Authors (Greek version): Meletis Zacharakis


         Nicoleta Sarandou

         Social Worker

Translation: Harriet Spala

The word “refugee” is accompanied by a thousand stereotypes and in general is negatively received by most of us. However it’s about a person who was forced to flee his/her country because of war or was driven away and was forced to leave his/her home in search for a better life. She/he abandons the ties he/she had with his/her country and randomly tries to start all over again.

Αdla’s family could be living in any country in Europe if the word “refugee” is removed. She might have belonged in the “middle class” according to the Greek standards. Her children might had learned the English language and might have loved rock music. The grandmother, the only survivor from the war, is the Greek archetype in reference to her image but also to her manner. She is protective towards her grandchildren, and becomes the ruler of the new household. She becomes the blood tie of a family where war and other conditions lead to a decimated and scattered family in various parts all over the world.

She ended up arriving in Greece together with her three grandchildren (two of which are under aged), after crossing thousands of miles through land and sea. Τhe long voyage is probably secondary in comparison to her will to live. Regardless of her poor health she managed to reach Athens, alive. Ιn some cases “alive” might sound far stretched but in this case her serious kidney health issue made it harder and was not only life threatening but also reduced her strength. The living conditions in Moria and Idomeni camps were far from helpful. Her family part the shortage in  water, food, clothes, medicine had also to live in tents and in some cases in containers where the mud reached often the height of their beds.

Moving the family in an apartment through the Refugee Housing and Hospitality Program it was the new beginning to normality. That being in a clean environment with a bed so that anyone can sleep and feel protected from the heat or the cold. Plain things that for most are considered granted.

Although the health of this old woman was critical, the cover of basic needs immediately improved her psychology. She got the will and strength to face her health issues.

Then the word “refugee” pops up again – a word we often forget. However health issues do not distinguish whether you are Greek or a foreigner. Naturally the public services that offer medical coverage do not distinguish who is who and through the crisis they offer everyone medical coverage. Just like every uninsured Greek, this refugee, having been diagnosed with kidney failure, she had to go through hemodialysis three times a week for the rest of her life and did so going from hospital to hospital. However what does a peripatetic patient having to go through hemodialysis means? It means that the person with kidney failure must go to each hospital that is on call every second day in order to do the hemodialysis. This translates to long distances, delays and mostly a failure to systematically monitor this patient’s health.

However tough situations sometimes help without us comprehending them. A state initiative becomes a spark for a number of public servants to offer concrete solutions. The Artificial Kidney Unit of a public hospital takes over the regular hemodialysis and monitors Adla’s health. The Director of the department will state “the medical staff took care of the patient as much as they could, without prejudice or discrimination; they took care of her as if she was any regular patient. We aided kind, decent people who respected the help given and were very grateful for it”.

A different blood tie was formed this time for the family. The hospital’s microcosmic world became a second home and became new relatives. It was not the little Arabic that the Nephrologist spoke that made the patient feel more comfortable. It was the humanity they had towards her the hospital’s medical staff that often even exceeded their duties. Although a whole bureaucratic procedure would be needed, the doctors themselves booked immediately a date in order for her to have a kidney transplant in another hospital. If we could only imagine the bureaucracy that one person must go through and especially someone who does not speak Greek especially when that person faces serious health issues!

“Despite the issues that our social services face today, with our will we can accomplish almost anything” states the doctor who was assigned to her. All we have to think is that humanity does not depend on having a lot of money but from our willingness to give.

Today Adla is in Holland and her health condition is stable. The need for hemodialysis and the care she received in Greece have formed a strong bond. Her family has already adjusted to their new life and once again they can make plans for the future. To be able to dream of a better life, as the problem was not just the lack of health care but the lack of hope.