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Bread For The Journey: The Greek Baker Who Remembers

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

A long line of principally younger males from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea line up below the new mid-morning sun, holding their hands out gently, as if standing for communion, beneath the thick stone partitions of the Castle of the Knights that anchors the island’s port.

Arvanitakis tears lengthy loaves stone island giubbotti uomo in two, and looks each individual in the attention as they method. A balding Syrian man pauses before receiving a chunk, and reaches out to hold both sides of the baker’s face, kissing him atop the head in gratitude.

The baker fingers us a steel tray stuffed with pink and chocolate glazed donuts, and asks us to serve the mothers and children camped out in shaded tents throughout the road. We had met Arvanitakis the previous afternoon for a dialog at his downtown waterfront bakery, where he warmly greets outdated locals and vacationers alike with a gentle smile and robust handshake.

Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Fee, praised the Greek baker in his annual State of the Union address on September ninth to the European Parliament. In his speech centered on the gravest global refugee disaster since World Warfare II, Juncker implored Europeans to “remember well that Europe is a continent the place nearly everyone has at one time been a refugee.”

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

The isle of Kos is among 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 across Aegean waters.

Smugglers based mostly in Turkey cost refugees $1,500 or extra per person to make the perilous crossing to Kos, whereas day-tripping vacationers only need pay $17 (with the correct passport) for the straightforward half-hour excursion experience. Refugees are piled into rubber dinghies in the black of night, with as many as 70 males, girls and children on flimsy sixteen-foot vessels, and advised by smugglers to paddle on their own towards the lights of Kos.

Kos was the intended destination for the Syrian three-12 months-previous Aylan Kurdi, who along with his brother and mom drowned off a capsized dinghy and washed again ashore on Turkey. The picture of the boy mendacity lifeless and face down on shore sparked international awareness and outrage earlier this month over the Mediterranean immigrant tragedy that has been growing for years.

Just this previous weekend, one other forty refugees and migrants crossing the waters between Greece and Turkey are reported dead or lacking.

Each morning, Arvanitakis rises early to bake an extra 200 pounds or extra of bread and pastries to load in his van. And every morning here, refugees swim to shore off overcrowded inflatable rubber boats, strolling to the main port in sea-soaked clothes searching for water, food and shelter.

The baker slowly steers his small white van up onto the seaside bike lane, weaving by way of refugees and tourists alike, to make his first stop straight in front of the port police station. New arrivals congregate in packed quarters there, anxiously awaiting registration papers for his or her subsequent voyage on to Athens, where most will begin their walk to northern Europe.

The daily ritual of passing out bread takes place a couple of hundred yards from the celebrated Oriental plane tree where Hippocrates, the father of medication born on Kos round 460 BC, purportedly taught his medical students ethics and tips on how to care for others.

Arvanitakis knows deprivation himself, having grown up poor within the Peloponnese, the southern peninsula of mainland Greece. He informed us that after troublesome occasions there his family selected to migrate to Australia when he was sixteen. He was “all the time running, running” searching for work in his new nation, and at last secured a job as a pastry chef.

In 1970, after saving enough cash, he returned to Greece and landed on Kos, where his spouse Evangelia was born and where he soon opened up his personal bakery. He and his son Stavros have since grown the business to seven areas, now the largest bakery on Kos.

“Somebody who has not starved, can not put themselves in these individuals’s footwear,” Arvanitakis informed the Greek media after Junker’s speech. “‘It is ‘us’ and ‘them’ on the same island; two parallel traces, that someway converge to the very meaning of the phrase ‘human’.”

The perfect and worst of the human spirit has been awakened on Kos by the flood of refugees washing ashore. Native Greek hotel owners have made sandwiches and handed out leftover travel provides donated by visitors. Stone Island Online We interviewed European tourists giving up their holidays to ship meals, water and journey gear. Two couples from Iran donated 300 pounds of meals and help. Two German sisters organized Kos Refugees Need Your Help that serves 800 warm meals every day. Dutch residents volunteer for the Boat Refugee Basis, which has over 200 extra volunteers signed up in Holland to come assist for a week or longer.

At the same time, Amnesty International witnessed “a violent assault on refugees” in Kos a number of weeks ago, observing a gaggle of 15-25 thugs hitting them with bats while telling stone island giubbotti uomo them “to go back to their very own nation.”

A 60-12 months-outdated English volunteer from London instructed us that she witnessed two refugees being attacked the earlier night by black-shirted extremists whereas sitting peacefully outside their tents. One refugee had his leg damaged and the other had massive welts from a beating throughout his again (she confirmed us pictures taken on her cellular phone). 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 impact of the six years of Greece’s grave financial depression and an extended summer time of political instability. The wave of refugees has clearly heightened the general anxiety of the times, fueling nationalist anger whereas overwhelming cash-strapped and understaffed authorities on Kos and different impacted nearby islands.

The country is exhausted and practically broke, and is on the frontline of the surge of refugees fleeing wars in the Center East and Africa and migrants looking for a greater life in Europe. With out adequate financial help from wealthier European international locations the place most refugees hope to settle, Greece and its eastern islands will not be capable to cope with the immigrant move heading into the winter months.

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

“I really feel ashamed of the Greeks who’re so upset about this case,” said the 28 yr-old daughter at a well-liked family-run resort. “In each household right here you could have relations who left the nation to search out a greater life. Many went out and did nicely. However now people overlook.”

It’s been more than 60 years since Dionysis Arvanitakis left Greece to search out higher fortunes in a faraway land. As he stacks up dozens of empty baking trays within the again of his van after one other morning spherical of serving to to feed refugees, one factor is certain: the “Baker in Kos” clearly remembers from the place he came.

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