Proud as a Greek Woman and Worried as an Australian
Elen Zahos, a nurse from Queensland, came to Greece last fall as a volunteer with Doctors of the World in order to help with the refugee crisis. She returned to Australia in January. Although she had returned, her mind was still on Greece, SkalaSikamias, on Molivo on Mytilene and on Eidomeni.
She was born in Australia but her origins are from the village Ritini in the county of Piairias.”I have vivid memories of Greece. Besides, all my relatives live there. The warmth I feel there I do not feel in Australia, no matter how many friends I have, “ she says.
She experienced the refugee crisis at its peak. At that time,thousands of people proceeded toward Lesvos in order to reach the centers of Morias and Kara Tepai. Then the borders of Edomeni closed for all except the Syrians, the Iraqi, and the Afghans.It was also then that the unfortunate Moroccan man died of electrocution on the roof of a train carriage in Edomeni. Elen was one of the first nurses beside him. She could not do anything for him, no matter how much she tried.
Elen has always wanted to help people since she was young. That is why she became a nurse. However, being a nurse was not enough. She became a volunteer in places other than Greece and Australia. She went to Nepal after the earthquake in April of 2013 and to the Philippines in 2013 after Typhoon Hayian.
A few days ago I was in SkalaSikamias.I was sitting in a tavern, looking at the sea when the phone rang. It was Elen and she called to ask how things were in Greece with regard to the refugee crisis.She said in a disappointed voice, “Here people do not say anything. I try to encourage help, but nothing happens. Other countries helped in Nepal and the Philippines, but nobody helps in Greece. Only the people help.” When she came to Greece last fall she brought 25 thousand dollars. She had raised it through a campaign on the means of social network. Speaking to her brought back memories of what she had said while in Mytilene.
MOTTO: Unbelievable Memories of Mytilene
“My last three days in Mytilene were the hardest,” she told me.”I was in the hospital freezers helping the mothers who had lost their children at sea try to identify their children. I was present during the shipwreck of October 28. We had lost eleven babies that night. There were 28 people who had drowned and 150 were missing. I will never forget the mothers screaming while looking for their babies.”
She adds, “ It was hard searching for the babies and at the same tie realizing that the missing ones may be theirs. We went there at 6:00 in the morning and left at 2:00 past midnight. The priest and his wife had opened the church and helped the children change into dry clothes. They even brought tea and blankets for the refugees. It was very difficult, especially for the children. At one time it kept raining for four nights and one could see the children sleeping in the rain. We had nowhere to put them. In the morning we had to help them change into dry clothes again. I took pictures of their hands after four days of rain. It was also difficult leaving them and going to a hotel with hot water and a comfortable bed when they had to stay behind in the unbelievable cold. Unfortunately I could not do otherwise. We had to stay strong in order to help. I cried a lot in Mytilene,” she says.
She will never forget December 3, 2015. A refugee hit her in the face with a metal rod because he thought she was a police officer. At the time she was bent over another refugee who could not breathe because of tear gas. This happened a little while before she ran to give first aid to the unfortunate Moroccan man who had been electrocuted. She says, “I bear no grudge against him. When he realized what had happened he kissed me on the head and apologized. Another girl took out her handkerchief and wiped the blood off my face. Since then, I have been afraid of Edomeni,” she confesses.
However,what Elen fears most is people’s indifference. Regrettably, she sees a lot of indifference in Australia concerning the immigration crisis.
Jill Horton 03/05/2017 (00:26)
This a great story of what we can do to support refugees. Helen’s story makes me want to do more than just know about these situations and to want to also volunteer to help them. She is an inspiration! Thanks Antonias