A Postcard from Greece

postcard refugees
By Silvia Giulini

At the stroke of the 20th hour of the day, the sailors weigh anchors and the ferry starts, slowly, to glide on the sea.

Next to me Abdullah, a young Afghan guy, smiles. He turns towards me and tells me, almost in confidence, “I don’t want to see Lesvos at least for the next five years. I hate it”. In front of us the sunset looks more beautiful than ever, the sky is golden and the air we breath looks different: little by little the ferry moves from the island, the smiles become more peaceful, relieved, the eyes start to become shiny. It is the end of a nightmare.

Actually, the difficulties that Abdullah and his friends have to face are still many and they perfectly know it. But they want to enjoy that magical moment, which they waited for such a long time.

We are sitting one next to the other, me and nine Afghan guys. I met them the day before, outside of Moria, the camp-detention centre of the island, but now they look completely different. Abdullah and Mohammad translate for me, so that I can understand and laugh with them. They want me to eat continuously because -they explain- “In our culture it does not matter if a friend says no. He/she has to eat anyway!”. Not so different from the Italian culture! “As soon as I have stability” Abdullah adds “you will come to visit me and my mom will cook an Afghan dinner. Nobody cooks as good as she does!”.

When I met them the day before, they explained to me that they had to stay in Lesvos due to bureaucratic issues, waiting for a permission to leave the island. We sat around a table and they told me their stories. Despite the smiles, the atmosphere in that moment was quite tensed. Abdullah was looking down. Then he raised his head but his look was faraway, lost. It has been so beautiful to see him on the ferry! He was joking and laughing continuously. “I hope the trip lasts more than it is scheduled. Tonight we don’t sleep, we party!”.

“As soon as my husband knew I was finally leaving for Athens, he started laughing and told me: I feel I can fly!” says a girl of my age. And everybody was laughing!

I spent some hours with them on the ferry. At a certain time, however, I felt I had to leave. I felt it was right for them to enjoy that moment of happiness together, without me. After insisting for a while, they let me go.

I could have told you the tragedy of refugees: the tortures they suffered, the inhumane conditions they had to stand, the difficulties and the conditions in which they have to live in Greece. I could have told you about the fear of being imprisoned or deported. About the fights started over a pair of shoes. I could have told you so many things, but you all know these issues from the newspapers. Especially the ones that are always looking for scoops and exploit episodes to create tear-jerking stories.

Instead, no. I don’t tell you anything like this. I rather tell you about the normality. I tell you about Abdullah and his friends’ smiles. The rascal and playful eyes of the children. I tell you about the will of these people to start over again. I tell you about their strength, their desire to live, their laughs and jokes. But more than anything, I tell you that these are normal people, people that react to their past, and smile.