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Why George Tyrikos Cannot Turn His Back On Syrian Refugees


For George Tyrikos, a 33-year-old butcher and science-fiction author turned volunteer, the surge in Syrian refugees arriving on the Greek island, Lesbos this summer has given him the chance to repay a 70-year-old family debt to the people of Syria. George’s grandmother Eleni was one of many people who fled to Syria from Lesbos in 1943. Like thousands of others, she was escaping the great famine that devastated Greece during the Second World War.

George has been helping refugees on Lesbos for the past 10 years. He volunteers for a small nonprofit called Agkalia, which supports refugees in the village of Kallon after they wade ashore from rubber rafts launched from Turkey by smugglers. The group has depended solely on generous contributions from the community, but has seen a drop in donations since Greece’s economic crisis set limits on the amount of cash residents are allowed to withdraw.

The International Rescue Committee is providing cash assistance to Agkalia to help the group distribute food, medicine and shelter to refugees trekking across the island. Kallon is halfway along the forty-mile route refugees walk from the northern coast to a transit camp just outside the capital, Mytiline, where they wait for the paperwork they need to continue their journey further into Europe.

George shared his story with the IRC’s Tyler Jump:

I cannot turn my back on Syrians now, it’s that simple for me.

I’m only here talking to you because my grandmother was a refugee in Syria. My grandmother did the opposite of what Syrians are doing now: She went to their homeland in order to survive.

She fled because of the famine and because of the war. It was a path many people took. Everyone who could, left.

It was just like now. Greeks used smugglers to get to Turkey. My family first went to Turkey but moved on to Syria because there was an Allied refugee camp there. They sold everything on the black market and used the money to go to Syria. But of course not everyone could fit in the camp. So people started dispersing all over the region.

They found this lady in Aleppo who they lived with for six years. The kindness of this lady helped my family survive. My grandmother and my aunts worked as domestic workers — they did basic stuff.

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  • Friend of Bosnia

    Either you’re completely nutrs, or a very evil individual , or both.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    And what do you want to say to me with that? That back in 1992 I should have stayed at home and allowed myself to be massacred?!?!
    Kurds are not safe in Turkey.
    And stop defaming those who want to get away from being murdered in Syria or starve in Jordan, Lebanon, Libya or Turkey as “Freeloaders”!!!
    I would liek to see you if you have to flee your country and I can tell you that if I ever find out who you are you’ll not be welcome. Not because you are a a freeloader but because you are an evil person following evil ideas.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Words failed me (…). He looks exactly like my nephew.

  • Friend of Bosnia

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Yes, a good man if ever there was one. God bless him.

  • mindy1

    aww :'(

  • Mehdi

    I’m haunted by that little angel’s fate since I saw it. How long will we keep looking away and act as if this would not impact our lives. People in Europe are starting to open up their hearts and to pressure their governments to move, several marches are planned, let’s keep the pressure. And shame on the gulf states who raise money only when it comes to fielding weapons to Syria, bombing Yemen or exporting wahhabi ideology, but refuse to help anyone, unlike neighboring countries who are much poorer but do more than their share.

  • Reynardine

    It speaks for itself.
    His name was Aylan.

  • sasboy

    What an incredibly heart warming story.

    Many Europeans are indeed reacting to the ongoing tragic refugee crisis with an incredibly humane reaction.

    Countering anti Muslim racism should entail many strategies, which can and should include highlighting compassionate and philanthropic works by people of all creeds which offers an alternative to intolerance.

  • Cowabunga Creeper

    What next, people freaking out over scribble font?

  • mindy1

    What the actual fuck

  • JD

    Islamophobia Watch: A Group Founded by Anti-Muslim Activist is Sponsoring a Cruz-Trump Rally

  • JD

    Creepy Social Media Trail in NYC Hate Crime Case
    (Bernhard Laufer charged with stabbing a Muslim worshiper outside a Queens mosque, a self-described operative for an elite, Jewish anti-terrorism unit )

    Among several totems to Laufer’s past on the Facebook page are
    photographs of his legal defense team and membership cards signed with
    Laufer’s name for a chess club, hockey club and the Jewish Defense
    In the caption beneath the JDL membership card, a group
    the FBI once investigated as a terrorist organization, the user claimed
    to have joined the group at age 12 and left the next year “because it
    was not militant enough for me, and it was not an elite Jewish Defense
    insufficiently radical, to this user, are “anti-Islamist fighters like
    Pamela Geller, Brigitte Gabriel, Daniel Pipes, Debbie Schlussel, David
    Yerushalmi, and David Horowitz,” all of whom appear in the article the “Anti-Muslim Inner Circle” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a hate group monitor.
    he links to one of Geller’s blog posts, the user calls her part of a
    “racket” that “latched on to this cause just to make money.”

  • JD

    US military academy official William Bradford argues that attacks on
    scholars’ home offices and media outlets – along with Islamic holy sites
    – are legitimate

  • JD

  • mindy1

    A beautiful story, and I commend what he is doing, but my inner immature boy kept giggling at lesbos…not proud of that. In all seriousness I wish him luck with his work.

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