I woke up unexpectedly without too much difficulty. A quarter of coffee and let’s go.
Half of Turin is still asleep, some are perhaps going back to home, and the other is already in the car, under the street lamps that illuminate the end of the night, still dark.
Regional train of 6.49 Torino Porta Nuova - Milano Centrale. We meet each other on the train, the Italian group: Giulia one, Giulia two, Marco, Laura, Armando, Vittoria, Margherita, Me. Edoardo is waiting for us in Milan.
The beginning was not the best: someone is lacking for serious problem and we are a bit confused about what we should do, about what we have done in last months, about how much we will be able to transmit and to make us understand. We are looking for an idea of Europe, we're not so sure about our way and we are going to Greece hoping to find, together, the answers.
From Milano to Bergamo, where there is the Airport, the bus crosses a teeming desert of gray, highway, industrial houses and advertising for the shiner, bigger and fairer event of the year, Expo 2015: they had been talking about food and justice growing fields of cement and economic profits. A strange idea of global equality.
Takeoff, flight, stewardess, clouds, landing and Hellas.
Thessaloniki, Salonicco. The door of Calcidica Peninsula; we are in the Greek Macedonia. Above us the Balkans, at the est the Thrace region and the end of Europe, the administrative one. Borders.
At the moment, I can’t focus the town. I see traffic and shopping centers, a bit of poverty, as in any major European city. The road that 78 bus runs becomes a kind of social thermometer: it goes from the periphery to the center, the small neighborhood markets and occupied houses give way to luxury cafés, international food companies, brand boutiques and fast food. This, too, like any European city.
Πλατεία Αριστοτέλους, Aristotelous Square. A crowded place of all kinds of people: young girls doing shopping, street performers, tourists, office workers, beggars, old people sitting on benches, children looking for balloons or candy.
Just the time to leave the bags and wash our faces, that the very kind and gentle Yorgos, who speaks a perfect Italian and with whom will talk about lifestyles and way to do party in Italy, brings us to the meeting point. A very underground and a bit dark building reveals us a fantastic and welcoming place, Oikopolis Association, a free social centre and meeting place where you can feel with a look that new ideas of social dedication, ecology, activism and solidarity are growing up and taking hold.
The Greek group welcome us and the groups come one after the other. We look at each other.
Some of the faces are the same, others are new. For someone it is a meet again after months, for others it is like to start from zero. We exchanged smiles, eyes and handshakes, trying to create a contact between any of us and remember the names. An impossible task, I mix Polish, Greek and Spanish names, creating a huge mess of faces in my head. It was also great to discover other Italian people volunteers around the Europe and here.
A little introduction to understand the days that have to come, the image of a collective art performance, powerful and unexpected, that Valentina Paraskevaidou explains to us, takes place on our mind. The tiredness began to be felt by everybody.
The magic of dinner and convivial moments is that the personal walls fall down for themselves. We start to mix each other, to talk, to know, to laugh, to feel. A greek dish warms us, the concert of Aperito and beers help us to move both physically and inside, creating relationships and dancing like you were on a camping holiday. Someone goes to sleep destroyed by tiredness, someone else wants anyway to live as much as possible these days in Thessaloniki, the nights too.
The next day, Saturday 12th of December, we start, really.
We start understanding what it means to put effort into somethings, to make better the place and the society in which we live. You listen, you understand the dramatic nature of a situation, that of immigrants at the close doors of Europe, made by wrong policies, by wall, by desperation, by lack of rights and suitable concrete solutions. It is not simple, everybody knows in his mind. But there are also stories of commitment, organization and true solidarity, that Arsis organization shows us.
How to accept that a person is considered only because of a passport? How to think that you can be illegal because you are simply a human being from one country? Borders, flags, nationality, barbed wire fence, soldiers, prints, camps, solidarity…so many words that run on our mind, in my mind.
How to act in face of all this?
As a result, we marched, we walked.
Sunday 13th of December, in the afternoon. Thanks to Valentina Paraskevaidou.
A way, with our suitcases, metaphorically full of hope and injustice. Metaphorically full of stories. But of course, it is an allegory. We are all immigrants, we had written on us. But is obvious that we are not. Or, more correctly, we are not like them. Some people, someone is for real, and it is not a performance. Passing beside us, next to us unnoticed, like shadows that move in our society. Probably they don’t want to be recognized as immigrants, they don’t have written on their bags.
There are completely two different worlds, that do not touch and do not see each other.
But if we are not immigrants in the reality, we could be with our thoughts, with our hands, with our solidarity, with our action. With our eyes, together with those of Valentine, pointed to the setting sun, to the Aegean Sea and to all over the Mediterranean Sea. A cradle of life and culture from the dawn of time, a lake of death today.
A strong march, full of meaning, full of awareness and anger for a Europe that does not work as we would like, but also full of hope and humanity, with the sun of Thessaloniki in front of us.
Someone looked us amazed, someone fearful, someone insulted us, someone joined and followed us, someone was deeply moved, and the final embrace was the best way to end.
In the middle of all this, there was also much more.
There was the opportunity to read and watch different stories to us just because we are not aware that they are close to us, thanks to the Human Library. Experience unique and touching.
There were the water, the sea and the Oracle in the impressive and powerful drama theatre performance by Ollie Ollie Oxen Free, with bodies contorting themselves, rising and drowning.
And there was to use arms, concretely, to fold, to clean, to fix, to move, to catalog thousands of clothes for refugees. And it was important, because solidarity has to reflect into action.
And it made us feel good, made us feel as a group, collaborating, speaking different languages, passing from hand to hand something more important than a simple dress.
And of all this only thanks to the perfect organization of the days by the Greek group.
There was something growing, day by day.
At the base of everything, there are our thoughts and visions of Europe that we have exposed through our workshop.
The Greek group allowed us to confront, through a game of characters, with the stereotypes that we have around us and within us, in relationship with the society around. How we relate to those around us and what they represent? Each person relates in a different way, each represents its own diversity.
The Italian group tried to communicate with feelings and bodies. If we say that Europe is like a machine, made by humans as a mechanism, in what direction do you think it can go? Which part you are on this machine, with your own differences and your time? Do you feel perfectly in rhythm with others mechanism, to create something of organic, or do you feel like a muddle of elements, without any links?
The Polish group made us dance, to make feel closer, and showed us how Poland has a long and complex history, made of diversity and heterogeneity. We have entered a little in their culture and in their impossible pronunciation, understanding how each country is both a source of emigration and final destination of immigration.
The Spanish group, with a game, made very clear how much this Europe is far from having a widespread and concrete social justice. We opened our eyes and we were far each other, because of our history, of our choices, our origins, because of our work and our sexual orientation.
I realized, at that moment, that there is still a long way to turn differences, from a reason to exclusion and injustice, to an engine of a new Europe built by rights and possibilities.
But here we are, and we are trying to do.
Now, at the end of these amazing days, I think, perhaps, to have in mind things more moved, but clearer.
I think we have to destroy something, to build something better.
I believe that we should abandon certain views, to embrace others.
I think we have to break some wires, to renew others.
And if I try to do everything alone is much more difficult, perhaps, than doing it together.
I come back with the words and the faces of people I met.
With the eyes of people I have been together.
I think this is changing too. This is also E-Volution.
See you in Warsaw, or maybe before, around Europe!
Un grande abbraccio a tutti e a tutte.
con Vittoria, Edoardo, Giulia, Laura, Armando, Giulia, Margherita, Marco, e tutti i partecipanti e amici di E-Volution.