It was quite a magnificent moment sailing into the harbour of Piraeus this morning. We stood there on the car deck with hundreds of other passangers as the ferry backed in towards the dock. As it turned we saw the red lining on the horizon turn into this stunning sunrise over the city of Athens. A new day. And for so many on board the boat, a new life. A new beginning. Setting foot on continentalEurope for the first time. We could see the mixed feelings in the people around us. Fear. Hope. Anticipation. Broken dreams. Sadness. A little girl with messy hair rubbing her eyes after way too little sleep. A happy, quirky toddler oblivious of what horror she was leaving behind. There was an odd silence in the crowd. Everybody looking towards the big red sun in deep thoughts. No words just the mechanic sounds of the ship and commands shouted by the crew.
I couldn't help but to think that this moment was for them like it was for the jews making it out of Nazi Germany and into safety. Or the immigrants from Europe arriving in New York in the nineteenth century. Some people used to say we were brave moving from Iceland to Denmark. Or ask if we were fleeing the crisis. We were neither brave nor seeking refuge. We simply moved from one safe country to another with a forty foot container with us. These people are brave. These people are fleeing with nothing but a little rucksack each, leaving everything else behind.
I sat with two men for a couple of hours on the dock last night and they were telling me their story. How they came over the Aegean see couple of nights ago in a small rubber boat with 50 other people. How the children were scared and the women crying. How they ran out of gas mid-see. Their relief when an airplane spotted them and a boat came to the rescue. And the relief when they realised it was the Greek Coast Guard and not the Turkish police. They showed me pictures from their home town, Aleppo in Syria. Pictures of explosions and destruction in a mix of ordinary pictures of every day life like you and I live. Pictures showing people like you and me. Because of course they are no different. They are people trying to make a living. Trying to raise a family. Trying to have a future. I shook their hands and wished them good luck as we left them on the dock. Hassam, the young carpenter who is going to Germany and hopes to meet a girl and start a family some day. And Muhammad who was wearing a white T-shirt with the most appropriate print on it: "The Future is Full of Opportunities"
(Originally published as an instagram post August 12th 2015.)