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!
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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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φree αssoσiation


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Little LandHeroica, outdoors, Walden Pond, to the limit, border line, risque, manual labor, white trash, love, underdevelopment, exodus, yokel, immigration, resettlement, crisis, herbs, loneliness, roots, land, doom, grunge, economic warfare, Yasnaya Polyana, recession, countryside, burst bubble, low profile, wasted, frugal, hillbilly, community, stranger, mellow, lost, hardships, diexodus, booze, urban, rural, pick-up van, person, stake, hippy, individualism, gossip, solidarity, reset, farm, panic management, armpits, bet, freedom, jobs, insecurity, fiction, soul, experiment, partnership, danger, Leo Tolstoy, garden, myths, nature, exile, mice, culture, backyard, junk, dreams, adventure, wastes, bicycle, stubborn, hands, limited ressources, tradition, macchia, man, pay, nakedness, crops, untidy, tourism, happiness, eyes, self-relience, legend, investments, woman, new life, idea, spirit of discovery, firewood, Ithaca, break up, boots, valley, Robinson, degraded, discipline, generation, dirty, festivals, futilism, hair, economic rebel, expression, wrong, hope, unattachement, D.H. Lawrence, tribal, work, debate, cigarettes, machinery, winter, night swims, strong legs, all year long, Henry David Thoreau, cistern, hi-tec proletariat, sex, destiny, ecological, beard, fringe, new model, escape, Robert Lewis Stevenson, utopia, fortune, heartbreak.

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LITTLE LAND – trailer from Anemon on Vimeo.

A documentary by Nikos Dayandas

Listed in «Habitats«

Thessaloniki Doc Film Fest 15, ID:616 Thursday 21, 2013, 20:30 at OΛYMΠION

Thessaloniki Doc Film Fest 15, ID:835 Saturday 23, 2013, 17:30 at Τ. MAPKETAKH

ERT tv and ARTE tv on dates yet undefined.

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«Ze Sntory Ov My Live» (Episode 1)


«Ze Sntory Ov My Live»


(oops, I forgot to blow my nose, …HONK, ok, so here we go again…)

«The Story Of My Life»

Starring Eleni Ikanou Image(as Eleni Ikanou) and others (as others)

EPISODE 1

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My name is Eleni Ikanou. I was born in B. capital city of B. 30+ years ago.

que tren que tren by ibarak

My father, Kostas, is Greek but my mother, Francesca, was not Greek. She was from M., a big city in I. She died from a severe heart attack a while after I was born.

Both my parents were immigrants in B.; my father was a first generation immigrant, my mother was second generation. That was during the coal&steel industry boom in B. after WWII. I was born on a Saturday of May at about the end of all this in the 1970s. I was a «fruit of love». My parents were not married when I was born. They intended to do that later when they would visit Greece in the summer. Things didn’t work out that way.

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ADS

-> car ad

-> supermarket ad

-> cell phone ad

-> cheese ad

-> CD with the O.S.T. of «The Story of My Life» ad

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My mother worked in the offices of the coal&steel company and my father mined coal in the pits. When I was a teenager I wanted to believe that my parents’ lives were as dramatic as the lives of the heroes in Zola’s novel «Germinale». They weren’t. My parents were happy, working, consuming and lovemaking in B. In Greece there was a military dictatorship. Mini-skirts (for women) and long hair (for men) were forbidden.

From babyhood to childhood I grew up under the broad warm wing of my father’s mother, Eleni K. So not only I didn’t feel orphan, but I was rather spoilt. Fortunately my grandmother, who came from Ikaria, did not show her love for me with words but with acts. Through her acts she taught me the old mediterranean laws of honour, obligation and gratitude; she showed me the basics of how to be ressourceful and self-sufficient («you do it or you do it», she said); she told me stories and she also taught me the basics of how to make and tell stories (she didn’t start with «once upon a time» but with a casual and sudden «hey listen, did you know…? You didn’t ! Oh no ! So sit down right now and let me tell you…»).

I heard so many wild narratives from her that I’d surely have been a crackpot or a fool, if she didn’t make me always look at her in the eyes («look at me, look at me; look at what I’m saying» she ordered). While she was talking her eyes changed colours and shades, shined on-off, closed and opened, and so gradually I learned how to make out which part of the story was true, which was a lie, which was just for fun or a game of the mind, which part was didactic etc.

«Look at the kid, mother» my father protested. «With the wild stories you tell her, she goes around with her mouth wide open. Her teeth will grow too big and she will never be able to close her mouth again»!

That was a joke of course. It was my father’s practical way to make my granny stop overexciting my imagination by filling my mind with stories. There was no other way to make her slow down and let go a bit, but via a practical threat that I would be deformed. That was because the great storyteller of my life, Mrs Eleni senior, was completely unable to understand the meaning of the word «imagination» («fantasia» in Greek). She thought it had to do with ghosts («fantasma» in Greek). «I never told any stories with ghosts to the kid», she answered.

Eventually my teeth grew too big for my mouth. The kids at school (the Greek Orthodox Community school in B.) had started calling me «hanos» (a small fish with a big mouth always open, «swallow all», «eat air», stupid). I didn’t let them say that on me for too long. I told my first full story in public at the age of 9. We were in the school bus and caught in a traffic jam. The story was the summary of a new James Bond film which I was supposed to have seen with my father the previous evening. How could I? I was too young. I improvised the plot from the photos that were posted outside the cinema.

The outcome was something like «James Bond Saves the Little House in the Prairie»…

I have a clear recollection of that first story I told out in public, because I was forced to narrate it to the school mistress later that day. There had been a scandal; the word had spread in the school that I was allowed to go out downtown in the evenings and watch James Bond films !

TO BE CONTINUED

(hopefully next week or earlier; whenever I cash the cheques from my sponsors)

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NOTICE: For only this particular group of entries I’d rather not have any interaction. So please, my 7 stars, friends of this blog, hold and do not post any comments. To go on with the story the storyteller needs most to have a silent audience.

Tags: ελένη, belgium, γιαγιά, χαζό-χαμόγελο, my-sponsor, teleplaywright, story-of-my-life | Edit Tags

Thursday March 23, 2006 – 12:48pm (PST)


a pink woolen hood of a baby – ενα ροζ μωρουδιστικο σκουφακι


After a hard summer’s work I usually visit Ikaria in late September or early October. The first thing I (at least try to) do is go for a long exhausting swim in the sea -no matter what time of the day it is or what the weather is like. This is a catharsis: my own version of the age old «40 waves cure» (*)

It was on a day like this when I had just arrived in Ikaria and I was taking the waves to absolve my sins (from a very competitive and very air-conditioned work environment). As I swam along the rocky coast, I saw something that looked like an old tent or a sail of a boat. I swam near it and saw it was actually the wreck of an inflattable zodiac raft. My first thought was to drag it to the shore and tell a friend who would be glad to be its new owner. So I swam round it and searched the sides with my hands to find a handle or rope to hold it. I grabbed something which I thought was a rag. I pulled it and …in my hand I had a soaking wet pink woolen hood of a baby!..

There was a family (perhaps two or three) in that 6×2 raft. Kurds, Iraquis, Persians, Pakistanese, Afganese? Who knows? What’s the difference. These are the ones who die in the dark when the squalls flood their zodiacs.
I came out on the coast, put my arms round a warm rock and prayed (**)

That day a fuse burnt in my mind and since then I went stupid (…)

Don’t bother doctor… I don’t want to be cured from this.

(για την ακριβεια θελω να γινω εντελως ηλιθια, τελειως βλαμενη…)

My work on the project will be gratis and I hope that what ever money they make from it on TV will go to campaign against trafficking and slave trade.

Comments

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(*my grandmother’s advice: when you feel weary, loaded with thousands of small nameless sins, when you feel you have «lost yourself» or «lost God» or the meaning of life, etc. etc., the right thing to do is to go through the 40 waves. Walk in the sea as far from the land as your feet hardly touch bottom. Stay there and let the surf cover your head forty times. It has to be all in once and you can’t take breaks, otherwise you have to start from the begining. The sea cleans dirt and takes away all kinds of small trouble.)

Friday March 10, 2006 – 09:45am (PST)

(** I don’t believe in God, so my prayers have no words. Still I very often «say» my inarticulate prayers and in my head they ring like music.)

Friday March 10, 2006 – 09:46am (PST)

You’re so cool Elle. So many people seek shelter from the storm! I think though I will skip that form of absolution (the verb is absolve by the way 😉 Prefer to work hard at moving onward always, blindly when necessary, and never forget to have fun. Good wine helps!

Friday March 10, 2006 – 11:52am (PST)

Don’t worry, friend ! I’m a good swimmer and not that stupid (as yet, for later who knows?)

Friday March 10, 2006 – 01:50pm (PST)

‘move on blindly’ : a good one
This is more or less the idea =>what I’m always asking her to do.
This is very strong in Jeffry Eugenides’ book, «Middlesex».
Anyone here read that?

** sis, add some webliography on the subject and move on to a next one (with «eyes wide shut»… haha)
*** get your share of the money -no gratis . You are not tha-a-at famous or rich to afford this luxury…

(**** in any case, if you insist on moving with your eyes open, be sure that you will always have me, blind girl, by your side to guide you blindly through whatever.)

Saturday March 11, 2006 – 10:18am (EET)

«It’s all in the sea; the battle of life is there, and the futility of it all, and the purpose». I can do no better than quote the artist L.S. Lowry talking about one of his seascapes. Dr. S.

Sunday March 12, 2006 – 11:20pm (GMT)

can do no better? just did the best..

Monday March 13, 2006 – 03:12am (PST)

I read «Middlesex»! A good book.
Calliope’s granparents, they too were refugees coming from a sad story. And they never found a new absolute identity (nor a sexual one his nephew, as the story tells). And this often is the tragedy of survivors…

Monday March 13, 2006 – 11:42pm (CET)

quite right. «Middlesex» is big!

Tuesday March 14, 2006 – 02:13am (PST)