Our last blog post of the year, by librarian Keira Dignan
The library through crises
Our little mobile library has always lived in crisis. It was born in the tumultuous borderlands between Greece and Northern Macedonia in the summer of 2016. The EU passed an addendum that ossified Greece as a holding pen for people on the move to prevent migration into the rest of the continent, slamming Greece’s borders shut to the 50,000 displaced people walking and bussing their way through. 10,000 camped out at Idomeni, some on the grounds of an EKO petrol station, without toilets or running water, or much idea of what would happen next.
Humans should never be forced to live like this. But amongst the dank and deplorable conditions there is also joy and hope. A group of people got some books together and began lending them out, and hosting tea sessions, story times and language classes. To this day there’s always sweet tea, big laughs and passionate conversations.
ECHO the food-truck
This year has brought another crisis – the coronavirus pandemic. We adapted using our greatest strength: solidarity. In long meetings we discussed carefully how to keep each other both safe and keep hope and positivity alive. As you can see in our end of year report, we spent half the year continuing to run library sessions, and the other half teamed up with local community centre Khora to get food to people stuck without it. The library, and the solidarity movement more widely, is an example of how we can build strength when we work together. We can feed each other, teach each other, we can live and read and share poetry and joy across language and cultural differences, even in the worst of situations.
”An SOS signal for the human enterprise”
But to survive, we need to confront the source of these crises. The coronavirus pandemic is “an SOS signal for the human enterprise”. It was caused by the destruction of nature in search of profit. We know now that if corporations continue to clear wilderness this way, more and more diseases will jump from wild animals to humans just like COVID-19 did. We also know that the deplorable, inhumane conditions that displaced people endure in Greece is no anomaly. More and more people will be on the move as the climate brings increasing numbers of storms, floods and fires that make homes unlivable. We must dismantle the borders that keep the biggest polluters sheltered from intimate knowledge of the breakdown that has already begun.
From our library we can see the joy of connection, collaboration and support. We have seen the power that people can have when we come together, from the success of the global Black Lives Matter movement to the restoration of the anti-climate change, indigegnous led Movement Towards Socialism party in Bolivia. Here in Athens thousands of us went on strike together in solidarity with healthcare workers to fight back against lack of PPE and funding in the hospitals.
2020 has not been a unique crisis: it is one battle in a longer struggle in which all of us are fighting for our collective survival. As librarians, food-deliverers, solidarians and friends, we’ll be continuing the struggle and joyful resistance into 2021 harder than ever.
With love and solidarity, ECHO x
By Keira Dignan