In the early Autumn of 2015 a group of people that have successfully set up and maintained a refugee support operation in Pedio of Areos and Victoria square of central Athens, decided to move it where it has become the front line of the largest refugee movements in history since WWII, one of the Greek islands of the Eastern Aegean. By that time islands such as Lesvos, Chios, Kos, Leros, Samos and Kalymnos, places with already very limited resources of their own, have become the pinch points of a vast river of human desperation and fear, while several European countries ‘downstream’ of that river started raising border fences in response. A rescue and relief initiative was then set up in the North shore of Lesvos by people from an anarchist-autonomous cell based in Athens, and provisioned by a local charity called ‘Angalia’ (which means ‘Embrace’ in Greek) founded by Papa-Stratis, a Greek Orthodox priest (now deceased), in the village of Kaloni.
It was around those original and determined efforts that a most improbable set of volunteers from Greece and around the World coalesced to help. The chosen base of operations was to be near Skala Sykaminias, a beautiful small village in the North shores of Lesvos. Rescue and relief efforts were to extend as much as possible along the coast on either side of that village, but mostly towards the road-accessible parts of the coastline towards Molyvos. This was the stage where people from an almost unbelievably wide range of nationalities, political and religious beliefs (or not), workers in various NGOs, came together and cooperated (even if sometimes uneasily) towards saving lives and giving shelter and safety to the refugees arriving in large waves from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. There were rescue and relief workers from Athens, Patra, and the city of Mytilene, as well as Norway, Spain, Italy, Denmark, the UK, Israel, The Netherlands, and even from further out places like the USA, and from a certain Far East Asian nation from where our field cook was hailing from. All of them, along with local fishermen, the heroic Greek Coast Guard, the island police force, FRONTEX sailors, and even a Norway-contributed patrol boat, went out on a limb to help at all levels, day and night. I hope this account does justice to all their efforts during those early and difficult times when we stood on those shores, at the cusp of rapidly rising refugee flows, with very few resources.