Prior to the fire of July 23, because of the enormous efforts over the past year of Vangeli and Sisi, who help me in the garden, there is still some semblance of a garden. Sadly this is not the case for most of my neighbors.
This past year, I “illegally” took out two enormous pine trees – last year one – and we topped and pruned three others.
I had gone to the mayor to ask permission to take them out as they were dangerously close to my guest house – my spitaki. He said I would have to go to the forestry service to get a permit – and it would take time to do this – and if I took them out and was “caught,” I would be heavily fined. I took them out, and consequently still have the spitaki intact.
Every time I took out a pine, I planted at least one or more olive trees. Olives burn but they regenerate.
Vangeli and Sisi have raked up and filled more than 100 sacks of pine needles over this past spring and summer. We have hauled them to dumpsters which the municipality empties. Because of their hard work and diligence, we have a significant though smaller oasis of green. I requested that the municipality put in several large dumpsters where area inhabitants could put their garden waste and prunings, to no avail.
Locals have often been seen throwing their pruned branches and garden cuttings at the edge of a cliff not far from our plot. It has always terrified me that they do this because of fire dangers. They claimed they put earth on it – but there was never any sign of this action. This is where the fire burned most intensively near our house.
I have asked to meet with the mayor of Rafina in several weeks to discuss ideas of what to replant in our area. Pine trees are what is usually planted. Pines are considered national forest. Olives are not. You are not allowed to cut or even trim pines without a permit. But pines, because of their flammable resins, are torches waiting for a spark and pine cones are poised grenades.
Any suggestions or plans for re-establishing our neighborhood greenery in a sensible manner and developing strategies for maintenance and care would be welcome. It will take a complete turnaround of the government policy to support rethinking reforestation without pines – but I do think Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would dare to support and implement an initiative.
Diane Katsiaficas is a Greek-American artist who lives near Rafina.