Journey to Greece: Refugees open their homes, hearts to Embrace Relief

Living in an unfamiliar country, torn away from the bonds of family and friends, can be a lonely, quiet, even painful existence. But through all their hardships, the refugee women and children living in Greece with the support of Embrace Relief remain hopeful.

“At the end of the day, these women are grateful for what they have, and they believe that God will be with them and look out for them,” says Dana Coppola, Project Coordinator with Embrace Relief. “Even though these terrible things are happening. It’ll be OK.”

Coppola is nearly halfway through her 10-day journey to Greece, where she – alongside her sister Sam – are visiting, speaking with, and documenting the lives of refugees on behalf of Embrace Relief. Their stories, she says, are moving and vulnerable, but also a reminder of the power of humanity to thrive in difficult situations.

“They’re opening their homes and hearts to us, which is a beautiful thing,” Dana says. “It’s an intimate, vulnerable setting. Everyone’s hearts are on their sleeves.”

According to the UN, more than 170,000 people living in Greece are classified as refugees and asylum-seekers, meaning people who have fled their homelands due to conflict or persecution. For those who have fled to Greece, Embrace Relief’s refugee relief program provides support for basic necessities, like housing, food and education, through the generous support of our donors. Because of the sensitive nature of refugee status, Embrace Relief does not disclose the names, locations or other identifying details of the people we support.

The stories these women and children told Coppola were often heartwrenching. Some described being isolated and disowned by their families for their political beliefs or affiliations. Others told of how, before they fled, they could not leave their homes to see friends, eat, shop, or even seek medical treatment – “the simple things that make life full,” one interviewee said. 

Many of the refugees are separated from their husbands, wives, mothers or fathers. One of the interviewees, a 13-year-old girl, told Coppola that she can’t sleep at night “because I didn’t know if I would see my mom or dad ever again.” They wait in a hopeful kind of limbo to be reunited one day.

Through it all, they survive and thrive by hanging on to those closest to them: their children or parents, fellow refugees, and the people that one interviewee called “angel hearts” – those who work at or donate to organizations like Embrace Relief who look out for their welfare.

As long as we have breath in our lungs, we’ll fight for freedom,” said one interviewee. “No matter how much they try to push us down, we always rise.”

Coppola’s journey is meant to shine a necessary light on the plight of these refugee women and children. They experience the same universal joys and challenges as all people do – Coppola noted how grateful some of the children were to receive chocolates and a winter coat during her visit. But they do so while living in a precarious, unstable situation, in need of advocates and friends. 

This is why, Coppola explains, it’s necessary and urgent to hear their stories. 

“We’re trying to be their voice, because they have no voice,” she says.Embrace Relief has been sharing, and will continue to share, these stories on our website, Instagram and Facebook pages in the coming weeks. If you can, we urge you to donate to Embrace Relief’s refugee program, which will provide life-changing assistance to this vulnerable group of people.