In the framework of the Refugee Week Greece Festival with this year’s theme “Compassion in action”, the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues of the City of Athens (ACCMR) and Migrant Integration Center of the City of Athens (KEM) in collaboration with the volunteer group “Bridges” presented the result of the “Word Relay Race” activity, a three-month writing journey with the final destination of a collective short story-adventure with the title “It’s all Dumas’ fault”, at Myrtillo Café. The activity was supported by the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The author Eftychia Giannaki, who last took the baton and wrote the epilogue of the story, moderated a very interesting discussion with the creative writing team. “Language is the field in which we can feel safe. Through your text I can understand the whole journey you have made so far, which through this activity has taken on a very enjoyable and playful character,” she said while opening the discussion.
The idea for the development of a creative writing workshop emerged through the free preparation seminars for the naturalization proficiency certificate exams, an initiative of the City of Athens that is currently being implemented in collaboration with the “Bridges” group through the Migrant Integration Center and the Athens Development & Destination Management Agency (EATA) with the support of UNHCR.
“When in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Athens launched the preparation seminars for the Certificate of Proficiency for the Naturalization exams with the famous author Soti Triantafillou, we knew that we were offering something that the migrants and refugees who have been living with us for over 20 years needed. We acknowledge the courses, together with the parallel activities, as a tool for these people that they can use to build their lives creatively and independently in their new homeland”, said Melina Daskalaki, Special Advisor to the Mayor of Athens for Migrants and Refugees.
The women who participated in the creative writing group have all passed their exams with support from these very seminars, coming from different countries, specifically Ukraine, Moldova and Uzbekistan and have been living in Greece for many years. They shared personal and fictional stories, constructed narrative characters, and developed bonds through writing.
“Through this activity, the students became more involved as a group, created friendships, learned that they can write, think and dream in the Greek language and reflect a little more deeply on what this second homeland means to them,” said Iliada Diamantoni, teacher of Greek as a foreign language for adults in the volunteer group “Bridges” who coordinated the creative writing group while Ms. Daskalaki continued: “The thought that migrants and refugees produce literature in a language that is not their mother tongue, are connected and assisted through this collective expression, seemed like a very important matter to us”.
Participant Azhela Terletskaya shared that it was a very beautiful experience for her: “Each meeting was like a new piece in my life.”
The event concluded with a group game of developing “Strange Characters” that placed the audience through the process of understanding the important role that creative writing can play in intercultural education.
A few words about Refugee Week Greece Festival
Refugee Week Greece event takes place this year for the second time in Greece with this year’s theme “Compassion in Action”, from June 19 to 25, 2023 on the occasion of World Refugee Day. It is a cultural festival, part of a dynamic global movement, which highlights the contribution, creativity of diaspora arts and resilience of refugees and asylum seekers. The festival takes place with the kind support of the City of Athens.
A few words for the volunteer group “Bridges”
The name refers to the bridges between the many different people that are imprinted on the canvas of the Athenian landscape. The courses started in the Municipal Market of Kypseli in 2007 and continue uninterrupted until today. Since 2016, the group has been cooperation with the City of Athens. Greek as a second language is taught to adult migrants and refugees. In combination, Greek history and culture courses are delivered as well as preparation seminars for the Certificate of Proficiency for the Naturalization exams.
A few words about the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR)
ACCMR is the first municipality – led coordination hub in Greece, facilitating cooperation between the City of Athens and civil society, international organizations and central government and enabling effective integration policies. Since April 2020, the International Organization for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have been jointly supporting ACCMR on the basis of a trilateral cooperation with the City of Athens
A few words about the Migrant Integration Center
The Migrant Integration Center operates as the local point of reference for the provision of specialized services (psychosocial support, legal counseling and information on social rights) to migrants and beneficiaries of international protection with the aim of improving their living standards and social integration. Also, social integration actions are carried out, such as learning the Greek and English languages, professional counseling and IT courses for adults, as well as intercultural activities for children/teenagers.
Photos: Aphrodite Konstantopoulou