Chios Portraits, Part Three


This is the final part of Chios Portraits - click the links to view the first and second part.

John Slade, a Norwegian-American author, worked as a volunteer with Drop in the Ocean for the month of March on the Greek island of Lesvos. His short texts, which accompany Eirik’s pictures, enable the viewer to see each refugee as a unique person, struggling to build a better life.

John has written a novel which opens with Rashida, a 16-year-old Syrian girl, speaking to us from her dusty tent in a refugee camp in Turkey. She becomes a refugee in Norway, above the Arctic Circle in the fishing village of Henningsvær. For more about this powerful story, please see Look for a hand holding an ice cream cone: Melting at One End, Bleeding at the Other. This novel is now being translated into Norwegian, to be launched in the autumn.

“Shukran.” “Mange takk.” “Thank you.”

A refugee woman in line meets a Drop who speaks her language. A smile of surprise lights her face.

Some of the Drops are the children of immigrants who came to Europe a generation ago. This Drop speaks perhaps Arabic or Urdu or Farsi with her parents at home, but Norwegian or Dutch or French at the university.

How proud she must be to speak words that bring a smile to a refugee’s face. Perhaps never before has she spoken Arabic with so much life in her voice.

Wonderful Greek orange juice for breakfast, with a big piece of bread.

Note the smile around the straw.

You see, the Renaissance of the 21st century is going to be built
By people with determination.

The kids of the world are weaving together.
More than ever before in human history,
Kids who have lived through repeated bombings of their city,
Kids who have seen cousins ripped to shreds by shrapnel,
Kids who have heard screams from inside the rubble of collapsed
Kids who reached out to the world with their YouTubes of the war in the
Kids who know the cold rain and worsening mud of a refugee camp,
Kids who have seen their parents struggle
While trapped in somebody else’s war,

Yes, these kids of the world are weaving together.
These kids are going to break out of the shackles of the 20th century.
They are going to leave behind the stupidity and the insanity of war.
They are going to insist that oil, one of the great causes of war,
Be left buried deep in the Earth.

Their Renaissance will be powered by the beneficent sun,
By the ubiquitous wind.
These kids—these great kids—are going to scrape the Old Shit
From the soles of their shoes.
They are going to spread their wings in a new and powerful way.

When the last gun has been silenced, and the last warplane grounded,
When children no longer scream in the night, in the chaos, in the flames,
When their mother can raise her children within the shelter
Of a strong and lasting peace,
A peace built by these kids, these great kids, these architects of peace,

Then will their Renaissance begin to show us a multitude of opportunities,
Then will their Renaissance nurture our awakening talents.
The kids dashing for safety in the rubble today,
While warplanes roar overhead,
And dust fills every breath,
Are going to become a generation of people with great determination.

Who will emerge from this ragged egg?
The children of Afghanistan, the children of Iraq, the
children of Syria, the children of Iran,
The children of Kurdistan, the children of Morocco, the
children of Ethiopia, the children of Yemen,
They all bring a great gift.

The young refugees who are now camped beside a closed
Will one day write novels that will shake the world.
Will one day write a new bill of rights, for the 21st
Will one day become entrepreneurs in clean energy,
providing jobs and jobs and jobs.
Will one day make films about their journey, and about
their dreams.

The boy in the box will one day write a symphony,
Which will thunder from the stages of Berlin and NewYork and Moscow and Beijing,

Telling the story of a people
Who have come to guide us all
On our epic human journey
Toward a far better world.

A refugee couple sitting together at the Chios Port. They arrived on Chios the previous night (possibly in one of the inflatable boats floating in the water in front of them.)

What do they talk about as they sit, safe, in this new world?

The family and friends whom they left behind in a war zone? The closed borders of Europe? How to use the little money that they have left?

Other people in such a picture might be on their second honeymoon on an island in Greece. This couple is hoping to begin, somehow, an entirely new life.

John Slade is an author and Eirik Johan Solheim is a photographer and surgeon. Both have volunteered for the Norwegian Non-Govermental Organisation A Drop in the Ocean, in Greece.