The Memories of the Dead will not be erased with Black Paint

Copyright: Michalis Bakas

In the night of the 24th of November 2017, by the harbour of Thermi on Lesvos Island, unidentified persons vandalised the memorial that we had erected there in 2013. It carries the names of those who had drowned on their journeys to Europe. Two wooden paddles hold the plaque with the names of the dead and the memorial looks out to the sea, dedicated to those of all ages and backgrounds, whose lives ended at sea.

On the memorial plaque, we thank the fishermen and all others who endangered their own lives when rescuing others, or when retrieving the dead from the water. Written on the plaque are the names of refugees who drowned in this area in 2013, but also of others who were later found all over the beaches of Lesvos.

Gader Turkamni, who was 14 years old and lived in Athens with his family, had returned to Syria to attend a funeral. Unable to legally return to Greece, he was forced to travel in a dinghy.

Fatma Hadjas and her three children Lodgen (3 years), Abdul (6 years) and Ginan (7 years) – her husband and their father lived in Athens and they escaped war to come and live in peace with him.

Ramazan Jomali, who was 19 years old when he died, was awaited by his brother in Greece, who had come from Paris to meet him.

Every year we organise a ceremony in the presence of family members of the dead. In October 2017, we had the ceremony together with the two female survivors of the 24th of April 2017 shipwreck, when 22 people died at sea. Among the dead were their friends and we added their names to the memorial.

Mama Nicole, Chouchou, Gilaine; Sylva; Tedy, Fati, Pider; Peter, Junior

The two women survived after being at sea for 15 hours thanks to the rescuers who would not give up the hope to still find them alive.

Joelle was pregnant in the 8th month and gave birth to small Victoria who was also present at the ceremony.

For us, it remains important to remind ourselves ever year, how these are people who had searched for safety in Europe, and who lost their lives before they arrived.

The fact that the memorial was vandalised with black paint at night makes us both sad and angry. But it also gives us all the more the certainty that we need to continue even more passionately in our struggle to support people who have fled their homes and who, due to a politics of closed borders, have to risk their lives to secure a better future for them and their loved ones.

In the coming days, the names of the dead will be put up again on the memorial – they are a reminder to all of us that we need safe ways for refugees to come to Europe, not deadly paths.

We dream of an Aegean that becomes a sea of peace and we will do what we can to make this dream come true.

We thank all of you, who the last days showed that this memorial belongs to all those who respect human lives, regardless of nationalities, religions, and papers.