Lesbos Grandmother from Iconic Refugee Crisis Photo Dies at Age 90

FILE - In this Tuesday, May 2, 2018 photo a Syrian family is seen inside a tent at a makeshift camp outside Moria on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

LESBOS, Greece – One of the three Greek grandmothers who became a symbol of the Lesbos islanders’ solidarity with refugees, Maritsa Mavrapidou, has died at the age of 90 years old. She was one of three elderly island women whose photograph, sitting side by side and dandling a refugee child on their knee, went viral when the refugee crisis was at its height in 2015-2016.

Herself a child of refugees that fled to Lesbos from Asia Minor in the early 20s, grandmother Maritsa and her friends Aimilia Kamvysi and Efstratia Mavrapidou from Skala Sykamnias did their best to support the thousands of mainly Syrian refugees that washed up on the beach near their village after crossing from the Turkish shore.

When the photographers’ lens captured one such moment, when they were caring for the child of a refugee woman who had just alighted on the shore, they became symbols of the island’s volunteer effort to support refugees. Despite their advanced years, they daily went down to the shore with other volunteers to assist the people arriving every day and were even put forward as candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The funeral for Maritsa Mavrapidou will be held on Thursday at 15:00 at the Sykamnia cemetery, while the funeral service will be held at the “Panagia Gorgona” Church in Skala harbour.