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Daphne one the four “Righteous of Hospitality” honoured by Gariwo, the Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide

Daphne one the four “Righteous of Hospitality” honoured by Gariwo, the Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide

Three amazing days full of emotions and incredible hospitality from the municipality of Milano together with the organisers of Gariwo.

The theme chosen for the ceremony of the first Day of the Righteous of the Humanity is “The Righteous of Hospitality. Beyond borders to pull down the walls“. This is why Ho Feng Shan, Hammo Shero, Costantino Baratta and Daphne Vloumidi have been honoured at the Garden of Milan.

Here is Daphnes speech in English:

Daphne Vloumidi,   Milano 14 Marzo 2018.

Buongiorno, vi ringrazio per l’onore che mi fate, di trovarmi oggi qui tra di voi.

I was born in Greece in 1956, six years after the end of the civil war.

I grew up in a democratic family that taught me to love freedom and democratic ideals. I do not know exactly how or if these ideals can be learned. Perhaps they are features of my character. I would like to share with you now some landmark experiences in my life which have effected how I understand the world.

I’m young; I do not remember how old I am. I walk into a large hall and look at the paintings hanging on the walls. Children’s paintings similar to those I paint … houses, trees, butterflies … below , the name, date, place and … place of execution: Auschwitz 1943, Auschwitz … Auschwitz … Paintings of little Jewish  children who lived in Ghettos and died in Auschwitz or even in other concentration camps.

I am alive and my paintings decorate my childhood room.

1967: I’m a little older and again I’m in a big room full of people. I’m waiting, a little bored, among relatives and others who Ι do not know. Uncle Demetrius rises on the podium, reads, and his deep voice resounds in the hall.

   Way Down South in Dixie

(Break the heart of me)

They hung my black young lover

To a cross roads tree.

  Way Down South in Dixie

(Bruised body high in air)

I asked the white Lord Jesus

What was the use of prayer.

1968: Scuola italiana di Atene. I am twelve years old. Most of my professors are young and nice. When they speak, I do not understand them because they do not speak my language. They speak your language. They speak Italian and they know that we do not understand them. Maybe that’s why they smile to us in such a friendly way. Even less do I understand why my mother sent me to a school where I do not understand what they tell me. After the first really difficult year I began to understand both the professors … and my mom. The photo of Papadopoulos (our dictator) was not hanging on the wall of our classroom, and we did not sing scouts songs on school-trips but “Bella Ciao” and later Fabrizio d’Andre.

1974: end of the dictatorship. Growing up with my family and with your teachers, I do not seem to have had many choices. Political discussions, Gramsci, Togliatti, Berlinguer, party, Eurocommunism, left, etc. Some years of political action. Disappointment. Conclusion: politics is not for me, it’s not my cup of tea, but neither does the quiet life sitting on my sofa suit me.

2000: Athens has already received many refugees, especially Kurds from Iraq seeking political asylum. Many organisations are trying to help them. I am member of a small but very active organization. With a group of other concerned citizens, we become the bridge between refugees and Greek society. Information, legal protection, assistance to hospitals, schools, police stations, finding jobs, Greek and English language courses, contacts with furious owners of occupied houses and … and … their needs have no end. For ten years I work as a volunteer in Athens.

2010: I spend most of the year no longer in Athens, but οn Lesvos. With my husband we run our family hotel. Our guests are international tourists who spend their holidays happily. However, other people live on this same island. Foreigners who are not tourists. They are refugees. They speak languages that none of us understand, they wear different clothes, have different habits. But almost everyone plays soccer. The decision is simple. We have to organize a soccer tournament.

Gooal!! Our garden is full of happy voices and smiling faces. End of the game, beginning of friendship. The football match has brought all those different cultures together! Women with scarves and long dresses with women without scarves and short dresses, Oriental men with Western men having such a different mentality. A party atmosphere, a carefree day for refugees, a day of deep thought for tourists. We tried and we succeeded. We took a chance and it began to bear fruit. The football tournament, mixed with tourists and refugees, became an institution at our hotel. Many of our guests have since planned their holidays according to the tournament date so as not to miss this exceptional day.

Many actions have followed. The help of our guests has been invaluable, multi-layered and uninterrupted.

Now fast forward to 2015, when we all know what happened. And then, you do the obvious. You help in any way and at any price. And there are so many things to do. You also believed that you knew just what to do, you who in the past, have been in touch with so many refugees, you who have eaten, laughed, heard all those painful stories, you who have shared so much time with them, so you think that this time you will do it again, you will not bend, you will not be desperate. You are strong and you know. And suddenly the truth slaps you in the face. You are tired, desperate, you cry. You feel that all your efforts are nothing more than a drop in the ocean.

I tell you the truth: that‘s how I felt. Although I still had my faith and my dream for a better world, my motivation was the real daily needs of all these thousands of people who came to our island, not to have a holiday, but to be saved from the death that was waiting for them outside their homes. It was also all of you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the honor you give me today and I share it with all those who have supported me enormously, working together with solidarity in that difficult period of the refugee-crisis: my family, my friends and many others, local population and tourists.

I greet you and I hope that our garden will be bigger every day with trees and flowers.

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