Arrived well back in Tamera last night, after a night with Martin in Lisbon. I realized I am back-logged with my journals… There is still one more after this. Thank you for following. Thank you for all the support!
I cried now at the port and let Cyril really hold me.
The two of us walked from the harbor to the port after a long shift. There we met an Algerian man, maybe 45 years old. I smiled and greeted him in Arabic and he returned the greeting. Then he chased after us and explained that he only needs 19 Euro to make the 45 euro for the ferry. The 26 he has is literally all he has. I handed him a crumpled 20 from my pocket. He was so humble, so proud, so embarrassed to have to ask for money. Repeatedly saying, “Sorry ma’am, sorry ma’am. Thank you ma’am.” Cyril spoke to him in French, advising him that they will not let him move beyond the borders. He nodded. He knew full well that he will walk through the Macedonian and Serbian mountains, through Croatia and Slovenia and Austria, to Germany, only to hide, illegal, for all his days.
His story is in no way unique. But I could not hold my tears after this. And I was grateful he didn’t see me cry.
Another young man, who helped so much on ‘the eve of Samaritan’s Purse,’ speaks 5 languages, will go to Athens today. It is so dangerous for a North African.
Another young man, 22 years old, one of the many ‘resident Moroccans,’ tried to go north after living hiding out in Moria for over a month. He was caught by the police somewhere outside of Athens and was very badly beaten. He will smuggle himself back to Moria today.
A few weeks ago, 4 young resident Moroccans were horribly beaten and imprisoned in Athens. The police called Dennis (the Better Days kitchen guy) for money “for the Moroccans.” No one knows what happened or is happening to them.
When my tears subsided, I told Cyril about my dilemma with God, not knowing what to pray for, “Maybe they are more ‘protected’ if they don’t actually make it…?” I questioned.
Cyril said, “You know, Dara, it is maybe all just about a different perspective. That from the perspective of our lives, which have maybe been very easy, it is impossible to imagine that walking to Germany and living the rest of their lives in hiding is okay in comparison to what they knew before.”
I am still grappling with this thought. I am not sure he believes this either. I also know very challenging life situations. I know that this can make a person so strong and determined to live life, but I don’t know a life situation that is equivalent to getting into a dingy at the mercy of despicable smugglers… to live life treated like an animal… I love what he said. I love him, Cyril. But I don’t know if it is the right thought, or just a thought that keeps him doing his work in such a strong and soft way.
When we arrived for the shift, the one volunteer that had snuck in to help out at the Afghan line, came back totally distraught. “They have been waiting since 9am.” It was 1:30am. The bigger guys were just cutting the line and when the police came out to let more people in to register, the families that had been cut in line began to protest. The bigger guys began to fight with them, and when the police saw this they smashed the metal barriers up against the people, shoving all of them, also babies and women into the concrete wall. At some point, a policeman was pushed, and then four cops attacked the people. The one medium-sized Spanish volunteer in his harmless yellow high-visibility vest could do almost nothing. Later, one of the police that stayed uninvolved asked him why there aren’t more volunteers; that they are the ones that keep the peace… And it is really like this that they are not even informed that it is police orders to not allow volunteers into the main camp. Crazy shit.
But the highlight of the night… Around 5am, the most extreme boat situation any of us, including Cyril, who’s been in Moria over 3 months, has ever seen. I’ve never ever seen so many people so close to death in my life. Each one of them was shaking uncontrollably, people fainting left and right, all of them in clothes dripping, soaking from the hair on their heads to their toes, covered in seaweed… It had been an otherwise very quiet night and we were 5 volunteers calmly and precisely organizing the distribution area. I took care of the people that occasionally came for more beautiful things. And was happy to have the time to do so after the past nights. Then a sweet young Moroccan that I had been helping shop for a sexy jacket 10 minutes prior came running in, dragging with him five young men dripping wet all over, shaking and shivering and very calm. Half of them weren’t wearing shoes and the signature seaweed was stuck all over their feet. ‘Where did they come from?’ I was asking over and over. I’ve developed hyper-sensitive ears for buses and hadn’t heard it. And none of us received a message that a boat came in. The Moroccan just shrugged his shoulders and did what he could to help out. We were undressing them as fast as possible, covering them with emergency blankets, very warm clothes and hand warmers in their underwear. Three minutes after they’d arrived, the call on the walkie-talkie confirmed that there had been a bus. There were some 60 people. Half in the bus, half Merel took into the kitchen. The bus door opened in front of her. A woman handed Merel her baby and then the woman fainted and fell off the bus. We began running boxes of clothes up the hill to the kitchen. When I walked in I thought, ‘Oh fuck. The doctors that gave us a medical briefing didn’t tell us what to do if they ALL look hypothermic!’ I think I’ve never before worked so fast. Covering feet in emergency blankets, warm socks on top. Putting hand warmers in people’s underpants. Men and women were so wet and cold that we even changed them in an open co-ed space. I’ve never undressed so many men in such a short span of time. And probably never will again. Then we threw up makeshift men and women’s changing curtains in a matter of a couple minutes. The situation was more or less under control after 20 minutes, though people were not really alright, but then I realized there are still ~20 people waiting on the bus. We got them off and into the distribution tent, got them undressed and dressed as fast as humanly possible. It was quite a feat and we managed. Though the family compound was full, and though we weren’t allowed in as volunteers, we managed to coordinate that they would all the most “luxury” accommodation available in Moria.
They all made it! These precious Afghani lives continue their path. And for this I am so grateful. For the incredible community spirit of our night shift team that has developed in this past month, I am so grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
22 January 2016 – The Purity of Life.
Last night was busy. I was expecting much worse. I don’t know how many boats arrived, but it was really constant. We managed to get everyone in a tent to sleep, despite the camp being crazy over-full – people slept close together in the prayer tent and information tent and women’s safe-space tent. It is absolutely amazing what work a few deeply dedicated people can do together. It is also a real sign for the work in Tamera. Every day a new challenge presents itself here and we work together in such an intricate, communicative way as to care for the best possible outcome for hundreds of people in the 9 or 10 hours that we work. Tonight we weren’t allowed at all to work on the other side. Remy got a registered volunteer’s badge from Starfish, so he was the only one that could communicate what was going on from inside. He worked tirelessly this night.
It is often so hard to know what to pray for. I most often pray for protection. That these people may be protected. But what does that mean? When I pray that no one will come to Lesbos that night because there is such a storm, it doesn’t mean people won’t be forced to try and fail. When I pray they make it safely to Moria, this doesn’t mean they are inherently protected from the trauma they have faced and will continue to face. It doesn’t mean their life will be any easier than wherever they are fleeing from. When I pray they will survive, it doesn’t necessarily mean their life would be better than if they die… does it?
Two boats capsized tonight. Many people died. Remy was really shaken by it. He came to me and cried. I couldn’t.
And in a parallel universe to the fates of these people, there is so much life.
It’s often the littlest things that are most touching for me…
A boy, 8 years old, standing outside the tent while his mother and two older sisters dressed inside (they spoke not a word of English); they sent me back to the distribution tent many, many times and when on my last trip to find the perfect shoes for one of them, the little boy looked at me and said, “She is crazy!”
I laughed, “Your mother?”
And he laughed and laughed, “Mother too, but I meant sister.”
It was so great! It was so normal. It was so pure and light directly after such a journey this child made.
Early morning a young man ran frantically to the distribution tent. He had changed his pants and left his old, wet ones in the changing tent, with ALL his money in the pockets – 130 euro. Someone thought he’d just arrived that morning less than an hour before, and we gave him the 2 bags of Dirty Girls laundry to sort through. Running to him, both big bin bags strewn out over the mud, his hands fondling each pair of jeans, I spoke with him and discovered he’d arrived and changed yesterday morning. I ran back to see the Dirty Girls pile – there were some 200 huge trash bags of things to be washed. I ran back and told the man to wait, ran into the distribution tent, and though it was very busy, called the volunteers together, explained the situation and asked if they’d like to do a quick crowd-funding for this man. In 3 minutes we pulled together the 130. He was so joyful!
I had two encounters with a real life angel. A 16 year old beautiful Afghan girl. I met her yesterday sitting behind the tea tent on the benches made of old pallets with life-jackets as cushions. She felt sick and I took extra time to find good fruits and warm clothes for her. I told her to rest in the women’s safe-space tent. She wanted to stay with the boys she was with. Her English was incredibly good. She told me about her scary boat ride and that she was with her friend and (very young-looking) uncle. She told me about her family (mother, father, siblings), all in Austria and how much she misses them. And at the end of our encounter she said, “Oh Dara, you are so beautiful! I love you! Really, I love you.”
I didn’t know what to say other than ‘thank you.’
She was there again on the bench behind the tea tent this morning.
“I have my ticket to Atina today Dara! We won’t see each other…” She looked so sad and so happy at once. Her face is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in this life.
I have a lover here. It is really, really good. I knew it in the time I spent in Palestine during the war, but I’ve re-discovered that sexuality, that deep erotic friendship in crisis situations is especially profound. Two human beings working together, holding the fragility of life in their hands… This is already quite an experience. But then to express vital life energy, the power of Eros and also intimacy, this is something else. One has no choice but to honor the fragility of life as purely and existentially as possible. Sexuality – what a celebration of life!
I leave last night behind feeling pretty disgusted. It felt extreme. Temperatures were below freezing. I do not know how many buses came, but we didn’t have 3 minutes in the whole night to run to the storage right next door or to pee. And the people that arrived were so, so beautiful, thankful, soft, sweet, patient. It is such a clash of worlds.
When the first bus arrived, before we even had our shift meeting and our tasks for the night, we had a new challenge from the officials. It wasn’t clear if we were allowed to use our Better Days for Moria camp. And with many volunteers arrested and in vulnerable situations in recent days, we felt forced to work only from the “official” side. I don’t want to bash the work of others, and still I find it important to see the objective reality. There is a hill of NGO’s on the ‘official’ side: UNHCR, Samaritan’s Purse, ActionAid, Danish Refugee Council… They had maybe 5 people staffed among them. Supposedly unable to work in our own makeshift and far-more-efficient facilities, we all ran over and took on what we could. It was chaotic. I took half of the bus to Samaritan’s Purse. I had an 8 year old on my back and a 3-year-old in my arms (because neither of them had shoes) and I ushered the people in, happy to think they would be well stocked, as that is their job. There I encountered a man standing behind a fine counter, behind him racks upon racks of blankets, and he was shouting at the people, “What do you want, what do you want?” at a group of men that had no idea what he was asking. His voice was getting louder and louder and then I shouted at him, “Are you blind?? Just look at them. What do you think they want?! Look at this child! He is soaking wet and has no shoes on. What does he need!?” I got mean, sacred rage-kind-of-mean, and it was such a thrill because anger is often not easily accessible for me… and I had reason enough. I brought all the people inside and spoke with the man running the place. He was confused. I said, “Socks! Give every person socks first.” Then, with another small child attached to me, pounding around in their container searching, I realized… they don’t have socks! It was like a fancy vintage store with a few sample items on display. I said other mean things out of frustration, “If you haven’t any socks, you might as well go home.” And I still feel at peace about my words… these Samaritan Purse people are even paid!!! And he was much more insensitive – shouting for everyone to just get out when they are wet and in imminent danger of hypothermia. Cars, from our handful of volunteers, drove over as I gave commands of all we needed. And we set up our own distribution next to Samaritan’s Purse. Then they went back to deliver food and hot drinks. This NGO had ~400 UNHCR blankets on the racks behind them and would only give them to the people they saw and deemed ‘very cold.’ I can say, I tried to sleep with three on me the night before last and thought I would have frostbite; and many women and children were taken to bed and these NGO’s wouldn’t supply the basic necessity of blankets to family members. So… that was just the first bus. Maybe you take a tea break and come back… After this we had a bit of time and then it was non-stop arrivals of wet people for maybe 7 hours. We decided to go back to our normal system… Being arrested is a risk I am willing to take.
There was one bus after another. The people that arrived were so especially wonderful tonight. The volunteer medic tent, formerly attached to the distribution tent, was shut down a couple days ago (connected with the police crackdown) and this is really burdensome. Tonight there were quite some cases of hypothermia; quite some unresponsive small children; many pregnant women. A huge grandma that was super-hypothermic and took ages to get dry clothes on. A woman, 9 month pregnant, and I took a moment to think about what her birth process will be like. Young mama, also super-hypothermic, almost at the point of unconsciousness. Her 3-year-old disappeared while changing the mama and through the grace of life I found him wandering through the camp.
Gypsies have been prevalent at the camp recently – stealing clothes from the storage tent, changing money (at really bad rates), selling the precious things they steal from our distribution… tents, shoes, etc. How to weigh the extremity of a peoples that has been persecuted for centuries and still feel okay about being angry when they so badly take advantage of the refugee situation? I fought with one Roma man this morning who was making really terrible currency exchange rates. I told him he has to get out of here and was quite afraid of him when he responded the way he did. And I am still very much in conflict… Aren’t these people in a similarly difficult situation? Isn’t what they do anyway wrong?
The urgency of the world situation, in all its many facets, felt compacted into this small bubble here last night. Is it a bubble when there are hundreds upon hundreds of people in such basic desperation in front of you? Can a single human life be a bubble? Is this whole thing ‘all fakeness,’ as a friend and long-term refugee-volunteer put it the other day as we took time to watch the sunrise together… Is it all an illusion?
The statement from Peace Pilgrim came to me very strongly this morning as I was reluctantly leaving Moria… “Constantly through thought, you are creating your inner conditions and helping to create the conditions around you. So keep your thoughts on the positive side. Think about the best that could happen. Think about the good things you want to happen. Think about God.” I came into a very tough struggle with God. I walked through the streets of Mitilini looking for God calling out “Hey God! Where are you? Thank you for sending the people you did across the sea. Please protect the souls of the ones who didn’t make it. Please end the war on this Earth! Where are you? Where are you? God, where the fuck are you? Humanity needs you!” And then I re-discovered, I re-membered, that this so-called God is here within. My pleading to an external God will do no good. God is here. Right here. In you, in me, in every being I met tonight, be this God latent or realized. And I go to bed now thankful for this reminder.
18 January 2016
There is a switch that I have to turn off to not take it all in while I’m working here in Lesbos. If I would, I would fall to the ground with endless rivers of tears.
But what is the switch we as humanity need to turn on? How can we access this switch?
It is all the same war saturated in different shades and colors, with different consequences – pale, blue-eyed Syrians, Mongolian-looking Afghans, sweet, sweet Kurds, night-black, sexy Eritrians and Somalis; environmental crisis; capitalism; political oppression; sexual repression; black American oppression; neo-fascism in Europe, us versus them mentality… The separation is pervasive.
We need to flip the switch from war to peace, from mistrust to trust, from separation to connection on each and every level. I still don’t doubt that we can, for I have seen the beauty far too often in this lifetime.
I am now sending a very long post of my notes over a few days. Thank you for holding this situation with me. Sorry for the length of this post…
17 January 2016
Strange night – only 8 volunteers showed up for night shift. It was windy, so, so, so windy. Wind that knocked me over three times, windy. Wind I only met like this once before in a sandstorm in the Sahara.
And then the rain came.
Three ferries to Athens had been postponed and some refugee broke the lock on the abandoned former swimming pool hall next to the port. Thousands of people have been there since yesterday afternoon. Four of us stayed at Moria through the night and another small group went with tons of water, food, blankets, ponchos… The camp was near empty. Mallory and I took turns running to the Syrian side to see if there was anyone that needed anything, but it was calm.
The people that came in the night were soaking wet and we changed them all in the distribution tent. A group of Moroccans, late 20’s, early 30’s, came before the rain started. One had a ‘love at first sight’ moment with me. I’ve never seen anyone look at me in this way for this long. He was head over heels in love and we didn’t share a word in a common language. He stared at me, with the most adoration I’ve ever seen. He was so transparent. He kept repeating my name…. It was so pure. He tried to kiss me sometimes and I always avoided it because I didn’t know what it would create in him. It felt disgusting to push him away when his lips wanted to come to mine, but I didn’t have the external clarity to know if this is okay or not. But innerly I knew, this is about lust and longing and landing for him. Isn’t a kiss the least I can give to a man that looks at me like this?
I saw him a last time at the buses to Mitilini with his friends, ready to head to the port and I decided, I will just kiss him, really kiss him. No man I’ve ever kissed has been so outwardly happy. And I think I never created so much commotion through a kiss! His friends made so much fuss and others standing around were totally amused.
But it was beautiful. Human contact. Eros. How should these young single men make these awful journeys without Eros?! Isn’t this a large part of what creates the terror in their homelands – suppression of life energy!?
I went to sort out the buses for the port at 5am. There were maybe 1000 people standing there waiting; some began to fight. It was a very tense situation. It is always both. Some were fighting and some were so calm it seemed they didn’t care if they missed the bus and lost their thousands of Euros spent on ferry tickets…
We went to the port, Mallory, Shah, Cyrill and I, around 9:30, with resources and our open hearts, and stayed until around noon. It was a madhouse. Over 1000 people in this abandoned swimming hall. It was amazing to me that I was really expecting much worse. Much more filth, much more desperation. My barometer of normality and especially of cleanliness has become really distorted, because I think objectively any normal person would’ve said it is absolutely disgusting in there. There were maybe 2 volunteers when we arrived, but by the time I left there was at least 20, and many were beautiful refugees with tons of energy that wanted to support.
It is quite a feeling to walk into such a space and know so many people, so many refugees, by face, by story, by remembering just how wet they were two days before, how they kissed you on that first night when they arrived and you offered diapers for their small child.
I met a Syrian woman with so much energy who I had met the day before at Moria. She was in such good spirits at Moria. She came up to me to say thank you for the work of the volunteers and pulled out a bag of raisins, “Do you know dry fruits?” she asked. “Please take one; my mother made them; it is for giving lots of energy to you!!”
There was another young woman, maybe 18 years old, that I had met at Moria with her family. She is so beautiful. And at the port, she was in total panic and exhaustion, at the point of losing her voice and on the edge of breaking down. She was so disgusted by the abandoned arena they’d been stuck in for two days that she said, “If this is the alternative, I want to go back to Syria!” What a statement! What a perspective!
The weather doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I pray it clears up so the people can move on soon and in a safe way.
Sometimes it feels like I am just watching TV. Some crazy horror news on DemocracyNow! But it is real life and I am here, fully in it.
And still the children play and it is so easy to make people laugh.
16 January 2016
5 rescue divers were arrested some days ago for “human trafficking.” Their bail is 5000 Euro each, and one must pay 10,000 and cannot leave Greece for 18 months. What insanity! Who is pulling the strings?
Irma Fäthke, from Tamera, arrived this morning. I was so happy to see her, so happy to share a room with this woman filled with life experience, community experience, experience in crisis areas. She came bearing such precious gifts for me. Three letters – one from Leila with a generous donation attached, one from my dearest friend Mara, one from my beloved Martin. I had the second big cry since I’ve been here reading these letters. They were tears of gratitude and tears of sorrow… I thought, who will love all of these people that I meet every day in this immense way that I am loved? I come time and again back to the same question throughout my life, ‘What is the greater meaning behind the incredible privilege and opportunities that my life holds?’ I could just as easily been born a Syrian woman; I could’ve been born into sexual slavery; I could’ve been born a man with no options or perspective, filled with such propaganda that I must become a mean human trafficker. The ‘why’ of my life keeps me busy over the years, but the ‘how’ is so clear: that I must use my privilege for peace on this Earth remains unwavering.
Three Eritrean women wanted to leave Moria to Athens so badly today. They only $50 among them. I asked in our RefuGEN gathering tonight and Irma and Michael each gave 50Euro; enough for their ferries to Athens… Such a gift it is to have easy support!
15 January 2016
Another long night shift last night.
A beautiful and tough one. I think we did well all the same.
We had two time blocks where four buses came at once, with more buses stretched out in between. The first time wasn’t so stressy; the second time was. The others working distribution, apart from my dear friend Mallory, were brand new. It is not easy to organize them and instruct them, and care for hundreds of people, but this was also not my first time in this situation and we managed.
I took a woman to the porta potties and on this short walk she told me she had been on a dinghy 10 days ago that had men follow them to sea on jet skis. They pointed guns at the people on the dinghies and as they pleaded not to shoot, that there are children on board, one of the men slashed the little boat with a knife. They were pulled to safety by helicopters. What is happening on the Turkish side is so far from humane. And I don’t know who is responsible. It would be so easy to just arrange proper ferries to transport the people instead of giving millions of Euros to smugglers and the Turkish mafia.
A beautiful little 8-day-old baby arrived with her very young mama and papa in the wee hours of the morning. I took the woman and the baby to the doctor, just to make sure they are okay. In this time the shifts changed and the father was separated from them. He was in such stress and after nearly two hours I found where his wife and baby were. I walked him over to the family compound and on the way apologized, “You know Abdul, the place I will take you is really not beautiful at all; it feels like a prison, but it is by far the nicest accommodation we have.” He laughed, “Everything is luxury, everything is easy, even beautiful, if you compare it to where I’m coming from.” His mother had taken the same route to Germany 6 months ago. She called him in Syria and said, “There are only two options: either you die there or your try to make it on the sea.”
The Greek police closed the gates at Afghan Hill tonight. This makes the volunteer work infinitely more challenging. I think it is a tactic connected with having Frontex on 24/7. That they are tightening protocol, that they want to push out the volunteers, that they want to control. I question if this is organized by the higher authorities in Brussels… Anyone with insights here is welcome to share.
14 January 2016
Back from an extra long night shift. I was distribution coordinator. When the morning crew came in, their shift leader asked if I could stay – they were over staffed, but apart from Ellie, the distribution leader, and sweet, slow, old Gale, everyone was on their first shift. Two boats had come in since our shifts changed over and it was total chaos. So I jumped in to coordinate the new female volunteers, shouting orders to new volunteers like a madwoman and sorting the storage and changing wet babies and mamas… After a while, I was at my limit. It quieted down a lot and then Dror arrived. I had invited the three new ReguGEN arrivals for a tour of Moria and then with such an influx of women and children, passed the tour on to our oh-so-wonderful shift-leader, Remy. I met up with their tour, but on the side cared for some beautiful guys that had arrived in the night, hadn’t slept in days and needed shelter. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) – responsible for finding accomodations on the Syrian side – told me they were in a meeting and to come back in 6 hours… this is not uncommon. And so I brought the guys back to Afghan Hill – “Better Days for Moria” – where I am based and where the real adhoc coordination is cared for. I found and cleaned a tent best I could and brought them sleeping bags. The bags under these men’s eyes were awful and so I didn’t ask them to help. They were so grateful. One told his friend that he wished he could speak better English so he could thank me in the proper way.
The whole night was filled with such gifts of appreciation. I do not expect it. The opposite actually. I sometimes think it would be refreshing for someone to spit on me for the awful things my country of origin has done to their people, to the whole world. But they do not. They kiss me. They kiss me and kiss me. And all I did was find pants that fit their child or take them to see the doctor.
I even have to shout sometimes, and this is not at all easy for me. I need to because I know they are in a super desperate situation, but if they are dry enough and their shoes are just a bit too big, they will be okay, but that there are people whose boat practically sank lining up for clothes and they need something more urgently. I am in a constant conflict here. How to stay with an open heart and know that I cannot provide everything they need then and there?! How to always ‘Speak, think and act in a way that peace arises in me’?
Frontex (EU’s border guards) is, as of the past three nights, working 24/7, at least for the Syrians and Iraqis. It seems like a good thing – that the people who arrive can get through, sometimes even the same night. But I do not know what is behind it. I do not think it is good… especially as more and more states are closing their borders. What are the intentions in the EU’s plans with Greece? What is happening in the media (Paris and Cologne) and through the fascist groups erupting in central Europe? What deals are being made under the table? And how will this affect Better Days for Moria’s work, which in reality is the heart behind the whole thing?
Warm greetings to the GEN community and its followers! What an amazing privilege to have people around the world to support you – I bow my head in humility!
Dara Silverman (m) with refugees
Since I last wrote, we had a few very busy night shifts at Moria. I, along with another Brooklynite, Mallory, have become a night shift leader for distribution. Thousands of people made it to cross the sea and arrived at Moria over two days; the place was packed full and people had to sleep in the mud or, in better cases, on shipping pallets, because there was simply no other shelter in tents. Buses of people arrived one after the next, sometimes three at a time. And you rush 50 women and children into a tent to change out of their soaking clothes and you know you can’t be too accommodating because there are 50 more outside and many more on their way. Their shoes are soaking wet and you can only give them pieces of emergency blankets and new socks because we simply don’t have enough shoes and we know that soon a boat will arrive with people that have no shoes at all. It is not at all easy to look someone in the eye and tell them you cannot give them such a basic things as shoes, knowing well that they will need to walk an incredibly long distance, or that they will be living for months in Athen’s Victoria Station.
Some people arrive very traumatized. It is not uncommon that women, who in a state of shock, with 4 children screaming and cold, wander into the distribution storage to shop for themselves, leaving their tiny children behind. An interesting coping mechanism. I cared for a 4 year old the other night with a nose so broken that half his face was bruised; a baby, no more than a few weeks old, which had apparently fallen off the boat into the sea – rushing people to the medical tent then back to dress others…
The situation for the women is very tough. Many are raped at the camp. Many don’t tell it because they are afraid they won’t be allowed to move on. I even heard of a man who let the traffickers on the Turkish side rape his wife in exchange for the family’s journey on the sea. I cannot imagine anyone can do this if they have other options.
Yet the majority of the people that arrive seem simply grateful for life itself. They are so happy to be alive, to be on European ground, to not have had the same fate as the boats they saw wash back up on the Turkish coast the day before they made the journey. They are humble and proud and so, so kind. They kiss you once you’ve found a proper coat for them or when you offer menstrual pads or diapers to young mothers.
There were also a few nights that were calm. Likely because no boats could’ve made it in the high wind and storm. I hold those that tried and didn’t make it very close.
I am always grateful to have deeper contacts with people. And the past days they have been abundant. In the quieter nights and calm dawns, I have made contacts that feel important. A Syrian family came close to me over a few days – a mama, papa, and 5 kids. Then one morning I finished my shift and ran to catch the bus back to town. It was hugely overcrowded and I was squished against the window with this same family. While I played games with the kids, the father and the bus driver discussed ‘Mama Merkel’ politics. What a polarity of experience! For the Syrian family, she offers immense hope (I’ve met three small babies since I’m here that are actually named Angela Merkel!!). But the bus driver said, “Two years ago, I drove this bus 8 hours/day, 5 days/week and made 2000 Euro. Now I drive the bus 12 hours/day, 7 days/week and make 500… That’s your Mama Merkel.” It was hot and, filled with too many opinions myself, I didn’t get too involved…
A 23 year old, beautiful man, an English literature student from Damascus also became a friend. He came 2 days ago and said, “I know you aren’t allowed to give me shoes, but please, please, I am really getting sick.” And I looked into his eyes and couldn’t not. He traded his really good, wet sneakers for a shitty pair that were dry and then came back sometimes after that. He later told me about how it is in Syria… “The war, you know, it just becomes so normal. You are having something for lunch and then a bomb falls behind you. You meet up with some friends and a bomb falls across the street. There are more than ten dangerous groups… You can’t know who to trust.”
Yesterday I was walking home, carrying a lot of stuff and there he was with his two friends. They got their registration papers and were ready to take the ferry that night. They all jumped up to take the packages I was carrying and we walked to the RefuGEN flat together. I insisted that they come and take tea. They were so shy. One gave me his scarf and I told him I will keep it with me all the time until I know that they have arrived somewhere safe. I walk with a constant prayer around my neck for these young guys.
There are quite some more new friends, but it is for another time.
Also, I am proud to announce that my beloved community, Tamera, with initiation from Sabine Lichtenfels and Leila Dregger take a 3-month commitment to focus, intellectually and spiritually, on how to end war in Syria. I am nourished by knowing they do this. It is also a big support for me. And still there are so many questions. Syria is not at all the only war zone. Not even the majority of people that are crossing the Aegean Sea are Syrian. People are fleeing from everywhere it seems. Syria experiences atrocious things; they know the war in a horrible way. In this way, I know that if there is a major shift in Syria, like in Israel-Palestine, it will be far easier for the global morphogenetic field to shift. And at the same time this refugee crisis is so huge, so global, so personal, so impersonal. And there I know that the work we do in Tamera is so important. We must end war on all levels!
I check out now with gratitude. Gratitude feels omnipresent. The people I will greet tonight at Moria have made it! I have friends that I can always rely on. I have a partner that is alive. I even have residencies in two continents that are perhaps considered ‘safest’ in the world. But these days my gratitude comes down to the very essentials. I have shoes… I am so grateful that I have shoes.
Greetings to the peace workers around the globe. Please be advised that this post is not light in its content…
I’ve turned my schedule upside down and have committed to the night shifts at Moria’s distribution tent, handing out clothes and other basic necessities. Quickly changing the people that arrive off boats wet and freezing.
A few nights ago was very calm. Only one bus came in. Many, more than 20, small children arrived soaking wet and cold. Rain was pouring down and the only other woman on the night shift and I took all the women and children into a tent to change. It was mayhem.
One small girl, three or four-years-old, cried primordially, ceaselessly. “She’s been crying this way through the whole boat ride because she wants her brother,” a man tells through a translator. The fate of her brother, I do not know.
The man that had driven the boat told about it with such pride. Those that drive the boat are just other brave refugees with the lives of 50, 60 people in their hands.
Two nights ago was another quiet night shift at Moria. Quiet because none of the boats that left Turkey made it to Greece. Up to 100 people, many of them children died at sea that night.
At the hands of the traffickers, the people have no option. Traveling over the sea in stormy weather is significantly cheaper than going on a calm sea. People, too afraid to board when they see the flimsy rafts, are frequently shot by the traffickers.
News came in that a knockoff life-vest factory was shut down in Turkey last night for manufacturing vests filled with non-buoyant foam. This is certainly not the only factory.
If they make it to Greece, there are not many options for non-Syrians and Iraqis. Afghanis are separated on the side where I am working, along with many other nationalities. Along with Somalis, Eritreans, Iranians, quite some are so-called ‘economic refugees’ from Morocco, Algeria, etc. Most of these people have no options once they arrive in Greece. Most that arrive insist they are Syrians and are heavily interrogated. Often the North Africans are threatened with arrest. Sometimes they are arrested. If they are sent back to their homeland without passports, they are usually not accepted back.
The struggle between the different ethnic groups is horrific. It is not uncommon that money, registration papers, passports are stolen. Groups beat other groups, often quite brutally. People avoid going to the medics because they are afraid they will have to stay at the camp.
They finally arrive in the land that they expect to hold great promise, and must stay in Moria, which often feels like a concentration camp. Or they get to Athens, sometimes with fake registration papers and live in subway stations overcrowded with refugees – ‘illegal,’ broke, traumatized.
And I ask myself, ‘what kind of humanity can exist in such a field of separation to allow this to happen? Any of it? How can it be that human beings can wage such tactical wars? How can it be that human beings can commit such atrocities? How can a person intentionally want to hurt another person? How can we have moved so far away from our inherent connection with nature to exploit her and her people so profoundly? Where is the higher power, this world that created us, in these times?’
I feel embodied in my inner child asking these questions.
I know that, as Dieter Duhm writes, “Violence is the eruption of blocked life energies.” I know where this separation originates, both theoretically and in my cells, and still I cannot understand it. I find myself often with the question, ‘what is this human experience all about?’
The separation manifests as reality on these peoples’ paths, but it is also just an illusion. I experience the unity in this human experience so strongly, especially as I try to sleep. My own heartbeat always feels very close. There is a common pulse in the body of the Earth, with which we are all connected. And I know this is the same pulse that moves through me that also moves through the people terrified at sea right now; the same, however slowed, beat as the small baby that died of hypothermia the other night in a Lesbos camp; it is also the same as in the human beings that stand behind their guns – the American soldiers, the Islamic State fighters, the traffickers. We are having this human experience together, however distant it may appear. TAT TVAM ASI!
The best service I can do is to be working here with my heart wide open – to encounter the people with all the life joy and warmth that I have from my source. It is surprisingly easy to do.
It sometimes feels like it’s nothing more than a nightmare and we will soon all awake in the paradise that this life can be.
Peace workers around the world, may we find the power that is stronger than all violence!
Good evening to the GEN community and its supporters. Greetings from Lesbos! Two days on the island and it feels like a week; so much has already happened, so many impressions.
Warmly welcomed by a beautiful RefuGEN team here, I took the past two days to find orientation and see where I can be best in service. I would strongly recommend doing so to the new volunteers that arrive.
The first day was a soft landing space at Pikpa, the All Together Village. A community field is developing and the work feels very light, intertwined with lots of contact with the people living there. I took responsibility for cleaning the toilets and showers when I arrived and after a few minutes two young men from Algeria and Morocco joined me, grateful to have somewhere to put their high energy, practice their English, and flirt. Then I cut emergency blankets into foot-sized pieces to be sent to Moria for people to stuff into their socks. I walked through the garden that Aida and Leila established. It has a lot of potential and another RefuGEN comrade, Klaus, has taken responsibility for it. Pikpa prepares hundred of meals every day for the people that arrive in Moria and so together with 10 others, refugees and volunteers, we packaged Mujadara into maybe 700 containers. We were efficient and the work was joyful.
We debriefed over a long dinner with the RefuGEN team, as we do every night.
The next morning, Alfred, volunteering with RefuGEN through Heilhaus, and I got up at 4:30 to patrol the beaches with two other women, Eileen and Helle. Three boats arrived on the shore in the time we were there, a drastic decrease from the previous months, and yet you see that there are ~150 precious human lives arriving on these cheap, flimsy dinghies they drive themselves with across the Aegean Sea. Unknown where these boats will arrive on the shore, organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Refugee Boat Foundation, some very courageous divers, and others scout the sea and we followed in our rental car. When the first two boats landed on shore I wondered what we are doing there. I couldn’t orient myself as to where to support because there were so many people really prepared to help, well equipped with emergency blankets, water, food, boxes of clothes. I grew very uncomfortable, questioning if what we are doing makes any sense or if we are something like refugee tourists.
But the third dinghy that arrived in the morning was not easily found and not over-attended. It had seemingly lost its motor somewhere along the journey and was spinning and floating where the waves wanted to take it. The divers went in and the boat landed safely onshore. Not many other volunteers there to receive them and after observing the previous two, I knew what to do. Emergency blankets on them, grabbing cases of bottled water, boxes of cereal bars, and the people, oh the people. They are incredible, resilient, powerful! Filled with gratitude, many able to make real contact. A man, deeply traumatized, with many bullet wounds and scars is terrified, and begs us not to hurt him. Another steps off the boat, arms in the air, falls to the ground, “ALHAMDULILLAH!” praise be to God, he shouts over and over again.
Between the second and third boat that arrived, the sun began to rise. It wasn’t really, but it felt like the most beautiful sunrise I’d ever seen. And as I watched the colors, and the depth, the vastness constantly averting my gaze to search for the boat, I thought about the phrase we often say in Tamera:
There is the world that we create. And there is the world that has created us. These two worlds must come together. That is the goal of our journey.
I worked the night shift (midnight – 8am) at Moria last night and head back again there tonight with Alfred’s sons, Claudio and Luka, who work every night shift. They are beautiful young guys with an endless supply of energy and such good hearts. It poured rain all yesterday evening and sporadically through the night. And I prayed deeply last night that no one would put their lives in such danger to try to cross the sea. (Smugglers in Turkey charge much less to cross in stormy weather). No boats came in. And we had a calm evening. Luka and Claudio built a makeshift bridge over the unintentional pond that formed on Afghan Hill. I worked the Distribution Tent and spent hours sorting through clothes and shoe donations that were left in the rain. Two young Afghani men joined for hours in the wee hours and paired shoes to be washed by the “Dirty Girls.” And we had a good time among the volunteers.
Hundreds of people began arriving in the early morning hours, cold and wet, and needing clothes.
After a calm day today weather-wise, we expect many boats to arrive tonight.
Please keep these people in your hearts and prayers. Please pray for their safe arrival. Pray for their guided journeys as they leave the island. Pray for a definite end to war on this beloved planet Earth.
Thank you and alhamdulillah!