WTF is this word? 😵 ❓ ❓
According to YourDictionary: Oasification
«The process of restoring water, soil, and plant life to an environment that has been degraded by soil erosion.»
According to the Wikipedia: Oasification
«In hydrology, oasification is the antonym to desertification by soil erosion. This technique has limited application and is normally considered for much smaller areas than those threatened by desertification.»
«To help the oasification process, engineers aim to develop a thriving dense woody plant cover to redress the hydrological, edaphic and botanical degradation affecting a slope.»
According to writer F. R. Chateaubriand: Oasification
«Forest precedes Man and desert follows him. Thus has ocurred with many civilizations that we know, settled in arid and semiarid territories. However, desertification is not an irreversible and hopeless process. In this new millenium we must be able to find the solutions to the problems that we generate. Against desertification: Oasification!»
According to the declaration of the three Ikarian Associations mentionned
at the end of my previous article «The little house in the desert»
«Besides that, again with our voluntary work, we intend to fence an area of at least 8.000 square meters around the shelter in order to protect it from the goats. This way, we will allow at least a small part of the overgrazed, eroded and almost desertified mountain plateau to grow green again like it was in the past.»
«Among the benefits resulting from this [project will be] the awakening of the local community concerning the desertification of the mountain volume of Ikaria through creating a visitable framed green space where endemic species will grow. This way, it will be proven in practice that this phenomenon and its disastrous effects (flashfloods, landslides, impoverishment of the soil) is not a natural, inevitable process but something that started for specific reasons [only] few decades ago and therefore, there is a way to stop it.»
«But most of all, what we want to do is to show with a project of our own -no matter its smallness- the great love we feel for our mountain, its freedom and its wild beauty.»
Well, they’ve done it!!!! Against all odds (bureaucracy, indifference, fatalism, pessimism and hostile goat barons) on Sunday, September 24, more than 40 young local people gathered on the mountain and after several hours of hard work, they secured an area of 8.000 square meters around the old mountain shelter on Ammoudia plateau with a long line of welded wire mesh panels.
They ‘ve done it! Look at them at work! You can tell from the pictures which are all first quality, the feelings of joy and fulfillment shared by the participants. I am so glad I’ve helped in my own small way to this project. If things go well -and I have every reason to thnk they will- in less than 3 years, instead of that depressive, although sometimes also impressive, goat desert, we will have an oasis!
Notice: The gallery above is made up of 56 pictures I discovered in three posts at the OPS Ikarias Google+ page. They redirected me to three of their facebook posts: the first one, containing 12 pictures taken by my friend Angelos, the second and the third one containing a total of 44 pictures, taken by our friends from Italy, Paola and Ivo, founders of the association «Η ‘δική μας’ Ικαρία».
All pictures © OPSIkarias & DikimasIkaria 2017
For the title of this article I am gratedul to
who looked up the meaning of the term «oasification» for me and
suggested that it would be more appropriate to describe the project
of fencing instead of the akward «fencing against desertification»
which wouldn’t make much sense to a reader who is not familiar
with our strange island and its strange problems.
………⭐ ⭐ ⭐
On the wuthering heights of mount Atheraς in the center of a sandy plateau surrounded by windswept round boulders lies a tiny cube-like building with a chimney on its flat roof. This is «To Spitaki tis Mamis» (the little house of the midwife), or «Saint Panteleimon Mountain Refuge», as the marble plate in the wall next to the door says. Built by a kind woman in 1960 for the benefit of all mountain walkers, Spitaki tis Mamis, despite its miniature size, is a mountain shelter properly speaking, not associated to a church or mountain chapel, as it is usual in Greece, but built hiking-wise at important crossroads in a location where a hiker cannot possibly miss. This makes Spitaki tis Mamis, if not the oldest, undoubtedly one of the oldest mountain shelters in the Aegean islands. With my own ears I have heard about the lives it has saved through the years. On the chimney there was a fog bell to guide lost souls in the mountain and inside, as if by a magic hand, it was always provided with firewood, cooking pots, lamps and lamp oil, coffee, sugar, rice etc.
It was a place that wrote history.
However and in spite of all that, in the course of events and new road building in the 1990s Spitaki tis Mamis was forgotten and fell in oblivion. As a result, today -57 years after it was built- it’s in very bad shape: cracked walls, no door and window and a roof almost ready to fall in.
………⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Last month, answering to a request made by several local associations, Spitaki tis Mamis was declared by the Town Council as a cultural monument – standing reminder of the times when there were no roads and cars in Ikaria and the only way to travel from one part of the island to another was by walking long hours across uninhabited, mountainous landscapes in rain, snow or fog. Following this desicion, the Town Council granted permission to the interested parts to repair the old shelter and adapt it to modern needs. As they said, that would be done on the own expences and voluntary work without help from either central or local government…
Volunteers going to work in the wilderness on dream project…?
Oops! I know that! I must help!
………⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Dear readers, the purpose of this article is to advertise the aforementioned project and call for funding and support. To do so I can’t find a better way than to show you a set of 16 photos taken many years ago on a hike along half the length of the mountain ridge. That great, mind and soul filling, two-day trip would not have been possible if Spitaki tis Mamis didn’t exist.
In the middle of that desert of rocks, sands, ferns and srubs, although abandonned and broken, it was still there marking the way, connecting the present with the past. It still said «Hello, I am here for you». I want it to be repaired. If not for any other reason, because of an experience I will never forget. Many years ago when I was single and young, while lying in my sleeping bag on its old cracked concrete roof, still warm from the sun, I gazed at the biggest and brightest summer night sky I’ve seen in my life!
……… The pictures
………⭐ ⭐ ⭐
That was all from me for now. You can read the official account of the project at this link. For donations, as well as for extra hands, you may write to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com. I will keep you up to date for further developments.
Follow me up!
Eleni Ik ❤
Saturday, June 6, 2017
I don’t expect this long article to become too popular. It’s just that several modern-day Ikarians show a lot of interest in knowing as much as they can about the more recent history of the island and they are usually very disappointed. Compared with other islands of the Aegean Sea, there is so little to say about Ikaria! No glorious battles, no illustrious rulers, no forts and fleets, no trading towns, no towers, cathedrals and famous monasteries; only mossy stonewalls and old thrifty houses scattered in the ravines, the valleys and the forests in the hills.
Neverthelss, there were some short descriptions of the life in the island during the Obscurity («Αφάνεια») as we like to call in Ikaria the first hard centuries of the Ottoman occupation. These were written by the very few European travelers who touched at our rough, inhospitable shores, often by chance or accident. In Pr A.J. Papalas’ book «Ancient Icaria» I found a reference to one of these documents, which, although brief and trivial, capticated my imagination. It is by Charles Perry, a wealthy medical doctor from England who travelled in the Levant from 1739 to 1742. After visiting Egypt, Perry sailed from Alexandria to Athens. On his way across the Aegean he visited and described the islands of Cos and Patmos. But after that island, as he was heading for Mykonos, his ship was caught in a storm and was forced to drop anchor in Ikaria.
I liked Perry’s account. Reading his one and a half page about his accidental visit to Ikaria, I felt the genuine puzzlement of a man of the Century of Lights for the unwelcoming, extremely mountainous environment of the island and his also genuine astonishment (and contempt) for the attitude and the way of life of its inhabitants. But, most of all, I liked his account for a more personal reason: through the eyes of the good old British doctor, I saw some places of western Ikaria which I know very well, such as Karkinagri, Agios Isidoros and Langada, looking as uncanny and wild, as if we were talking about a remote, unfriendly rock in the middle of the South Pacific!
«We spent three days in Patmos, not disagreeably; and the fourth in the morning we set sail for Myconos; but the wind, which was otherwise pretty favorable, grew slack, next to a calm; so that it was with much-ado, with what wind we had, and the help of our oars, that we reached the west end of Nicaria in two days. We much lamented our hard fate, that we should thus long want a wind at such a favourable (for it) crisis of the year, it being near the Autumnal Equinox.
However, that night, about an hour after sunset, even whilst we were reproaching the malice of our stars, a fine gale sprang up. We failed not to embrace it immediately, and we went driving on, Jehu-like, with our sails full of wind and our hearts full of joy: But alas! How frail and transitory are human hopes and happiness, especially upon the sea? Within an hour after, the wind turned against us, and blew a storm; so that we were forced to change our course, and to seek shelter under a rock at the west end of Nicaria, which we did not attain, however, without much difficulty and danger.»
«Here we lay wind-bound four nights, and above three days; during which irksome interval we amused ourselves in the best manner we could with fishing: But after we had spent two days without other recreation than fishing, that sport grew dull and tedious; and whilst we were looking out for some sport and divertissement, kind Providence (of its grace and favour) sent us the glad tidings that about a mile off, on the side of a high rocky mountain, there was a spring of excellent water, which was resorted to by great number of partridges. Upon this intelligence, (which we got the third day of our detention there) we immediately got ready arms and ammunition of all sorts, as well for the belly as the barrel -such as bread, butter, cheese, salt, pepper, wine, glasses, etc. We marched on directly, (flushed with the hopes of new game) with uncommon ardour, or rather avidity; and we were well recompensed our pains; for we passed that day very agreeably.
The mountain (though in general very steep) admits a sort of level in that place; and the spring of water issues out of a rock, in a very convenient and delightful spot, where nature or chance has formed a sort of grot, large enough to receive and accommodate a dozen or 15 persons. This natural grot (if we may so call it) is covered over, and secured against the weather, by a large flat stone of about 24 feet in diameter: This rests upon and is supported by other stones on all sides, except to the eastward; where, being open, it presents to view a sort of alcove. Here we passed the whole day (which but for that retreat would have been tedious) very agreeably -reclining upon the bed of our grot, with the water trilling along close by us, whilst our partisans upon the hunt for partridges, wild goats, and the like, of which they brought us in good store.»
«There are some few inhabitants on this island, but those almost naked and savage, seldom seeing or conversing with any of the human species, except those of their own isle. The second day after we put in there, we sent out some of the mariners a shooting for us, who pursuing their game to the north side of the mountain, met with some of the natives. These were so affrighted at sight of strangers, that they fled from them with precipitation; but our people calling after them, and telling them they had brought them bread and corn, they at last prevailed on them to stop, and come to a party with them. These poor wretches, being at length persuaded of our good intentions, came to see us aboard our vessel, and afterwards brought us good store of grapes and meat. We were really at a loss to guess where they found those things; for the whole island, so far as we could see of it, is the most miserable, barren rock that ever was seen.
The 4th day, towards noon, the wind changing in our favour, we set sail for Myconos, which is 40 miles distant from the westernmost point of Nicaria. This (as it is to be supposed) is a run of about 7 hours, with a good brisk gale…»
Pages 484-486 from Charles Perry’s book, «A View of the Levant», which I have arbitrarily named «Wind bound in Nicaria», can be found in Google books
Modern books about the history of Ikaria:
Comments on this article are very welcome!
Hello readers! 🙂
how long has it been since I last wrote a blog review properly speaking – that is, to review something written by someone I don’t know? I think the last one was about Jackie Fox, the Ikarian/American who posted a whole series of wonderful articles about her life in Ikaria during the year 2012-13. Jackie published on WordPress so it was easy for me to spot her and connect to her blog articles. The same goes with my present blogger. He is in WordPress where he keeps a blog which he calls: «Dorken at large – Outings in search of personal freedom». I like him so here I am, hard-working, cool blogger Eleni, I am blogging about his doings in Ikaria!
As I always do, I will let him speak on his own. But before that, just let me say only two things: a) Dorken comes from Izmir, a city geographically and historically associated with our islands. It’s so close and so big that in some winter nights when the clouds are low I can see the glow of the lights of his city in the east! b) Some Turks like Dorken, also like a lot of people who come from the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, incarnate the legendary Oriental Oral Narrator – in simpler words, they know how to tell a story and capture the listener!
Go Dorken, speak about my island – your island of freedom! 😊
As always in my blog reviews, if you click on the pictures you see in this article you will be directed to the full posts in the source. There you will find more photos with a few words for each. As you will see, I have borrowed some quotes from Dorken’s posts. Goes without saying that I am solely responsible for my choices.
Dorken’s Ikaria : Foreword
«…but then, there was another island. One that was somehow magical, and for no special reason. One that I picked for myself, my fantasy island, my island. When I told the name, very few people would have heard of it, even though it was so close to where we lived. In my child’s mind, I would be the king of my island and my own civilization. I would declare my independence lying on the floor of my bedroom, lost in the map. It was years later, when I started reading about it, I was surprised to see that my island was of the same mindset, that it had actually declared its independence in 1912, had its own flag, its own anthem, even if it had lasted for only five months. Yes, that was definitely my island…»
Dorken’s Ikaria: Day 1 – Arrival
«Getting to Ikaria is no easy task, I’ll tell you. Despite being one of the largest of the Aegean islands, it seems to be somehow left out of the grid. Although it is clearly visible from the Turkish coast, it is easier to get to Mykonos or Santorini then Ikaria. Well, I hope it will stay that way…»
«The entertaining bit of the trip though was to overhear (ok, not overhear, simply listen, yes I like lis-tening to others’ conversations, shush!) twenty something Istanbulites discussing which beach clubs they should go to in Samos. I’m not going to get into details, but I will tell you this much: some of the Turks really have the wrong idea about the Greek islands. They get on the boat to Samos or Chios thinking they will find the same boom boom – fuck me – boom beach clubs they go to in Cesme or Bodrum, and then they are heavily disappointed. Aegean islands, perhaps with the excep-tion of Mykonos and Santorini, is about peace and tranquillity, and very very good ouzo…»
«.So here I am, sitting on my wooden throne on the beach, adoring my kingdom. I just had the most delicious grilled squid and am on my third glass of white wine. Stars are shining, there’s a gentle Greek tune coming from the back, and the sound of the waves from the front. There’s a brave woman going for a swim. Life is good. So far, I love my kingdom.»
Dorken’s Ikaria: Day 2 – Agios Kirykos
«Mornings of any Aegean trip has the same theme: wake up (preferably not too late), instead of jumping under the shower, jump into the sea, sit at a café, have a bite, have a coffee, and another coffee and another one. Why should today be any different?»
«Ag. Kirykos is a nice island town (town – village – town? whatever), but nothing spectacular. Nice cafés by the coast to enjoy your book. Few pebble beaches around – not very comfy, but the sea is much warmer than in the nearby islands of Samos and Chios. Nice people. Yeah, that’s it. Summary of the day: swim, have coffee, read book, walk around, have more coffee, plan the next day, have another dip in the sea, and another coffee – yeah that’s really it.»
«Although Greece gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1827, East Aegean Islands still remained part of the empire. In July 1912, the Ikarians said that they had enough with that and revolted under the leadership of a chap named Ioannis Malahias. The Ottomans had their own prob-lems like World War I, so as a result, Free State of Ikaria was declared an independent country on July 17th. Of course, it wasn’t the easiest of times. And with no dowry, no money, no family background, Ikarians had to be glad to be annexed by Greece only five months later in November. To this day, Ikarians are extremely proud of those five months and all around the island, you can see more Free State flags than Greek ones. The flag has a dark blue background with a white cross in the middle – basically Swiss flag turned blue. 🙂 »
Dorken’s Ikaria: Day 3 – Chalares Canyon, Nas, Armenistis
«To get from the south to the north of the island, you have to go up and down the high mountains that run like the spine of Ikaria. The view on both sides is simply breath-taking. One has to be care-ful enjoying the view while driving in Ikaria though. The roads are all very narrow – at some points to the degree that two cars cannot pass at the same time. On one side of the road, there are rocks and on the other side, cliffs several hundred meters high and more rocks at the bottom. Not to worry, you are more likely to come across a goat than a car while driving on the island anyway.»
«I arrived at Nas, at the northwest end of the island towards ten o’clock. Nas is a very small village with a few hotels and restaurants that took the healthy-trendy line. Everything here is organic, healthy, super food and stuff. It’s not difficult to imagine people doing yoga on the beach at sun-rise, which I’m sure they do.»
«Ikaria has an unbelievable amount of well-marked and well-kept walking trails – one might say bet-ter marked and kept than the roads themselves. The one I was going to try today was starting at Nas and following the river along the Chalares Canyon. As the trails are never ending, I decided to walk as long as I found reasonable, then return back either using the same route or some alternative path.»
Dorken’s Ikaria: Day 4 – Evdilos, Kampos and around
«The northerly autumn winds begun caressing Ikaria this morning. The sun is still strong, but you know that it is not going to last long. Colors of the season started showing themselves on the trees at higher altitudes. It is the best time of the Aegean.»
«The roads gently ascend the hills passing by farms and vineyards. After a few dead ends, I seem to have found my way. In any case, if you get really lost lost, just walk down till you meet the sea, not that hard.»
«As the altitude increased, bushes and olive trees left the scene to pine forest. At the end, I reached my destination point: Theoktistis Monastery. It is really a small monastery this one, but sitting on top of the mountain, the view is well worth the climb. There is a small church at the very entrance with your typical Greek icons and what not. As you climb a bit more though, you come across an-other tiny church which drops your jaw. Imagine that there’s this big rock on the ground, then they built block walls on it, and then using what mythical creature god knows, they placed a gigantic rock on top of it all to serve as a roof. Walking around the church, you realize that the roof bit is ac-tually a massive rock cantilevering out of the mountain. They just built a block wall in between the two rocks. Okay, now it makes sense. It’s a tiny tiny church by the way, the door is barely a meter high or so, you really need to bend down to get in.»
Dorken’s Ikaria: Day 5 – Manganitis
«The south coast of Ikaria is rugged, harsh, so rocky that in most places depriving the trees of the least bit of soil to hang on to. This makes it very difficult for humans to settle, but it is a playground for the goats. These steep hills also shelter some of the most beautiful, tiny, isolated beaches you can find on the island, of which, Seychelles Beach has unequivocal reputation.»
«Here’s another interesting note about Ikaria: After the Greek Civil War of 1946-1949 between the nationalists and the communists, the Greek government used Ikaria as an exile location for the de-feated commies. Some 13,000 people affiliated with the Greek Communist Party, KKE, were sent to the island. Considering the current population of Ikaria is just 8,500, you can well imagine the impact of this relocation on the island’s political demographics. And which party do you think wins all the elections on the island today? Yes, you guessed it right :). Even today, the island is referred to by many Greeks as the Red Rock. It is funny though, Ikarians are also very devout Orthodox Christians. Nowhere else have I seen communism and religion going so much hand in hand, but then again, Ikaria is not just any place.»
«…the highlight of the whole day, perhaps the trip, was the tiny, beautiful, under-stated Manganitis village. With houses overlooking the vast blueness that is the Aegean and the cutest little harbour, this fishing village offers the real isolated Greek island beauty in one’s imagination. And the deli-cious Ikarian ratatouille cooked from vegetables grown by the owner of the taverna himself in his backyard, accompanied by a glass of Mythos… for some people, there is heaven, eden, paradise to go to; for the likes of me, there is Manganitis.»
Dorken’s Ikaria: Day 6 – Departure
«Today, I will have a few beers and enjoy my book until the Dodekanisos Seaways hydrofoil takes me to Pythagoreio in Samos, from where I will board the boat back to Kusadasi. I have one and a half hours between the two boats, I hope the connection will be less dramatic than the last one.»
«I have to express my gratitude to the amazing island of Ikaria, for treating me like the king that I am and allowing me to reign over it for six long days – much longer than many mighty nations tried to do. It would be unwise though to outstay my welcome, for I know that the spirit of Ikaria is all about freedom. I will surely miss this red little rock of mine and who knows, perhaps one day…»
«Autumn winds increased their strength over Ikaria today. Gone are the long, warm days of the summer. Whether you like it or not, change is on its way. Things are about to get different, and different we will have to embrace.»
Come again Dorken! Maybe your ancestors and my ancestors were related! Maybe they were friends!
Let’s be friends too! 😊
September 20, 2016
«…συνηθισμένοι εις τον θεληματικόν κόπον μιας ησύχου ζωής, ανυπόδουλοι, εξ αρχής της κατοικήσεως των εις εκείνα τα υψηλά βουνά – έχουν ευτυχείς μακρά από την πολυτέλειαν και κακοήθειαν των διεφθαρμένων πολιτειών, ανδρείοι ως ελεύθεροι, φιλόξενοι ως Έλληνες…»
There is no need to say much about this kind of post. I think I said more than enough in my first, very enthousiastic «The Who in The Where» 4 years ago. The focus again is on people, our people or the people who visit Ikaria but who somehow seem to have always belonged there. Or is it that our mysterious but so peaceful island has always belonged to them? I don’t know… I only know that I am missing it. I hope that as usual I will return in winter. Meanwhile, go ahead and look through my choice of new pictures of beautiful, meaningful human figures and faces from the summer months as well as the winter in Ikaria. Some of them I know, some others I don’t but I am proud of them all! These people are my next of kin. And though I writing this in a grey overheated city while wearing an uncomfortable formal suit, my heart is with them! I hope you like them too!
All images open directly on the bloggers’ or photographers’ own spaces and it goes without saying that they are copyrighted. Special thanks to © angeloska, © Ορειβατικός Σύλλογος Ικαρίας and © egotoagrimi
Closing this let me add that there are more shots but that’s not «The Who in The Where» – that’s …
You know that my blog likes interviews and this one… well, it’s a good one because it’s like a documentary! I mean that you can just stare at the photos (loads of them) streaming over the questions and answers, only that I thought that the context was interesting too, so I got into the trouble to translate the whole thing in English and then I sent it over to be added as subtitles to the video on youtube. Which video is an illustrated version of an interview to my good Ikarian friend, Angelos K., founding member and representative of the Mountain Climbing and Hiking Association of Ikaria (OPS Ikarias), by Babis Kokosis for «The Hiking Trails of Greece» a regular radio show on «The Voice of Greece», the international Greek state Radio (ERA 5). Unlike what you might have expected, the pictures do not show landscapes and trails and maps and stuff like that but people!
As the introduction goes:
«The photos showing in this video made by OPS Ikarias were taken along our various hiking trips and many other activities in the nature of Ikaria from 2008 to 2016. They are a tribute to our older and newer friends and members of the Club who walk and enjoy the island’s fascinating landscapes and take part in the club’s projects and activities. They are our inspiration and our one and only support. This video is dedicated to them!»
. ***Find button to turn on "subtitles". Seen best in full screen mode! .
You can read my translation of Angelos’s radio interview by opening this link to OPS Ikarias Google docs. The interviewer introduces the show like this:
«Today we will visit Ikaria, an island that has managed, in spite of the growing tourist development, to maintain a big part of its cultural traditions.
The natural particularities of Ikaria are many. They are shaped by the geographical features and the position of the island in the Aegean Sea. Ikaria consists of a long mountainous mass stretching from east to west forming a ridge with heights over 1000 m. and separating the island in two sides: the northern side with mild slopes, forestlands and abundant waters, and the southern side with stony grounds and steep slopes. Therefore, it displays an impressive variety of landscapes and natural sights which the visitor can discover by following its numerous trails while getting in touch with its history and the legendary particular way of life of its inhabitants.
Let’s find out a bit more about the hiking routes of the island as well as what a hiker may encounter in them through our talk with Mr. Angelos Kalokairinos, representative of the local Hiking Club.»
And if you are a Greek reader you can check out the original transcript in this link.
The video, seen best in full screen mode, it goes without saying, includes a selection of pictures from the Flickr Album: «Mountain Climbing and Hiking Club of Ikaria». I have exercised my influence 🙂 and gotten a specially coded link so you can see all the pictures -not only the public ones. So take advantage of this privilege and enjoy an amazing slideshow! But if you just like a quick view, here is the album straight out of Flickr:
Ikaria, May 14 2016 [BIG DAY!]
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