Posts tagged " refugee crisis "

On the Irony of a Life Jacket

May 9th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

In the midst of a room I sit, surrounded by clothes I’ve been trying to arrange for over ten days. It’s that time of year when we Greeks “take down” our summer clothes, sort through our winter wardrobe, give stuff away, store the rest in suitcases in some closet “up high.” Amongst all my accumulated crap, endless stretched-out T-shirts made by underage kids in Turkey, that cost $5 and pollute the environment, is a bagful of my son’s stuff from last summer, that as usual, I was sure would fit him this year.

Including a life jacket.

I pack it all into a big garbage bag, thinking of where I should donate it all to this time, for there are so many options. But I hold on to the life jacket. For days, it lays on the floor. I step over it, he tries to squeeze into it, I move it to the corner of the room, back to the center again, position it on the armchair in the corner; it sits there, empty.

A boat capsizes outside the coast of Italy, or is it Malta, neither country can decide whose responsibility it is, by the time they do, the sea swallows 250 people. Sixty of them kids. Some of them, wounded kids. But that doesn’t matter anymore, they’re dead. I wonder if any of them could have used my son’s life jacket. If it would have kept them alive long enough for the authorities to decide who was going to go save them. After distress call, upon distress call, over five hours. I imagine what the story would be if the boat was full of rich tourists sailing the Mediterranean, and not Syrian refugees.

Nobody cares anymore. It’s easier to let them die than to take them in. I get it. Our sense of humanity is capsizing. Hold on to your life jacket, if you have one. I sure as hell will.

On Pride for my Son

May 20th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa 2 comments

When you and I were conceived, we had absolutely no power over who we were born to, where we were born, or what history would hold for our childhood. All of us here, were lucky enough to be born in hospitals with medical supplies, at the right time of our region’s history to not be torn by war or disease, and grow up in countries that were relatively safe and provided education.

In the same random way, others weren’t so lucky.

I had this garbage bag full of my son’s clothes from last summer, standing in the center of my “room of shame,” (everyone has one, don’t deny it), for months. I couldn’t decide what to do with it, who needed its contents more, what organization, which orphanage Syrian kids, Greek kids, or my friend’s kid, which was the easiest way to go; she lives up the street.

And then, Ali came my way. Born in Afghanistan, untreated properly for jaundice, he’s mentally and physically disabled, and just a year or so younger than my son. I hauled the bag into the car, took my son by the hand, and went to meet the forever-involved and helping Elisavet Papoutsi, who would pass on the clothes to the child. I looked up the family’s story, Ali is the middle child of three, with an educated, charismatic, strong father, who was forced to take his family on a treacherous journey, and arrive at a camp here in Athens. (read full story here: and here:…/…/10/refugee-crisis-and-war-faces/)

The donations we make are usually impersonal. We don’t know who wears the shoes, who’s fed with the $50 we donated to charities.

“Mommy, what’s in the bag?” Stef asked.

“Your small clothes, we’re giving them to a child that doesn’t have any.” My three-year-old nodded in understanding, it wasn’t the first time in his very short life that we were giving his things away to those in need. “HIs name is Ali,” I said.

“Ali? Ok, we give to Ali.”

On the Grandness of Smallness

May 17th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

In the great scheme of things, I know I’m just one small person, who wrote a small book, for small children, and put together a crowdfund for small donations. I’m no grand charity and you are no billionaires blindly throwing funds my way.

But together, we are grand.

Whether or not you believe that the smallest contribution counts, it does. The smallest sentence to a friend or colleague about this small project, makes a difference. A simple click on the “share” button below this post, may help bring “When Clouds Embrace” to life. Our cluster of smallness will grow into a huge storm of kindness, charity, humanity.

We’ve decided to cut the first print run of When Clouds Embrace from 2,000 to 1,000 copies, so the amount needed is no longer the one you see on the crowdfunding pages. Not because our book won’t sell, not because we won’t gather the funds we need eventually (those of you who know me, know I’ve deleted the word “failure” from my dictionary long ago), but because we are in a hurry to to help. When our 1,000 copies sell, we will have raised over $10,000 for Giving for Greece, who will channel the funds to unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece. That’s pretty grand from a bunch of small people.

Please continue to spread the word, even if it’s just a whisper. (Links below)

Today has been a good day for little Lukas, as donors from two corners of the world pushed him closer to existence. And helped us all make a small step towards improving the dire living conditions of an orphaned refugee child. I thank Katerina Papatryfon Drako in Dubai, an anonymous donor from San Fransisco, and my grand, dear, nutty friend Dimitra Capas, who made a donation box out of a shoebox, sported a hat, and walked around the offices of the law firm she works at, gathering donations. Her box will be doing a tour of Athens, keep an eye out, it’s pictured below. 😉

On the Grandness

International donations:…/book-for-the-support-of-syrian…

On the Kindness of Strangers

April 26th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I know a princess, a real one. After the first time we met, she bought my book and read it. The second time our paths crossed was because she came to my reading. And now, working for the same cause, though obviously on a much grander scale than me, she’s kindly decided to help me with spreading the word about the publication of “When Clouds Embrace.”

I would have never known she is royalty if somebody hadn’t told me. Though she is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever sat next to. Graceful and well-spoken, as all princesses are to be, she is also extremely human, tangible, and real, so far from the images that gossip magazines at the hairdresser’s would have you believe.

So thank you, Tatiana, you have nothing to gain from me, and I a lot from you. All I can give you is my gratitude for making me believe in the kindness of (near) strangers in a world that can be cynical and dark, full of people with ulterior motives, distrust, and sadness. I know you’ll never see this, but I know you can hear me say, keep shining your light wherever you go.

On Fairytales

April 16th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

There’s a child, his name is Leonidas, he’s like any other six-year-old, like my son, like your kids. Only he’s roaming the streets looking for his brother. The landscape is unfamiliar, as it would be go any kid, lost at this age. His clothes aren’t torn, his shoes not worn out, he’s actually wearing a bright blue pair of Nikes that a nice woman handed him out of a big black bag.They’re just a little dusty, for there is a lot of sand in this country he’s arrived in. He has nowhere to sleep, even though the lady with the black bag keeps promising that he’ll have a bed in one of the rooms on the huge hotel where they are all staying, the people from his country, very soon.

He never finds his brother. When he gives up, he’s sad, but not as sad as he was to lose his parents. He carries this sadness with him his entire life.

In his 20s, Leonidas hears a story from a friend he made while living in that hotel for three years. Apparently, another nice lady, wrote a book about a boy just like him, who was scared of thunder. Many people helped her publish it, from all over the world, then bought the book for their children, and all the money that was made, she gave to him, to pay for his bed, his soft pillow, his food, the toys they shared as kids. She kept him warm from the cold, dry from the rain, she made sure that he felt like somebody cared, made the absence of the world he knew, less petrifying.

He never found out who she was, but imagined what she may have looked like. The image brought a smile to his face, and he saved it in his mind, right next to that of his parents.

You can help make a fairytale real by purchasing a copy of “When Clouds Embrace.”


On Misplaced Anger

April 14th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

In traffic at a red light today on my way to school pick up, the usual Middle Eastern man washed car windows and begged for change. He was joined by an old Greek man, with a cardboard sign saying “I’M HUNGRY,” hung on a rope around his neck. I’d seen him before, at another busy intersection. The Greek man began shouting unrepeatable atrocities at the Middle Eastern, basically telling him to get off his street and go back where he came from. He silently moved up the line of cars and continued his work there.

The Greek man was right, in the eyes and minds of many people I talk to these days, according to the endless comments below refugee stories and posts. Greeks argue that they themselves are starving and unemployed, and help should be given to our own first. And that’s the truth. I understand and accept it all. Except for one thing; the anger that is exponentially mounting in citizens that are not starving, not unemployed, whose children go to expensive private schools, who live in privileged neighborhoods. And those who have internet, spend half of their day on social media, and use their education and their historically hospitable nation, to create an atmosphere of hatred and intolerance.

These people are not camping out around our country because they want to. They do not want to stay here. They’re rougher and tougher than us, they prove that every day, you would be too if you trekked from a warzone that used to be your home, lost half of your family along thee way, some to the corrupt smugglers that you gave your last savings to to get to safety. They are not here to steal our non-existent jobs. They are not here to make our country Muslim. And for heaven’s sake, they are not here to rape our wives and daughters.

Channel your anger in the right direction, let it be a force of creation, not destruction. There are hundreds of children roaming camps and streets alone. Hatred, racism, and intolerance are traits of the evil and the ignorant, not of the warm, accepting people of Greece that I know and love. Use your dignity and give them some. When our people were fleeing this country in the last century, did America, Australia, Germany, and the rest, label us, hate us, work against us? Never forget who your grandparents were, never become the grandparents that future generations will not look up to.

On Naivete

April 5th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

Half a lifetime ago, a man I was seeing said to me:

“You love like a child, you argue like a child, and you dream like a child.”

The loving and arguing was obviously in reference to our relationship, but the dreaming was aimed at my then new idea to open a loop news station in Greece, something like NY1, for those who can relate. I was convinced I could do it, I could overcome all Greek bureaucracy, and provide the public with traffic, local news, and weather updates.

I was very hurt by his words, mostly because they were true, and reacted as childishly as expected.

Our relationship came to an end, but I never grew up. And I’m proud of that.

I do fall in love like a child, expecting everything from the relationship. I do argue like a child, when my expectations are not met, because I hurt like a child. The look that I saw on my son’s face when his best friend bit him, was pretty much the first time I saw him resemble me wholly.

And I do dream like a child. There is no other way to dream.

That television station never materialized, in fact, that argument was the last I ever spoke of it. Other ideas came and went, some came closer to fruition than others, and then there was “Pieces.”

And now there is Lukas. The crowdfunding campaigns are anything but on fire, and today I’m fine with that. It’s as if I almost expected my friends and family to start throwing money at me for something that they may not believe in, or support, or care about. I did. I also thought that it would all happen as immediately as a child expects to get a promised candy.

While I’m extremely grateful for the dozens of shares, the hundreds of likes, and the many people that have responded to my emails and the few that contributed, I’m not going to let go of this dream. I’m going to hold onto it like a stubborn three-year-old. Because that is my strength.

So go on, prove me right, make my dream come true, give the kids landing on Greek shores a chance to dream, I’m middle-aged and I’m still dreaming, they haven’t even begun.

All profits will go to Giving for Greece, every donation, no matter how small makes a difference. Links below.


Pieces: a novel

“Pieces” is the winner of the silver medal at the 2017 Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY), and a finalist at the USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.

When Clouds Embrace: a children's book

All proceeds from the sales of "When Clouds Embrace" will go to Giving for Greece, a foundation that works to help the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece.