Andrea came to Greece in 1997. When he arrived, he only had this one pair of trousers. He was 12 years old then and his cousin who lived in Fthiotida gave them to him, for the cold nights, as she said.
I said I would become one with these trousers, I wouldn’t take them off. As time passed, I would wear them again and again until, at some point, I left them in some drawer. One day, four years later, I saw them, I put them on again and they fit me. When my cousin visited me and we talked, she asked me if I remembered that she had given these trousers to me when I first came and she asked me why I had kept them. I told her that they’re a memento and that we don’t throw mementos away.
He explains that they have a story and that they remind him of how he came to Greece. He narrates that he came to Greece on foot. He was walking for 15 days carrying a backpack containing water, sugar and bread.
It was a difficult time then: my father, my two siblings and I came together and later, in ’98 – ’99, I brought the rest of my family, whom my father, my other brother and I would feed.
He tells us that things started looking better when they found a job and rented a house. They would work agricultural jobs, in tobacco and cotton fields. In 2005, they travelled from Fthiotida to Mytilini. Twelve years later, Andrea lost all of his family in a car accident, when they were travelling to Thessaloniki on Christmas Eve to meet other relatives.
Ever since then, I’ve been on my own, but I haven’t quit. People ask me how I’ve managed so far and I reply that I believe in God.
He explains that he came to Athens after the accident, in 2017, and that his relatives there turned their backs on him. He would sleep in metro stations, in Piraeus and Ampelokipoi. When he had to go to the doctor, after a year of being homeless, they told him that there is a shelter facility owned by the municipality of Athens and they put him in contact with them. There, he was put in contact with Shedia.
I was talking to people and I was doing better mentally […] At first, I stayed at the shelter in Metaxourgeio, later in Piraeus. I was part of an assembly that helped refugees and I would cook there, together with another friend of mine. One day, this friend asked me if I would like to find a house and I said of course. I would work until 9pm and what I would earn – because I didn’t always have time to go to the shelter before it closed – I would spend in hotels. It was almost impossible financially to keep doing this.
He explains that he was put in contact with a landlady who was renting a studio apartment and that up until 2022 he was living there without paying rent, only covering certain expenses.
I didn’t like shelters at all, the situation was very bad […] I would tell myself that I couldn’t do this any longer and that I had to take my life into my own hands.
Andrea ends by saying that he hasn’t stayed in contact with his cousin who gave him the pair of trousers, but he still keeps them, as a memento and for their emotional value.