Acclaimed poet Kiki Dimoula, whose alleged comments criticizing the presence of so many immigrants in her Athens neighborhood of Kypseli, disputed the report and said that her words were misinterpreted.
Dimoula, 81, said the story reported by the daily Efimerida ton Syntakton in which she apparently suggested there were too many migrants in Kypseli, was “ill-intentioned.”
Ta Nea newspaper ran a full transcript of the poet’s comments during a walk through Kypseli organized by the Atenistas urban activists, which refers to her sister and husband being mugged by foreigners.
“These are isolated incidents but fear does not have limits,” she said. “I am not trying to say that foreigners in Kypseli are thieves.” The poet then adds: “However, if you go to Kypseli Square, there is no room to move. Foreigners sit on the benches, which is to be expected as they need to pass the time somehow, and they play their own card games.”
Dimoula concludes, “Of course, we love foreigners because they left their countries to come here to work and live but we have to find a way to share the spaces.”
The initial report was that Dimoula, who won the European Prize for Literature in 2009 and is revered as one of Greece’s greatest writers, got herself into hot water when she allegedly launched into a tirade against immigrants and that there were so many in her neighborhood that they take up all the benches and leave no room for others to sit in the main square.
The newspaper said that two other participants in the walk, author Menis Koumandareas and director Menelaos Karamaghiolis, were quick to reject Dimoula’s remarks, arguing that migrants living in Kypseli were mainly family men and women.
Dimoula has been a member of the Academy of Athens since 2002 and her poetry has drawn international accolades. Anti-immigrant sentiment in Greece these days is often associated with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party that wants them deported and has been accused of assaulting them, which party officials have denied.
Dimoula worked in an office during the period of the Greek military junta and she said hated it. In a New York Times profile in January, she said, “Those were dark times. Today, with Greece dismantling its social protections amid a crushing debt crisis, she is concerned that things might get even more terrible. “I believe they can get even worse than the junta period.
She added that, “The junta put under surveillance and limited the freedom of the leftists; now the whole country is being persecuted.”