in the infatuations with trees, princesses, prime ministers, derelict filling stations (more beautiful than the Taj Mahal), clouds and birds.

I believe in the death of the emotions and the triumph of the imagination.

I believe all reasons.

I believe all hallucinations.

I believe all anger.

I believe all mythologies, memories, lies, fantasies, evasions.

I believe in the mystery and melancholy of a hand, in the kindness of trees, in the wisdom of light.

J.G. B.

The full poem without my arbitrary omissions can be found at https://i0.wp.com/static.mediapart.fr/sites/all/themes/mediapart/mediapart_v4/images/mediapart.png

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(instead of) Ze Sntory Ov My Live (Episode 2)


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The solar ecliptic Imagemaniacs (who I seem to be growing one of) didn’t leave me in peace so that I do what I have promised and go on with the :Life of my Story: -oops «Story of My Life«.

But the more I am busy, the better I go (this is no Murphy’s, don’t know whose law this is).

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So I was in a cafe this noon and there was a schoolkid who had left his schoolbag on a chair and it fell over and all the books scattered on the floor and I picked them up and I looked through the pages of the Language book of the 4th grade.
In page 115 I ran across ME Image (myself) as a 9 y.o. girl on my first visit in Ikaria !! The coloured drawing + Odysseas Elytis’ poem «Song of a Girl» .

-B-boing- D-doing-

I’m «the fastest gun in the East» so I took out my camera and shot at the page.

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I heard that these old books are going to be out of print, so I wanted to keep this as a souvenir. When they brought me in Ikaria in 1982 I had the same short blue dress and I was after butterflies. It was Easter, a very unsual time for a visit. It was for my grandmother’s sister’s funeral. She had died in Athens and they had brought her to burry her on the island. It was a very complicated business. For reasons that I assume you understand, lots (tons in fact) of flowers were needed with which to cover the coffin and fill the whole church.
I was supposed to be in charge of this ‘flower operation’. I roamed the fields to collect them. I can’t remember if I was «bitten by butterflies» or held in my hand ‘enormous bees’ (that’s what the Elytis’ song says). I clearly remember that there were loads of flowers in the church afterwards during the ceremony and I was very proud Image as if it was me who had collected them.
It wasn’t me of course, but the older women (who I always refer to as ‘the salt of the earth’). I had been given that job so that I didn’t take part in the sad preparations for the undertaking.
I was tooo young.
Then my grandmother told me a wild story, the wildest ever… I remember it because I asked her again and again to repeat it. I was about Death. Then I met the same story in Robert GravesGreek Mythology. The only common thing my granny and R. Graves had, was that they were about the same age; nothing else, I swear.
The Ikarian Easter of 1982 sealed my life. I was aware of this much later.
How do I manage to work for TV now, …oh, forget it.
That’s another story…
Have patience, oh readers.

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