“Two days in Ritsona”
On a very hot afternoon, everyone is in their containers and no one dares come out. I am one of them, trying to drink as much water as possible in order to resist the heat. What about those under tents, those in the big hall, where many families are living together in one space having difficulty to breathe, especially small children? Yet,
since here is Malakasa, you cannot complain about anything, cannot ask or demand something different or better. Even if you are under a tent you have to be thankful, only that you are here.
What I am afraid of is not what is happening now, bad as it is, but of what may happen later, due to extreme weather conditions and the heat wave that ravages the whole of Greece.
Suddenly, I hear a siren, a scary noise on my mobile. It is an alert from a sim company; all of us must leave the camp immediately!
The silence which followed for a minute breaks down. Everybody is getting ready to escape, some are collecting all that they have and some are going out with a single bag.
My neighbor is afraid to leave the camp. She is thinking of her dishes and house stuff that she recently bought and are all new. She does not want to lose them or have them burn. She is crying, what will happen if she comes back and finds no one and all her belongings lost? How will she be able to ever replace them?
The buses are here. The team of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) is trying to do their best to organize the departure. They give priority to vulnerable people, but, of course, as always, single men and boys are trying to be in the first group to go.
I am here with a small suitcase, where I could only put some personal stuff of mine and of my mother’s. We still do not know where we are being taken and what is going to happen. They only thing we can see clearly are the flames blazing on the mountains around the camp.
Some men are asking for help to move their stuff. Those living in the tents are doubly worried as there is no lock for their tents and all their belongings are left there.
The camp staff try to make sure that everyone is out and ready to go. Yet, it seems that some stayed hidden in their containers and do not want to move elsewhere.
Everybody is trying to get on the bus. I am in now, but my mom has not realized it. She is anxiously looking for me in the crowd and calling my name, “Farishta, Farishta”. In the general chaos and noise she cannot hear me calling her too.
Finally, she realizes I am in and climbs on the bus. It is 10:00 o’ clock now. I remember my mom has just cooked chicken for dinner. Pity, we had to leave it behind. As we ride forth, we see a huge black cloud hanging ove the whole area.
We hear that we are being transferred to Ritsona. I have heard about this camp many times, but have never been in it.
At last we arrive. Here we are in Ritsona now.
There are no mountains around it, but as the camp of Malakasa, it is surrounded by a big wall, covered by slogans and some paintings. There is no shop or market around as we have in Malakasa.
Once off the bus we are guided by the people standing by the gate into the camp. Such a big one.
Everyone is waiting and some walk to the other side of the camp to take refuge under the trees — many big pine trees.
Some people are going into containers which have been opened by camp workers. Others are still lingering outside. We are waiting to see if there will be an open container to go in, but my father is still not here and we are waiting for him.
Some have settled in corners, close to the walls. They have put a carpet or a piece of cartoon and will sleep there.
Many are standing with their babies in their laps and their bags in their hands.
A big van of water comes and everyone rushes to get water to quelsh their thirst. The atmosphere is heavy because of the fires, the heat makes us feel as if we are in a desert. We need to drink, we feel we can die otherwise.
We are behind one of the containers, in front of the wall. I am so tired. I just want to close my eyes. “You sleep,” says my father, “I will stay awake for a few hours more.”
My mom is still awake and afraid for me and my sisters. Here is like a public road, one comes another goes, each moment there is a new call, that there is an empty space. My mom wants to go there, but my dad wants to stay here for tonight and change places tomorrow.
The weather is warm, but we need to have a blanket or some cloth to put over us. My father is afraid of the wind, that it may bring the fire here.
Counting the starts, goodbye night…..
We open our eyes very early the next day. Already, everyone is running around trying to find a free space to settle. It looks as if the sun has broken down the calm of the people again.
My father is collecting our stuff together. The whole situaation reminds me of all that has happened in Moria. Again displaced, searching for protection, looking for water and food. No news about breakfast or food. In Malakasa, some people had no cash card and ate only the meals provided by the camp or the NGOs. Here, in Ritsona, there are shops and people who have money can buy some provisions. Those without money cannot buy anything at all. I want to cry when I hear their children ask for a biscuit, while their mothers are trying to keep them calm and play with them.
When will this story of being repeatedly displaced finish?
For many years, geopolitical games and economic interests have been behind all sorts of tragedies for people all around the world. These are the causes behind the catastrophic scenes of extreme weather and the terrible fires that surround us. They do not threaten only us, but almost half the population in this land is sunk under. Their homes, their memories and their history have gone up in flames.
Again I see food lines forming. That is yet another history of waiting and counting the ours.
Doctors are trying to respond to the arrival of so many people who have not been checked in Malakasa. The newly arrived, on their side, are trying to use their opportunity to get medicine and treat their ailments and pains.
When something gets distributed to a large number of people without an orderly organized distribution method, then many people remain without their fair share.
Nothing remains in its place. I can see even small boys carrying away bottles of water.
Here, the world for girls is different. They are active, they care, they support us, and share. They are a team and do not work alone. They are brave and do not care about what boys tell them.
Yesterday a group of young girls of the Ritsona camp organized a collection of the trashes and the empty bottles of water from all around the camp. They did so ignoring the negative comments they received from some boys.
They even encouraged some more girls from Malakasa to do the same.
But, would they be able to always do as much as they do now?
In Malakasa girls do not support each other and they are all waiting for someone else to stand first line and the rest to support them.
I think that the girls here have already made a big impact on us, with the way they extended hospitality, shared awareness, cared for our needs, and encouraged us to be patient. But how close to each other have we really been? How different have they considered us? They have the same problems as we have, the same anxiety and uncertainty we have been tolerating, with the interviews, the separating walls, the access to education. Will these unite us?
It is evening. ash is falling from the sky, smoke fills the lungs. People get even more scared. As I pass by the mosque I see lots of women staying there.
And what about the infections of COVID19 among us and the new arrivals.
It is sad to hear about the high number of people who get Covid in the local hospitals and the number of people who, unchecked, are displaced now in other areas.
Some girls have their period and are looking for pads. How will they find them and from where?
I am tired, have no place to get a shower, feeling ashamed of how I smell.
It is the second day we are staying in Ritsona after two nights we spend since we arrived. The buses are here to take us back to our homes soon. People have missed even their tents. All the same, many would prefer to live here.