𝑇ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒, 𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑎𝑑 𝑜𝑓 𝑎 𝑜𝑛𝑒-𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑜𝑛 𝑠𝑢𝑐𝑐𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑓𝑢𝑙 𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦, 𝑤𝑒 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑢𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑡𝑎𝑙𝑘 𝑡𝑜 𝑠𝑜𝑚𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑜𝑟𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑚𝑒𝑚𝑏𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑆𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑎𝑦 𝑆𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑜𝑙 𝑜𝑓 𝐼𝑚𝑚𝑖𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑠 (« Κυριακάτικο Σχολείο Μεταναστών »), 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑠ℎ𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑡𝑖𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒’𝑠 𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑠𝑢𝑐𝑐𝑒𝑠𝑠 𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦. 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑆𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑎𝑦 𝑆𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑜𝑙 𝑜𝑓 𝐼𝑚𝑚𝑖𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑓𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑑 𝑏𝑦 𝑖𝑚𝑚𝑖𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝐺𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑘 𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑓𝑟𝑒𝑒 𝑡𝑒𝑎𝑐ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐺𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑘 𝑙𝑎𝑛𝑔𝑢𝑎𝑔𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑖𝑚𝑚𝑖𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑟𝑒𝑓𝑢𝑔𝑒𝑒𝑠, 𝑏𝑎𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑖𝑛 𝐴𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑛𝑠. 𝐿𝑎𝑛𝑔𝑢𝑎𝑔𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑣𝑎𝑙𝑢𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑒 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦𝑑𝑎𝑦 𝑙𝑖𝑓𝑒 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑐𝑙𝑎𝑖𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑜𝑓 𝑟𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑠 𝑏𝑦 𝑖𝑚𝑚𝑖𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑠. 𝐼𝑛 𝑎𝑑𝑑𝑖𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑡𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑢𝑟𝑠𝑒𝑠 𝑜𝑓𝑓𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑑, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑆𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑜𝑙 𝑇𝑒𝑎𝑚 𝑎𝑙𝑠𝑜 ℎ𝑎𝑠 𝑎 𝑙𝑒𝑔𝑎𝑙 𝑠𝑢𝑝𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑡 𝑔𝑟𝑜𝑢𝑝 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑟𝑒𝑓𝑢𝑔𝑒𝑒𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑖𝑚𝑚𝑖𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑠. 𝑆𝑖𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑖𝑡𝑠 𝑓𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑜𝑙 ℎ𝑎𝑠 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑎𝑛 𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑚𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑖𝑚𝑚𝑖𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑟𝑒𝑓𝑢𝑔𝑒𝑒𝑠, 𝑎𝑔𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑡 𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑖𝑠𝑚 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑥𝑒𝑛𝑜𝑝ℎ𝑜𝑏𝑖𝑎 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑖𝑠 𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑎𝑙𝑜𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 «𝐸𝑋𝑃𝐸𝐿 𝑅𝐴𝐶𝐼𝑆𝑀» 𝑀𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡 («Κίνηση Απελάστε το Ρατσιμό») 𝑖𝑛 𝐴𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑛𝑠.
𝐶𝑙𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑒𝑠 𝑎𝑟𝑒 ℎ𝑒𝑙𝑑 𝑜n Sunday’s 𝑖𝑛 𝑀𝑒𝑡𝑎𝑥𝑜𝑢𝑟𝑔𝑒𝑖𝑜, 𝐴𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑛𝑠. 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑡𝑒𝑎𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑠, 𝑠𝑡𝑢𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑝𝑒𝑑𝑎𝑔𝑜𝑔𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑙 𝑠𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑜𝑙𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑎𝑛𝑦𝑜𝑛𝑒 𝑤ℎ𝑜 𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑔𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑒𝑎𝑚’𝑠 𝑒𝑓𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑡. 𝐸𝑎𝑐ℎ 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟 the registrations begin in September and the school is open until the end of June. 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑒𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑎𝑡 𝑡𝑒𝑎𝑚 𝑤𝑒𝑙𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑠 𝑠𝑡𝑢𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑣𝑜𝑙𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑑𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑒𝑛𝑟𝑜𝑙𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑜𝑑𝑠. 𝑆𝑡𝑢𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑟𝑒𝑞𝑢𝑖𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑙𝑒𝑔𝑎𝑙 𝑑𝑜𝑐𝑢𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑠. 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑆𝑐ℎ𝑜𝑜𝑙 𝑖𝑠 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑎 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑒 𝑏𝑜𝑑𝑦 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑦 𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑦 𝑜𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑓𝑖𝑛𝑎𝑛𝑐𝑖𝑎𝑙 𝑠𝑢𝑝𝑝𝑜𝑟𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑒𝑜𝑝𝑙𝑒 𝑤ℎ𝑜 𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑏𝑢𝑡𝑒.
𝐐: 𝐆𝐮𝐲𝐬, 𝐢𝐭’𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐚𝐧 𝐡𝐨𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐞𝐞𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮! 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮, 𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞, 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐮𝐬 𝐚 𝐛𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐯𝐞𝐬, 𝐚𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐭, 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥 𝐨𝐟 𝐌𝐢𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐤?
A: (Nikoleta) Hi, I am Nikoleta. I have been in the School for 3.5 years. I’ve been studying Social Work, I’m finishing my studies soon and I love that I’m working meanwhile on something related to it, such as the Sunday School of Immigrants. Together with Sakis and Filanthi we are on the Coordination team of the School. We are also working together on the solidarity team.
(Sakis) My name is Sakis and my origin is from Pakistan. I have been in the Sunday School of Migrants for the past 5 years. I have been a student myself, but I also help when it comes to classes, especially when some translation is needed for speakers of my mother tongue. I also work for a transport company.
(Filanthi) My name is Filanthi. I have been part of the School for the past 4-5 years. I am also doing administrative and organizational work for the School, but, like the rest of us, I do pretty much everything where I can contribute: initiatives, events, communication with volunteers.
𝐐: 𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥 𝐟𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝? 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐭 𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐧 𝐚𝐬 𝐚𝐧 𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐚?
A: (Filanthi) The School started in 2004, when a group of people from the [Antiracist] Movement realized that there was a big gap in the Greek society on immigrant integration when it came to language. Institutions have been and are still very hostile to foreigners, and language is a barrier that keeps immigrants back from integrating. So, that group had been approached by a group of young men from Bangladesh who had the desire to properly learn Greek, because they had no other option to do so. Later on, in the Kolonos neighbourhood, in Athens, the meetings started growing and the School became popular among immigrants who wanted to learn Greek. Apart from the language teaching, there have been immigrants consulting with the School for bureaucratic, labour and legal affairs and issues they have been facing. If we are to give a rough approximation, there must have been at least 8,000 students that have been part of the School all these 17 years. From its early founding, the School has not just been a place of language learning. It has also been a space for helping immigrants claim their rights and a space for socialization among them. The School has been a place open to people, Greeks as well.
(Nikoleta) If I may add to what Filanthi mentioned, the School has recently moved to its new premises in Athens, in the Metaxourgeio neighbourhood, that is more accessible and closer to a metro station. Also, the School fosters the idea of solidarity, instead of charity. When it comes to claiming rights, we don’t fight ourselves alone for the rights of immigrants, but rather fight together with them for our rights, meaning that we fight for the same things together such as decent living conditions for all of us. Also, we extend these to other issues E.g. we speak out against sexism, for LGBTQI+ rights or about religions, so we try not just to help students learn, but also help them emancipate, be socio-politically active and embrace intercultural tolerance and respect. There have been students taking part in our marches against racism, sexism, and other social and political issues and especially against concentration camps, we have organized together with them actions, calls for protests etc.
𝐐: 𝐒𝐨, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 «𝐒𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥 𝐨𝐟 𝐌𝐢𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐬» 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 «𝐄𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐥 𝐑𝐚𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐦» 𝐌𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭? 𝐁𝐞𝐜𝐚𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐰𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐟𝐢𝐠𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐨𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐨𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐨𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐬.
A: (Filanthi) Practically both groups are two separate ones, which very often complement each other in activities. Many people take part in both initiatives simultaneously, and sometimes the Movement gives voice to the School, but it is not obligatory that the volunteers partaking in one should partake in the other, as well.
𝐐: 𝐔𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐨𝐝! 𝐒𝐨, 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐬, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐰?
A: (Nikoleta) – Due to the pandemic, classes have been reduced a lot, but in the past, we have had classes of Greek, English, German and Spanish. Some years, we had also had classes of Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Persian, Russian and Turkish, as well. Apart from the classes, since the pandemic and first lockdown started, due to the State’s lack of response to provide with allowances or supplies people in need, we have also had initiatives organized through our “Solidarity Group”, such as food supplies to immigrants, refugees and Greeks in need, on a bi-weekly basis.
(Filanthi) – Also, we collectively reacted to solidarity calls from other antiracist groups and collectives gathering and delivering food supplies, diapers and milk for children, clothes and toys, medicine to various camps such as to Elaionas camp, to Malakasa camp and to the self-organized camp of political Kurdish refugees in Laurio. We have participated actively in various campaigns for example campaigns against the refugee “concentration” camps where people live in inhumane and horrific conditions demanding among others housing and access to health care system for all. Moreover, we have supported campaigns against the evictions of refugee families from various housing programmes funded by EU and handled by NGOs, which have led thousands of refugees among them many small children to homelessness.
𝐐: 𝐒𝐚𝐤𝐢, 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐨𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐚𝐬 𝐚 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭?
A: (Sakis) Words are very little to describe my experience in the school. Before school, I could not speak or write any Greek at all, and apart from learning the language, people at the School assisted me so much for the Labor market, and now I’m just feeling… great!
𝐐: 𝐒𝐨, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐟𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥?
A: (Sakis) There have been students from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Georgia, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Ethiopia… so many countries! The classes have always been mixed and diverse.
(Filanthi) – Funnily, once in the School during the classes, we had students from each continent: one student from Japan, one from Kongo, one from El Salvador, one from Papua New Guinea and one from Turkey! Our School is very “colourful”!
𝐐: 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐯𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐬𝐨 𝐟𝐚𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐳𝐞𝐝?
A: (Filanthi) The total number of teachers can be fluid. We have always been 2 to 3 teachers for each class, because the classes are aimed to foster synergy and communication: we’ve had different people in each class, so that the classes became interesting, but also for people to share the work and the learning experience among volunteering teachers and students. Also, the School is not an NGO, that’s our firm position: we don’t receive funding from any source, but we only rely on people’s solidary contributions in our “Box of Solidarity”, or the fundraisers during the parties we organize, or the annual calendars we issue and especially the Antiracist Celebration which we organize each year, so that we can pay for our rent, electricity and other expenses and continue providing classes for free. Students are also part of the initiatives. Language is a weapon, and there is still a Social Welfare State gap when it comes to it: there are simply no state institutions where one can learn the language. This is institutional racism and we need to tackle it: without enabling someone to learn the language, you don’t allow them to search for a job keeping the intentionally excluded.
(Nikoleta) While being an asylum-seeker refugee in Greece waiting for 1 or even 2 years until your application is examined, you may get a small allowance, as designated by the European Union. If the application is successful though, the allowance is cut right away and you get evicted from the temporary housing. So, in such a situation of survival, where there is no welfare state providing any further assistance or teaching you Greek, imagine trying to look for a job!
𝐐: 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐛𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐦𝐦𝐢𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐜𝐞, 𝐒𝐚𝐤𝐢?
A: (Sakis) I have been in Greece for the past 11 years, and I have applied 3 times to get a residence permit. The last law in place would grant residence rights to people that had been in Greece for the past 7 years at least. Once, last year, while on a walk, I was stopped by some policemen and was asked to show them my documents. I showed them my certificate of application, which is a valid legal document for temporary residence in the country, and their despising answer was “we doubt you’ll get legalized during this government mandate”. My application later became void, as the “7 year” law was withdrawn, and I never received my application money back, of course. I cannot travel anywhere, and have not seen my parents in Pakistan for years, being unable to move inside/outside Greece. This example can sum up my experiences pretty much, and I believe many other immigrants have faced these, too. I have renewed my application, and my lawyer is hopeful that it will be successful. But, let’s see.
(Filanthi) … and these situations have only worsened. Apart from the shameful agreement on refugees between Greece, Turkey and the EU, lately there have been funding from the EU to build even walls and additional fences outside refugee camps, with the Greek Government claiming that “we’ll build these for refugees’ safety first and foremost”. Let alone the issue of illegal pushbacks of refugee boats towards Turkey, where we are reassured by the government that they are not happening!!!
(Nikoleta) – They are illegally loading people, who have requested asylum, and transporting them to Evros’ river natural border with Turkey and pushing them towards there. People of different groups, are staying here (in Greece) because they need a safer space. You are not a refugee just only when your country is at war. There are countries of the world where morbidity due to diseases (poor quality health services), starvation, gender/sexual discrimination, discrimination based on LGBTQI+ status, political opinion, race, religion etc. doesn’t leave to the individuals any other option than leaving.
(Sakis) – Nobody leaves their country out of desire; a refugee or immigrant never has it easy. I was 15 years old when I left Pakistan with a friend to come all the way to Greece, because in Pakistan we were simply 5 people in my family all living in one small room, and my parents could barely feed us all with the little money they earnt. So, I needed to leave and help my family back in Pakistan. Governments seem to always have money for defence and ammunition, but not for their citizens, so economic war is also war and a strong motive for someone to leave for a better life.
𝐐: 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐨𝐛𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐦𝐦𝐢𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫? 𝐖𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐬𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐨𝐜𝐢𝐞𝐭𝐲 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐞𝐭𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐢𝐦𝐦𝐢𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩𝐬 𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐮𝐩 𝐝𝐞𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐦 𝐨𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐦𝐦𝐢𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩𝐬?
A: (Nikoleta) – Of course, there have been such cases of intercultural “clashes”, but we try to encourage people to mix and get to know each other’s culture.
(Filanthi) – Yes, as a School we embrace multiculturalism and we practically approach it like that when teaching: in the past there had been one case, when a group of immigrants of origin X had liked one teacher very much and requested from us to give them separate classes with her for their ethnic group only. We rejected this right away, because that is not how we function. The School is a place of socialization, a place where we inculcate mutual respect among people. And we discuss everything in the class.
(Nikoleta) – Yes, and multiculturalism is not unidimensional. It is not just people of different ethnic backgrounds, but also other characteristics such as gender identity or sexual orientation. For example, having a trans teacher, or having in class students of different religions, or someone atheist. These are also properties of multiculturalism, and people of different backgrounds, beliefs etc. could face friction between them. If a slur or insult towards women or any kind of culture or identity would occur in a class, we would hold on the topic with the students, discuss it and debunk myths and stereotypes. So, we would always bring such topics up, not let them go unnoticed. The teaching process is more than just helping students learn Greek. We always attain in a class a climate of respect: everyone would wish their friends for Ramadan or Easter, irrespective of what they follow for themselves.
(Sakis) – And after classes, we always go together for coffee, irrespective of religious beliefs or ethnic backgrounds!
𝐐: 𝐆𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐫𝐞𝐟𝐮𝐠𝐞𝐞 𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐰𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐬 𝐚 𝐁𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐚𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐰𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐞𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐲. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐢𝐭’𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐨𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐱𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐡𝐨𝐛𝐢𝐚. 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐝𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬?
A: (Filanthi) – That’s absolutely true. It might sound like a paradox, but in reality, it’s not. Apart from poverty or socio-economic issues that may foster distrust and fear for foreigners, electing xenophobic governments is also very crucial, because governments shape consciences. It is of no surprise, when there has been growing conservatism in the Balkans and fear cultivated for every “Other”, not just ethnically stranger, but also LGBTQI+ people or other religions. So, we need to be careful with our political decisions, as well. It is of no surprise how we perpetuate this endemic racism between oppressed groups, that is not always explicit, but may also exist subconsciously.
𝐐: 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐝𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐬𝐞𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥 𝐢𝐧 𝟓 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐬? 𝐃𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐠𝐨𝐚𝐥𝐬 𝐨𝐫 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐢𝐭?
A: (Chuckles from all)
(Filanthi) How do we view it…? It’s hard to answer, because the School changes a little bit every day. But it will remain a place of solidarity and a place that will always support and fight for the human rights. We’ll continue to claim the rights of the persecuted and the rights of the workers together with them.
𝐐: 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐬 𝐚 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥?
(Nikoleta) Especially during the pandemic, the School has been targeted by Police quite often, even though we were very strict with health and safety measures, even stricter than Greek public schools! We had been so pedantic chasing everyone to abide by the rules, both for their safety and to protect us from those Police visits that mostly had a racist character. Other challenges we faced have been the disruption of many classes, even though we tried to adapt them virtually, for the reason that not every student had had access to a PC and a stable internet connection to attend online. Another frequent challenge has been that we have been targeted many times by far-right individuals and neo-Nazis. During a three-day seminar once organized, with a University professor speech against racism and neo-nazism, we were vandalized in our premises and swastikas had been sprayed outside our building.
(Filanthi) Another example of our struggles: when our members, teachers and students, have actively struggled in school parent boards to allow for refugee children to attend public schools, when usually neo-nazist parents have been staunch against it. Or the war we receive on social media from fake profiles of racists. Our challenges along with struggles are many and parallel.
(Nikoleta) of course, we face also material challenges. Due to the pandemic, we couldn’t organize the Antiracist Festival, which is the main source of donations for us. Until 2018, we were hosted rent free in our premises, thanks to the offer from a friend from the movement, that offered his space in solidarity, but now we need to rent. And the fundraising events which cover our expenses have been limited very much due to the curfew and healthy and safety measures. Also, due to the pandemic, many people were affected financially, and our ability to help them with food or hygiene products has also been impacted.
(Filanthi) when the pandemic started, we also started receiving requests from people to assist them with food, diapers and milk. And amid the hostile bureaucratic climate requiring much paperwork for simple food programme assistance, we realized that many people had been referred to us by NGOs or state authorities! Mind-blowing!
𝐐: 𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧t 𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞? 𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐛𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐦𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐮𝐝𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐏𝐚𝐠𝐞?
(Sakis) For me as a student, it was not just learning Greek very well, but I also learnt to respect everyone regardless of origin, belief or identity. Also, I really became equipped fighting for my rights and confronting possible employer exploitation. This is something very essential for an immigrant: helping people integrate to the society is about helping them to learn facing daily challenges, too!
(Filanthi) First of all, I definitely acquired “faster reflexes”: news I would skip and scroll over on my Facebook wall, I wouldn’t ignore them now. For sure, for all of us, empathy has developed a lot after joining the School. Also, debunking subconscious stereotypes we don’t realize. I’ll give you an example: once some years ago, a 60-year-old man from Albania came to the School to register for classes. He looked very happy, holding proudly a typical school notebook. And I naively asked him “would you like to register for German or English?”. And while speaking in fluent Greek, he replied “No, my lady, I came here to learn Greek”. I replied back “what do you mean?”, and he said “I’ve been in Greece for 25 years, but I don’t know how to write”. That man had had no opportunity or place to go and learn the language for free. It was very shocking to me and I realized how subconsciously prejudiced I was that someone speaking fluent Greek would have no difficulty of writing either! Through such experiences, we debunk narratives, our view on others and their struggle changes, and we start becoming more careful when addressing specific questions and in order not to make them feel awkward. The school has definitely played its role on how I evolved to be as a person!
(Nikoleta) I have definitely broadened my horizons and I have noticed that many people attending the School, students or teachers, has acquired knowledge when it comes to causes and issues, that they are not dedicated, aware or passionate about, be it racial or ethnic discrimination, LGBTQI+ rights or feminism. Also, it’s very important for me as a “socially privileged” person, who does not face daily racial discrimination, to be able to acknowledge and handle my privilege on empowering those who aren’t. And equally, when I face discrimination for other reasons, as my gender or sexual orientation, other people that do not experience discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, will be there for me, if I need them.
Moreover, teaching inclusion by example, in the decision-making process: I love that both me and Filanthi considered by default that we would include a student in this interview, because for us it’s their experience that matters the most and needs to be heard. And the same applies to when we make organizational/material decisions: All decisions are made through discussions where volunteers and students can express their views. E.g., if we need to buy a fridge or any device – we ask students whether they think this is necessary. And lastly, I’m learning Farsi at the moment and bothering all my students with questions! (chuckles)
(Filanthi) to all the Balkan people, we have this message: SOLIDARITY WILL WIN!
𝐐: 𝐓𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐤 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐦𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐠𝐮𝐲𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐳𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐤! 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐚𝐮𝐝𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐞𝐦𝐩𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮?
A: Sure! We have a website https://www.ksm.gr/, https://www.kar.org.gr/ but people can follow us also on social media: Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/kyriakatiko/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/kyriakatikosxoleiometanastwn15/) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/ksmetanastwn). If someone would like to support our cause, they can use our IBAN Kinisi Apelaste ton Ratsismo: GR25 0172 0180 0050 1803 1163 603 (Piraeus Bank) or donate via Paypal ([email protected]). We are very thankful in advance!