Lucia Rikaki: Yes, there are such wonderful Greeks… therefore the Salvation plan is feasible

Let the constant whinings and superstitions abate, and let us turn our attention to anything positive is done by people marvellously willing throughout the social fabric of this country. They are the ones who make the difference, who smile differently, who care about and take care of the person next to them, with distinctive emotion and effective humanitarian action. These people stand silent, but their action speaks very loud, and these are the people treating our life values.

Sunday morning... we follow the yellow line. At the end of the yellow line, the last building on the left, these are the guard's instructions. But we didn’t imagine how long the path goes after the yellow line parts from the red and the blue one and climbs the hill by itself.

On the road parallel to our route traced by the yellow line, another day unfolds at the Sotiria hospital... A few meters from the bustling Mesogeion avenue, which every Sunday takes people to their day trips at the Mesogeia. Very few let their gaze stop on the sign with the picture of Sophia Schliemann at the entrance of the hospital which was the first Greek sanatorium. So, back to the yellow line and to the pine tree forest that leads us to the Spiliopouleio.

We are welcomed by Peter Garzonis, the president of the Association of Friends of Patients of «Sotiria Hospital». The association is the favorite child of the hospital, he says, because it plays with seeds. Matina Spyratou, the social worker from the Association, also arrives. Along with the hospital’s agronomist Aris Stratakis – who takes care of this huge forest-garden of the hospital – they will be our guides in this valuable morning at the Project Sotiria (lit.: «the Salvation plan»).

The Association is just 4 and a half years old. It makes seeds and throws them in the fertile land of Sotiria, and they germinate, bloom and bear fruit. But we don’t yet understand the symbolic meaning of the words of Mr. Garzonis.

There comes also doctor Xenophon Theiakos, the Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Project Sotiria, and the elements of the puzzle connecting the beautiful souls the Sotiria people begin to come to the surface. Art opens its wings in the first people’s sanatorium quarters, he says... the sanatorium which, authentic and unembellished, with the signs of aging, emits even today the fragrance of a bygone era. The doctor takes us to a tour through the history of the hospital, and it is true that there, under the shade of the trees, we slowly begin to imagine how the hospital would function, how its patients would come out at the balconies of the Spiliopouleio to breathe.

He talks about the hopes of thousands of people who relied on the contribution made by humanist doctors. And what role does art have in all this? We have learned to live in overconsumption and full of our middle-class selves, so that art, too, became a commodity to purchase. It has ceased to be authentic, says Mr. Theiakos.

The Sotiria project brought artists at the hospital Young artists, from the School of Fine Arts. An initiative of Panagiotis Papadopoulos, who had the inspiration and implemented it in collaboration with the Association and the students of Fine Arts, as well as with other artists. He is also the author of the exhibition catalogue, Memory and disease in visual discourse.

An excellent essay, a guide to the exhibition, which helps to connect all components of the memory with this particular action, but also to place them in the social dimension they deserve. A rich activity outside traditional museum has inspired all those young artists, who have lived, researched the subject, and created major problems, through the precious material of memory – whatever that has survived – having gone down the route of time and the route of pain.

The area of the Sotiria, besides being a hospital, is known to interweave with very important moments in modern Greek history. Young artists need to handle this sensitive historical material, and to be consistent with and respectful of memory. And they did so in a touching manner.

Memory always has a place, says Panayotis Papadopoulos. This place is a tool for the analysis of the human soul. The memory is actually lived in space. This is one of the biggest achievemants of the respectful and creative intervention of the artists, who seem to have catched the bug of solidarity and humanism, which seems to be in the blood of most of the people of this first People’s Sanatorium. Keats says that tuberculosis is a disease which loves people who write verses... I do not know if it has recently also loved my younger brother, who writes music...

The name Sotiria doesn’t just designate a place; rather, it is a bright name which may cause us to revisit some things from the beginning, to remember solidarity and humanity, which may actually – and not merely symbolically – be the only solid materials of our own Salvation Plan.

Go visit the exhibition, spend the two or three hours that it takes. It will be a healing process. At the Festival of Kos, we will show a short trailer for the exhibition, and we will hold a press conference, to contribute as much as we can to the information about this wonderful initiative. I hope that those present there will have the opportunity to meet these exceptional people of the Sotiria. And we plan a detailed mapping of the initiative, to present it at the next festival. We should all contribute, each in their own way, to the wider Salvation plan.

The exhibition will run until Sunday, October 3, 2010. Opening hours: Tuesday - Friday: 11:00 to 14:00 and 19:00 to 22:00. Saturday - Sunday: 11:00 to 14:00.
Sotiria General Hospital of Chest Diseases, Athens, Metro Katechaki, Mesogeion 152 info at tel.: 7751489; 7472902-4