John is missing Jen. Jen got lost when she tried to cross the border to Greece. Maybe she drowned in Evros, the river between Turkey and Greece. We will mourn Jen and all the refugees that died during the attempt to overcome Fortress Europe on the 30th of August 2011 in Evros. We want to give back a piece of dignity, to those whose death disappeared – right here – into the senselessness of the European borders. And we will gather for giving back a piece of dignity to those who survived. We will create a memorial space.
Interview with John, Athens, 11.05.11.
What is the colour you like the best?
Interesting! I have various colours that I do like for different purposes. More particularly I like various colours that form different forms of flowers because my wife has been a florist over the years. She likes flowers ,she plants flowers, on valentine days I was making lots o fun back at home: I would just move out on the side of the house she had the best flower and I would cut some for her and she would get very mad: oh my flower! And I would ask her: why? This is your flower; I have brought it for you. I was making a lot of fun with her, with our best flowers. So that’s why basically why I like different colours.
You want now to say who long you are in Greece?
Yes. I am 3 years. I came 2008 in April, so just 3 years. I came from Kenya.
Did you have dreams when you came? Some ideas what you would find here?
I fled my country on political grounds. It was not safe anymore on my part politically. So it was sort of an escape to a safer and peaceful place. And I have always picked Greece to be a peaceful country.
In my oldest stages I went through the Orthodox Church in Kenya. The Greek visitors, who came there the fathers, looked to me very good people and very accommodative. So that’s how I picked Greece because I have always thought they are quite peaceful. That’s why I chose to come to Greece because I found that they are good people.
You were working in Kenya? You want to tell us what you worked?
Yes! I was an accountant.
And when you came here in Greece was it possible to continue with your work?
No! Here I got into very different jobs. Washing dishes, cleaning houses and maintaining grounds, painting, I have done quite a number of jobs in Greece, particularly the manual jobs. But I do not regret because you can do various jobs and still go on with your life.
You learned Greek fast?
No but it is in the process because of the jobs. That’s how I have learned my Greek, ligo ligo, and in various ways that I get to learn. I am catching it up! But I am also currently attending Greek classes.
When you left Kenya you left your family back?
Ya! 2008 I left my wife behind with my 4 children. They are now the youngest 13, the oldest is 30. My wife is 46.
You had a plan that your family comes to you? When you left Kenya?
My intention was finally to find a place that I can have the family resettled, other than my home country, because of the political security reasons. But when I came here I found it to be pretty difficult to legalise a stay in Greece. Acquiring the political asylum is next to impossible, and I realised that the dream will never come true. But there is always hope. For another place to resettle and be safe for the family because it’s the whole intention of a family that the family live together. The family should be accessible. Be it in Africa, be it in Europe, Canada America. It really does not matter what distance the family is living, but if the family is accessible. Can you see your family when you want? Can they see you when they want? If you have a problem, you are sick in hospital, can they comfortably come? This is why there is good reason to have open borders! Free movement! One thing that surprises me is that there is free market, free movement of goods and services but there is no free movement of the human beings. It should be also free. It should not pose any danger in moving from one country to another.
I come from Kenya where a very high percentage of people living are migrants. Many come from Britain very many. Some come from Greece, Germany or from other African countries like Ruanda. When there was this massacre in Ruanda people escaped to Kenya. Uganda, Sudan had problems, Somalia had problems, Ethiopia… Kenya has been settling those people without problems and very comfortably. It misses a reason to block people to going to other countries. And particularly when it opposes those dangers, life threatening, and it is not just threatening. It is in the extent that people die. It’s quite pathetic; it is a very sad situation. That you die trying to get into some place .Your are learning where you could find peace and you are dying looking for that peace. So it makes it even more sad.
Should we talk about what happened in September 2010? You where talking that you were thinking to be near to your family.
The first item was having my wife near me, and then we calculate how the kids could join us, later. But it did not work, unfortunately. On her way she disappeared. Today they are no clues what happened but there is hope that one day she may come, but there is a lot of darkness now. It is so dark, because there is no sign of life, no nothing. No signs.
When was that last time you had a sign of her?
There is a time that we talked before she started of, that was it.
Since 8 months you are waiting, you don’t know where she is or what happened?
When you talk of 8 months you almost talk of one year! Which is too long… When I started this I never knew the dangers. Now I know that it is quite dangerous and quite an indication that she actually might not be there after all. So the 8-9 months to me looks like it might close it over. And to set kind of memorial in that regard would be something very respectful for that lady, that we loved so much, and we say: we meet again!
Because there is life to continue ,and there is a lot of work closing that we had started with her: bringing up those children, its quite a job, to have four children and get them on the track so I might say I’m a single hearted now, still to have the children move on with their life. So basically I would say it’s like the intention would be to have kind of new points a new life. And I got to learn how to live this life and move on. It is not easy but I believe there is a way.
Does it help you to talk about the situation you are in? I ask because I know some other people having the same experience but not talking much about it. Does it help you to share your thoughts and pain?
Certainly! I just found myself in it and I have dealt with quite intelligent people who to some extent have some experience through reading or internet they really, really helped me. My friends they have really helped me they introduced me to Babel so I am attending counselling there and it is quite helpful. Otherwise I think by now I would have been broken down. It has not been easy! And I have learned that is what life is all about. I never knew that I loved my wife so much, till now. I didn’t know.
It is hard but the good thing is I almost knew all her wishes. That’s the good thing. And I knew all what she loved, so basically that what keeps me going. Because I really try to do what she loved. By doing this I feel good and I feel like she is still part of me, doing that what she loved.
I have made the experience that when somebody dies that was important for one then ,other people appear that get to get close to you, like if the person that left, send you people to accompany you. Like a present.
Yes it is like this. That’s how I got my team. They’re great.
I believe you carry on with the same spirit and get somewhere. Because I am telling you in this life you have to define a way to live a better life. That has always been my intention, to have the family live a better life than today. That every other day you are trying to improve yourself in one way or another. Live better , do better things, you can only do that by being good to yourself to others, and generally being social ,you help people to be better people not to be violent but to be humble. If we love one another there will be no war.
If we open borders, that from here I can direct you to go to Kenya and have a visit, be very sure that you will be welcomed from the people there. You will be very happy and that will be very cheap for you. That’s what life is all about, that you get to know good people, you got to live better life,
I am so happy to have this team that helped me a lot because people back home have always been very worried on how I am picking it, because they know my love for my wife. So when they heard that they where very worried. But incidentally I got the good company of this team and they have indeed helped among other people particularly from my country the society there an amount of people have helped me overcome it, the Kenyan community in Greece have also helped me. It’s the grace of god that this people are there and you.
What are your wishes now?
I will answer it in another manner: it’s not my wish in Greece.
My wish for the future with the family for settling here with the family, because of getting the political asylum its quite difficult, So I believe to get a place that I can harmonise the family and work for them. Because I believe there is a way that I can settle this family again. It is 3 years that I am not with them and I wish to live with them or they live in a place that is accessible to me. And I live in place that is accessible to them. Incidentally Greece is not accessible, because of the legalities of living. I just own the pink card and with a pink card I can not travel, so there is a handicap living in Greece at the moment. When you think of the larger family, the family members are not accessible to me, either am I accessible to them, so it makes it difficult.
I wish that I had a job. Since my accident I have had no earnings, since August last year. I indeed feel very, very sad about it. In a situation where there is no earning and there is 3 family members that should be taken care of, their life is stagnated, the bills in Greece are building up, the bills in Kenya are building up, so this not healthy for me. A very close friend of mine lives in Canada and actually he was thinking if there is a way that I can cross over to Canada, he could organise that I could live with my family there. But the travel documentation here is another issue.
Maybe that should be one thing to make it public in August when we make the memorial in Evros to say the least thing that Greece can do for the people who lost a member due to this border, this militarisation of the borders with all the dangers they bring with them, is to give documents to decide where they want to live.
All in all, at close of all this issue and a better healing will only come by actually knowing what happened: Her boat capsized? Did my wife miss a step? Or something like that? Was it a strong wind or what ever? Could be somebody had her last words? Just to know, her very last words or getting to know actually what happened. How rough was the trip? What actually happened? It is very, very important to me, and I believe for my family too. Because it is part of the healing process, getting to know what happened.
Have you tried to find other people who have been with her on the trip?
I tried but it’s very difficult to find them.
So this we can try with the blog.
Yes: Who was in that group, what happened? It is not for anything but just to know the truth what actually happened. Not for anybodies punishment but on getting to know the truth. I am not after anybody it is very clear in my mind. I would like it to rest at that but actually know what happened to her that’s very important for the family. I don’t know how many years it will go on but I believe it should live with us positively: we remember her and we remember her positively not doing any pain.
And it is as I told you remembering her positively and doing and thinking that what she thought because she has been quite a drive in my family. She has really been strong in pushing us and we always miss her.
But doing what she loved most will always keep her. And keep us moving.
So that’s it.