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Bread For The Journey: The Greek Baker Who Remembers

The place are the babies The place are the babies ” asks 76-year-previous Dionysis Arvanitakis as he hands out rolls of bread and assorted pastries to refugees from the back of his bakery van on the Greek holiday island of Kos.

An extended line of mostly younger males from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea line up under the new mid-morning sun, holding their hands out gently, as if standing for communion, under the thick stone walls of the Castle of the Knights that anchors the island’s port.

Arvanitakis tears long loaves in two, and appears every individual in the attention as they method. A balding Syrian man pauses earlier than receiving a chunk, and reaches out to hold both sides of the baker’s face, kissing him atop the pinnacle in gratitude.

The baker fingers us a metallic tray filled with pink and chocolate glazed donuts, and asks us to serve the mothers and youngsters 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 old locals and vacationers alike with a gentle smile and strong handshake.

Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Commission, praised the Greek baker in his annual State of the Union address on September 9th to the European Parliament. In his speech centered on the gravest world refugee crisis since World War II, Juncker implored Europeans to “remember effectively that Europe is a continent where almost everybody has at one time been a refugee.”

“Europe is the baker in Kos who provides away his bread to hungry and weary souls,” Juncker concluded in a nod to Arvanitakis. “This is the Europe I wish to dwell in.”

The isle of Kos is likely one of the closest gateways to the European Union, with the homes and lights of the island clearly visible from the Turkish resort city of Bodrum simply two and a half nautical miles throughout Aegean waters.

Smugglers based in Turkey charge refugees $1,500 or more per person to make the perilous crossing to Kos, while day-tripping vacationers solely want pay $17 (with the suitable passport) for the easy half-hour excursion journey. Refugees are piled into rubber dinghies in the black of evening, with as many as stone island outlet roma 70 men, women and kids on flimsy sixteen-foot vessels, and informed by smugglers to paddle on their very own towards the lights of Kos.

Kos was the meant destination for the Syrian three-12 months-outdated 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 lying 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, one other forty refugees and migrants crossing the waters between Greece and Turkey are reported dead or missing.

Every morning, Arvanitakis rises early to bake an additional 200 pounds or extra of bread and pastries to load in his van. And each morning here, refugees swim to shore off overcrowded inflatable rubber boats, walking to the primary port in sea-soaked clothes searching for water, meals and shelter.

The baker slowly steers his small white van up onto the seaside bike lane, weaving through refugees and vacationers alike, to make his first cease straight in front of the port police station. New arrivals congregate in packed quarters there, anxiously awaiting registration papers for their next voyage on to Athens, the place most will start their walk to northern Europe.

The every day ritual of passing out bread takes place a few hundred yards from the celebrated Oriental aircraft tree the place Hippocrates, the father of drugs born on Kos around 460 BC, purportedly taught his medical students ethics and methods to care for others.

Arvanitakis is aware of deprivation himself, having grown up poor in the Peloponnese, the southern peninsula of mainland Greece. He advised us that after difficult times there his household chose to migrate to Australia when he was 16. He was “always working, operating” on the lookout for work in his new country, and at last secured a job as a pastry chef.

In 1970, after saving sufficient money, he returned to Greece and landed on Kos, where his wife Evangelia stone island outlet roma was born and where he soon opened up his own bakery. He and his son Stavros have since grown the enterprise to seven areas, now the most important bakery on Kos.

“Someone who has not starved, cannot put themselves in these folks’s sneakers,” Arvanitakis advised the Greek media after Junker’s speech. “‘It is ‘us’ and ‘them’ on the same island; two parallel lines, that by some means converge to the very that means of the word ‘human’.”

The most effective and worst of the human spirit has been awakened on Kos by the flood of refugees washing ashore. Native Greek lodge house owners have made sandwiches and handed out leftover travel supplies donated by guests. Stone Island Online We interviewed European tourists giving up their holidays to ship food, water and travel gear. Two couples from Iran donated 300 pounds of food and aid. Two German sisters organized Kos Refugees Want Your Help that serves 800 warm meals daily. Dutch citizens volunteer for the Boat Refugee Basis, which has over 200 extra volunteers signed up in Holland to come back help for every week or longer.

At the identical time, Amnesty International witnessed “a violent assault on refugees” in Kos a number of weeks in the past, observing a gaggle of 15-25 thugs hitting them with bats whereas telling them “to return to their very own country.”

A 60-year-previous English volunteer from London advised us that she witnessed two refugees being attacked the earlier night by black-shirted extremists whereas sitting peacefully exterior their tents. One refugee had his leg damaged and the other had large welts from a beating throughout his back (she confirmed us images taken on her cellphone). When she tried to intervene, she was pushed to the bottom and threatened by the attackers.

The gravity of the refugee disaster vastly compounds the affect of the six years of Greece’s grave financial depression and an extended summer season of political instability. The wave of refugees has clearly heightened the overall anxiety of the times, fueling nationalist anger whereas overwhelming cash-strapped and understaffed authorities on Kos and different impacted close by islands.

The nation is exhausted and almost broke, and is on the frontline of the surge of refugees fleeing wars in the Middle East and Africa and migrants looking for a greater life in Europe. With out ample financial support from wealthier European international locations where most refugees hope to settle, Greece and its eastern islands is not going to have the ability to cope with the immigrant move heading into the winter months.

The mayor of Kos, however, has thus far refused requests by the UN Excessive Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to set-up a refugee reception center and correct housing away from the island port and vacationer areas, in concern of attracting more refugees and migrants.

“I feel ashamed of the Greeks who’re so upset about this situation,” stated the 28 yr-old daughter at a well-liked household-run lodge. “In every household right here you have got family members who left the nation to seek out a greater life. Many went out and did well. However now folks overlook.”

It has been greater than 60 years since Dionysis Arvanitakis left Greece to seek out better fortunes in a faraway land. As he stacks up dozens of empty baking trays in the back of his van after another morning spherical of serving to to feed refugees, one thing is sure: the “Baker in Kos” clearly remembers from where he came.

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