Many Greeks were stunned to hear poet Kiki Dimoula sitting on the xenophobic bench. Speaking at an event organized by movement Atenistas, Kiki Dimoula let the public know ”I can’t stand migrants in Kypseli. They occupy all benches.” Dimoula reportedly also said “I am afraid to come out of home, because they steal”.
Dimoula’s xenophobic statements were captured by journalist Anna Damianides who attended the event and reported about Kiki Dimoula on her column. The event “Walking through Kypseli” was organized by movement Atenistas on April 28th and was attended by crowds of people and several intellectuals.
Describing Dimoula’s statement as “racist frenzy” Anna Damianides wrote among others in her column at daily “Efimerida twn Syntaktwn”:
“At the end of the tour at the school yard we were waiting to hear something nice and memorable from the lips of the intellectuals. And what did the poet say? That she could not stand the migrants in Kypseli*, that they were so many and that they occupy all the benches of the square. Furthermore that they were stealing and that she was afraid to come out of her home.
Okay, one does not need to be a distinguished poet to say such things. These things are been told every day by the old women in the trolley-bus seeking an opportunity to start a chat. And not even all of them say such things. Quite a few of them have understood that you can not generalize so they restrain.
We were waiting to hear by a distinguished poet something deeper, something more humane. Something bright that would help the coexistence with immigrants, that would soften the people. Our mistake!
The poet has confirmed that in Greece the banality of xenophobic discourse knows no borders, class borders or other kind. One can comfortably generalize, reveal his racism without fear, even in public. [....]. Alas! What is political correctness for a poet who reached the top?”
Anna Damianides criticized also author Menis Koumantareas and film director Menelaos Karamagiolis who were present at the event and tried to “protect” Dimoula.
“In Kypseli are mainly families trying to intergate,” they said trying to change the subject. Slowly, slowy we got up to go away, this film we hade seen before.” (full Damianides article in Greek.)
Kiki Dimoula, 82, is a poet known not also in Greece. Her poems have been translated in many languages. She has been awarded the Greek State Prize twice (1971, 1988), as well as other awards like the European Prize for Literature for 2009.
Since 2002, Dimoula is a member of the Academy of Athens.
Last January, The New York Times celebrated her as “Greece’s national poet” in the long article “Inside a Greek Poet’s Work, a Reflection of Her Country’s Hard Times”
The Greek internet got fire with many criticizing Dimoula for her statement.
One user characteristically wrote on Twitter: “There have been times when we wondered where are the intellectuals? Why don’t they speak? By now, it’s much better they remain silent.”
*Kypseli is an old and famous district of Athens.