+
upworthy
More

They saw refugees sleeping in tents. So they made them a home.

Thousands of refugees got stuck in Athens, but anarchists came to their rescue.

When Germany opened its borders to refugees during the summer of 2015, the flow of migrants moving through Athens turned to a flood.

Hundreds of thousands of people — mostly Syrians — passed through the city, usually leaving in a few days or weeks. Then, in March, the borders closed.

Now, around 10,000 people are stuck in Athens, unable to continue their journeys. Some live in hotels, but most have run out of money. They sleep in tents at the port, at an abandoned airport outside the city, or sometimes even on the street.


But in one of Athens’ bohemian neighborhoods, Exarchia, activists and artists have decided to help, using a resource they have plenty of: empty buildings.

“Squats” in Athens date back to the late '80s, when anarchists began setting up communal homes in abandoned buildings. They've since become something of a Greek tradition, accompanied by a community of people who know which buildings you can occupy without getting kicked out and how to set up electricity and plumbing.

Abeer, 40, arrived in Greece two months ago. Half of her family is in Leipzig, Germany. Here, she teaches refugee children English in a squat. Photo by Marcos Andronicou, used with permission.

Each squat is run by its own assembly, which usually makes decisions by consensus. They share a left-wing outlook and an anti-fascist attitude (something that means a lot in a country where a real fascist party, Golden Dawn, holds seats in parliament!)

In January 2016, when the borders began to close and more people were trapped, Athenians set up these squats to take in refugees.

The economic collapse of 2009 left more buildings available, so the first building to be occupied in 2016 was a former government building on Notara Street.

Activists cleaned up debris, fixed some plumbing, and welcomed the refugees most in need: families. The building now houses about 130 people, most of them women and children. In a classroom downstairs, children’s pictures show scenes of war and hopeful images of their future homes, and a big whiteboard shows a chart for the week’s chores. In a kitchen upstairs, a group of women are preparing food for the next meal while one floor up, men install another shower.

“Greeks have been refugees in many places,” said Phevos Simeonides, a young Athenian who’s involved with a bunch of different squats. “So even though there are some who are hostile to refugees, most have an instinct for solidarity with them.”

The founder of one squat feels this solidarity especially strongly: He’s Syrian himself.

Kastro Preta Dakduk, a painter, came to Greece 28 years ago from Syria. When the refugee crisis hit last summer, Kastro worked on the islands and in the port of Piraeus. At the makeshift camp at the port, he saw people with no money and no place to go, living in tents. Then he heard about an old school that had been abandoned for two years.

Children play in the formerly abandoned high school in central Athens, which has been transformed into a refugee hosting center by an autonomous group of volunteers and activists. Photo by Marcos Andronicou, used with permission.

“In Syria, where fights and war were happening, the schools were open for all the people to find a shelter,” he said.

So they chose this school to set up in. Squats are technically illegal — they usually haven’t done paperwork and don’t pay rent. But the Greek government generally leaves them alone because it’s so overwhelmed with refugees that they’re glad to have the help.

“We asked the municipal government about the school,” he said, “and they said no. We said, 'Thank you very much,' and the next day we came here.”

The four-story school was one of the biggest buildings in the city, and getting it ready for the refugees took a lot of hard work.

The water was on when they moved in, but the sewage line wasn’t connected, so for days they couldn’t use the showers or toilets and had to move porta-potties into the yard. But now the squat is working at full capacity, with 350 people living there, including 150 children.

One of the mottos of the squats is “self-organization,” which means that instead of taking orders from Greek organizers, residents do most of their own work.

This is important because it means that refugees get the chance to use their skills and training again.

Hamd, a 26-year-old from Damascus, has a degree in hotel management. As soon as he got to the school, he started working in the kitchen. At first, there was no working oven and few supplies, but piece by piece, he and Kastro got the equipment they needed.

Now the kitchen has six seatings a day, with a morning, afternoon, and night shift, and it goes through 22 kilograms of rice per meal, just for starters. When I was there, dinner was spicy chicken with rice and salad.

“Greeks have been refugees in many places.”

Hamd’s friend Hussein works in information technology in Syria, and at the school, he’s working to set up the Wi-Fi network. There’s even a security detail: three patrols per night with two people each to look out for smugglers or drug dealers.

The school building has come back to life – and it has turned back into a school, too.

Fatima, who was an Arabic teacher in Syria, teaches class every day from 5-7 p.m., and volunteers teach English classes as well. With little space inside, classes are often held in the courtyard, where students sit in neat rows, taking notes.

Abeer teaches Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi children. She has Palestinian heritage but was born and grew up in Damascus. Photo by Marcos Andronicou, used with permission.

Other times it looks like recess, with younger kids running around and older ones playing basketball or leaning up against the wall and talking.

It’s still far from perfect. It’s hot and crowded, and few of the refugees know when, or if, they can get to Western Europe. But for now, the school is a welcome refuge.

“In other camps, it’s very bad,” Hamd told me. “No electricity, nothing. In this place, we can feel safe.”

Image from Pixabay.

Under the sea...

True
The Wilderness Society


You're probably familiar with the literary classic "Moby-Dick."

But in case you're not, here's the gist: Moby Dick is the name of a huge albino sperm whale.

(Get your mind outta the gutter.)

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

More parents are taking 'teen-ternity leave' from work to support their teenage kids

Parenting through the teen years takes a lot more time and energy than people expect.

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

Raising kids through adolescence is not for the faint of heart.

When you have a baby, it's expected that you'll take some maternity or paternity leave from work. When you have a teen, it's expected that you'll be in the peak of your career, but some parents are finding the need to take a "teen-ternity leave" from work to support their adolescent kids.

It's a flip from what has become the traditional trajectory for modern parents. Despite the fact that the U.S. is the only developed nation in the world to not have mandated paid parental leave, most parents take at least some time off when a baby is born to recover physically from pregnancy and birth and to settle into life with their tiny new human. Many parents then opt to have one parent stay home full-time during their children's younger years, as full-time childcare is often cost prohibitive, and raising babies and toddlers requires an enormous amount of time, attention and energy.

Parents often return to work when their kids are in school full-time, and many feel a bit of a respite from the relentlessness of parenting as their kids become more independent and capable of doing things on their own. It's not that older kids don't need their parents, but their needs are different. Physical parenting gives way to more complex emotional parenting as kids get older, and for a while, those emotional challenges are somewhat simple.

Then the tween years come along. Then the teens. And for some parents, a realization hits that parenting kids through puberty takes almost as much time, attention and energy, as toddlers do. Only now, those needs are much more complicated and consequential.

Keep ReadingShow less

Tony Trapani discovers a letter his wife hid from him since 1959.

Tony Trapani and his wife were married for 50 years despite the heartache of being unable to have children. "She wanted children,” Trapani told Fox 17. "She couldn't have any. She tried and tried." Even though they endured the pain of infertility, Tony's love for his wife never wavered and he cherished every moment they spent together.

After his wife passed away when Tony was 81 years old, he undertook the heartbreaking task of sorting out all of her belongings. That’s when he stumbled upon a carefully concealed letter in a filing cabinet hidden for over half a century.

The letter was addressed to Tony and dated March 1959, but this was the first time he had seen it. His wife must have opened it, read it and hid it from him. The letter came from Shirley Childress, a woman Tony had once been close with before his marriage. She reached out, reminiscing about their past and revealing a secret that would change Tony's world forever.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

People are debating the merits of a 24-hour daycare and the discussion is eye-opening

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the need for this.

StableDiffusion

Are 24-hour daycares a good idea?

Millions of American parents utilize daycare centers while they work. Since most people work during the day, most daycare center hours fall somewhere between 7:30am and 5:30pm. It's rare to find a daycare that's open after normal working hours.

But one "24-hour" daycare in Houston captured people's attention—and sparked a debate—when a mom posted about it on TikTok.

Adventure Kids Playcare in Houston isn't actually open 24 hours a day but it does offer childcare up to 10:00pm during the week and until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. In the video, the mom drops her daughter off and we hear the employee tell her they close at midnight. The mom later says she picked her daughter up at 11:55pm.

Reactions to the video rand the gamut from "24-hour daycares are a brilliant idea for parents who work odd shifts" to "Moms shouldn't be leaving their kids at a daycare late at night just so they can go out," sparking a fascinating and eye-opening discussion.

Keep ReadingShow less

A dad is looking for a little more respect at home.

The title of dad or father is a sweet and respectful way to acknowledge a child's special bond with their male parent. It signifies love and respect and shows appreciation for his role in their life. But the title works both ways. The term dad reminds fathers of the responsibility to guide and protect their kids.

The importance of the unique role dads play in their kids’ lives is why a father named Steve was upset with his wife for repeatedly using his first name when referring to him with their preteen children.

The father vented about the situation and asked if he was wrong in a Reddit post with over 10,000 responses.

“My wife recently started using my first name when referring to me to our preteen kids, as in ‘Steve's gonna pick you up from school tomorrow,’” the father wrote on Reddit’s AITA forum. “I asked her not to when I first heard it, saying I don't really like when you use my first name to the kids. Can you say ‘your dad’ or ‘dad’?”

Keep ReadingShow less

Husband's portrait of wife is so bad that she nearly stops breathing

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder but what if what your eyes behold is objectively...not good? In what appears to be a creative way to spend quality time together for a married couple, things go hilariously wrong. Ted Slaughter, uploaded a video to his TikTok page of an activity he and his wife did together.

Slaughter's wife seems to be holding the phone so you can clearly see what appears to be a painting of Slaughter, who is sitting at the other end of the table in front of an easel. The text overlay on the video says, "husband and wife paint portraits of each other (gone wrong). But what could possibly be wrong, sure his wife's attempt isn't art gallery ready just yet but it's not bad.

Based on the critiques the man had of his wife's painting, surely his looks much closer to professional level work. Right?...Right?

Keep ReadingShow less