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My Grandfather Was An IDP

Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are one startling facet of today’s global refugee crisis. Accompanying well recognized conflicts in the Syria, Iraq, and Middle East are lesser known yet equally deadly locals of social strife causing people to flee for safety within their own nations. In South Sudan it’s civil war, not drought, that’s causing evacuation. Similar violence in Yemen has so far driven two-thirds of the population to mobilize in search of food and safety. The same pattern of violence is unfolding at this moment is Somalia and Nigeria, where terrorized citizens are walking, running, toward the nearest escape.


Least I be tempted to believe that such distress is far away and isolated on a distant continent, I need only remember my grandfather, Nicholas Comninellis. In 1941, as the Nazi army entered Athens, Nicholas and his wife Helen, along with my uncle Constantine and my father George, desperately scavenged the docks in search of a ship to carry them to safety. Tragically, the last had already departed. A brave sailor in a skiff took heed to my grandfather’s plight and load the little family aboard. Speeding out into the harbor he shouted to the last ship, “Lower the ladder! Lower the ladder!”


My grandfather hoisted his little family up onto that last departing ship, saving their souls from the absolute carnage that shortly befell Athens. They later found refuge on the tiny Greek island of Lemnos, living out the war as internally displaced people similar to those uprooted all around the world today. My grandfather is a reminder to me that these Syrians, Iraqis, Sudanese, and Nigerians are IDPs not so dissimilar from you and me.


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