Skala Sikamineas has always been a special place. Now, it has two Nobel Peace Prize nominees from the village.
This little fishing village by the sea, looking out on Turkey, has given so much support to the arriving refugees in need. Years and years before the volunteers came. Most of the local residents in Skala are the descendants of people forced to leave their homes in Turkey in the 1920’s, starting a new life in Greece, and they connect their own backgrounds to what the refugees now have to go through.
83 year old grandmother Emilia Kamvisi and Stratos Valiamos, one of the fishermen in Skala Sikamineas who have been rescuing refugees at sea, are now said to have been picked to represent the helpers on the Greek islands in a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In December, we posted this interview with Stratos. After spending months helping each other out in welcoming people arriving on Lesvos, taking us out on beach cleanings and chatting in the cafés, our humble friend told us more about what he has been through here.
People have started a journey to a better life. I will not let the sea stop them.
The sea has always been the the love of Stratos life. Few days have passed without him being in the water. But since the refugee crisis intensified in May, the sea has given him problems sleeping.
Elias (name changed) is 20 years old. He is from Aleppo where he was also studying to become a mechanical engineer. His plan is to go to the UK. The way from Syria to the UK is hard, risky and expensive. He shared the dangers of the road with his sister and his cousins.
“My father told us: You must leave. Here you will be killed. He could not come with us. My parents and the rest of the family had to stay in Syria.”
Elias was forced to join the army, but he didn’t accept to kill his people.
For more than a month he was on the road to Lesvos.
“We were terrified. We didn’t know which way we will be send to Europe. The smuggler said we should not worry. The boat was big, we should be only 10 passengers and the journey over the sea would take only 30 minutes. When we arrived at the coast we saw the rubber boat. We were 42 persons traveling in the night. The waves were enormous. Then the engine had some problems. I thought we would die. I told my sister to close her eyes and we started to pray. If I knew how dangerous it was I would have never taken my sister with me. We arrived wet and scared to death on Lesvos. We went ourselves to the police but they sent us away telling us to come back the next day. When we were finally arrested we stayed three days in prison. 70 men in a cell for two. We were locked up together with penal detainees.”
Upon release the family stayed five days in PIKPA and then left.
“I would have never left Syria if there wasn’t war! Now my plan is to study and then return to my country and help to build it up.”