OPINION

Animosity and how it is bred

I read something last Wednesday that shocked me deeply: One of the injured from the explosions at ammunitions dumps in Albania, who had been brought to Greece at the initiative of the Greek government for treatment at a hospital in Thessaloniki, spoke to the press about the terrible conditions of his care. «No one cares even though my condition is serious and I am in danger of losing my leg… They haven’t given me any food for three days… I want to leave Greece as soon as possible; I can’t stand it any more.» These accusations quickly made the rounds of the Albanian press. Greece’s humanitarian initiative was perceived as a move made merely to make a good first impression. I felt bad about all this and decided to do some research into what had really happened. I couldn’t get in touch with the man himself because he had checked himself out of the hospital. The doctors at the ultramodern facility, however, were stunned when I told them about his accusations and they produced his medical files, containing the details of the daily visits by doctors – two or even three a day – and all the other minutiae, such as his temperature and blood pressure. Other patients on the same ward could not believe their ears when I told them what he had said, while the relatives of other Albanians being treated in the hospital said that they were completely satisfied with the service they were receiving. My mind was still unable to rest, so I sought some answers on the other side of the border. Albanian sources involved in the case said that the man had his own ulterior motives for making the allegations. Apparently he heard that back home money was being given to people injured in the blasts as restitution and he was eager to get back to Albania to claim his share of it. They said that his allegations were unfounded. Yet, the damage had been done. The Albanian public was told that Greece’s behavior was unacceptable, that it failed to provide food and treatment to an Albanian national, and a seriously injured one at that. The Albanian people were enraged by the reports. Greeks are not well loved in neighboring Albania, even though bilateral relations between the two countries are on an excellent footing and many families in Albania have relatives working in Greece and sending home money to support them. One of the reasons for the Albanian public’s resentment is most likely the inordinate amount of coverage given to unfortunate incidents involving Albanians living in Greece. Naturally, where these are apparent we should reveal them and deal with them. When, however, they are mere constructs, and especially when they are made with such ease, then we must take a moment to consider the consequences this can have on relations between the two peoples.