The beginning of greek migration
It was the ancient Greeks who gave us the word diaspora, meaning “to scatter or disperse.” Since the time of Alexander the Great, Greeks have been spreading themselves throughout the world. Today, the Greek diaspora spans the globe, its people having integrated themselves into numerous countries, most notably the USA, Australia and Canada. The concept of migration is therefore deeply entrenched in Greek culture. Modern Greeks, whether they live at home or abroad, have an acute sense of what it means to be a migrant. Perhaps that is why the Greek people responded so positively to the European migration crisis. Tens of thousands of refugees have arrived in Greece seeking safety, security and a new start.
Breaking down barriers
Anastasia Petyka was one of many Greeks who tried to make the refugees’ journey easier. With a degree in Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting from the Ionian University on Corfu, she set about breaking down communication barriers between the new migrant populations and the local Greeks. The Translators without Borders Rapid Response Translation (RRT) team gave her the opportunity to do that in a structured way.
“It’s important for refugees and locals to have access to the same information in their native languages. That cultivates trust and allows the locals to support the refugees”
Anastasia typically spends one or two hours per day translating and editing different kinds of texts into Greek. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers like Anastasia, the local population can access the same news articles, regulations or instructions as the aid agencies and the refugees themselves.
She is proud of her country’s efforts to welcome and support refugees, and she thinks this is due to Greek people having such a deep understanding of migration.
At the same time, she is scathing in her criticism of the wider international response to Europe’s refugee crisis. “Refugees have been faced with indifference and abandonment,” she insists. “Europe has shown a cruel face to people in need.” Anastasia is particularly frustrated that her native Greece has been expected to respond while struggling with an economic crisis of its own. “Greeks have experienced migration firsthand, and they know what it means,” she feels. “Unfortunately Greece cannot provide the refugees with the support they need to build their lives again. Ultimately we’ve been left alone to cope with the influx of migrants.”
A memorable experience
Despite the political challenges, Anastasia has channeled her strong sense of justice and her belief in basic human rights to ensure that she contributes as positively as possible to the situation. One of her most memorable experiences was translating a Syrian refugee’s experience traveling to Europe. Anastasia was shocked to learn that this man’s experience had left him feeling that death would have been preferable to making the journey to Europe. “It illustrated reality, but made me feel deeply sad and ashamed of the way the refugee crisis has been handled,” she admits. “To me, facilitating communication to make a difference is what I regard as a ‘high goal,’ and gives me a great sense of satisfaction and achievement.”
Want to volunteer?
Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.
By Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer