Greece Fires: An Exquisitely Beautiful Country Comes Under Fire
Many grease fires, I've heard, can be dealt with quickly: A healthy dose of baking soda or a strategically placed wet towel can effectively smother the flames.
Unfortunately, there is no towel large enough and no amount of baking soda that can save Greece from the fires that have ravaged the country since Friday, August 24. I had not immediately grasped the enormity of the situation until I saw the NASA photograph taken from space [above]. Seeing that blew my mind; Greece was, and is, clearly under siege.
Often, tragedy brings about both ingenuity and heroism, as demonstrated by George Dimopoulos in Makistos, Greece via The New York Times:
When the water ran out, with pine cones popping and the flames still high around his house, George Dimopoulos switched to wine. He made it himself two years ago, and, nearly alone in his village as it all but burned down on Friday night, he poured liter after liter, 200 in all, into his little copper hand-pumped crop sprayer, and sprayed and sprayed.
"I had nothing else," said Mr. Dimopoulos, 63.
~The New York Times, 8/27/07, In Greece, Wine Saves Lives...Full content article can be viewed here.
"The country is under siege and in mourning," writes Georgia Nikoloudis, a family friend of ours, from her home in Kalamata. She writes quickly, frantically, afraid of losing power and not being able to write anymore. She's been sending us e-mails straight away since the fires began.
"The sky is dark with smoke," she writes us, "Helicopters keep buzzing overhead, the electricity keeps going on and off and the television news coverage is practically non-stop and heartbreaking."
I think back to the not-so-long-ago past and I find myself standing across from the Acropolis as it glows, crimson then gold then sapphire. Music plays as the lights showcase the grandeur of Athen's most prized historical site. Days later, I sit and gaze at the sea on the island of Aegina as I crack open pistachios, as fresh as they come. I befriend orphan cats. My lips pucker at my first taste of ouzo. In Olympia, home of the ancient Greek Olympics, I pose, stupidly, with my right arm raised up as if holding an imaginary torch. I take long walks along a picturesque countryside of olive groves. I scribble down the symbols of the street names I pass along the way-- in case I get lost. This is the Greece I remember.
Now it's the people of Greece that find themselves lost in a land that, once the smoke clears, they will no longer recognize as their own.
*This post has expanded into an full-length article that will be published on another site. Link to follow*
Resources and for more information:
The New York Times: Greek Leaders Criticized Over Fires
The New York Times: In Greece, Wine Saves Life...
The Los Angeles Times: Greek Government Pilloried...
The Daily Green: Environmental Impact Of Fires In Greece
An American In Athens Blog
**Photo Credit: NASA Satellite Imagery, The fires as seen from space.
**Special Thanks To Georgia Nikoloudis for her contributions to this post and associated articles about the fires in Greece.