Chicago, IL: The Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, together with an anonymous donor from California and the Greek America Foundation’s Project Hope for Greece, recently helped repair two commercial fishing boats, restoring the livelihoods of their owners on the Greek island of Lesvos. The boats were severely damaged in winter storms this January following their use throughout much of 2015-2016 to rescue refugees whose own boats stranded or were sinking in the Aegean Sea.
“When I learned of this story, I immediately desired to do all I could to help these fishermen who had helped so many others,” said Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, assisting in the administration of 58 parishes in six Midwestern states.
“Mine was a small part, but it was important that these two generous men, who had set aside their commercial interests to assist their fellow human beings in time of crisis, not also be victims,” said Bishop Demtrios, “I was glad to assist where I could.”
Thanos and Kostas were amongst the Greek islanders from the tiny village of Skala Sikamnias who were thrust into the center of the worst refugee crisis Europe has experienced in generations. Almost a million people landed on their island and a majority of them arrived in rafts in and around their tiny village— with its population less than 100 permanent residents.
For much of 2015 and 2016, they were forced to stop fishing for fish and instead, they became part of an integral team of average people saving lives— plucking children and helpless people from the waters around their once-peaceful village. Often times, they were awakened in the middle of the night and asked to rush to the scene of sinking rafts to pull people out of the water and bring them to safety.
This past January, Lesvos experienced snowstorms never before seen on the Aegean island. Extensive damage to livestock, crops, olive trees and citrus trees sustained heavy damage from the snowstorm and extreme weather conditions. Thanos and Kostas also took a hit. Their fishing boats— their sole livelihood— were also destroyed, submerged in the water with electrical and mechanical equipment destroyed, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages and making their boats inoperable.
“We weren’t able to fish and make a living because we chose to help human beings survive, and now that we want to reclaim our lives, we have this,” Thanos said of the tragic irony that befell him and his fellow fisherman, Kostas.
Far away in Beverly Hills, California— one man with no direct connection to two fisherman in a tiny Greek fishing village of Lesvos— made a gift that would not only impact the fisherman, but their entire community. Watching the news unfold about the tragic fate of the fisherman who did so much to help thousands of humans, he couldn’t sit back and do nothing.
The donor— who chose to remain anonymous— wanted Thanos and Kostas to get back to fishing and feeding their families and their community, so he decided to act, making a $28,000 gift and also reaching out to friends who also pitched in to make up the difference needed and create this ripple effect of kindness.
In coordination with the Greek America Foundation’s Project Hope for Greece campaign and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, the donation was made and monies were directed to the purchase of new motors, mechanical electrical equipment, as well as all of the labor and logistics needed to get the equipment to the tiny village all the way from Athens to repair the two damaged fishing boats.
In the end— a donor in California, inspired by news thousands of miles away was motivated to act, while two Greek American community organizations mobilized their resources to help two worthy Greek villagers reclaim their livelihoods for their own good, and also the good of their entire community.