STORY AND PHOTOS BY JAMES CHARLES
In this series, we offer you a little window onto life in one corner of the world or another. Enjoy peaking through the curtains with us!
“You may forget,” wrote the poet Sappho, “but let me tell you this: someone in some future time will think of us.” This adage sums up the life of the Greeks on Sappho’s home island of Lesbos. Inhabited since at least the 11th century B.C., Lesbos has been forgotten on and off for centuries, as various empires and world powers have arrived and departed its shores.
The island reentered global consciousness in 2014-2015 as floods of refugees, the majority from the Middle East, washed onto the 630-square-mile island. Within 24 months, the number of arrivals had surpassed 500,000. The island’s economy was decimated as fields and olive groves became transit routes for migrants and as the famous beaches and towns were emptied of tourists, who were frightened off by the humanitarian crisis.
Now, a few years on, it seems the cycle of forgetfulness is coming around again, as Lesbos slowly slips from global consciousness. It’s not that the refugees have stopped coming. Far from it. Although the influx has slowed from the flood seen in 2015, they’re still “trickling” in, 100 or 200 people per day.
The world, however, seems to have mostly moved on. There are other, more interesting, more important concerns now. So the residents of Lesbos try to continue their lives around the ongoing crisis. The farmers still harvest the olives from groves surrounding the refugee camps. They make olive oil as they have for centuries. The distillers continue to produce their signature liquor, ouzo. The fishermen still bring their catch to shore for sale each morning. And they all wait for their island and its plight to be remembered again by the world: “Someone in some future time will think of us.”