Monday, 13 October 2008

Sad Records

This September several records were broken on the island. That's why I again have to mention refugees, the fires and the weather.

A record number of refugees arrived on Lesvos in September. Some days hundreds of people arrived, despite the many alarming cries in the media. The government of the island is desperate because of the bulging refugee centres and too few police to handle them and at the places where the refugees plan to go after Lesvos: Athens and Patras, the problems continue to escalate.

Most refugees arrive by boat, somewhere on the coast between Molyvos and Mandamados. Then they want to go as quickly as possible to Mytilini, from where they hope to continue their journey via Athens to the rest of Europe. When early in the morning you drive from Molyvos to Petra, you will see them walking in small groups to Petra, or on the other side, towards Mandamados.

Mandamados is a small and quiet village, which faces more and more refugees trekking through it. Besides the many young men, there are women and small children still shivering from the cold seawater who make such a pitiful sight, that the villagers, seized by these images, provide them with food and warm clothing.

The residents of Mandamados don't only give, but also take. More and more refugees come by motorboat and upon arrival, the boat and the engine have to be destroyed, otherwise they risk being sent back to the shore where they came from. The boat is slashed and generally they sink the engine. Many islanders believe that's really a pity because they see a new trade. For example, last week a number of people were arrested because they took the engines and tried to sell them. The engines and boats officially should be taken to the police, but it's easy to understand the traders, with that many boats lying around on the beaches. If the boats were not slashed, every islander would have a boat by now and who knows, next year with an outboard motor!

However, the danger is that the residents will wait for the refugees, in order to seize their boats (which already seems to happen). So this can lead to tensions because the refugees want to destroy their water transport, while the islanders want to keep them intact.

The destroyed rubber boats you see become more and more part of the Lesvorian landscape. In addition to the discarded iron bedsteads, the brightly colored rubber boats have become popular material for sheepfolds and other barns. The hundreds of plastic oars that are lying around everywhere, are for example used as fence posts. So you must admit: the Greek farmer is very inventive with rubbish.

This September a weather record was also broken. It was the coldest September ever in Greece. Nobody would have thought that after the first rain in mid September, the summer weather would not come back. Grey skies and a few storms made everyone cry: "chimonas!"(winter).

Because of the rain and the cold weather everybody in Molyvos thought that the arsonist would stop work. But after a number of small fires a week ago the community was shaken awake by two violent fires which this time were both only stopped a few metres from a house.

The next day the news of the arrest of two teenagers shot like a running fire through the village. Had they finally caught the rascals? The village is good at gossip, especially when serious business is involved that has to be dealt with behind closed doors. The fact is that the boys were soon released. But there are different opinions about whether they were the arsonists. It's said that a number of young people were frustrated, because in the area where most fires occurred, they wanted to build a site for motorcross, for which the municipality did not give permission.

There are also rumours that the family of one of the boys had used its influence to speak to a very important person and cut a deal, so that the boys could go free. Village rules only disappear slowly...

Nobody knows on what grounds the boys were arrested, many say they were caught red handed. Nobody knows for sure if they did it. And nobody knows if Molyvos is now safe from fires. Fact is that for a week now the fire brigade hasn't had to extinguish a sngle fire, although one truck from the fire brigade is still on the watch. Another fact is that a new sad record can be written in the history of Molyvos: around 41 fires in two months.

While they still expect a few tourists from the Netherlands, a lot of Greeks have finished their season. Most shops and restaurants have closed their doors and windows, which is a little odd because they all want a longer season. Also a landscape full of black burnt areas and a coast with a mess of abandoned clothing and rubber boats doesn't look very inviting.

But happily enough these are only small details in the magnificent Lesvorian landscape. September is over and the barometer is now finally announcing beautiful days. Lesvos has become quiet and the nets are rolled out for the upcoming olive harvest. Kalo Chimonas!

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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