Today we are heading to the port of Athens. We are going to ask the refugees we talk to two questions:
· What did you do for work before you became a refugee?
· What was your life like?
· What gives you meaning and purpose to move forward?
Yesterday we asked Salah, a Syrian refugee, those three questions. He was a food sciences engineer when he was in Syria and he had been living in a tent at the port of Athens for five months. When I asked him about what his life was like he replied “In Syria we had dignity. Living here is for animals.”
Before we spoke with Salah, we went to a squat – an abandoned building that a group of refugees had been living in. It was an old school, lockers lined the walls, the classrooms were divided into family homes by sheets and tents. One refugee said that this place was “paradise,” they had running water and a roof over their heads. Yes they were living in an abandoned classroom, but they were lucky to have what they do. Believe it or not, there is a waiting list to live in the school.
A small girl, no older than 3, grabbed my hand as soon as I walked into the building. After playing with her for about ten minutes (which consisted of a lot of tickling and chasing) she pulled me and my friends from the Worldwide Tribe up the stairs to meet her family. She lived in a classroom with her mother, her four siblings, her three cousins, and her aunt. I spoke to her mother in what little English she knew, and I asked her about her husband – the father of her five children. One of the other daughters had just showed me a picture of him and told me “he went away.” The mother made the motion of putting two hands together under her head, indicating a sleeping person – her husband was dead.
When I spoke to her for a few more minutes I learned that her four-year-old son had died on the boat ride over to Greece. She was alone without her son and her husband – with five children to take care of.
The goal of our film today, is to show who these refugees are. Yes they have suffered, yes there has been unspeakable pain in their lives, but they aren't just refugees. They are people with agency, with hopes, with dreams, with love.