12 Hours in Skala Sikamnias on Lesvos

During the height of the refugee crisis, no place was impacted more than the tiny village of Skala Sikamnias, population 150.

Before the volunteers arrived from throughout the world– it was heroes like fisherman Kostas and Thanos, and Thanos’ wife Lena– and many others I didn’t meet– who were rescuing drowning people from the waters and assisting with life-saving services on land.

Thanos in his fishing boat tugging a sinking raft full of refugees to safety.

These people are heroes. They are the true example of all of those Greek ideals we love to talk about. Philanthropy, Philotimo, Humanity.

Kostas (on the right) pulling a child out of the boat.

I had the tremendous honor to visit the village and hear their stories– of being called in the middle of the night, night after night, that another boat was stranded and sinking– and it was full of kids.

This was happening during much of 2015-16 an the shores of this tiny fishing village.

They took me for a walk along the beach where tens of thousands of people landed, day after day, seeking freedom from oppression and war.

A walk along the beach hearing stories of thousands of people on these shores arriving daily. They showed me where the makeshift medical area was and where the soup kitchens were set up to feed arriving refugees.
This was the beach on any given day after refugees left behind discarded life vests.

They told me that almost a half million people passed through their tiny village. In the end, I just wanted to kiss their hands out of respect, hug them and thank them for being a bright light during one of the darkest moments in recent memory. And to thank them for giving me the opportunity to proudly call myself a Greek– because of people like them.

I went because I made a commitment to an anonymous donor from California named George who, together with a friend, gave the funds necessary to refurbish Kostas and Thanos’ fishing boats after they were destroyed during winter storms in January 2017.

George felt the need to reward these men for their humanity after he saw news reports of their damaged fishing boats in January and dug deep into his pockets to provide the money to get them new equipment, GPS machinery and everything necessary to get back into the water and start earning their living again.

Kostas on his newly refurbished fishing boat.
A sunrise fishing trip to lift the nets. Thanos woke me up at 5am to take a ride with him on his newly-refurbished fishing boat.

In the video below, Kostas thanks George, the anonymous donor, from his heart for his actions that changed their lives and Thanos sends him an invitation to visit the village so they can thank him personally, and drink some ouzo together.

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