On December 14th, while Greece was in the fifth week of quarantine as a result of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, my colleague Stavros Malichudis and I were taking a flight from Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos to Lesvos island.
We were at the airport early, but there were no queues to beat. The departure hall, the shops and restaurants, the security checkpoint; everything gave the eerie impression of a ghost airport.
While we waited for our flight to take off, I tried to recall the last time I traveled – before the pandemic hit and radically changed the course of the year we are leaving behind, and the planning we had done. The last time I got on a plane was almost a year ago, in February, when I was waiting again for a flight to Lesvos with my colleague Stavros. It was preceded by a pretty busy period of continuous travelling: Hungary, Norway, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and the Balkans… and then the pandemic.
From the moment the opening of the gate was announced, it only took us a few minutes until we were in our seats with our seat belts fastened and the pilot was informing us that we’re ready for take off. Once again, we didn’t have to wait in line.
While I focus on controlling my fear of flying (breathing exercises), Stavros looked around at the passengers on board and told me that nothing resembles the flight he took to Lesvos on September 10, when he traveled to the island when the fire broke out at the Moria Reception and Identification Center, which completely destroyed the refugee camp. “That flight was like a press conference or a journalists’ reunion.”
An hour later, when the plane landed at the airport on Lesvos, I regained my self-control and started to notice everything happening around me. I observed the people, I listened to their conversations, and I assumed Stavros was right; there were no other journalists on this flight. In a way, it felt like we were going back when everyone else had already gone.
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