Andreas Vasiliou, Hotel owner in Rovies, Evia, hosting refugees in the context of the SolidarityNow program “Home for Hope”
Rovies is my village, a small holiday resort in eastern Evia and I, the owner of a small hotel that has been converted into a home for refugee families from Syria. I have talked many times about the reasons that led me to this decision; I have been one of the many volunteers who traveled to Idomeni and Diavata since the beginning of this humanitarian crisis to help refugees who arrived in our country, forced to abandon their warring own.
Time passes in this beautiful small village of Greece, in a different but so lovely way, while the change in many of fellow men occurs every day in front of my eyes and is expressed by everyone in a diverse way. I felt the need to write about this change, because I greatly appreciate people’s courage to admit their own mistake, and I find it hopeful to see them, but also to contribute, to altering for the better!
During the last days, two local professionals talked to me about refugees and how well they have been integrated in our society, admitting that “their initial fears proved to be groundless”. Indeed. With our joint effort, the local community’s, my own and the organization’s that supports us -SolidarityNow-, the social integration of refugees no longer seem to be impossible.
Hope is here; people change and learn, if they are given the time to adapt to an unexpected change, as I will outline below with some examples:
– My cousin, with whom we do not associate because of his extreme right-wing rhetoric, he pleased me with a small but characteristic gesture; one day he parked his car a bit further from the hotel fence and secretly passed through a bag full of clothes he had brought for the children.
– The descendant of a National Army officer who, along with his wife, supported us from the beginning, have brought a whole collection of clothes; and they have such a great taste!
– The always calm and smiling lady became furious when she heard Asia Minor Greeks speaking negatively about the refugees, in our meeting that took place about a year ago.
– During the same meeting, a friend of mine who never speaks about politics, cried remembering having heard the same accusations for her son, when he left as an immigrant to Germany.
– The old lady, who on the first day the refugees arrived at the hotel, while many still lived in fear, smiled at an elderly couple standing outside her courtyard to look at the embroidery she was preparing. She invited them in her house and offered them coffee and sweet; without understanding a word of each other’s language, they spent the whole afternoon together, with the grandmothers “discussing” for their embroideries.
– The businessman, with whom we had argued fiercely in the past, when asked to act against the refugees’ arrival in our village, he steadily replied that he goes to Asia Minor every year, where his family comes from; thus, he thought, acting against the refugees would be an insult to his ancestors.
Of course, there is a flip side to this coin; the aggressive, hostile attitude on behalf of few people who do not want or won’t admit how unfair and prejudiced their behaviour is.
Personally, I prefer to deal with the majority that, either from the beginning or later, they overcome the initial ignorance or fear and open their arms for the refugees; these people turn their solidarity into action and they engage themselves in the refugees’ relief effort.
Yes! Sometimes, after all, there is a silver lining!