THE REFUGE_55 SQUARE METERS - PhMuseum

THE REFUGE_55 SQUARE METERS

Nikos Pilos

2020 - Ongoing

Athens, Attica, Greece

“Prosfygika” is the largest residential squat in Europe, run by one of the most active anarchist (antifa) collectives in Greece. Initially this 1930s Bauhaus housing complex located in the heart of Athens-consisted of 228 apartments of 55 m2 each- was built to house greek refugees after WWI. Later the complex was expropriated by the state to be demolished but after it was deemed as preservable, the situation froze for over 20 years.

Since 2010 and the beginning of the financial and refugee crisis, “Prosfygika’s” ruins have been revived as more than 500 people from 30 different nationalities have found shelter there. The squatters, political activists, underprivileged greeks, poor families, refugees, have formed a vibrant community that gave new life to the neighbourhood. Through solidarity and direct democracy the community has managed to provide its members with the essentials and to give them space to live and fight for their rights.

But as these people struggle to start a new life, already in fear of eviction, a new fear emerges: Covid-19 pandemic.

The few who worked, without social security, lost their jobs and now constrained at home in fear of contagion, rely completely on the community’s care. Medical supplies are expensive to buy and following the social distancing can be difficult as, in many cases, five people share a 55 m2 apartment. Those with no legal documents are unable to even venture out as police are in every corner enforcing the government’s harsh repression measures and issuing fines under the pretext of violations against the anti-spread measures.

The community, that solves all day-to-day issues, and the buildings’ architectural arrangement, with open spaces between the blocks and lots of windows, are the squatters’ only allies, as they are not listed in any healthcare or governmental system. “If coronavirus comes to the community, we will face a humanitarian disaster. But without the community nobody could survive” a political activist says.

The project is part of the web-based, interactive platform and documentary “The Refuge”

https://www.therefuge.eu/

https://vimeo.com/430661887/38df4be1d9

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  • 25/04/2020
    Athens, Greece, "Prosfygika" residential squat.
    1st Lock down day 34.
    Ahmed, 42, is sitting on the window to get some fresh air. All Kurdish political refugees, like himself, have strictly adhered to quarantine as they get information about the critical situation with COVID-19 outbreak back home in Turkey.

  • 10/11/2020 Athens, Greece.
    2nd Lock down Day 4
    Jemile, 34, from Afghanistan. She holds her 8 month infant, Alina. The community gave her an apartment that she shares with her husband Kamal, 40. The past 8 months the family has been facing adaptation issues regarding the differences between their culture and the western way of life.

  • 04-04-2020 Athens, Greece.
    1st Lock Down Day 13.
    Dimitris, 40, Maria, 45, Alexandra, 13, from Greece. Maria has special needs and lives with mobility difficulties and psychological issues. When her husband Dimitris lost his job during the Greek financial crisis, her mother took their daughter into custody and the couple found shelter in Prosfygika. Now the family lives permanently in Prosfygika and sustain their living with 313 euros they get from Maria's social benefit.
    Dimitris and Maria recently graduated from a second-chance school while seeking custody of her daughter. After the Covid-19 global pandemic they have depression caused by their extremely bad financial situation.

  • 04/04/2020 Athens, Greece.
    1st Lock down day 13.
    (L)Georgia is a Greek massage therapist. She is staying temporarily at Prosfygika with her son “Bobo” trying to find a place to settle. Prosfygika's community have two open apartments named "Women Homes" in which women in need can find shelter and food.
    (R) Fatima, an Iranian refugee who has lived in Prosfygika the last 2 years, is confined at home as she is suffering from multiple sclerosis. Everyone is calling her “mama” as she is cooking for all single men refugees of the community.

  • 24/04/2020 Athens, Greece.
    1st Lockdown Day 33.
    Hatire, 36, and Beyhadh, 14, political refugees from Iran.
    (L) Left Hatire is sitting on her sofa holding her crutches. (R) Beyhadh is lying on the bed.
    They have been living in Prosfygika for about a year. The main reason they left Iran is that, as the islamic law commands, Hatire’s father in law wanted to take her children away from her after her husband died.
    During her stay in prosfygika Hatire was once more victim of domestic violence. Her boyfriend hit her and pushed her down the stairs, where she broke her leg. After this incident the community expelled him and put members of the assembly to guard her apartment, to prevent any attempt of his return.

  • 22/10/2020 Athens, Greece.
    Clarice, 36, Michel, 44, Tristan, 33 from D.R of Congo, wearing masks in home quarantine.
    None of the three have legal papers. Clarice had Covid-19 symptoms and the community bought a test for her. After she got diagnosed positive, the community put the three of them in quarantine for 14 days and made sure they got the necessary in their home. At the end of their quarantine they got tested again. Only Clarice was infected, and now cured. Michel and Tristan did not get sick even though they lived together. Claris was the only Covid-19 incident in "Prosfygika".
    The greek scientific society and epidemiologists claim that the architectural design of Prosfygika's block of buildings is an example of spatial arrangement that due to open spaces, large common areas and windows, prevent the disease's spread.

  • 23/12/2020 Athens, Greece.
    2nd Lockdown Day 47
    Yasar, 45, is an Alevi Kurdish refugee who fled Turkey after being tortured and jailed for his political activity. During his imprisonment and after he has been repeatedly tortured he has gone on 20 hunger strikes -some of them lasted over 40 days- that left him with serious health issues.
    Yasar is a painter, but now he earns his living as a cleaner. He found refuge in Prosfygika eight years ago.

  • 01/05/2020 Athens Greece.
    1st Lockdown day 39.
    Dora, 47, is an economical refugee from Bulgaria. After a night party with a lot of alcohol she has a stomach ache. She shares her apartment with her eight-membered family.

  • 26/11/2020 Athens, Greece.
    2nd Lock Down Day 19.
    (L)Kevin, 28, from France relaxes on his hammock. He dropped out of University and has been travelling around the world for the past 4 years. He decided to stay in Prosfygika due to its community's methods and values of direct democracy, equality, freedom of expression and solidarity. He has been an active member of the community for about 10 months.
    (R)Lennart, 27, from Germany fixes his beard with a shaver. Lennart is an international activist and university student, who came to assist Prosfygika's community. Due to the pandemic he has to stay in Prosfygika until Greece's and Germany's lockdowns are over.
    Kevin and Lennart share the apartment with Fuat, a refugee from Afghanistan.

  • 01/01/2021 Athens, Greece
    2nd Lockdown Day 32
    (R)Ivan, 27, a young political activist from Spain and Ahmed, 42, a Kurdish political refugee, are painting their apartment in Prosfygika. Ivan, after two years in various squats around Athens, decided to move to Prosfygika. He describes this particular community as a mature example of communal solidarity.
    (L) Napoleon, 48, who is a Greek ex drug addict. After long talks at the squatters assembly, it was decided that Napoleon will have to follow a rehabilitation program in order to stay in the community. Ivan was assigned the role to stay with him and assist him for this fragile period.

  • 23/11/2020 Athens, Greece.
    2nd Lock Down Day 16
    (L)Louisa, 64, and her son Giorgi (R), 38, from Georgia live in Prosfygika since Louisa lost her job after 24 years of working as an exclusive nurse. (the last 4 years she lived at the house of the person who she took care of until he died). After that, she wasn’t able to find a job due to her age. Her son Giorgi came to Greece 8 years ago, as he couldn't survive in Georgia, but he can not find a job in Greece either. Both of them are waiting for Louisa's pension so they can go back to Georgia. Right now they live with a small social benefit of 150 euros. When I visited her, she complained that there wasn't any food in the house. And when I asked her why she doesn't take from the community she surprised me saying “There are people who need it more than us”.

  • 12/11/2020 Athens, Greece
    2nd Lockdown day 6
    Drini, 32, from Albania practices the nunchaku in his room. Drini stays in Prosfygika for the second time . He was expelled from the community once because he was not assisting or participating in the community. Now, being given a second chance, he became an active member of the community and an activist who takes part in all the assembly’s acts both regarding political and residential issues. On the left A.C.A.B (All Cops Are Bastards) graffiti.

  • 08/04/2020 Athens, Greece.
    1st Lockdown Day 18.
    (L) Batini, 54, an economical refugee from Burkina Faso is eating lunch.
    (R) In the mirror, Nancy, 24, an economical refugee from Congo. The two of them share the apartment with Michelina and Michaela also from Congo.
    None of them have legal documents and they sustain their living only with the help of the community.
    Refugees with no legal documentation are completely confined at home as long as the quarantine lasts, as the danger of crossing a police control can lead them to deportation

  • 23/03/2020 Athens, Greece
    1st Lock Down Day 1.
    Stella (L) and Giorgios (R) twins, 67, from Greece. Both former drug addicts who served long jail sentences for drug dealing. Stella suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and is confined to her home as the public health system does not provide her with portable equipment that could allow her to go out. Her brother takes care of everything she and their home may need. They sustain their living with small social benefits and the solidarity of the community.
    Stella and Giorgos are among the first Prosfygika's squatters, as they have lived there since 2006 even before the community's assembly was created in 2010.

  • 10/04/2020, Athens, Greece
    1st Lockdown Day 18
    Batini, 54, an economical refugee from Burkina Faso is praying in his room during Ramadan.
    Michelina, 27, from Congo, reads the news on her cell phone. A total of 4 people stay in the 55 sqm house. Apart from Batini all other flatmates are christians.

  • 10/04/2020 Athens, Greece. 1st Lockdown Day Day 18
    Eduardo, 46, a political refugee from Cuba, lived with his wife and sons in Prosfygika. None of them had a residence permit. During Greece's 1st Covid-19 quarantine one of his sons was arrested and forced to administrative deportation. The family had to leave the country within 30 days. They flew to Spain a few days after the incident.

  • 11/11/2020 Athens, Greece
    2nd Lockdown Day 6
    Fatima, 36, from Morocco, during her ninth month of pregnancy. She has been in Prosfygika for 4 months, since her boyfriend found out she was pregnant and kicked her out from the apartment where they stayed together. Fatima had a connection with the community as she was translating for the arab-speaking members when needed, so when she asked the community for a shelter they immediately gave her an apartment that now she has started to fix so she and her baby can live in. This image was taken a few days before she gave birth.

  • 13/12/2020 Athens, Greece.
    2nd Lockdown Day 34.
    Chrysoula, 86, from Greece, is an original resident of Prosfygika neighborhood. As she says: “I was born here and I will die here”. She is sitting on her bed, surrounded by the old furniture, photos, heirlooms from the 1930s and 1940s, waiting for a community member to give her the medicine she needs twice a day. In this same room she lived and worked all her life as a tailor.

  • 24/07/2020 Athens, Greece
    Nebil, 43, from Morocco, arrived in Greece a year ago with his wife Myriam 35 and they stay in an apparent which the squatters assembly opened up, renovated and gave them. They recently had Sara, a baby girl, who lives with them while their older children live back in Morocco. They are trying to succeed family reunification.

  • 30/04/2020 Athens Greece.
    1st Lock down day 39.
    General View of “Prosfygika” housing complex. “Prosfygika”, which consists of 8 blocks and 228 apartments located in the heart of Athens, is considered the largest residential squat in Europe. Since 2010, more than 500 people from 30 different nationalities have created a vibrant diverse community that functions with the terms of direct democracy.
    The squatters who had to deal with the difficulties of their everyday life and the constant fear of eviction, now are facing the struggle of surviving during a pandemic.
    The access to masks, antiseptics and medicine is not always easy, and for lots of the squatters self isolation and distancing is impossible as in many cases up to 4 or 5 people share the 55 square meter apartments.
    The only thing these people have is the solidarity of their community to care and fight for them, with them.


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