Saturday, October 21, 2017

Once Upon A Time In A Far Away Land...

Storyteller by Ankar Grossvater


…there was a tragedy.

How many of you think the refugee crisis is over in Greece? By that I mean, how many of you think unseaworthy vessels, filled to multiple times their capacities with desperate families fleeing conflict zones, are no longer attempting dangerous crossings from Turkey to Greece’s eastern Aegean islands?

I ask that question because of a back and forth I’ve experienced several times since returning to America from Greece two weeks ago.  The exchange goes something like this:

“So, Jeffrey, do you have a new book coming out?”

“Yes, in January.”

“What’s it called?”

An Aegean April.”

“Where’s this one placed?”

“On the Greek Aegean island of Lesvos, close by the Turkish coast.”

 “What’s it about?”

“The refugee crisis.”

“I thought that was over.”

I thought that was over is a phase equally apropos to any number of continuing human tragedies plaguing our world should the amount of American press coverage each receives be the measure applied to their significance. 

I’ve come to accept that, in our Trump-driven news world, virtually no story gains traction if it is not somehow tied into his persona. If he’s not involved or commenting, the headline writers are not interested. 

Remember that photograph of three-year old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, on that Turkish beach in Bodrum? 

Two years have passed, refugees of all ages are still dying, and the impact of the ongoing ill-addressed situation is having insidious effects upon refugees and islanders alike.   For the human traffickers, and those who profit by them, it’s all about the money and maintaining control over the inventory. 
Yes, the tragedy continues, whether or not the American media cares to give it much attention.  Here’s a story from earlier this week in Athens’ newspaper of record, Ekathimerini telling it like it really is…to wit, far, far from over:
Tensions Rise on Aegean Islands as Migrants Continue to Arrive.”

As dozens of migrants continue to land daily on the shores of eastern Aegean islands, and tensions rise in reception centers, local communities are becoming increasingly divided over growing migrant populations. 

A total of 438 people arrived on the islands aboard smuggling boats from Turkey in the first three days of the week, with another 175 people arriving on the islet of Oinousses yesterday morning.

The latter were transferred to a center on nearby Chios which is very cramped with 1,600 people living in facilities designed to host 850. 

The situation is worse on Samos, where a reception center designed to host 700 people is accommodating 2,850. 

The Migration Ministry said around 1,000 migrants will be relocated to the mainland next week. But island authorities said that this will not adequately ease conditions at the overcrowded facilities. 

Samos Mayor Michalis Angelopoulos on Thursday appealed for European Union support during a meeting of regional authority officials in Strasbourg. He said the Aegean islands “cannot bear the burden of the refugee problem which is threatening to divide Europe.” 

There are divisions on the islands too. On Sunday rival groups are planning demonstrations on Samos – far-right extremists to protest the growing migrant population and leftists to protest the EU’s “anti-migrant” policy. 

There are also rising tensions in makeshift migrant camps elsewhere in Greece.

Early on Thursday, in one of several occupied derelict buildings near the port of Patra, a 38-year-old Afghan man was hospitalized after being stabbed by four Pakistanis. The incident followed a recent knife attack on a 23-year-old Pakistani man by an Afghan in the city. 

According to sources, the attacks are part of an ongoing dispute between rival gangs seeking to control the human trafficking trade.

Moria Relocation Center, Lesvos

The difficult thing about writing novels set on the edge of societal change is you run the risk that between when you write the book and its publication, events will pass you by. For all those caught up in this tragedy, I’m sad to say that does not appear to be a risk for this book.



  1. This is such a terrible, global human tragedy. People are fleeing wars and economic desperation. The wars are not of their making; they are casualties.

    The European countries should open up their borders and help them. I remember reading about people fleeing persecution in Europe int he 1930s and Jewish people were only allowed a small quote from Europe to the U.S. This is so wrong.

    And it's wrong today. And this government isn't helping with its travel bans and anti-Muslim bias and anti-Latino bigotry.

    It's too bad Greece has to take on this responsibility, given its limited economic resources. The rest of Europe should provide help as human beings should do.

  2. Alas. If only we had a leader that didn't stand on the stage every day yelling at the top of his whiny voice, "Me, me, me, ME!"

    Alas. If only we had a media that didn't spend all day every day yelling, "This is sensational, this is sensational, this is sensation, watch, watch, watch, WATCH!"

    Alas. If only we had a populace who was educated, thoughtful, aware, who didn't sit around all day, thinking, "Me. Me. Me. What's in it for ME???"

    Alas. Maybe we (in the collective sense) have the government, media, and lives we deserve... God, I hope I live to see better times.

  3. I need Annamaria to come in with something positive. My smile is slipping...

    1. Oh, Michael. My mother raised me with the axiom, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I cannot express anything but the hottest anger about this subject. I won’t chime in with the venom I harbor for the sanctimonious members of the EU who refuse to help.

    2. Hard to imagine Michael without a smile, but then again, a lot of unimaginable things are happening.

  4. Yes, the EU governments deserve anger and protests. And so does this government with its venom against people from Latin America and Muslims and NFL athletes who are using their freedom of speech to protest injustice, and veterans, Congresspeople and the media. Gee. Wouldn't it be nice if governments just acted out of being pro-humanity?