Another woman who inspires us is Lena Altinolglou. Lena is a teacher, a refugee activist, a community mobiliser, a mother, a daughter, a friend and a wonderful woman who, for decades, has offered support, not only practical but psychological to refuges on the island of Lesvos, Greece. Lena has written many blogs and posts chronicling the experiences of refugees and locals on the island – from the spiral of hate and the denial of the right to education for refugee children to the circle of love co-created by Lesvos Solidarity – Lena was a founder member of this NGO. They formed Pikpa Open Refugee Camp. Pikpa was shut down in – a sign of the times and of the hardening attitudes towards refugees on the island – a consequence of the abject failure in European Migration Policy.
Lena has been a truly inspiring partner in our Open University and migration research and came to London for our Tate Exchange exhibition. In 2020, Lena issued a stark warning and wrote to us:
“The situation on the island is turning into a civil war. 2015 (when one million Syrians crossed into Europe and tens of thousands passed through Lesvos) was nothing compared to this. Food is being distributed to refugees in need. I hope Europeans will respond and share responsibility. Our island is full of police, riot police, anti-migrant groups, and the army. Thank you for being there in solidarity. Giving courage. Raising awareness. All my love, Lena.”
We send our love and hope and thanks to Lena for being Lena.