The Hand Wave

Five years ago I wrote this short text. I was reminded of it today and felt like sharing it with you, since I believe it is still relevant…

The Balcony

It’s the light on the fourth floor of the apartment building to the left of us. Or on the second floor. Or on the third. Often it is hard to separate the floors of Athenian apartment buildings. Sometimes there are four people inside. Sometimes dozens. I’ve seen elderly people, young men, couples. I hear children and infants. Laughing, crying. They are our new refugee-neighbors. And every couple of days there are new ones.

The reception of cellular phones always is a problem when you’re living in an apartment building, looking at the inner courtyard. So you better go out on the balcony if you want to make a phone call. Just before I made this picture, a couple was sitting on the floor of the balcony. A young man. And a young woman, wearing a beautiful blue scarf. They were making a phone call. Informing the people back home? Inquiring about what the situation is at the next border? Inquiring about the situation at all borders standing between them and their final destination?

The tenants of the apartment (I wonder how much rent they are requested to pay) do have electricity. And water, since washed clothes are hanging to dry. A blue sweater. A pair of trousers. Or baby clothes. I suspect they probably lack a lot. Like toys for the children, maybe. Or an Internet connection. I suspect they lack a lot, but I’m sure they definitely miss even more. Like home. Like friends and relatives. Like the shady tree on the corner of their street, or the sweet smell of a summer evening. Like decent human interest. Like a smile.

All of a sudden I feel guilty. I don’t know anything about them. Not about them. Not about the previous ones I heard discussing yesterday. Not about the ones staying there before them. And probably not about the ones arriving tomorrow. I feel guilty for my ignorance. And for my busy, always busy, always too busy daily life. I know it is stupid, but all of a sudden I feel the urge to wave at them. For no other reason as to let them know that they’re not invisible. That I see them. That I want to see them and let them know that I do so. It was an awkward wave. At least as awkward as the way I felt.

After two seconds the young woman with the beautiful scarf waved back. And I think I saw her smiling. Or I want to think so.
Godspeed! Be safe and take care! And thank you for reminding me the basics.

Willem Ledeboer is deputy director and liaison officer of the NIA. He has been working at the institute since 1996. His interests include modern Greek history and the history of the Jewish Communities of Greece.

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