The identify Idomeni has develop into recognized around the globe for being the undesirable house to greater than 10,000 individuals, most from Syria and Iraq.
The border village is now a sea of tents the place circumstances are squalid.
Earlier than the Macedonian authorities controversially shut the border, having constructed a 40km fence to maintain them out, greater than 1 million migrants had handed by means of Idomeni – a farming group usually house to only one hundred fifty.
One in every of its residents is Panagiota Vasileiadou, a Greek grandmother with a coronary heart of gold.
“Mama could be very type to us,” says 22-yr-previous Haja who fled the battered Syrian metropolis of Aleppo in February and now stays in Panagiota’s residence.
“I met her after choosing some herbs within the subject. I got here to borrow a cooking pot.”
When she took the pot again, Haja turned up with 9 buddies who have been all soaking moist.
“I used to be afraid at first. However considered one of them was holding a six-month previous child so I invited them in,” eighty two-yr-previous Panagiota says.
“That they had swollen ft and their lips have been black due to the chilly. They stood in entrance of the range, shivering.”
Others knocked on the door asking to take a bathe after which the widow invited 5 Syrians to maneuver into her modest house.
Since then she has been supporting them – not straightforward on a month-to-month pension that was slashed from €seven hundred €450 due to Greece’s financial turmoil.
“Each morning when she wakes up, she comes and kisses us,” says Haja.
For 20-yr-previous Majid, “Mama is an angel”. He fled Syria when his residence within the northeast of the nation was bombed, he stated.
“She is like our mom. We love her a lot. She treats us like her youngsters,” he says, refusing to speak concerning the life he left behind as a result of “tears will fall once I consider the household and associates who’ve died”.
As he heads off to purchase some meals, Majid kisses Panagiota on prime of her head.
Some neighbours have disapproved of her generosity, fearing an inflow of individuals with extremist views. However Panagiota is aware of the horrors her visitors have been going by way of.
“At this time they’re refugees however we have been additionally refugees prior to now,” she says.
In 1941 in the course of the Nazi occupation of Greece, Bulgarian troops allied to the Germans took over elements of the north. Her village, Chamilo, was burnt to the bottom.
“I used to be seven. All we had have been the garments we have been sporting,” she says.
“I noticed my mother and father crying as a result of that they had nothing to supply me and my brothers,” she remembers including that the household moved right into a roofless, deserted house the place neighbours helped with garments, blankets and meals.
Two years later, her household relocated to Idomeni. She nonetheless remembers the practice stopping on the station with carriages filled with Greek Jews.
She now is aware of they have been being taken additional north to focus camps.
Most of the households round Idomeni even have a historical past of upheaval.
Within the early 1920’s, following the autumn of the Ottoman Empire and the Greco-Turkish warfare, tons of of hundreds of individuals have been uprooted from their houses in what’s now Turkey and despatched to Greece as a part of a pressured change of Christians and Muslims.
During the last yr individuals fleeing battle have stopped on the similar railway station, strolling over the border in quest of a greater life in different European nations.
Previous carriages donated by the Greek railway company have turn out to be ramshackle houses.
“With out the struggle I would not be in Europe. I did not need to come right here,” Haja says again in Panagiota’s front room.
“Now we’re right here simply ready. However for what? We’ve got no cash so I do not know what we will do,” says Haja who used to work in a garments store.
Despite the fact that their lives have been turned the wrong way up, Panagiota sees one purpose to smile.
“At first they have been shy with their heads down on a regular basis. However I advised them ‘Raise up your heads! What has occurred is up to now. You’re all younger’.”
Within the kitchen they’re having a weekend prepare dinner-up – stuffed vine leaves, hen and residential-made pizza.
The Syrians have learnt only a handful of Greek phrases and their adoptive mom doesn’t converse a phrase of Arabic. However, someway, with loads of gestures, they get by.
Earlier than sitting right down to eat collectively Panagiota says these caught in Idomeni are usually not beggars, so politicians ought to open the borders and allow them to get on with their lives.
“I am going to miss them in the event that they do handle to maneuver on – particularly the women. They hold me firm. We speak and we snicker regardless that we can’t perceive what one another is saying,” she says earlier than making an attempt as soon as once more to influence Majid to surrender smoking.
“OK mama, OK mama,” he replies with a smile.
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