Category Archives: Stories

Stories

Unwanted

Athens. March 2009. Overlooking the Acropolis, on a parcel of land just five minutes from the center,  Albanian Roma families living, since 2006 in filthy conditions, have made their houses out of planks and pieces of wood. There is no water, no electricity, no sewage network. The smell of plastic from burning wires covers the air.

This is the Votanikos settlement at Orfeos street. Forgotten for years, but yet remembered, as this piece of land the Albanian Roma families are sitting on, is private. Promoters and residents put pressure on the government to urge their removal from the area, as importants constructions plans are on the way. The law though is pretty clear: a removal without any suitable relocation is illegal.

A suitable relocation was never to be found and three years later, on the evening of the 14th of August 2012, day of the year when 99.9% of the athenian population is out of town, an intense smell of burning garbage together with toxic pollutants spread throughout the city of Athens.

According to the police, the fire broke out around 8pm within the Roma settlement and spread very quickly, completely destroying 80% of the hand-made houses. The fire department said that the fire was caused by the Roma themselves while trying to burn caoutchouc tires and cables. No-one bothered to investigate any further.

The images below are a glimpse of the settlement before it burnt to the ground.

Portraits, Stories

Claudine

Each time I ask her how she’s doing, Claudine seldom replies something different: “Waiting… I keep on, waiting..”, she mumbles. After trading all her material possessions in exchange for a decent elderly life, Claudine was placed in a care home a couple of months following her 102nd birthday.

She owned a beautiful flat and many landmark objects testifying a century of memories only to witness today, an entire existence being squeezed in a tiny closet. In her newly occupied room, furnitures look like permanent movie sets, serving over and over as final storages of  a few remaining belongings.

Missing her previous life, she avoids any conversation about the things she left behind. “I don’t look back or ahead. Both are painful”.

Condemned to a sharp mind, she fails to connect with the rest of the residents and figures out alternative ways to stay mentally active. The smart recruitment of visitors in potential scrabble adversaries gives her more satisfaction than the actual beating of every single one of them.  I pay her several visits during the year where instead of being a photographer, I’m gradually turning into a scrabble genius.

While "scrabbling" in the large dining room, I understand what she means by not being able to connect with other residents.
They are walking around like this every day without talking. Many rounds, I don't know how many.
We didn't know what was inside the Christmas boxes...I took the red one .. most of the others got coussin-dogs ... but I was lucky, I prefer my little kitten, I like the expression on her face when she is looking through the window.

Caring to be informed about what happens in the world, she listens to the news every day through an analogue radio, then debates quite sharply on a variety of issues, providing interesting and valid arguments.

I came to realize that she wasn’t waiting at all. She’s was struggling to keep a sane mind. The waiting was for the body. Couldn’t possibly follow.

The last time I saw her, it was January. I noticed new objects decorating her room. A month earlier, Christmas gifts in colorful boxes were distributed to all residents. She was happy and, once more, surprised to see me. Couldn’t understand why I kept coming back or what I was getting in return. “I’m of no use to you, I’m of no use to anybody anymore”, she kept on saying. I smiled and said that she was my scrabble coach, a role that she’d better take more seriously.

When I left that day, little kitten was still staring at the sky through the window. Claudine followed me to the door and waved smiling, as if I was never going to see her again. But… she always does that, and I always come back…

Portraits, Stories

kyr Giorgos

Γνώρισα τον κυρ Γιώργο το χειμώνα του 2009 στην Αγιάσο της Μυτιλήνης. Έπινε το καφεδάκι του σ’ ένα απ’ τα καφενεία της πλατείας. Καθόμασταν σε διπλανά τραπέζια. Ένας άλλος κύριος που καθόταν πλάι του, μου έπιασε την κουβέντα.

Ογδόντα πέντε χρονών τότε ο κυρ Γιώργος, με τη γυναίκα του πάντα στο σπίτι, γιατί εκείνη είχε σταματήσει από καιρό να βγαίνει… Είχαν και μια κόρη…

Κάθε πρωί πήγαινε σ’ ένα καλυβάκι, μερικά βήματα από την άκρη του χωριού και καθόταν όλη μέρα με τα ζώα του. Τα τάιζε, έπαιζε φλάουτο, χάιδευε τα γατάκια, μάζευε ντομάτες από το μποστάνι και όταν σουρούπωνε, έπαιρνε το δρόμο της επιστροφής.

Τον ρώτησα αν θα μπορούσα την επόμενη μέρα να πάω και γω μαζί του. «Ναι» μου απάντησε.

featured-ayr-g.jpg

Ο κυρ Γιώργος ήταν ένας πολύ γλυκός άνθρωπος, έμοιαζε όμως ταμένος σε κάποια απουσία… σε κάτι που έλειπε, που δεν ήταν εκεί και που εκείνος το περίμενε κάθε μέρα…

Δεν θυμάμαι τη φωνή του, δεν μίλαγε πολύ κι ούτε θυμάμαι πώς πέρναγε η ώρα. Πέρναγε όμως ήσυχα.. Έχω σκεφτεί πολλές φορές από τότε τον κυρ Γιώργο και το πόσο άνετα ένοιωθα σ’ εκείνο το καλυβάκι. Φωτογράφιζα και δεν ένοιωθε καμιά αμηχανία. Έκανε τις δουλίτσες του φυσικά και ήσυχα, κι εγώ, σαν ήμουν από χρόνια μέρος εκείνου του σκηνικού.

Την τρίτη μέρα του είπα πως την επομένη έπρεπε να φύγω. Του ζήτησα μια διεύθυνση για να του στείλω τις φωτογραφίες κι ένα τηλέφωνο για να μαθαίνω νέα του. Μου τα έδωσε και τα δύο.

Κάτω απ’ τον πλάτανο, πίνοντας μαζί το τελευταίο μας καφεδάκι, ο κυρ Γιώργος μου μίλησε για την κόρη του. Την είχε και την έχασε στα τριάντα δύο της… Για κείνην έπαιζε φλάουτο… Εκείνη συναντούσε κρυφά στο καλυβάκι…

Έτσι ήταν, μελαχρινή, με καστανά μάτια και μακριά μαλλιά. Όχι πολύ ψιλή. Έτσι ήταν… σαν εσένα..