Road takes, road leaves… “Refugee roads” training program

Road takes, road leaves…

“Refugee roads” training program

Eleni Ilia


In order to raise the awareness of toddlers towards refugees, we design and implement an educational program that focuses on a literary person familiar to our class, who was mentioned by the children themselves in their effort to contribute to the understanding of the concept of “refugee”. Characteristics of our educational program are its playful character, the universal participation of toddlers in it and the expression of the creative thinking of toddlers. Based on the teaching principle of declining guidance, students narrate episodes they create with their imagination about the adventure of refuge of this particular literary hero that they believe it begins when their garden is destroyed.

Key words: refuge, literary hero, creativity


The quality of literature to evoke experiences is responsible for the invention of this program. More specifically, in our class we tried to define the concept of “refugee” in the context of a relaxed discussion with the children in   order   to raise their awareness about the presence of refugees in our area, their development of friendly feelings and attitudes towards our fellow refugees. Pointing out that these people are being forced to leave their place of residence because it has been destroyed and while we were looking for relevant real-life stimuli for our students, news bulletins and so on, one schoolgirl remarked enthusiastically: “Like the Little Girl who left her garden that was destroyed”.

The specific person that the student spoke about is the heroine of a favorite literary text among toddlers of our class. Although the heroine with the term “refugee” was not described anywhere in this text, we considered that her example was ideal for explaining the concept. Thanks to the association of the refugees with a literary person already familiar to the toddlers, the refugees had now acquired an entity in the perception of all our students, they had become real, familiar, friendly persons.

As the title of our educational program, we chose the stereotypical phrase of the fairy tales “Road takes, road leaves…” in order to highlight the dimension of the adventure that the refugee recommends and on the other hand to give the program the “magic” element beloved to children.

Identity of the program

Our educational action for the school year 2016-2017 took place exclusively in the context of the optional program of the Nursery School that develops from one p.m. until four p.m. in a public nursery school of West Attica. The participating students are fifteen, of which ten are girls, three are preschoolers, one does not know the Greek language well and one graduates because he has a serious articulation problem.


  • Familiarization of toddlers with the refugee phenomenon and their awareness in the refugee struggle for a better life.
  • Positioning each toddler at the center of the group of classmates and consequently promoting contact and communication between all toddlers.
  • Awareness of literary works and heroes as reference points and consequently development of a philanthropic attitude by the toddlers.
  • Verbal development and especially cultivation of the narrative ability.
  • Cultivation of students’ creative thinking.
  • Understanding the connection between the oral and written speech to represent the spoken world.

Principles and Methodology

Reacting flexibly, stimulating the student’s report, we designed and implemented this curriculum, which focuses the class interest on the refugee survival struggle, utilizing a narrative character. Thus, the enormous pedagogical power of literature, since it transmits to us experiences (Iser, 1990: 104, 281) through our identification with literary heroes (Booth, 1987: 278-281, 378), becomes in our case the starting point for the initiation of toddlers into the refugee phenomenon. For the specific literary person on whom we focused our program, there is nowhere in the relevant literary book (Ilia, E. 2012) a designation of ethnicity or race, nor is it even referred to by any name other than “Little Girl”. This certainly gives the impression that anyone could be a refugee, provided that conditions and circumstances are met.

The use of this narrative person for the consolidation of the concept of “refugee” and the acquaintance of toddlers with the corresponding social phenomenon of our time also shows the advantage that this person was not created for this purpose. It pre-existed and simply the modern reality, the conjuncture we are experiencing, dictated the corresponding way of seeing it. Consequently, concepts and impressions regarding refuge arise effortlessly, of course.

The narrative point of the relevant work in which the search for another place becomes the only way out and perspective for the Little Girl-heroine, is the starting point of the narration of the students, who are asked to be placed in a series of questions common to all. Each question corresponds to a chapter in their story about the refugee course of the little heroine. In other words, the narration of toddlers is a continuation of the literary text in a specific direction that the toddlers themselves led it.

As the dominant element of childhood is the need and the mood for play (Huizinga, 1989: 20-28), we take care to give our educational program a playful dimension (Poslaniek, 1992:18). So, the toddlers before taking the floor to answer any question, they turn either to the right or to the left the globe located in the center of the circle where they sit. This represents the path that the Little Girl will travel until she ends up in a place that will become her new homeland.

Aiming with the specific educational program and the cultivation of creative thinking and expression of all students with a focus on the issue of refuge, the children produce the original narrative texts, sometimes in groups and sometimes individually. The creation of texts is based on the principle of declining guidance applied to text-centered teaching models. In particular, the process by which children’s texts emerge is that of questions and answers. The teacher, who is a very attentive listener, asks questions, usually clarifying, in relation to the previous answers he has received. It goes without saying that as toddlers’ answers become more complete and clearer, the number of supplementary questions asked is limited.

Students’ narrative texts are recorded in traditional or modern ways, such as writing on paper, writing on a computer, recording, videotaping, etc. for a variety of uses. Among the ways of utilization, we mention the theatrical performance of children’s texts or their publication on the school blog. This utilization works for students as an additional motivation for creative expression.

Here are some of our most common questions to all toddlers, in which we recorded their responses: What does the Little Girl have with her on the refugee trip? / How does she travel? / Where would she like to go? / How does she dream of the place she will leave? / Who are her companions on the streets of refuge? / Travel experiences / Impressions from the new life / Feelings about the old and the new life.


The following are completely indicative of three toddlers’ narratives: a) about how the Little Girl dreams of the place she will live, b) about her experiences from the streets of refuge and c) about her impressions and feelings about her old and new life.

  1. The Little Girl dreams of making another garden that is much bigger than the old one. She wants to have a horse, a cow, butterflies, cats and a dog. The Little Girl dreams of taking care of her animals with the Little Prince. She wishes the two of them live in a place where there are no other people and take walks together in the playground.
  2. The Little Girl dreams of making a little flower garden in the house of the Little Prince so that the Little Prince can feel happy. The snow will fall all night but every morning when they wake up, the sun will have melted the snow.


  1. The Little Girl saw one night on her way a red dragon, whose mouth fire was coming out. The dragon set fire to a house that started burning. The family inside alerted the Fire Department, which arrived quickly. They managed to extinguish the fire before the whole house burned down. This dragon had wings. It started flying high and throwing stones at people’s houses. The Little Girl saw the people doing chores to fix the dragon’s destruction and went into the housed and helped. In one house she told the little child and his parents: “Your house looks nice”. And then they told her that she could stay with them. When the sun came up, the police chased the dragon but it escaped. The Little Girl remembered a friend of hers, who knew a lot about dragons. She had learned from him that when a dragon rules the city, it is because it wants to eat. She told the family and mum made soup for the dragon. Since then, every time the dragon was hungry, it went and ate in the house where the Little Girl lived. So, it did not hurt people again.
  2. The Little Girl had seen a house that had the shape of a rose. The carpenters had made it this way for a girl who liked flowers. The house smelled like a rose because the girl who lived there sprayed it with her own rose perfume. When the Little Girl walked outside, she saw that the door was open and entered. The girl who owned this home, whenever she was away, left the door open for anyone who likes flowers to enter. When the Little Girl came in, she saw that flowers were painted on the walls. The Little Girl lay on the bed to rest. Then, she ate two yoghurts she found in the fridge and a whole pineapple she saw on the table, and continued the journey.
  3. The Little Girl along with other little refugees arrive in a forest to relax and cut fruit. There, they saw an amazing house. They made a wish for the door to open and it opened immediately. They realized that the house was magical. They saw a fountain in the garden changing colors and found paintings for the children to paint there. They wished to stay in this house and have lots of books and toys, and that wish came true. The last wish made by the Little Girl was for all the children to have many pairs of shoes, one for winter, another for spring, another for summer and another for autumn.


  1. The Little Girl likes her new homeland, which is England. Her cousin has also gone there and they are hanging out. She has dolls that talk, they say what the Little Girl tells them. In England, the Little Girl finds telescopes to look at the planets. She also buys antiques to decorate her house. She cannot find one pink and white flower, though, which they had in their homeland. Whenever the Little Girl remembers her mother who was killed, she cries. But because she arranges to go out, she quickly stops crying to get ready.
  2. The Little Girl is in Greece. She goes to a shop that has a beautiful doll and they play “family” with a little boy. They have the doll for their baby. The Little Girl has lost her family when her house was destroyed. On the day the Little Girl has her birthday, the boy who plays together in the shop takes money from his dad and gives the Little Girl the doll as a gift. Whenever the Little Girl remembers her old life, she feels sad. She then thinks of her friend and feels happy.
  3. The Little Girl is happy because she can play with the flowers “he loves me – he doesn’t love me” for her old garden and then throw the flowers high to fall on her. She looks out of the window at the children in the square and greets them. So, she has made five friends. She plays with them when she finds their games easy. In difficult games, such as “play tag”, she does not play because she is afraid of being hit. An easy game is when they play “family” or when they play the Sun, the Earth, and other planets. The Little Girl is wearing embroidered clothes with threads that have the colors of earth. So, the other kids always ask the Little Girl to play the role of the Earth.


The children became aware of the issue of refugees as they identified themselves with a literary person close to them, who they considered to be experiencing the refugee problem. As part of the program, they focused on the inner world of refugees, as they reflected on and presented the dreams and expectations of a refugee child for his new life, his memories of his life before the refugee period and his feelings for all this adventure.

The literary text having been wonderfully assimilated, as evidenced by its use by the toddlers themselves to understand the concept of refuge, functioned as an experience and offered an ideal stimulus to the children’s imagination for the development of history. The children’s enthusiasm for participating in the educational program remained undiminished. The successive narratives of each child show its narrative development.

It is just as easy to conclude that toddlers’ imagination is inexhaustible. Each narrative with the same question/theme is different, original, unrepeatable. Whenever a toddler-narrator makes reference to elements of a classmate’s previous narrative, these elements are at the same time used wonderfully.

The ability to listen and communicate was fully developed for all toddlers, as evidenced by the relationship of the narratives to the subject, the variety of toddler narrative versions, and the creative use of classmates’ participation in the narrative process.

The specific program can be carried out with students of nursery school as well as with students of all grades of Elementary and High School, with the sole condition of utilizing a suitable stimulus, literary or other work of art (e.g. Painting, song, etc.), which stimulus will arise effortlessly.


Booth, W. (1987). The Rhetoric of Fiction. Middlesex: Penguin Books

Huck, C., Helper, S. and Hickman, J. (1979) Children’s literature in the Elementary School, Holt Rinehart and Winston

Huizinga, J. (1989) Homo Ludens, trans. S. Rozakis – G. Lykiardopoulos, Athens: Gnosi

Ilia, E. (2012). After «Τhe Little Prince»… Athens: Eridanus

Ilia, E. and Matsagouras, I. (2006) “From Game to Speech: Production of children’s texts through playful activities, in: P. Papoulia – Tzelepi, A. Fterniati, K. Thivaios (Editing), Literature Research and Practice in Greek Society, Athens: Ellinika Grammata, pp. 307-317

Iser, W. (1990). The Implied Reader. Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press.

Matsagouras, I. (2001) The School Class, vol. B’: Text-centric Approach to Written Speech, Athens

Pascucci, M. and Rossi, F. (2002) “Not just a scribe”, Gefyres, vol. 6, pp.16-23

Poslaniek, K. (1992). To give children the Appetite for Reading, trans. St. Athini, Athens: Kastaniotis

*This program was presented at the 3rd International Conference on the Promotion of Educational Innovation (Larisa, Greece, 2017) and is included in Vo. A’ of its Proceedings, ISBN: 978-618-82197-6-2, pp. 697-702.

The same text was published in the international educational journal, Journal of Modern Education Review, USA, ISSN: 2155-7993, October 2020, Vo. 10, No. 10, pp. 839-843.



Eleni Ilia


My Refugee Little Girl


Translated by

Thanos Zervas


P A R T   O N E

The Gift of the Sunset

I have reached this beach, it is quiet in the summer and deserted the rest of the seasons, hoping to enjoy the sunset. With my escape this spring afternoon, I seek to get rid of the tension and anxiety, albeit temporarily. It is so painful to wait for the certain death of a loved one!…

Sitting on a granite rock at the eastern end of the hospitable bay, right where the land forms a tongue in the sea, I wait with my gaze fixed on the sun. For some time now, it is no longer the mighty king, the haughty and inaccessible to its high throne. Tracing its defined course to the surface of the water, it is getting closer and closer to me.

While the body of the sun sinks, its soul, its crimson color, deep and warm, spreads everywhere; on the water, on the horizon, on the stone mountains, on the few clouds. To be included in this color uniformity, I make sure to keep my bare feet wet. Thus, I do not feel alone but part of the natural space that surrounds me…

That is when I see an indefinite mark on the surface of the sea. I rub my eyes to notice it better. It is becoming more and more visible and so little by little I understand that it is approaching the beach. Eventually, I manage to single out a child’s head. How strange! All afternoon, I have not seen any boat passing in the open sea. A little girl of five or six years old comes out of the water right where I am sitting and stands silently in front of me.

From the very first moment, her look impresses me. It does not look like most young children’s today, who perfectly imitate the ways and style of adults. The little girl is looking at me steadily, with disarming innocence.

Where does she come from? I wonder a lot. There is no reasonable explanation for the mystery of her presence. How did she swim such a huge distance? Whatever the answer is, in addition to questioning, I also feel absolute responsibility towards her, due to her young age. As I try to wipe her body, an even bigger surprise awaits me. I realize that her skin, hair and little dress have not been wet at all.

  • Where do you come from? I ask breathlessly, asking for confirmation of the idea that has suddenly stuck in my mind. She stretches out her little hand with her index finger extended towards the sea.
  • From the sea? Are you a mermaid? I joke quickly, to hide my agitation. She nods her little head a few times to the right and left, very seriously, to refuse.
  • Don’t you ever speak? I continue, having given up trying to look cool. She nods in agreement this time. While I struggle in vain to smile, completely surrendered to my anxiety the little girl adds unexpectedly:
  • I come from the island…

This is exactly the answer I was waiting for; however, my need to protect myself, to rule out any possible mistake, makes me keep asking for clarification.

  • Which of the islands? I ask as if I do not suspect anything.
  • Are there many? the Little Girl wonders with emotional naivety. To conclude:
  • From the island with the garden.

This may not seem very informative, but to me, it is the most specific thing in the world right now. Colors, sounds, smells, touches and tastes awaken inside me and transfer me to the garden where I lived my first childhood years…

The Garden of the Senses

This garden remains always inextricably linked to my senses. When I was a five or six-year-old child, it was my whole world. It was vaster than the universe and at the same time as familiar and safe as my parents’ hug. A series of roses, lined up at equal distances from each other, along with the handrail of the low terrace of the house that was built in its northern part, formed its most respectable point. The roses from their place could always watch my efforts to gain knowledge during the hours I spent on the terrace, playing various pedagogical games. With their colors and aroma, they rewarded me for every success.

The rest of the garden that stretched out behind them, looked rather irregular. In the bare soil between the rose bushes and the three acacias that dominated the center of the garden, armies of innumerable ants were constantly parading fully committed to their course. Countless times I had tried to drag them on a different path, which would not end in the hole they had dug in the ground. But they were unaware of shiny buttons and colorful rags that were in their way and always followed loaded the same route in absolute order. Their crowd made them look strong and safe.

If in the area that had been occupied by the ants, absolute silence prevailed, dictating communication with everything deep and invisible, the place with the acacias stood out for its rhythmic sounds. No matter how close I got, it was very difficult to locate their source. This created a mysterious atmosphere that captivated me. In search of the invisible singer, I explored with ecstasy the thick trunks that with their variety had the ability to capture my gaze for hours. Eventually, I pinpointed with great difficulty one by one the members of a large choir, by the movement of their transparent wings, which was perfectly in tune with their music.

Thanks to the resounding and hard-to-see presence of the cicadas, my garden was often turned into a land of adventure. All the children of the settlement gathered here, to feel the excitement of the pirates who found hidden treasures. And the most valuable treasure of my garden was none other than the cicadas, which we imprisoned in dark matchboxes. Their torment, which offered us, the children, the joy of feeling strong, lasted until the moment of the critical question. This question was addressed to me, the lady of the garden. At the end of the pirate adventures of the day, I had the power to choose the release of the captives even though I was the youngest in the group. I answered in the same stereotypical way: “Let’s release them now, so we can catch them again tomorrow”. The children obeyed immediately, relieved. The imprisoned cicadas, to whom I had the power to determine their fate, were temporarily released.

When I was alone, it was a challenge for me to repeat the game of captivity, which I should have been taught so well. However, I never dared. Not out of sensitivity but out of fear. I suspected that I was the only one in danger of suffering their revenge for the daily torment we subjected them to.

So, I preferred to play with my girlfriends, the orange, harmless ladybugs. I took them tenderly on my handful and watched them walk carefree on my palms or between my fingers. The ladybugs were my faithful companions in every corner of the garden, in the fence made at the bottom by the pink oleanders, in the slender reeds or next to the orchard with the green onions. But they, like me, were craving for the flower bed with the sweet peas.

There, I placed them gently on the ground and played my favorite game. Among these fragrant flowers, I was trying to pinpoint the ones that were exactly the same. Their diversity was unimaginable. The combination and proportion of their colors was unique. However, they all had one thing in common. They were humble and happy that beautified the garden. So, in the corner with the sweet peas that were the brightest, most fragrant but unfortunately also most ephemeral, I forgot myself for hours.

On the contrary, I never entered the area where the shade fell from the dense foliage of the huge fig tree that stretched its branches at the top of the garden, on the side of the house. This place seemed dark to me, and I was scared. It was the mighty kingdom of huge insects. They attacked noisily against anyone they considered an invader, especially when the ripe figs hung on the branches or fell to the ground. Several times I thought of trying to overcome my fear. In vain, though.

In my memories from the garden, there were endless others. The huge snails with their tastefully colored shells, which you could safely carry here and there for the needs of your game. The colorful butterflies that danced in the summer light and it was a great temptation to touch them. But you immediately regretted it because their wings became dust on your fingers. And it was very sad to see how vulnerable beauty is… The wooden swing that hung with thick ropes from the branches of the tallest acacia. The kingdom of the garden could not have a more suitable, simple and at the same time majestic throne. And even the sound of the pickaxes that woke me up in the mornings when the workers came to the garden. Their beats on the hard ground were so loud and so coordinated, as if a huge, melodic bell was ringing. I felt confident that I was listening to the very heart of the garden, proclaiming its love for me.

A Pending Goodbye

  • Tell me about the garden, I please the Little Girl. Why did you leave there? When did you leave it?

The tone of my voice shows longing and pain. I had never accepted the fact that I no longer lived in the garden. But believe me, I was very young and very weak when I left it and I had no choice. Besides, I was not prepared to leave for good. I left with the certainly that I would be back very soon.

I travelled with my parents away from the island to see the sick grandfather. When all went well, we immediately planned our return. The night before we returned to the garden, my joy and impatience to be in its arms, did not let me fall asleep. And when my eyelids finally tilted heavily, I dreamt of what I wanted most, the encounter with it.

I woke up happy, redeemed. I saw the sun in the middle of the sky and I was amazed. To catch the ship to the island, we had to start very early, at sunrise. I jumped out of bed terribly upset. I looked for my parents. I only found my mother.

  • Where is dad? I asked and my legs did not hold me. She caressed me tenderly and told me in a voice that she tried to hold it steady.
  • He left for the island.
  • But how? I shouted desperately. We had arranged that we would all leave together. I moaned, I was delirious and didn’t hear her trying to explain to me that it could not be done otherwise. A neighboring state was suddenly at war. Transport planes and barges transferred military forces to the island, to campaign in the friendly country where they would take part in military operations.

The war ended in the summer. In September, when everything was calm, instead of leaving for the island, I started classes at a new school, since my father would soon return to us for good. Many years have passed since then, but I never stopped longing for the garden, which I separated from without knowing that it was forever, without having the chance to say goodbye.

Growing up it is true that a few times I was given the opportunity to finally fulfil my intolerant childhood dream, albeit fleetingly. Once that I had been a delegate on the island. I passed just a few hundred meters away from the garden. I preferred to overtake it, though. I justified myself that I would be late for the conference. I had been on the island before, for leisure purposes. But again, I had ignored my wish. The program of the group trip was set with absolute precision. I was obliged not to create a problem in its execution. I avoided the garden for the third time, thinking that if my companions understood my nostalgia, they might laugh at me.

Now that I am waiting with incredible anxiety to find out from the Little Girl something about the fate of the garden, I can finally interpret my previous attitude. I invented all those pretexts, because I was afraid of frustration if the garden no longer existed or if it were different, foreign to me. I had endured so long away from it, precisely because I could still hope that my Paradise was somewhere out there. But now the moment of truth had come…

P A R T    T W O

The Fear

After my family, an elderly couple settled in the house, who saw the garden as a threat. They were afraid that the insects that gathered in the flowers could cause their death. Thus, the plants received large amounts of chemicals daily, whose goal was to exterminate the living organisms that surrounded them. The Little Girl had a hard time approaching, because now their wonderful scent had been replaced by an intense stench.

  • Save us! The desperate flowers begged the Little Girl. And then she rinsed them again and again with a toy watering can.
  • It is not a place here for a game, little girl, the elderly couple were arguing fiercely with her.
  • But here are my friends, she replied spontaneously, pointing around.
  • Brainless child! the inhabitants always exclaimed at the end and closed the door tightly.

The more the garden was in its beauties, the more terror it caused to these two people. Especially in spring, the beautiful flowering plants were considered unruly “enemies”, which would kill, causing allergies. The only year the couple lived at home at such a time, they systematically avoid going out. Everything they needed, was taken there. And whenever they had to go through the garden, they had their faces covered with masks.

The fear of the dangers of the plants finally drove the elderly out of the house before even a year had passed since they moved in. The garden then breathed redeemed, generously spreading its aroma everywhere, and was adorned with the brightest colors, delighting the passing seagulls, which again interrupted their course every day and drew circular formations, to enjoy the perfect spectacle from the above.

The Omniscient

The Little Girl was carving little houses with a sharp stone in the ground in front of the roses. Every now and then, she looked up at them. They watched her with admiration. At the same time a man with gardening tools passed in front of it, went up to the porch and knocked on the door of the house. The new tenants appeared at its opening. The Little Girl had seen them pass by her many times, but they had never noticed her. They were always busy arguing with each other. Each of them considered themselves ‘omniscient’ and struggled to impose their own point of view on the other. As they wasted a lot of time and energy in quarrels, they never completed any activity.

  • Good morning, the Little Girl told them one morning, as they hurried past her disagreeing, as always.

But their voices covered hers. Then, she followed them and repeated louder.

  • Good morning!
  • How is it possible to have a good day, since you never listen to what I tell you and you keep doing whatever you want? the woman wondered, addressing her husband, without paying any attention to the source of the sound.
  • Aha, I have to do what you want, of course, since it is only you who knows everything and you are always right! He answered ironically, with a deep conviction that these are his own virtues, and his wife refuses out of baldness to accept it.

This was the culmination of the only attempt made by the Little Girl to communicate with these selfish people.

While the gardener was talking to them, the couple started fighting again. The gardener left and headed for the roses. The couple followed him and while he was picking up his pruner, they started giving him completely contradictory instructions. The gardener stood somewhat motionless, not looking at either one and waiting for them to stop. In vain. When he completely lost his patience, he gathered up his tools and hurried away, muttering. This fact not only did not deter the couple but enraged them even more. Each of them accused the other that because of him or her the gardener had given up pruning.

  • Did you see what you did? The woman shouted at the man. As then, when with your wits you chased away the doctor who had come to examine you.
  • You seem to have forgotten what happened to your damaged tooth, the man answered. There was no dentist to take care of you because you wanted them to follow your instructions in tooth extraction. You did not stop the hints even with your mouth numb from the injection.
  • Look at your mess, that as a student you had changed so many schools. No teacher was sufficient for you, luminary!
  • What can I say, poor wretch, that not once did you come home from the hairdresser with your hair done. Everyone was leaving the hairstyle unfinished. “Do the hair yourself, as you know”, they told you.

The two omniscient did not stop there, though. Thinking that each of them could succeed perfectly in gardening, they grabbed a pair of gardening shears that had fallen from the gardener and began to cut down the unlucky rose bushes. Constantly trying to detach them from each other and at the same time to block the other’s movement, they blindly, spasmodically and nervously cut everything in front of them. In their fury over the monstrous result, which they attributed to each other, they caused greater destruction.

This is how the rose bushes were martyred. The Little Girl and all the other creatures of the garden mourned them for a long time. The seagulls, which once flying over the garden presented a repeated, delightful dancing salute, to repay it for the jubilation it offered them with its beauty, now they were hurrying past.

The Insignificant

As the rose bushes were the showcase of the garden, the couple, after their feat, left the house where their folly was amply demonstrated.

The new tenant who then settled there with his wife and three daughters, showed from the beginning a great preference for the oleanders, which formed the garden fence. The Little Girl was slow to realize that the man was hiding among them, to watch the neighbors. However, she still could not explain his behavior. Until the life of all the neighbors changed radically. They lost their carefreeness, their carelessness, their peace. Whatever they were doing inside their homes or out in their gardens, they were worried about causing trouble, since the complaints against them in various services were stormy. The situation was not better for the employees of the various services, where the complaints arrived, as the complainant also threw threats at them, because he claimed that they did not act immediately.

One afternoon, when the new tenant had gone down to the garden with his daughters, the Little Girl heard them express their admiration for him.

  • Dad, you are a big shot; everyone is afraid of you…

Dad smiled at them with satisfaction.

  • When they fear you, then they only count on you, he observed.

In the years that have passed, however, the situation in the neighborhood gradually began to change dramatically for the resident. While he appeared more and more disturbed by the behavior of others, they stopped caring. Even the various authorities he addressed, as if they were coordinated with each other, systematically ignored him. They were indifferent to his threats or, not infrequently, were openly having fun with them. The resident was sinking into despair. The more he yelled, cursed, raged, the more the neighbors not only did not fear him at all anymore, but several openly laughed in front of him. Even his daughters, who had previously been excited with the fear he caused others, now confided among themselves:

  • They do not fear our dad anymore.
  • They do not count on him; he is not great.
  • We are the children of an insignificant man. What a shame!…

The resident understood that if he remained in this house, in this neighborhood, in this place, he would be forever unhappy, because for him happiness was to make life difficult for others, create problems for them, so that he feels important.

Before he left for good, he furiously entered the flower bed with the sweet peas and began to trample and kick them frantically.

  • Dad, did you see how strong I am? he exclaimed through delirious sobs. Dad, I am like you, aren’t I? Can you recall when you beat mom and she was afraid of you? I was also shaking with fear at your presence. Do you remember when you hung me? It was this very moment that I realized how powerful and important you are. Look what a great deal of mischief I can cause! I am terribly sorry these fools are not afraid of me anymore. I promise you this will never happen again, anywhere!…

The Little Girl no longer knew whether she was crying only for the dead sweet peas, or for this unhappy man, who had never been loved or loved anyone. The only emotion he had felt was fear and the satisfaction that others are afraid of him.

Once the destruction was over, the Little Girl reflected on the altruism of the sweet peas.

  • My humble friends, whose only fault was that they beautified and scented the garden, sacrificed themselves, so that we all could live better…


The Busy Lady

When the new tenant of the house arrived, the Little Girl was impressed by her appearance. Her rich hair had a deep red color and was tied up on the top of her head. Her makeup was very successful, it made her look very young.

The Little Girl ran to welcome her. She assumed that she would like the flowers very much and thought of suggesting that she rebuild the flower bed with the rose bushes and the corner with the sweet peas.

  • Welcome, the Little Girl told the young lady politely, who was approaching the house, holding a fashionable bag and an elegant suitcase.
  • Oh, hello my little one, I am sorry but I am too busy. I have so much to do!…
  • What is your profession? the Little Girl continued with interest.

But the woman did not have time to answer. A wonderful melody was heard, and she hurriedly opened her bag to answer one of her mobile phones.

  • I will be there at ten, she said and before hanging up, she had a second call. She continued to chat on her phones until she unlocked and entered the house.

The Little Girl, whenever she saw her going out for business, approached her in the hope of talking to her about the garden. But every time the woman walked past her just as hastily, because she had to go somewhere urgently. In the evenings, she came back very late so the Little Girl could not stay awake to wait for her and talk about the garden.

As time went by, the Little Girl despaired because not only had no new rose bushes been planted, not even sweet pea seeds, but the entire garden had been completely abandoned. The busy woman did not have the time or energy to cultivate even the small garden. After all, she never cooked or ate at home. Just one evening, she hosted a catered dinner on the terrace. The Little Girl then heard one of her guests praising the extent of the garden.

  • I have neglected it, though, because I do not have time at all, the hostess remarked. I will soon call a gardener to take care of it, she declared closing the conversation.

The hopes the Little Girl had were revived, only to be definitely thwarted this time when the woman left the house suddenly, because her professional obligations took her elsewhere.

People with Screens

The busy lady was succeeded by a family of four. The Little Girl, when she saw that their twin twelve-year-old children were much taller than her, estimated that they would easily reach the cicadas on the tree trunks.

  • I must make sure to warn the cicadas to be very careful, she thought.

But she was so wrong to worry. The children paid no attention to the rhythmic song of the cicadas, nor to anything else in the garden. Whenever they passed among the acacias, their heads were bent over the tiny, portable screens they were holding. They were pressing various buttons and animated images appeared that produced strange, unknown sounds. Birds and cicadas then amplified their melodies, trying in every way to attract the attention of the twins. But no sound and not even the butterflies with their festivity of colors, which were constantly flying around them, could distract two children from their screens.

The situation was no different inside the house. The whole family spend most of their time in front of similar, larger screens. In addition, there were huge screens in every room, which covered almost an entire wall. Sometimes they were silent and sometimes they were noisy. The only sounds ever heard in the house came exclusively from its screens. The Little Girl wondered if the twins and their parents had a voice. They never talked or laughed.

Even when they were eating, they were so engrossed in their screens.  The Little Girl often watched them bite and chew mechanically and expressionlessly. Then, she thought that if she replaced their meal with something inedible, they would finish it normally without realizing a thing. So, the Little Girl was terribly surprised when she found out that they were looking at cooking recipes on the screens several times.

Furthermore, although the seasons that made the garden so different, left all the members of this family completely indifferent, the dedication with which they followed the weather forecasts was worthy of discussion. Once, when the screens among various snowy landscapes also projected their own house, which had been covered by snow, parents and children who had not noticed anything before, looked extremely impressed. However, they never thought of enjoying the same image fully alive, even behind the closed window. The garden blossomed, perfumed, filled with chirping, spread its shadow in the scorching noon or held the coolness of the dawn completely in vain, without affecting in any way the activity of these four people. And when they finally left home, the garden was as unfamiliar for them as before they came to it.

The Consumers

Before the new residents arrived at the house, their luggage had preceded them. The Little Girl, when she saw the seven lorries carrying it arriving, assumed that a large family would appear, whose children would fill the garden with their voices and laughter. Instead, only three people appeared, the parents with their only child. Some of their things were placed inside this house, however, on the entire porch, as well as on the flower bed where the rose bushes used to bloom, many more objects remained piled up. The Little Girl thought that this was a temporary situation and soon everything would be put in its place, so the space would be freed up, and so together with the other child they would enjoy all the corners of the garden. For the time being, they could be playing hide and seek among the huge packages.

Indeed, it did not take long for the two children to meet. When the only daughter who lived in the house, projected into the narrow corridor that they had left open at the suffocatingly crowded porch to get in and out, the Little Girl approached her and suggested:

  • Do you want to play hide and seek? There are amazing hiding places.
  • Oh, I do not know how to play hide and seek, the only daughter surprised her. Shall we play commercials better?
  • Okay, the Little Girl said, curious to find out what this new game was about.

But she did not have time to ask how the game was played and the only daughter said hastily:

  • But now, I have to get going.
  • We have not played at all yet, though, the Little Girl answered sadly.
  • We will play another time. Are you listening to this music?

The Little Girl nodded yes.

  • A TV series ends. Now the ads will start. That’s how it always goes.
  • And you have to go because that’s how the game is played, right? The Little Girl asked in confusion.
  • I need to see the ads to find out about the new products, repeated the only daughter, losing her patience. My mom and dad buy everything I ask them to, she continued proudly. And she got lost among the piles of packed items.


Another time, when the Little Girl called out to her to play, she did not stand a chance again, because she was noticing the ads on the pages of the magazines.


  • Come and see! She invited her. But the Little Girl, flipping through just two or three pages, got unbearably bored.

As time went by, the space in the garden and with it the possibilities for play were dramatically limited. Endless products of all kinds were bought every day. But precisely, it was impossible for their buyers to consume them at the rapid rate at which they procured them. Thus, they were now piled up in all parts of the garden. In fact, most of the products turned into rubbish before they could be used. Just because the rubbish grew incredibly fast, it was impossible to remove all of it from the garden every day. So, the garden soon turned into a garbage dump. Finally, the only daughter and her family were forced to leave this place, because they could not cover the cost of their purchases. They were overcharged and their lenders decided to foreclose on the house.

The Famous

Two whole months passed from the day the consumers’ family left, until the garbage trucks completely removed the rubbish from the garden. During this time, the Little Girl was suffocating in this incredible garbage dump.  It had covered even the tallest trees, the only plants that were left standing. They had huge and terrible losses in their foliage, though.

But the moment came when the trees managed to see the bright smile of the sun again, feel the caress of the wind and quench their thirst with the coolness of the dawn. The Little Girl felt happy. At last, she could examine their trunks with her gaze from so close. She embraced them with one of her arms and, holding it outstretched, leaned her body to the side and confidently turned around them infinite times.

  • You are all that is left of our garden, she told them with adoration and deep nostalgia for all the plants that had been lost.
  • We will never leave you alone, answered the trees, with the confidence given to them by their desire, their need to accompany and protect the Little Girl.

When the garden was cleaned, the new resident settled in the house. Various people with microphones and cameras, started coming and going, photographing and interviewing him. The Little Girl thought that the new master of the house would be very significant, since so many people were dealing with him.

  • This man will be precious to the garden, which is in such need of love and care, the Little Girl thought moved. And the leaves of the trees, which knew how to read her thoughts, stirred enigmatically.


One of the few times that the Little Girl found the gentleman alone, she approached and greeted him, as he was getting into his super luxurious car.


  • Hey little girl, he responded. Come by some time when I get a chance, so I can give you an autograph.
  • Great, thanks. What’s your name? the Little Girl asked spontaneously.
  • Poor child, the elegant gentleman shook his head in pity. How is it possible that you do not know me?
  • But I would like so much to meet you, the Little Girl insisted.
  • This is very easy. I am extremely famous; everyone is talking about me.
  • I would like to find out very specific details about you. Let’s say, if you love gardens.

The man thought for a few seconds.

  • Of course I do, why not, unless they become an obstacle to my celebrity.

The Little Girl watched him walk away, completely reassured. She could not imagine any case a garden would get in the way of someone’s celebrity.

A few months later, besides the usual people with cameras, a few others appeared in the garden. They held large white papers with patterns and some round cases, from which they pulled huge ribbons with little lines and numbers. They measured the space around the fig tree.

  • We’ll find the going pretty rocky, the fig tree cried to the acacias.

The Little Girl, who was playing with the ladybugs nearby, entered comfortably under the shade of the fig tree, since the presence of the others had already driven away the greedy insects.

  • Why are you measuring the area here, please? she asked the people.
  • Hey, where did you spring from?

The Little Girl was about to justify her presence, but the developer had already forgotten his question. He had turned to the others and was giving them instructions in a loud voice. This did not deter the Little Girl, who bravely repeated her question.

  • You’ve become a nuisance! the man exclaimed clearly irritated.

Someone younger who was with him smiled at the Little Girl and told her:

  • We are measuring on the expansion.
  • Ah, the garden will expand, perfect! the Little Girl shouted, clapping her hands, and with her enthusiasm caused loud laughter from the assembled people.

Then, she ran to announce the happy news to the acacias. But they were not excited at all, on the contrary, they looked very troubled.

  • The garden cannot be expanded, they said. The stone fence at the top of it reaches the road. A road is never closed to expand a garden.
  • Then? the Little Girl asked the wise acacias in bewilderment, which seemed to have already solved the riddle.
  • The fig tree is right to worry, they said, avoiding further explanation.

And they were soon vindicated. A crew cut the fig tree low on the trunk and then uprooted it with some huge machine. The Little Girl stood for a while awkwardly over the pit that looked like an open grave. In vain, the acacias called her to them.

  • Get off our feet, kiddie, this is no place for fooling around. Don’t you understand that you are in danger? those you came to dig the foundations for the extension of the house yelled at her.

Yeah, the Little Girl now realized that her garden was falling apart and that she was in danger in it. She perched on the lap that the three acacias were making with their trunks and cried sitting on the ground until she fell asleep.

In the space that was once shaded by the fig tree, a huge reception hall was now built for the multitude of fans of the owner.

But the works of the famous resident in the house and garden did not stop here. His next design was a pool right at the center of the garden. However, to make it happen, the acacias had to be sacrificed. The famous resident did not hesitate at all. This time, though, the Little Girl had no hugs left to cry.

P A R T    T H R E E

The Revelation

The seagulls were flying for a while in circles over the newly cemented area. They saw the Little Girl sitting on the edge of the huge pit that projected where the acacias once bloomed. They felt very sorry for her, and squawking were the first to break the silence:

  • Come with us Little Girl.
  • I do not want to leave, I want my garden, she said plaintively. My garden is here…It was here, she bitterly repeated.
  • Correct! Your garden no longer exists. But the vast sea is full of roads that lead everywhere. Follow us and you will find your garden again, somewhere, among people…they added.
  • Do you want to take me to another garden? the Little Girl asked in wonder.
  • There are not many gardens left, you know, answered the seagulls. Scared people, omniscient, insignificant, busy, addicts, consumers, famous, are constantly increasing and destroying the gardens.
  • But I can only live in the garden, the Little Girl said in despair.
  • Once upon a time, some other creature had parted, not his entire garden on this island, as is now the case with you. He had left behind his only rose on his distant, tiny planet, the seagulls said. There was a reason, though, for this separation.
  • What reason? the Little Girl was immediately interested in finding out.
  • After wandering the universe and the Earth, in its largest desert, he met a man. He was trying to repair his plane alone while his water and supplies were running low, putting his life in immediate danger. The man then recognized in this creature his childhood self, which he had lost for many years, living among people. Being made very happy and much wiser by this encounter, he appeared exceptionally generous to his fellow men. He made sure to share his valuable experience with them. Those who know that man’s childlike soul, they adore it. Because thanks to it, each of them can now hope to find their true self again, which is none other than their childlike one…
  • So, is there anyone in the world who is looking for me? Who needs me? the Little Girl asked then, impressed.
  • Once they meet you, they will recognize you and become happy. Then, the garden will be resurrected with all its colors and all its fragrances!


So, the Little Girl, urged by the seagulls, became a refugee. She reached me, on this very beach, at the exact moment I needed it so much…


The Meeting

  • Come on, we must hurry, I suddenly told my Refugee Little Girl. We are going back to town. And I added in a whisper:
  • I can’t live without you anymore.
  • But I can’t leave now, she told me. Not yet. I want to finish something. Besides, I do not know how to hurry, she added after a while.
  • We have to catch the last bus. Why do you want to stay?
  • For a friendship.

I looked at her in amazement. She understood my question and continued.

  • It is not my first day on this beach. I wander the streets of the sea for hours, but I return here every time at dusk, because I tame a Fox. She is waiting for me tonight too.

To tell the truth, I was not at all unfamiliar with this Fox. I recalled excitedly our countless summer evening meetings, as I was returning from the countryside of the area. His eyes shone in the darkness like stars, as the headlights of the car fell on them. In their light, my soul became transparent. I was passing by then embarrassed, unprepared for this revelation.

  • What a nuisance this Fox is, I spoke to myself. Why does she insist on me taming her? The Fox has been preparing me patiently for a long time. In her eyes, I read that she was not in a hurry, she was not anxious, she did not doubt. She simply left the initiative of the decision to me.

So, the Fox is the only reason I met my Refugee Little Girl. Thanks to her innocence, she dared what I had been putting off for a long time. I took her from the hand, determined to get to the Fox together. Only she could convince the Refugee Little Girl to follow me. We walked towards her nest. Arriving there, it seemed to me as if she was waiting for us.

  • I never want to lose the Little Girl again, I told her, without any preamble.
  • Unless you want to, you will not lose her, she answered me with unshakeable certainty. You know now where to come, whenever you need her.
  • But it is no longer possible for me to live even for a moment away from her, I insisted.
  • This beach is not further than the stars, she observed meaningfully.
  • But the stars are visible from the earth. This beach is not visible from where I live, I continued stubbornly.
  • The sea is one and reaches everywhere, she replied to me. Even if it should turn into a cloud and raindrops, which will water your garden. To bring it to you, all you have to do is make that garden bloom again, she concluded.
  • Ah, please, my Refugee Little Girl then begged. Give me back my lost garden.

So, I started writing this story to resurrect that garden, the lost paradise of my childhood…

The Return

I return after a long time redeemed and optimistic to this beach. Death by visible threat became a fact. It was Sunday, in the middle of September, at dusk, when I parted with my loved one. This forced separation freed me completely from the dominion of death; just as it happens with the sun. When it leaves us, its soul colors everything. Thus, we, all ephemeral existences, share its own eternity.

Travelling to the beach I am possessed by certainty that the Fox and my Refugee Little Girl are waiting for me. I will let them look deep into my eyes and so without having to say anything, we will find ourselves in our garden. My excitement becomes uncontrollable! At last! I ring the doorbell. A few meters separate me from absolute happiness. In a few seconds, I will embrace my Little Girl in familiar colors and fragrances under the loving gaze of the Fox…

Pressing the brake finds me at full alert. The door opens in front of me. After a while, it closes again. I have remained motionless, pinned in the same position. What I witnessed is unimaginable. I collapse to the nearest seat. The bus continues its route, passing through landscapes that have become blurred. The only image that remains clear to my bleary eyes is the Fox lying on the road. She probably came out there on the tarmac to welcome me. But I will never see her deep gaze again.

The bus reaches its destination. It is already dusk, and I can’t wait for the return journey to start. I hasten to make amends, to stop where I saw the Fox, not to pass her again defeated by the unexpected. I am determined to meet my Refugee Little Girl and console her for the Fox’s loss. Now, we need each other more than anything. And we both need the garden even more.

When I get off at the bus stop, I feel the darkness in front of me thicken. The moon has not risen yet. But the sky is full of stars. First time I see them so bright. They remind me of the Fox’s eyes, inquisitive, patient, loving. I have the impression that if I reach out my hand, I will touch them.

  • The stars came down so that their lonely inhabitants could say goodbye to the Fox up close, I speak to myself.

Right after the turn, I seem to discern a crowd at the place where she is lying. The closer I get, the more I make sure I am not wrong. And in fact, the crowd is constantly growing. But when did so many people manage to gather, at such a time, on this country road, which a few minutes ago was completely deserted? Among the crowd there are many children. However, absolute silence reigns. We have surrounded the body of the Fox. We look at it tenderly. Some children bend down and stroke it. I try to make out their faces in the dark. I cannot explain how it happens that people from different historical periods are here together. Some of them have lived in remote places, others in closer ones. The distances have been resolved. All the tribes are present and say goodbye to the Fox.

When I see my Refugee Little Girl, I rush towards her. She extends her hand to me first. I squeeze it in my palm, to give her courage. If she imagined that I was going to give her away her garden, I think, perhaps now it would hurt less. Other children’s hands are extended to some adults. Some of them have children in their arms. My Refugee Little Girl turns her gaze on a thin little body with a blond head, who passes by in the arms of a man. The child’s golden scarf is dragged down the street.

  • Will our garden be seen from his own planet? she asks me out of the blue.
  • Absolutely, I reply in amazement, who already knows about the garden. It can be seen from anywhere, if one can see with the heart.
  • Then, let’s add a nest for the Fox in the garden too. Perhaps she comes here and there when she misses her friends.


Since that moment, I have never parted with my Refugee Little Girl. Wherever I am, she is with me. We breathe in the intoxicating aromas of our garden in the city, indoors, anywhere. We stare at the bright emerald color on the endless surface of the sea for a long time, until it overwhelmed us with the power of its vastness, the serenity, and the carefreeness of its playfulness.

In the looks of the people who live around us, I try to distinguish whether my Refugee Little Girl is visible. But regardless of others’ ability to discern her, she never leaves me. In our garden, there is also a nest, for the Fox to come whenever she wants. We have not heard from her yet, but we always hope that she will visit us one day.

  • Good thing we got to consummate that friendship, my Refugee Little Girl once said. It is so comforting to have something to look forward to in the evenings…


I often think of the Fox. Perhaps she sacrificed herself to reveal to us that there are not just a few people who still have the child that they once were inside them. And let’s not pass this off as a simple piece of news. It is hope, a way out, and a promise that each of us, sooner or later, easily or not, can regain their lost childhood, true happiness. Isn’t it enough to encourage us in the search effort?

Road takes, road leaves… “Refugee roads” training program
Κύλιση προς τα επάνω