Apologies to Olivier Kugler for nicking his map from The New Yorker
As the Christmas carol lets slip, just over two thousand years ago today three undocumented Middle Eastern men in outlandish leisurewear set out across international boundaries to deliver gifts at the birth of a young proto-Palestinian. It would probably be churlish to add that they had misread an unreliable passage in the Book of Numbers and set off in the direction of an unexplained sighting of either Halley’s comet or a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn to do so. The rest, as they say, is history, or perhaps hysteria.
The subject of people crossing other people’s borders has been one of the big topics of the past year. Time was when large population shifts – not least Greeks, Irish, Italians, central, east and north Europeans and others heading for the USA, Australia, Germany and elsewhere – were no big deal, and even welcomed. Some, among them Aristotle Onassis, turned their stories into creation myths of modern capitalism; today, Onassis would be extradited, or worse. Just over the eastern sea horizon from Skopelos, Lesbos greeted its millionth refugee arrival this week, and a quick Google will find the remarkable story of how Lesbos and its friends have coped.
While we don’t want to put a crimp in anyone’s turkey blowout or When-is-Downton-on?-mas, we (at least I, john) felt it worthwhile to share a remarkable piece from a recent edition of The New Yorker: the story of Ghaith, a young Syrian law student, and his perilous journey to safety and a better life, which involved a ferry journey that probably passed near(ish) to Skopelos. It’s long, so read it at your leisure. British readers, at least, might read it bearing in mind that ‘passports’, and border controls, were only introduced in their country in 1914.
The Guardian newspaper’s Christmas appeal on behalf of several recognized refugee charities is fast approaching the £2million mark. You can donate here.
Me, I’m headed out of the deserted 37th floor newsroom of the Skopelos News Tower for a picnic at a covelet past Linarakia bearing what has to be the biggest homemade raspberry cheesecake anywhere in the Mediterranean basin today, at least. Tidings of comfort and joy to all!
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