Bread For The Journey: The Greek Baker Who Remembers
The place are the infants The place are the infants ” asks 76-yr-previous Dionysis Arvanitakis as he fingers out rolls of bread and assorted pastries to refugees from the back of his bakery van on the Greek holiday island of Kos.
A protracted line of largely younger males from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea line up underneath the recent mid-morning solar, holding their fingers out gently, as if standing for communion, beneath the thick stone partitions of the Castle of the Knights that anchors the island’s port.
Arvanitakis tears long loaves in two, and appears each individual in the attention as they strategy. A balding Syrian man pauses earlier than receiving a bit, and reaches out to carry each sides of the baker’s face, kissing him atop the top in gratitude.
The baker arms us a metallic tray filled with pink and chocolate glazed donuts, and asks us to serve the mothers and kids camped out in shaded tents throughout the road. We had met Arvanitakis the earlier afternoon for a dialog at his downtown waterfront bakery, the place he warmly greets previous locals and vacationers alike with a gentle smile and robust handshake.
Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Fee, praised the Greek baker in his annual State of the Union deal with on September 9th to the European Parliament. In his speech targeted on the gravest international refugee disaster since World Struggle II, Juncker implored Europeans to “remember properly that Europe is a continent where almost everyone has at one time been a refugee.”
“Europe is the baker in Kos who offers away his bread to hungry and weary souls,” Juncker concluded in a nod to Arvanitakis. “That is the Europe I wish to reside in.”
The isle of Kos is likely one of the closest gateways to the European Union, with the houses and lights of the island clearly visible from the Turkish resort city of Bodrum just two and a half nautical miles throughout Aegean waters.
Smugglers based mostly in Turkey cost refugees $1,500 or extra per individual to make the perilous crossing to Kos, whereas day-tripping vacationers solely want pay $17 (with the precise passport) for the easy half-hour excursion experience. stone island jas paars Refugees are piled into rubber dinghies in the black of evening, with as many as 70 males, girls and youngsters on flimsy sixteen-foot vessels, and informed by smugglers to paddle on their very own in direction of the lights of Kos.
Kos was the intended destination for the Syrian three-12 months-old Aylan Kurdi, who along with his brother and mother drowned off a capsized dinghy and washed again ashore on Turkey. The picture of the boy mendacity lifeless and face down on shore sparked international consciousness and outrage earlier this month over the Mediterranean immigrant tragedy that has been growing for years.
Just this past weekend, another 40 refugees and migrants crossing the waters between Greece and Turkey are reported lifeless or lacking.
Each morning, Arvanitakis rises early to bake an additional 200 pounds or extra of bread and pastries to load in his van. And each morning right here, refugees swim to shore off overcrowded inflatable rubber boats, walking to the main port in sea-soaked clothes in search of water, food and shelter.
The baker slowly steers his small white van up onto the seaside bike lane, weaving via refugees and vacationers alike, to make his first cease straight in entrance of the port police station. New arrivals congregate in packed quarters there, anxiously awaiting registration papers for their subsequent voyage on to Athens, where most will start their walk to northern Europe.
The each day ritual of passing out bread takes place just a few hundred yards from the celebrated Oriental airplane tree the place Hippocrates, the father of medication born on Kos round 460 BC, purportedly taught his medical college students ethics and learn how to care for others.
Arvanitakis is aware of deprivation himself, having grown up poor within the Peloponnese, the southern peninsula of mainland Greece. He instructed us that after troublesome occasions there his family selected to migrate to Australia when he was sixteen. He was “all the time working, operating” in search of work in his new nation, and eventually secured a job as a pastry chef.
In 1970, after saving sufficient cash, he returned to Greece and landed on Kos, the place his spouse Evangelia was born and the place he quickly opened up his personal bakery. He and his son Stavros have since grown the enterprise to seven places, now the most important bakery on Kos.
“Somebody who has not starved, can not put themselves in these folks’s footwear,” Arvanitakis advised the Greek media after Junker’s speech. “‘It’s ‘us’ and ‘them’ on the identical island; two parallel strains, that one way or the other converge to the very that means of the phrase ‘human’.”
The perfect and worst of the human spirit has been awakened on Kos by the flood of refugees washing ashore. Native Greek lodge homeowners have made sandwiches and handed out leftover journey provides donated by friends. We interviewed European vacationers giving up their holidays to ship meals, water and journey gear. Two couples from Iran donated 300 pounds of meals and help. Two German sisters organized Kos Refugees Need Your Help that serves 800 warm meals day by day. Dutch citizens volunteer for the Boat Refugee Basis, which has over 200 extra volunteers signed up in Holland to return assist for per week or longer.
At the identical time, Amnesty Worldwide witnessed “a violent attack on refugees” in Kos a couple of weeks ago, observing a bunch of 15-25 thugs hitting them with bats while telling them “to go back to their very own nation.”
A 60-12 months-outdated English volunteer from London instructed us that she witnessed two refugees being attacked the earlier night by black-shirted extremists while sitting peacefully exterior their Stone Island Online tents. One refugee had his leg damaged and the other had massive welts from a beating throughout his again (she confirmed us photographs taken on her cellular phone). stone island jas paars When she tried to intervene, she was pushed to the ground and threatened by the attackers.
The gravity of the refugee crisis drastically compounds the affect of the six years of Greece’s grave financial depression and a protracted summer season of political instability. The wave of refugees has clearly heightened the overall anxiety of the instances, fueling nationalist anger while overwhelming cash-strapped and understaffed authorities on Kos and other impacted nearby islands.
The country is exhausted and nearly broke, and is on the frontline of the surge of refugees fleeing wars within the Center East and Africa and migrants looking for a greater life in Europe. With out satisfactory financial support from wealthier European countries where most refugees hope to settle, Greece and its jap islands is not going to be capable to cope with the immigrant move heading into the winter months.
The mayor of Kos, nonetheless, has to date refused requests by the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to set-up a refugee reception center and proper housing away from the island port and tourist areas, in worry of attracting extra refugees and migrants.
“I really feel ashamed of the Greeks who’re so upset about this example,” stated the 28 yr-previous daughter at a well-liked household-run lodge. “In each household right here you might have relations who left the nation to seek out a greater life. Many went out and did properly. However now individuals neglect.”
It’s been greater than 60 years since Dionysis Arvanitakis left Greece to search out higher fortunes in a faraway land. As he stacks up dozens of empty baking trays within the again of his van after one other morning spherical of helping to feed refugees, one thing is certain: the “Baker in Kos” clearly remembers from the place he came.