The Greek Refugee Crisis, a Year On

By Marty Eisenstein

In December of 2020, the twenty one-year-old daughter of a dear friend was forced to leave university and return home to Boston after experiencing a severe psychiatric episode. After some very turbulent “freefall” initial months, she has come a very long way. She now has a steady medication protocol and it is working.  She has established trusting relationships in her ongoing Zoom therapy regimen (family and individual). She is playing guitar again, singing and meeting other young adults. She’s pretty much continuing life like a normal young adult. She was never a substance abuser, and has the blessing of a loving family with direct access to the outstanding resources of the Boston medical community, among the best in the world.

 

 

I write about my friend’s daughter for two reasons. First, to point out just how deeply the pandemic has been a trigger affecting the mental health of people the world over, particularly young adults. And second, to contrast her situation with that of Muhamed (not his real name), a 21-year-old Syrian musician in Greece whom I write about a year ago.  See: here At the beginning of the pandemic, armed with time and the internet, I was helping him out with rent, and attempting to establish a mentoring relationship with him while he was on the island of Chios. 

Fast forward to today. Muhamed has been in Athens since the fall of 2020. Around that time we lost direct contact due to the difficulty of establishing an ongoing trusting relationship between us. It became apparent to me that he had serious psychiatric issues, most likely as a result of the trauma he suffered when tortured while imprisoned in Syria for not wanting to serve in Assad’s military.  He was recently discharged from an Athens psychiatric hospital after his second suicide attempt.  I have learned that he’s receiving  good psychiatric care, the right medication and 24/7 loving support from other volunteers, including an Arab-speaking mentor and that he’s stabilized and now focused on his legal case.   

Devoted refugee activists in Los Angeles, Boston and Athens have been collaborating to help him every step of the way in his difficult journey.  Through the initiative of my friend, Bev Weise  in Los Angeles, over $4000 was raised to cover his rent, basic living expenses, and legal fees for the asylum process.

I am simply in awe of the greater community of humanity devoted to making the daily lives of refugees in Greece more humane, more healthy. But it’s not just me.  Many Syrian refugees cannot not believe the humanity of people they don’t even know.  When they learn that many of the volunteers helping them are Jewish, they are truly shocked.  They feel they have been misguided and betrayed by their Syrian family, friends, and community who had taught them that Jews were evil.  In contrast to the horror stories one hears daily in the media, many loving “families”, if you will, have been created in Greece, and the world over.  Activists, providers and refugees working together, trying their best to attain “Boston level” care.

“To save one life, is to save the world.”  (Talmud)   There are many ways you can help refugees.  Take a first step....

 

For Advocacy, contact Europe Must Act     https://www.europemustact.org/     

To Volunteer as a teacher, help with Job Development or provide financial support, go to

Action for Education    https://www.actionforeducation.org   or contact Bev.Weise@gmail.com  

Or contact local resettlement agencies in your community