When a Syrian mother arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos, drenched and struggling to feed her baby, three grandmothers, or yiayiades stepped in. Militsa Kamvisi, 83, gave the baby a bottle of milk while she and her friends sang a lullaby. The photo, taken by Lefteris Partsalis in October, immediately went viral and there was a flood of admiration for the “three grannies and a baby” on Twitter.
“Thank goodness,” said one tweet, “there are the grandmothers of Lesbos who are able to wash away our shame.”
The photo reflects the strength, courage and down-to-earth attitude Greeks associate with yiayiades, many of whom have lived through a world war, a civil war, a dictatorship and now a financial crisis. In today’s Greece it is often their pensions and positive approach that keep entire families going.
Grandma Militsa has said she does not think her response was anything extraordinary. As a child of a refugee herself she saw her act of kindness as a moral duty. Her mother fled Turkey with nothing in 1922 at the end of the Greco-Turkish War and also ended up on the shores of Lesbos dependent on its residents for help.
She is among three people nominated for the Nobel prize to represent the behaviour and attitude of Greece and volunteers towards the refugee crisis.
Last week Greek grandmothers were again the ones taking the lead handing out food to refugees in Athens. One was 92 years old. Her daughter said it was she who had made them pack a car full of sandwiches and cake and go to Victoria Square.
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