Funds raised for Ukrainian refugees in Greece pays for Greek language classes

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The generosity of Australia’s Greek community is already improving the lives of Ukrainian refugees living in Greece.

A fundraising appeal conducted in Australia mid-year raised $26,000 in donations. The entire amount raised was sent to the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) through a bank funds transfer.

In keeping with the appeal’s objectives, it will fund teaching staff so that the Ukrainian refugees can learn the Greek language for at least six months. This will help them overcome communication barriers and find employment to support their families.

The GCR is a non-government organisation, a registered charity, and partners with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide refugees arriving in Greece with humanitarian assistance, including free legal advice, employment programs, Greek and English language classes and skills-based courses.

Ukrainian refugee student displays her progress in learning to write in Greek.

In 2005, the GCR’s work was honoured with an award by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias.

The number of Ukrainian refugees that have travelled to Greece are understood to have fluctuated over time, with some returning home and some transiting to other EU countries.

Approximately 20,000 are currently registered with the UNHCR for legal protection but it is possible that there are more refugees in Greece yet to register.

The appeal was established in June in collaboration with several community organisations and leaders, with a committee comprising the Presidents of the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Bill Papastergiadis OAM, the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI), Fotini Kypraios, PRONIA, Kris Pavlidis and Fronditha, Jill Taylor.

The appeal also had the support of Greek media organisations, The Greek Herald, Neos Kosmos and the Greek Media Group.

Having visited the Pyxida centre run by the Greek Council for Refugees in July, the chair of the appeal, former Victorian minister Jenny Mikakos, recently returned to the Pyxida centre to observe the adult language classes in action.

Most of the Ukrainian refugees in Greece are women and their children.

“I had a lengthy discussion with a group of Ukrainian women about their current circumstances. Our discussion took place during a week when Ukraine was facing significant brutal attacks on civilians. They were understandably anxious about their family members remaining in Ukraine, both spouses and elderly relatives, and I was in awe at their strength and resilience,” Ms Mikakos said.

“Charities and government provide essential services such as housing and health care, but there is currently no income support available from the Greek government. Hopefully that will change.

“Most of the women were either looking for work or intending to look for work, as they are surviving on their savings to pay for food. Greece, like Australia, is experiencing significant cost of living pressures with daily media reports in Greece about escalating food costs.

Jenny Mikakos meets with Ukrainian refugees in Athens.

“The staff of the Pyxida centre were impressed at how enthusiastic the Ukrainians were as students. The students clearly saw learning the Greek language as essential to finding work to support themselves and their children.

“The work that the Greek Council for Refugees is doing is critical to supporting some very vulnerable people and I commend them on their efforts. It’s been a real honour to meet their staff and get to know more about their work.”

Both the Ukrainian refugees, as well as the staff and President of the Greek Council for Refugees, Vasileios Papadopoulos, expressed their sincere gratitude to members of Australia’s Greek community for their donations.

“At a time when the war in Ukraine has impacted our own cost of living, members of our incredibly generous Greek Australian community gave with their hearts to help the refugees rebuild their lives,” Mr Papadopoulos said.

“On behalf of the appeal committee, I thank all the individuals, businesses and philanthropic organisations who donated to this appeal. Thanks also to the appeal committee members, their respective organisations and to our wonderful Greek media organisations for their support.”

Donors:

Anonymous $50; P Lolos $50; G Floratos $500; D Floratos $500; V Zangalis $100; Toorak Law P/L / D Kalimniou $1,000; E Dimitriadis $100; Nemcon Pools $200; Windsor Management / Tsalikidis family $2,000; Pontian Community of Melbourne $2,000; K Angelopoulos $100; S Emmanouil $150; J Mikakos $2,000; A Laspas $50; Anonymous $30; Food for Thought Network $100; HACCI $1,000; V Bousouni $30; Greek Women Northern Suburbs Anemones $250; N&A Michalakakos $500; K & A Accountants P/L / Leo Athanasakis $500; G Foutas $85; St Onoufrios P/L $1,353; Alpine Petroleum / Bountroukas family $2,000; AHEPA Vic $1,000; D Diamantopo $75; Midas Insurance $1,000; Olympian Society $200; Heliadis Network $500; N Matziaris-Garay $100; T Sahhar $100; V Tsingas-Dentzas $100; R Georges $100; V Laoiu $30; M Bellos $40; R Frangioudaki $100; A Tzani $50; S Kourkouvelis $50; F Kastanias $70; L Alex $100; A Kaloudis $30; Saristavros family $100; V Pag-Vass $30; D Kontis $1,000; S Nikolareas $300; Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne $2,000; M&K Karamitos $2,000; A Vavakis $100; A Nikitakis $100; Greek Community of Whittlesea $200; B Papastergiadis $500; Hellenic Students $20; Prisma Corp P/L / Fotini Kypraios $357; Bank of Sydney $1,000.

READ MORE: Jenny Mikakos meets with Ukrainian families at Greek Council for Refugees in Athens

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