Borderland

Reporting from the frontlines of history in Greece

Author: amark

Island hospitality, refugee style

Statue of Liberty

Refugees gaze to sea from the base of Mytilene’s Statue of Liberty (Joe Stephens)

By Alexandra Markovich

The office of the mayor of Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos island, overlooks the Aegean Sea. Huge windows open onto the city’s port, where discarded boats that once carried refugees to the island are still docked. Less than 10 miles separate the island from Turkey’s coast.

Marios Andriotis-Konstantios, the senior advisor to the mayor of Mytilene, is quick to praise the local government for its treatment of some 3,000 refugees stranded on Lesbos after the EU-Turkey deal was made in March. Some wait for asylum applications to be processed in Greece, some to be relocated to countries like Germany, but most await deportation to Turkey.

In celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, Andriotis-Konstantios said the migrants on Lesvos enjoyed “exceptional festivities.” He said the mayor’s office ordered two tons of dates and commissioned a Syrian musical group.

“The festivities lasted for five days. Our biggest Greek Orthodox holiday lasts only three days!” Andriotis-Konstantios said, praising the efforts of the community to make Eid-al-Fitr special for refugees. Andriotis-Konstantios cites the celebration as only the island’s latest expression of hospitality.

 

boats seized

Boats seized from human smugglers line the harbor of Mytilene (Joe Stephens)

 

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The Muslim Matriarch

Anna Stamou sits in her living room in Athens on June 29. She is the Marketing Director of the Muslim Association of Greece, and one of a small population of Muslims in Athens.

Anna Stamou sits in her living room in Athens on June 29. She is the Marketing Director of the Muslim Association of Greece, and one of a small population of Muslims in Athens. (Alexandra Markovich)

By Alexandra Markovich

Just after the sun sets, Anna Stamou covers her dining room table with platefuls of food to break the Ramadan fast. She pulls a stew of Egyptian sausages from the oven and sets it on the table, followed by a bowl of Egyptian salad.

Then, spanakopita, a Greek spinach pie, unexpectedly becomes the centerpiece. When Stamou finally sits down, the table is crammed with an odd collection of traditional Greek and North African food.

Stamou is one of some 600,000 Muslims living in Greece, making up about five percent of a largely Greek Orthodox Christian nation. Stamou, a native Greek, converted to Islam 17 years ago. She is married to Naim Elghandour, who moved from Egypt to Greece 19 years ago.

When I ask her about the food she is serving, Stamou says it is “all Greek.”  Egyptian salad—chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions—is just the chopped-up version of Greek salad, she says, save the olives.

 

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