Lena-there was no time for personal life

Lena from Lesbos island: “They try to convince us that we are warlords, and selfish by nature …  That otherwise, we will die sooner or later, that this is the nature of our race. No, no, this concept totally fucked up our planet, this is how ‘they’ want people to think, and most do not use much brain, that is true, but I believe many young people want something different …” Lena runs a very popular restaurant, NAN, where refugees and locals cook and serve. Half a million refugees crossed Mytilini – the capital of Lesbos. Lena was also part of   a start-up group for setting up Pikpa camp, which 50,000 people crossed since 2012. "You can change things by doing things, and this change will be multiplied by other people, and so on.”

  • There was no time for personal life.
  • These kind of contradictions were very difficult for me to handle.
  • Working in this kind of environment is a bit like being on drugs ... it is like a drug, it intoxicates you ... We are involved with these people.

Aristotle began his intensive study of biology on Lesbos. He created a classification of animals as “live-bearing and egg-bearing”. Three of his books contain descriptions of fish, birds, insects and mammals that he found around the lagoon of Kalloni on Lesbos. It is considered the first scientific work in our history.  

I came on the island in 1997 ... I fell in love with the island,
 it was very nice, and I worked as a teacher ...


... My husband is French, and he also could not understand why this need to spend so much time and energy on the refugee issues.
... It is very hard for people who don't feel this kind of social commitment.
... They where drowning in our waters, this is a tragedy because all of this beauty suddenly vanished.

Social issues lead to economical crises, because economical crises are never detached from social crises  and a crisis of values.

Pikpa camp > Why ... Because it was necessary, I would say; because when people started to come, it was under the umbrella of many organizations, local organizations of different types ... Twenty organizations at that time. We are trying to unite our efforts in dealing with the Greek crisis ... But at the same time, the Greek crisis and the refugee crisis, and of course, big waves of refugees coming to Greece and Lesbos, we had to handle it all ... I think the biggest flow of refugees.

Pikpa camp is mainly based on and seeks to promote the ideas of community,of people living together in the same community without discrimination and prejudice.
It is entirely based on volunteers and on donors. Now we have a lot of people who support Lesbos solidarity and the camp.

Before I began working and helping in Pikpa, I could never imagine that people could do so many things entirely voluntarily. There where a lot of things that were difficult, but we have a committed team, and where there's a will, there's a way. And I think this power of people, trusting each other to build a relationship of trust - I think it changed our lives in many ways, both positive and negative.
As I told you, personal life is very difficult to maintain. We have relations with all these nations, all these people, since 2000 BC. We should not be so afraid to work together. We should be afraid when we exclude people from the common wealth of this world.

Environmental issues are much more urgent and much more serious than any economic or political issues that we bring up.
Unfortunately, the ecosystem has no voice.
We let people privatize water, air, beaches, privatize public wealth ... these are all social goods.

NAN restaurant project.

First of all, we wanted to have a restaurant where people could work and make there own living.
When people are trapped, only despair can come out of it. When people there earned their income, it changed the entire situation.
To give them a job was one thing ... the other thing was to raise awareness that instead of fighting against these people, we can work together.
We can try to find ways to support them - not all of them, but some of them, the ones that can and want to contribute to the society that welcomes them.
This is the message: that it's better to work together than to work against each other.

Everyone can see what we do everyday, it is transparent. Raising awareness about food - the slow food mentality. That people should take their time to sit around the table to eat and talk and share.
There are many issues that are connected to food.

This is a company in which all employees will hopefully become partners.

Hiring a refugee with no experience of how things work in certain jobs is sometimes difficult.

I would like everything that we dream of the way we want Nan to work and to be ... For Nan to become be "the mother" of many similar enterprises ...

Lesbos has been my place of choice for many years now. But you know, every place is a nice place, depending on people. Last year, there was an attack on some Afghan protesting in a sitting demonstration. They were attacked by some locals. It was a very sad realization that we are living in a bubble.
We mostly have people who support us, not only financially, but also morally, mentally ...When you find out that a large part of the community is silent or even against some actions, it is not very nice.
I think this is sending you away, then inviting you back.

... in a situation like this, you have to choose which side you are on, and this is what we did ...



I would like to be able to leave this place satisfied ... that it will work without our presence.

- if someone says it's a threat, you should say it is an opportunity ...

 Eleonora Pauli, a radio journalist from Berlin, joined the project for almost two months and produced 5 interesting WGO stories, as well as participated in the interviews for the main stories. She also showed sailing skills!   


... you can bring change, and this change can be multiplied by other people and other people ....



The Earth does not give a damn about us ...

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Released by MED Land project / photography, editing: BB / cover photo: self-portrait by Lena /  audio conversations, BB and Eleonora Pauli,  text editing / proof reading: Tadej Turnšek, godfather of the story: Barbara Ćeferin

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