Aphrodite, of Aphrodite hotel in Molyvos, Lesvos, has experienced a whirlwind year. In the summer of 2015, the hotel, which sits on a small beach and has its own large swimming pool, was 100% full with international tourists and guests. Aphrodite’s parents opened the hotel in 1989 with a philosophy based on family values, which is why they have a huge base of repeat guests who Aphrodite describes as “an extension of our family”. But nothing could prepare them for the situation that was about to descend on the hotel and on Lesvos island.
Juggling the hotel, teaching English classes and being a mother, Aphrodite already had her hands full, but soon these things would fall lower on her priority list. The small cove beach at the foot of the hotel is a little stretch away from the long road and beach where most of the rubber dinghy boats arrived in the summer and autumn of 2015, packed full with up to 80 refugees. With Aphrodite’s beach being so close by, and with up to 8,000 refugees arriving every day to Lesvos island in September 2015, it is not surprising that many of the boats ended up arriving to the small cove below the hotel. Aphrodite’s family jumped into action, helping people out of the boats, providing them with supplies and waiting with them for buses to pick them up and take them to camps. Sometimes there were hundreds of people arriving each day.
The reaction from the hotel guests was overwhelmingly supportive. Over the entire summer and into autumn, the hotel remained full and only one complaint letter was received from a couple who had been staying at the hotel at a time when 400 refugees arrived to the entrance from another beach, waiting for a bus to take them to a camp. Other than this, the guests were largely encouraging of Aphrodite’s support, with some helping out on the beach and others taking care of Aphrodite’s children while she rescued people from boats
Aphrodite expresses guilt that her children fell lower on her priority list as she rescued others from the sea and helped them on their way to register as refugees. She does not yet know what effect the situation has had or will have on her children, who witnessed the peak of a humanitarian crisis on their doorstep.
Aphrodite’s son, Paulos, held back a little, but her daughter, Sophia, was always by her side, fetching supplies and offering support to her mother wherever she could help. Aphrodite recalls one day where 200 refugees had arrived to the shore at once:
Fortunately as winter approached, the boats lessened to nothing, and from January no boats arrived to Aphrodite’s hotel, until mid-July 2016 when just one boat of 17 people arrived to the area at night.
Despite the support of most hotel guests from 2015, tour operators this year pulled out of promoting Lesvos island, and Aphrodite’s hotel. Without this, the hotel would have experienced a 90% decrease in business. Through a change of website and registering with Booking.com, they have managed to salvage another 20% and are aiming to make it 60% down on the year. Aphrodite explains that even with a loss of this size, they are in a fortunate position compared to the majority of other hotels in the area. If the next year or two do not increase, Aphrodite will have to close the hotel and find alternative employment. She is able to travel to the USA due to being born there, but is unsure of what job her or her husband could find there, or what future awaits her children.
Regardless of what the future may hold, Aphrodite and her family always count their blessings and make the best of each challenge.