The Humans of Pikpa is a storytelling project about the residents, staff and volunteers that make up the community of Pikpa refugee camp on Lesvos island, Greece. The project was based on the ‘Humans of New York’ model (and other ‘Humans of’ projects), whereby participants share a brief, illuminating story about their lives. It was undertaken by volunteers towards the end of 2019. 


Since that time Lesvos has been afflicted by violent attacks on refugees, volunteers and premises used to support those affected by the crisis; the world has been racked by the COVID 19 pandemic that presents a disproportionate threat to those accommodated in overcrowded and unsanitary refugee camps. It seems even more important than ever now that people read the powerful, sorrowful and invariably, defiantly, hopeful stories of those involved in the refugee crisis, and join the campaign for sustainable action to alleviate the situation. 


Pikpa is an environment where people can find dignity, love, safety and respect. These are the values that underpin, and clearly emerge from, the stories in ‘The Humans of Pikpa.

“One day they opened up the container and told me to come up. I had been in there for a year and ten months”   

“One day they opened up the container and told me to come up. I had been in there for a year and ten months”  

With the Eritrean military you sign up for your whole life. One day I decided that I could not do it any longer. I was working two jobs – as a driver and a mechanic. I would drive between five and ten hours to the border with Ethiopia and then start fixing the tanks. I was so tired. I had been doing this for years. I asked my Colonel for a driver so I could concentrate on being a mechanic. He refused, saying I could either continue or go to prison. I told him prison would be better than continuing to work like this. He said okay and wrote me a letter. But when he asked me to sign it there was no information on the length of my sentence. I would not sign. They handcuffed me and took me away.

“History has shown how damaging racism is and how important human rights are”

“History has shown how damaging racism is and how important human rights are”

I wrote my masters on a novel that takes place in WWII in Marseille. It’s called Transit. The title says it all. People are in transit, like here, waiting to get a ticket for the boat or a visa. It’s a very good book, by Anna Seghers, who was in the same situation. As a Jew she had to leave during the time the Nazis were in power. The description of the situation of the refugees made me aware of the despair and hopelessness that they can feel. I was also studying racism and read a lot of books about people in exile. History is ingrained in the psyche of the German post-war generation. When I gave school talks, I would mention Germany history, which has shown how damaging racism is and how important human rights are.

“The most important thing in my life is love: My Love for my God and my love for others”

“The most important thing in my life is love: My Love for my God and my love for others”

I was a student in banking and finance in my country. After some years, I realised that my vocation was in languages, being an interpreter/translator.

I left my country and reached Greece by boat. I lived in Moria camp with other refugees. Then my social worker sent me to Pikpa camp. When I first arrived at Pikpa, I felt that it couldn't be a place for me. I felt that a lot of people were more in need of this place than I was.

“I have met a lot of good people here. My friends keep me going”

“I have met a lot of good people here. My friends keep me going”

My sister likes snakes, but I don’t. We had so many pets at home in Iraq. It was more of a zoo than a house! We were in difficult situations before we came here. When we got the letter in Iraq we were in a very bad way physically and psychologically. Then when we arrived at Moria we saw terrible things, even worse than Iraq.

“One day I met a friend who asked me why I was sad. I told him I missed my mother. He said okay let’s do it, let’s make a tattoo”

“One day I met a friend who asked me why I was sad. I told him I missed my mother. He said okay let’s do it, let’s make a tattoo”

Three years ago, I went back to Iraq to see my mother. I was living in a European country, building my future. I had studied, I had a job. But Isis was in Mosul, my city. I heard that a bomb had destroyed my house. I had to go back and find my family.

When I returned to my city, I was shocked. There were no buildings, only rubble. I had to ask a taxi driver where my street was. We collected my brother, who took us to a small house where my mother and father were staying. There was no electricity, no power. Everyone was sick, everyone was sad, everyone had nothing, everyone had nothing to do. I was there for four days. It was like hell.

“If I were to have any political power, I would start by opening the borders”

“If I were to have any political power, I would start by opening the borders”

I watched the presidential debate last night. It was for the democratic primary in the US. I am obsessed with elections, I love to read about the different candidates, their programmes, strategy etc. In each election I have a favourite candidate. The rule is that they never win! Except Obama, that is. He was my first favourite candidate in 2008, when I was 12 or 13, and the only one that won. I would love to see Bernie Sanders winning this time but I don’t think he will because I’m on his side!

“I like animals a lot. I wish I could keep all of the animals safe”

“I like animals a lot. I wish I could keep all of the animals safe”

When my brother and I were in Moria camp we saw a snake. She was a soft brown colour, big and thick, about two meters long. It made me so sad when they killed her. They should have taken her to the police. We came here together in May 2019. It feels like over a year ago now. At first, we were in Moria, which was like a small design of hell. Then we were transferred to Pikpa. The situation here is not that bad. At the moment I am doing some gardening and I am going to start taking English classes.

“I like beautiful things. Every day I wake up and have a new idea”

“I like beautiful things. Every day I wake up and have a new idea”

I like beautiful things. Every day I wake up and have a new idea. The people tell me ‘You’re crazy, every day your room changes!’ But I don’t have a job. Every day I wake up, eat, sleep. If you stayed in your room every day then you would change it.

Before my room had four beds. Metal bunk beds. I did not like this. Then I saw white wooden beds. I said I need those! The white and the red together – this is my favorite. The curtains were black until I fixed them. Now they are pink, white and red.

“Music motivates me, it is my passion”

“Music motivates me, it is my passion”

[FR below]

When I came to Lesvos, I met a lady called Carmen. Carmen was volunteering here at Pikpa. She asked me to go to the choir in Mytilini. I said it would be my pleasure. Music motivates me, it is my passion. The choir in Mytilini is called Cantalaloun. I began in November 2017 and was welcomed by the choir master, Mariza. In the choir we are lots of people, maybe 50. There are two groups – the old ones and the new ones. The new ones start at 6.30pm; the old ones at 7.30pm, until 9pm. There are lots of different nationalities – Greek, English, Spanish – it is very international. I have become integrated into the choir. I can sing almost all of the parts; I do what is needed. I can even sing soprano!

CONTACT US

Address

ex-PIKPA Camp, Neapoli, Mitilene,
81100, Greece 
Email : info@lesvossolidarity.org
Phone : (+30) 22 510 62 000

 

LESVOS SOLIDARITY

An appointment is necessary before visiting us at Lesvos Solidarity - Pikpa camp. We cannot accommodate spontaneous visits. Please email info@lesvossolidarity.org. Visiting hours are 10.00 – 16.00, weekdays only.

TWITTER

Fri Jul 10 14:33:25 +0000 2020

RT @rspaegean: A press release issued today by @rspaegean @HIASGreece @GCRefugees on the Opinion of the @coe Expert Council on NGO Law fin…
Fri Jul 10 10:33:53 +0000 2020

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