Nursing at the Borders in Greece

By: Helen Zahos  

The year 2015 saw a mass exodus of refugees fleeing Syria and surrounding countries affected by conflict. Many refugees did not survive the crossing. As a Greek Australian Nurse seeing images of thousands of refugees arriving in Greece I felt an obligation to help. I spent six weeks on the Greek island of Lesvos. Some days saw arrivals of up to 5000 refugees crossing in rubber boats. Injuries varied, but I was present for the boat accident of 28th October where 300 people were involved in one accident, and in that one night 11 children and 27 adults drowned. I then spent six weeks on the border of FYROM and Greece. I was present for the first border closures and the refugee clashes with the police and army. Our health service faced unparalleled social, political and economic barriers in a tiny geographical region bombarded by need. My focus during the crisis was not on the tens of thousands of people in front of us, but rather that one person that each of us could help. Have you ever covered a person that is shivering cold with a warm blanket? Or held a stranger in your arms that are grieving for their child? Helped another human being, without discrimination, and without expecting anything in return? This for me is Humanity and what nursing represents, and that feeling extends to my ability to apply my skills and knowledge and assist in the refugee crisis, making a difference one person at a time.

Nursing, Border, Accident
2019 Special Focus—Border Crossing Narratives: Learning from the Refugee Experience
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Helen Zahos

Griffith University Queensland

Helen zahos is an Emergency Nurse, Paramedic and Humanitarian. She has been involved in several Disaster Responses including the Bali Bombings, Nepal Earthquake and Philippines Typhoon Hyan. Helen has helped some of the world's most vulnerable people including Refugees, Asylum seekers and Indigenous Australians. Helen's efforts in Greece during the Refugee crisis were recognised internationally, she was nominated for the Greek International Women's awards in 2017. Awarded the 2016 Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry award for community service, Helen continues to volunteer her skills. Her most recent trip was in Iraq in the IDP camps outside Mosul during the conflict prior to it being liberated. Helen makes a point of raising funds for equipment to assist organisations in Greece such as the Rescue Team of Pierius and the Association for Cancer Patients of Katerini. Helen continues to enjoy her work in Tertiary Hospitals in Emergency Departments and with the Nursing Union. For more information visit: