Friends, this is a very difficult post, so please don’t read further if you are very sensitive. This afternoon has left me feeling totally unqualified to be doing this work. My little workshop tent has been flooded with tears from me and some of my new refugee friends. Since 4 o’clock this morning, the Greek riot police has been raiding the Moria refugee camp and neighbouring community centres, making sweeping and arbitrary arrests of migrants whose asylum cases have been rejected on appeal. 60 people have been detained pending “immediate deportation”. The general climate in Mytilini is one of terror and uncertainty.
Also, I need to tell you more about the young man I introduced you to the other day. Remember the one who carried the fabric from his mother across 8 countries until he reached safety in Lesvos? Well, he has come back here every day to learn new skills and we have bonded over needles and thread. Today he felt comfortable enough to share more of his incredible story, and it cut me to the core. He has asked me to share it with you in hopes someone can help him.
Gabrielle is a member of a certain ethnic group from the country of Congo. This group is a minority and have been subjected to ethnic cleansing for many years. One night this spring my friend went to the toilet around 9 at night. As is common in Congo, the bathroom was separate from the house many yards away. He heard a noise and peeked out from behind the curtain. He saw men with machetes and machine guns enter his home and pull out his sleeping family members. While crouched down inside the bathroom he witnessed his sister and mother being raped and then killed, he also saw his father and brother violently killed. After sitting in shock on the bathroom floor for some time after the men left, he gathered up the surviving family members (his niece aged 3, his nephew aged 9, and Gabrielle’s own daughter age 4), then ran to town to get his other sister who was working at the family’s shop at the time. The 5 of them set off on their journey to safety. Their goal was to reach Europe. There was some chaos crossing the border into Burundi and Gabriel was separated from his sister and the children. He has no idea how to find them, but to do so would begin the healing of his shattered heart. He is suffering from severe guilt, has flashbacks, and feels completely alone in the world. If any of you know someone who could help begin the process to reunite this family, please message me privately. I have other specific details that could help in the search too.
I am sorry I have to pass a along such a horrific story to you. It is not an easy one to hear. I hope I can get back to spreading more smiles tomorrow
– I’m afraid I wasn’t very successful with that today.