The grandmother of all refugee children dies at 90

One of Greece's well-known symbols of solidarity with refugees, known to all as “grandmother Maritsa," passed away on January 16, 2019.

Dialekti Angeli
Dialekti Angeli NewsMavens, Greece
The grandmother of all refugee children dies at 90 - NewsMavens
Maritsa Mavrapidou, YouTube

Why this story matters:

Maritsa Mavrapidou was a refugee child herself. Her parents had traveled to the island of Lesvos during the Greco-Turkish War. Maritsa Mavrapidou was also one of the three “grandmothers” who symbolized solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of refugees -- Syrians in the vast majority -- who crossed the Aegean from the opposite coast of Lesvos’ Skala Sikamnias during 2015 and 2016.

Grandma Maritsa and her friends Emilia Kamvyssi and Efstratia Mavrapidou spent their whole lives in the fishing village of Skala. There, they became symbols of humanitarian assistance for the refugees when they were photographed taking care of an infant, the child of a refugee woman from Syria who had just come ashore.

The three women continued to offer assistance any way they could, for as long as their village was at the heart of the refugee-humanitarian crisis. Every morning, they went to the coast and, with other volunteers, helped those who arrived daily -- even hourly -- on the Greek island from the Turkish coast.

After their photograph, taken by Lefteris Partsalis, they were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In November 2015, the President of the Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, visited the island and met with another elderly volunteer, Grandma Militsa. When he congratulated her on her efforts, she simply answered: “Why are you congratulating me, son? What did I do?”

Details from the story:

  • Moschonissia was a cluster of small islands in Asia Minor, just opposite the island of Lesvos.
  • Greece’s Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, expressed his condolences to her family, stressing the following: "Maritsa Mavrapidou, one of the three grandmothers of Lesvos, who opened their arms to the refugees, has left us. Grandma Maritsa will always be a symbol of solidarity and love".
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