Here is a wonderful report from Michaela Whitton:
Idomeni, Greece — An 82-year-old grandmother is putting the European Union to shame by opening up her home to refugees. Octogenarian Panagiota Vasileiadou is herself a daughter of ethnic Greek refugees who left Turkey during the 1919-1922 Greco-Turkish war. Unlike many European leaders, the elderly woman has not forgotten what it is like to lose one’s home; hers was burnt down during World War II.
“We didn’t have a spoon, a fork, bread or clothes. The only thing we had were the nightclothes we were wearing. Five children, no clothes, nothing,” she recalled.
Panagiota’s own painful experience has resulted in her new role as a Greek grandmother to refugees who have braved the sea, arriving in the village of Idomeni in the hopes of finding safety. Initially, she gave out homemade food and clothing to those who passed by; then she opened up her modest home to host five refugees.
Elsewhere in Idomeni and across Europe, frustrations are growing as thousands of asylum seekers and migrants remain in need of long-term solutions. On the islands of Lesbos and Chios, the Greek authorities — in coordination with the European Union — continue to detain asylum seekers and migrants in deplorable conditions, according to Human Rights Watch.
They call her ‘Mama’
Panagiota cooks for her guests every day. Those fortunate enough to live with her call her “Mama” and share a meal each evening. Her pension of €450 plus support from her children pays for food and other basic items for the refugees. Her house guests, who have fled wars in Iraq and Syria, camped in the cold for a month before finding shelter with their surrogate grandmother.
“Enough with these wars. People aren’t to blame for anything,” Panagiota exclaimed.
Other refugees, like a man named Barraa and his family from Iraq, just visit the home for a meal or to take a shower. Describing the welcome his family received from the Greek grandmother when they arrived, Baraa was grateful. “She made the kids happy and said you can come anytime when she heard their mother was dead,” he said.
He added, “This old woman made our lives easier. I thank her so much, she represents what Greece stands for.”
Panagiota said the refugees are family now, adding she will help them for as long as she can. “My life changed so much because I have company in the house,” she said.
“I talk, we laugh — even though we can’t understand each other.”
[This report originally was published by http://theantimedia.org/grandmother-opened-home-refugees/ and it is reprinted here under a Creative Commons license - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/].