Chapter 19: The meeting

The next day, during another lull in our operations (the late afternoon ‘break’ still part of the pattern of boat arrivals), me and Apollo show up at the cafe in Sykaminia’s small harbour in order to have a discussion with representatives from Faros and two people from the village. One of the locals was Soula, the wife of Lefteris operating the tavern at Mouria (where NGO people and us would often eat), and the other was Kostas, a fisherman. Rob was there from Faros, along with Lea, a doctor (they now had acquired one), and another worker from the same NGO, an Indian called Ramesh.

Apollo is another anarchist of the camp, sporting a long thick goatee, wire-framed round glasses, and around 18-20 years old. Not fond of priests (even as our efforts at Sykaminia were provisioned by a charity founded by one), and with the habit of calling his mates beautiful μπαχαλόκοσμο (=bachalokosmo) the last word meaning ‘wrecking-crowd’ in Greek (a nickname that probably alluded to their frequent confrontations with police forces in Athens). He was very dogmatic for his young age, and considered all people wearing uniform, no matter if it was Greek police, or the Coast Guard (and of course the Army) as fundamentally flawed in principle. This despite many discussions with Yannis, that correctly pointed to him that the Greek Coast Guard, as well as the Greek police, mostly helped us and the refugees (the Greek police force on the island was cracking down hard on the few individuals that transported refugees for a fee). Still, there was no convincing of young Apollo whose near-religious attachment to his worldviews and lack of any doubts, was at the exclusion of any alternative views. He was a resident of Νεφελοκοκκυγία[1], and he liked it up there. As with Alexandros, all his initiatives and actions on the coast reflected his very different political axioms, but carried also their fundamental boundaries. Today the latter would come to the fore, jeopardizing the very effort we all put on that coast.

In one of the funniest talk-past-one non-exchange-but-foisting one’s views I have ever witnessed, little Apollo gave a brief speech about the anarchist point of view of NGOs, and why they are all tools, and why we would thus keep occupying a piece of public land in defiance of any authority, and not accept any Faros representatives anywhere near us, but yes we could use those tents of theirs, provided they just left it all to us. Soula rolled her eyes, the Faros people looked at each other perplexed with Lea looking really upset. Seeing all this I figured there was no hope, and understood why the mayor of Sykaminia did not want to meet with any of us from Stage-1 anymore, anarchist or not. At the end of that meeting we at least agreed to write up a common protocol of conduct for deciding levels of medical emergency and corresponding responses for the refugees arriving on the coast. After this they all got up and left.

I stayed behind to talk a bit with Soula and Kostas. ‘They just did not consult anybody when they set up that camp, and several locals are upset by this’ Soula tells me, ‘and their continuing manner does not help either’ she continues, with Kostas echoing similar views. I ask her whether I should talk with the mayor of Sykaminia, ‘I don’t think he wants to talk with any of you right now, but I will tell him when I see him’ Soula says. ‘Please understand that many people here do want to help you, but they are upset by the arbitrariness of the acts of the people from your camp’ she tells me before I leave to go back to the camp. I nod in an understanding but resigned way, thanking them and walk back. ‘We may need to go to the Mayor of Lesvos, otherwise we are screwed if this goes on’ I think while walking back to the camp.

The next day at our operations area I see Manos the EINA doctor and tell him what happened in the meeting. ‘I think we should go to the Mayor of Lesvos himself’ I tell him, ‘only he can save the camp, the local municipality wants it shut in two days…’ I tell Manos. ‘I went to talk to the Sykaminia mayor sometime ago’ Manos tells me, and the mayor’s response was one of exasperation, not knowing what to do with our friends behaving so arbitrarily.

‘Maybe we should indeed go and talk all the way to the top, the mayor of Lesvos’ Manos says, ‘Let me talk to Meliades, and Iman (the Greek-Syrian doctor), and maybe we can all go there tomorrow’ he continues. ‘Great, I will also talk to Yannis to come along’ I tell him, ‘with all of us helping here but not belonging to the political framework of our friends, it may help to solve this’.  We part to go to our various tasks, and agree to meet mid-day tomorrow. The rest of that day saw the arrival of 20 boats, each with around 40-50 people on it, on our segment of the coast alone. This amounts to nearly one thousand refugees arriving within a single day. Ominously Stage-2 and even the more distant Medecins sans Frontieres camp at Mantamados started filling up.


[1] Pronounced Nefelokokygia, is the imaginary city of birds up in the sky where two citizens of Ancient Athens go to live, dismayed by the demagogues and the political order of their day, in Aristophanes’ comedy play: ‘The Birds’