Chios Portraits, Part Two

View the first part of Chios Portraits here.

John and Eirik got to know each other in May of 2016 on social media and discovered they had common friends and connections – and a common desire to make a book about the situation for refugees and volunteers in Greece.

Eirik is the photographer of the images in the book. He is working part-time as a freelance photographer (in addition to being an orthopedic surgeon and professor of medicine at the University of Bergen, Norway). His wife, Janne Hegna, has been the coordinator of the activities of the Norwegian NGO Drop in the Ocean on Chios since January 2016 and plan to stay “as long as needed” (and keeps her husband continuously updated about the situation).

Eirik has volunteered to document the activities of the Drop in the Ocean and has visited the Island three times the last 5 months. He is currently spending his summer holiday on Chios with a Drop in the Ocean badge and his cameras around the neck.

You may preorder the book by John and Eirik at ChiosBooks.com (the income goes directly to the Drop in the Ocen) and see more of Eirik´s Chios work at SilkFactory.com.

To the left of this refugee camp is a dark wall, perhaps the stone wall of an old fort. To the right of the camp, atop another stone wall, is a modern home.

In the lower right corner of the picture, you can see laundry hanging on a line, at the foot of a stone wall built centuries ago. You can see people walking in the street that runs the length of the camp.

Some people did not make it as far as this camp. They lie now on the bottom of the Aegean.

The people who live in the modern home can stand on their balcony and peer down at over a thousand refugees. People standing on the balcony can hear the sounds of the camp all through the night.

The people who live in the modern home can also see pictures of this camp in the television news.

Is this the best we can do?

A short while ago, she was a girl who had two favorite classes at school: chemistry, and English.

She did not like history class. Her country was filled with the ruins of some great civilization… that had been destroyed by some horrible war. And now it was happening again.

She wants not only the war in her own country to stop, but ALL wars.

In twenty years, with her law degree and the lessons in her heart, she will build a better world.

Why is it that refugees often find themselves in a camp that feels like a prison?

What can a humble Drop do against the forces of great nations?

Do you see the boy behind the Drop, leaning on the fence? In twenty years, he is going to be an international human rights lawyer.

He is going to help design a very different map.

When we arrived at Vial detention camp this evening, the guards would not open the gates, so the volunteers served the soup through small openings in the gate.

How close are we to the edge, when we’re passing cups of soup through a hole in the fence to people who are desperate for a meal?

Look at the face of the boy behind the fence. Whatever he is feeling – worry, fear, confusion – he is feeling it deeply.

When will he again find himself in a classroom, peaceful and organized and safe?

The Drops come from various countries. The kids come from various countries. Everybody is a long way from home.

The three consultants on the left, tall and attentive, help the Drops with delivering food for the refugee meals.

The three consultants on the right, a little shorter, a little younger, are watching five women and two men as they conduct a meeting.

Here are the seeds of the 21st century.

Chios Portraits continues in part three...


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.