4 hours outside of Athens, in the middle of remote agricultural land dotted with small villages lies an abandoned beach resort that is now known as Myrsini refugee camp.
One family we met there shares a tiny little villa that sleeps at most 3 people with another large family. They invited us in, and we squished into the bedroom (there is no gathering space) to talk. They brought us some water to drink and apologized that they didn't have any food to serve us.
And then in comes Jude, a feisty and smiley 5 year-old girl. She was really upset at first (she's really shy) and tried to run away screaming, but she calmed down the second her aunt came into the room and scooped her up. This is her story:
Jude's parents and all of her 3 siblings were killed by a bombing in Syria about three years ago. The explosion rendered her deaf except for very high frequencies that don't naturally occur outside of a hearing test. She doesn't remember her parents or siblings. She knows her aunt and uncle as her parents. They communicate using homemade sign language since they don't have access to deaf education. It is clear that her family loves her very much.
Her family make up some of the 50,000 refugees indefinitely stranded in Greece since the borders closed in May of this year. It will take about 1-2 years for the refugees in Greece to get resettled in other countries. This family hopes to go to Germany, where they can try for cochlear implants to restore Jude's hearing. It will be some time before this happens.
When I was down at the beach a few hours later filming some footage of swim time, Jude ran up to me, her little body in a swimsuit, a mess of wet hair dripping water down her face, her eyes laughing as she showed me a handful of sand she'd just picked up. She threw a handful towards the water and looked back at me and laughed. I leaned down and gave her a big kiss on the cheek. I told her "Ana bahibik" (I love you in Arabic). I know she couldn't hear it, but I said it anyway. :) She turned around and ran into the water, pumping her little legs as much as she could. Keep on going, Jude! What a special girl.