Leading up to World Refugee Day (June 20), we’re launching a series of reflections upon our personal experiences in dealing with the consequences of war and conflict and the increased influx of refugees to Europe. How can we, newcomers and local residents alike, work together at grassroots level to create a better future for us all?
Bonnections was initiated by a group of refugees and volunteers who met through the local refugee work. Maria Grazia joined the group after visiting our first book club meeting in April. As it turned out, she co-founded a similar story telling project with friends in Italy to give a voice to refugees and migrants who landed on Sicily’s shores by boat.
The intercultural Collettivo Antigone blog aims to provide inputs to reflect on complex issues, such as refugee protection and forced migration, from multiple angles and to present individual stories. “Just like me, Moussa left what he knew to build a better future. Moussa has paid a very high price for his bravery and every night he goes to bed wondering if he’ll ever see his mum again. Moussa is not an immigrant. Moussa is a person,“ she explains.
This is Maria’s story.
My name is Maria Grazia and I come from Sicily. You may have heard about my native town, named Augusta. It’s now often mentioned in the media in relation to the current humanitarian crisis. The port in Augusta has played and is still playing a major role in welcoming migrants who have been rescued while crossing the Mediterranean.
In May 2014, I went back home for vacation and I could see myself what was happening in my former elementary school that was converted into a temporary shelter for unaccompanied minors. Being able to speak both French and English, I had the chance to speak with the guys there. In some cases we became friends and we are still in contact.
I was so shocked by the hardship of their living conditions in the school as well as by their stories that I decided to give them a voice. At first the blog was conceived as a virtual place to collect those stories, but afterwards new people have joined and we have started dealing with migrations from various perspectives: art, cinema, translation, creative writing and so on. At present we have two refugees from Africa and one from Syria writing with us.
The turning point was in November when we published the first poem written by a 17-year old guy from the Ivory Coast. The poem was enormously successful thanks to the strength of the feelings expressed and to the picture used for illustration.
Photography is crucial to support our texts and we have been cooperating with different photographers, including Francesco Malavolta. He is an Italian photojournalist who has been covering migrations for more than 20 years working on behalf of International Organisation for Migrations (IOM), Associated Press, UNHCR and Frontex.
Francesco has believed in our project from the very beginning and we are all very grateful to him. His work shows the hardship and painful reality that migrants and refugees have to go through in order to get to Europe and cross the European borders ranging from Greece to Sicily, from Lesvos to Lampedusa, from Ceuta and Melilla to the “Balkan Route”.
I warmly recommend to visit his website as well as to follow his Facebook page. It will give you a chance to gain a better understanding about the so-called “refugee crisis”. To me it seems more like a “crisis of humanity”
Here’s the English section of our website.