A trip back to the EU border where many lost their loved ones a year ago.
They wanted to thank the local people of Kythira who, without thinking of the danger to their own lives, rescued a total of 80 people on October 5, 2022.
People who otherwise would certainly not be alive. Together, some survivors and family members came together to hold a memorial ceremony on the beach of Diakofti, the place where the night of 5.10.2022 will remain forever present for all.
“October 05 remains an indelible date for all of us. That night two boats capsized in Greece waters, one of them just off the island of Kythira. The people on the boats were fleeing war and terror – filled with longing for a safe future. Here in this place, very close to the harbor, the boat crashed into a rockface. The wind was strong, the waves high, and it was night. Many inhabitants of the island came and tried to save the people by any means possible. They saved 80 people with their efforts. However, at least 15 people lost their lives that night.
When the tragedy became known to the relatives of those onboard, those who could made their way to Kythira. In this time of shock and loss, survivors and relatives met there, as well as initiatives in solidarity and people willing to help.
Some of the dead could be found in the water. They were identified, transported to Kalamatas hospital, and then buried in Komotini. Others are still missing a year later. The survivors have been housed in inhumane camps and are fighting for their residence permits to live safe life.
Since October 2022, we – some of the survivors and relatives remained in contact. In March 2023, we remembered what happened in Erfurt with an evening called “A Sea Full of Tears.” More than 200 people created space for mourning, pain and remembrance, but also for courage and hope. It was
possible to feel the presence of those who are no longer with us. In this touching atmosphere, the idea of returning to Kythira became more concrete.
We gathered here in Kythira with everyone to mourn and commemorate the lost. We keep alive the memory of the people who died in the sea. We also come angry at the European borders that killed them, and continue to kill. We come with the desire to build another future in solidarity and without
borders. It is our resistance.”
At the beginning of the Memorial, Shuja and Sultana told the story of how we all came together and introduced the speeches of the survivors and family members.
Khadijah, who lost her dearest husband Abdul Wase Ahmadi that night, began by expressing her discomfort. She said,
“I stand here wanting to tell you so many words. But the waves behind me make me sad and I can’t find
the words. The last words from my husband were: who will save us here? You came and saved us, endangering your own lives. We are here to thank you. To embrace you. We are a family now. We will never forget you. Thank you!”
Zameer, who lost his mother, sister, and brother, stood with his back to the
sea, which became their graves:
“I lost my whole family here, in this sea, but you saved me. I wanted to say thank you. When I leave Kythira, I will be leaving my family here with you. Please take care of them.”
With the heartbreaking statements from the survivors, more than 100 people came to commemorate that night and the dead together with them. The ceremony on 5.10.23 was touching.
In the days before the Memorial, the 25 travellers to Kythira, including 12 survivors and family members of missing people and their supporters from Hamburg, Erfurt, Munich, and Athens, among others, had daily conversations and meetings with the people who saved them that night:
There was Dimitris, who took his uncle’s crane and stood on the edge of the abyss with it, saving Khadijah, Hussein, Masih and many others from certain
Kostas, who also played the clarinet at the Memorial, who with others were able to pull up many people with ropes, their strength coming from their hands and will power.
The vice mayor and volunteer firefighter who unobtrusively made everything
The firefighter Spyros, who with two of his colleagues, rappelled down the dangerous slope with his private equipment to give instructions to people how to be pulled up with the rope.
Everyone who spent the next few days cooking, bringing clothes, healing wounds, comforting worries, answering questions for the survivors and for the many relatives who immediately came from abroad. They were comforted in their difficult time and helped through the bureaucracy.
Many of the survivors who could not travel with us listened to a live stream on October 5 and were thus also present. Some had written their own speeches and sent voice messages.
An elderly lady in black sat on a chair on the beach for the whole two hours and listened attentively as all the speeches in Dari were translated into German and Greek. Four coast guard officers, a priest, a teacher with his little students, many of the people who supported the days with whatever
they had – all could not believe that the people had come back, had the strength to return to Kythira and embraced them even more in their hearts.
The day before the Memorial, the survivors had invited all those who had saved them to an Afghan meal in Karavas. It is a beautiful village in the island’s north with a valley, a river and a spring named Amir Ali. Here, in this sheltered place, many were able to embrace and share stories and pain for
the first time. Many of the locals said that they do not talk to anyone about this night, they do not want to burden anyone in their families, but constantly the images flash in their minds. Now through this trip they had finally found others again with whom they can share the painful experiences.
“I don’t take off my sunglasses and you understand why,” said Giannis.
And the other Giannis, the cook who after rescuing people still opened the kitchen of his restaurant and cooked whatever he had so that the survivors would have something to eat says: “Solidarity is a big cooking pot. Allilegii ine ena tsoukali.”
We promise to never forget those who lost their lives on these borders. We think always of those in Lampedusa and so many other places who are thinking of their loved ones whose lives ended at these deadly borders. We have paused for a moment and now we will move forward together. To tear
down the borders and build another world of welcome.