Guest Viewpoints

Good Things Come of Zakynthos Fires But Media Doesn’t Care

September 25, 2019
Aliz Koletas

I’m sure by now you’ve read about the fires that destroyed a beautiful area in Zakynthos last week. What you may not know is that being on the ground and so close to it as it hits home, so to speak, can impact you beyond what’s imaginable.

Having been on the island all summer along with my husband, I’d read about different parts of Greece fighting fires and while you say prayers or wish them luck, there’s not much else you can do, right? Well, when the fire suddenly comes to your front door and you see your friends, family, and locals impacted by it, it takes it to a different level – and a much more personal one, too.

I’ll never forget FaceTiming my husband who decided to go check out the fire we could see from the other side of the mountain after church. When he answered the video, I could see the flames shooting five meters high behind and all around him and immediately felt the terror closing in, knowing how close he was to the inferno. I didn’t say anything though, half out of shock and half out of respect as he was praying out loud to God to keep the land and our friend’s villa complex safe (thankfully everyone had been evacuated and it was just him and the owner’s family there until they guided the fire trucks arriving on scene).

Hours passed. The whole day passed before the news came back. The fire literally stopped on the doorstep of the property and while there was some damage, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the potential outcome had not these two local Greeks taken it upon themselves to join forces with the fire department and work tirelessly in the forest to keep the flames from spreading.

International news and media organizations [names redacted as I’m not here to be spiteful] had reached out to me after I posted the video online that my husband took of the fire destroying the mountain behind our friends’ villa complex in Keri last Sunday (it already has over 30k views on Twitter). It’s interesting how after we gave them permission to use the video if they agreed to also write about the GoFundMe we started for the firefighters and the affected residents and businesses, and maybe even talk about our in-the-final-stages startup Peace for Greece, whose goal is to help Greece overall…guess what – after that stipulation, they both neglected to use the video. Despite hours of us filling out forms and giving permission and back and forth conversations. And it made me think about why that would be? I mean it’s everything a news organization dreams of: an “attention getting what-viral-moments-are-made-of” video.

Is it only salacious sensational videos or news stories we care about hearing or seeing? Is the negative story or video going to get many more views than the positive one, so we only want the negative aspect? Probably. I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have the right to exploit someone’s pain and suffering. And it’s my right to deny them the ability to exploit Greece in this very small way. So if they do not want to show how we Greeks are turning a negative into a positive or how we are working together to build something up that’s been destroyed by fire, then they can pass on our pain.

So as a local community, we are working on raising funds for the fire department as we want to show the positives of the island not just the negatives. If you want to help spread the word, please join us as we turn pain into promise of a better tomorrow.



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