I live in Mytilene, Lesvos since 2020. By that time I’d only heard stories about this island.
When people would find out about my coming here, they would say how amazing it is, how many places there are to see, beautiful sandy beaches and green green mountains.
Those weren’t lies, of course, but visiting is a very different practice than actually living in a place. Lesvos has a rich historical background and indeed many beautiful places, bio reserves and, of course, cultural heritage that goes on through generations.
Some others would warn me. “Be careful”, “Always be aware of surrounding people”, “be,be,be…”. They weren’t referring to the locals, obviously. They were trying to prep me because I was going to live in a place that was a “refugee hotspot” and thus dangerous and hostile.
This is a very common imagery in the collective mindset of people that have never lived or even been in Lesvos. Tabloids and media in general have of course something to do with this. I recall people texting me, asking me to provide details on specific incidents that had never actually occured and when I would say that, they would just turn me down, because I wouldn’t be informed enough.
But that would not be the case.
Thank you, Evie, for presenting these discrepancies of narrative and experience. They resonate quite a bit with the stories of others spending time in Lesvos (such as Gefsi and Eleni). Is there some way to approach these dilemmas or challenging narratives? I think of the term ‘contested narratives’ or even ‘exhausted geographies’ (Irit Rogoff) as interesting ways of understanding or approaching these discrepancies.