Rescuing refugees in Greece – A testimony of human dignity

Lay Dominican Anna Marija Edith Foss

Lay Dominican Anna Marija Edith Foss of the Fraternity in Oslo, Norway, has participated extensively in voluntary rescue work for refugees in Lesbos, Athens and Kos in Greece. In December 2015 she was joined by Br Haavard Simon Nilsen OP.  Here are some of their own pictures with comments by Anna Marija on the rescue work at Lesbos, during 21th December 2015 – 4th January 2016.Rubber boats made for at most 25-40 people. However, usually 60-80 refugees are cramped in the same boat. The trip from Turkey to Lesbos takes approximately four hours. The fare costs from 700 to 1200 euros per person, regardless of age.

Refugees are coming out of the rubber boats. Children are usually seated in the middle of the boat. The moods of the refugees are in all extremes, from smiles to boundless despair.
A little boy, about eight years old, looks at the ocean, for a long time. His eyes are full of emptiness. His father tells us that the boy’s mother drowned somewhere between Turkey and Lesbos …

The next moment I become filled with ‘normal’ pleasure. A mother with her teenage daughter. The daughter refuses to take off her wet socks and shoes. The mother is “yelling” at her. I do not understand a word of what is being said, however I understand everything. There is something normal and everyday about the situation. Every boat, every lifejacket is filled with human destinies…

A cold, wet little girl, called Maria – little Maria. The heater in the car is in full swing. Warm clothes. Eye contact. Constantly loving eye contact.
Sometimes I quietly sing the lullaby:
‘Little lamb, you have some wool …’
Suddenly, contact breaks through.
Light. A smile.

I have lost count of how many boats came in this morning. Many children, young children and infants.  Cold and soggy. Despair and hope, hand in hand.

Today I held an infant in my arms. A little boy of about four months. His mother could not bear it any longer. She was in shock and needed some time to recover. The little infant seemed completely untouched by all the chaos. He just smiled and looked at me. Eye contact and touch. We came so close together, in our own little love bubble. Little infant boy, the world’s most beautiful human child.
Little infant boy, I’m going to remember him forever. Taking care of him in Moria refugee camp Lesbos …

The moon shines over Skala, Lesbos. We are finished after eight-hour shifts. A beautiful evening descends on us, Christmas Eve. I am together with the “dream team”, Merete and Sofie from Northern Sweden.

We drive safely back to Molivos. We are safe. We have a warm bed to sleep in and live in a building with four safe walls. The true heroes are the children. Scared, terrified as they are, anyway they dare to smile, laugh and play. It’s beyond words, there is something sacred about these children …

I brought over 130 kg of luggage! Everything was handed out … This is a little girl who was separated from her mother at Moria Refugee Camp on Lesbos. Cold and sad.  Warm Norwegian wool knit clothing from head to toe, a balloon and soap bubbles are great gifts for refugee children. Now she is reunited with her mum and sister…

The clowns are invaluable. They keep away the cold, spreading warmth and laughter. For a brief moment time stands still, and the children become children again. They’re having fun and laughing.

The people on Lesbos have moved into my heart and home with me.
I am deeply grateful and committed.
I am traveling back again, in a few weeks …


(16 November 2016)