19th March 2012
Hey everyone, so quite a bit has happened over the past week. Firstly Fair Trials International have confirmed their support for our case and after they receive Marks signature consenting that they can talk about his case to politicians and the media we will be able to move forward with the campaign. I have constructed a letter that I will ask them to co-sign and it will be sent to a list of ministers, MEP’s, NGO’s and Greek authorities. I will post a list of these in the Fair Trials section of the site in the coming days for people to write their own letters to the Irish and Greek authorities on our behalf.
We have set up a trust in order for people to help either by fundraising or donations and details of this can be found in the support us section and the fundraising page. Finally we are about to launch the petition page and want to reach 1000 signatures and we will present it to the Greek Embassy in Dublin later this year. So please take a look at all of these. Thanks.
Ok back to our story. So in January 2011, I packed my bag and relocated back to Crete. I moved into a one bedroom apartment above Mark’s brother’s apartment. It was almost like a granny flat attached to their home. Mark’s Mam and Dad had finally made it to Greece from Albania after spending the past 3 months organising their visa that would allow them to come see their three sons and make sure they were ok. They stayed for 2 months before travelling home to Albania.
Mark’s parents are in their 60’s and from old Albania. They really struggled being out of their routine in a place they didn’t speak the language with very little to do. I used to bring them to see the boys every week and it was their only purpose while in Crete. Mark’s mum used to get very upset but enjoyed spending time with the boys. Marks dad could only spend a few minutes in the small cramped visiting room. He would speak to each boy, make sure each one was ok, eating right, showering etc and then he’d announce… IKAM… Meaning lets go….after about 3 minutes… I used to be devastated because I could spend two hours talking to Mark if they let me!! Eventually we devised a plan were I visited in the morning alone to get my time with Mark and I would bring his parents in the afternoon Monday, Wednesday and Friday (visiting days). Mark’s Dad also began to realise his wife needed more time with her sons and the afternoon visits became longer with Simon taking himself off outside to wait for us there.
I remember one day, as Simon waited outside, Marie (Mark’s mom) and I were leaving the visiting room along with 3 other Greek women. They had pushed in between me and Marie separating us. Before our gate opened we heard the clank of the gate on the other side of the small hall opening and as I turned around to look there was Mark walking out towards his mother. Pure panic engulfed me, I burst into tears as he hugged his mother while I nearly climbed on the other women’s backs to get to him. He turned to me and I just grabbed him and couldn’t let go. The shock and unexpected nature of this gift from the guard on duty was nearly too much to handle. Mark hugged and kissed his Mum again then came back to me before he was pulled away from us and back behind his gate. I looked up at the other three women, a mother and two daughter- in-laws, and all three were in floods of tears also just watching us. The guard at the door then let us outside where Simon was waiting for us. His reaction was priceless when he saw us two big red eyed blubbery heads fumble our way out of the door. God love him he didn’t know what had happened to us. When Marie explained I think he felt a bit upset he had missed out but then again I honestly believe it was a blessing as emotionally I am not sure he would have coped.
I later discovered this day that Mark’s older brother had asked the guard on duty could he give his mom a hug as she had traveled from Albania to see them and he said a little later. When we were leaving only Mark walked out of the visiting room and the Guard called him and told him to come out and see his Mom and Wife. Mark was in shock but wasn’t about to turn down the offer.
My Mam came to visit me and Mark for a week in February, before Mark’s parents went home to Albania. It was great to see Mam however this was a sad week for me and Mark. It was the first time our parents had met. Never could we have imagined it would be under these circumstances. I felt under pressure to, without Mark there to help me. smoothly introduce both sides of our family particularly with the language barrier. We visited Mark altogether and he was embarrassed by the situation. He was embarrassed and ashamed that the meeting had occurred in such a way and the first time he witnessed his parents and mine together was in a prison visiting room. Even though he couldn’t have done anything to prevent what has happened, the guilt and shame over the situation is still part of everyday life for both Mark and me.
Mark’s parents and my Mam left at the end of February. My visits then reduced to 1 visit 3 times a week after I was called up on visiting both in the morning and afternoon on visiting days. Only one guard had a problem with this and decided one day, soon after my Mam left (not a good time) to pull me up on it. It makes me laugh a bit now but at the time I was ready to drive my car off the cliff! By the way, whats the deal with having a cliff at the edge of a parking area at a prison…Come on!! Anyway as she opened the little hatch in the doorway and saw me standing there with Mark’s niece she started shouting at me in Greek. I calmly told her she was wasting her breath that I didn’t understand what she was saying. She then said in English “you bloody well do know what I am saying” which I did!!! When I think of it I really must have riled her. I told her there was no problem I would wait for Claudia, Mark’s niece, in the car but she insisted I come in. So I came in and she continued to shout at me even though I told her Id wait outside. My problem is I am stubborn and don’t like it when people behave like this towards me so I dig my heels in and stand up to them, but the minute I walked around the corner and saw Mark I crumbled and broke down. I soon learned that if this woman was on duty in the morning it was safe to come in the afternoon also because no other guard had any issues with this. However if this guard wasn’t on in the morning chances were she would be on the door in the afternoon so I’d have to forfeit this visit.
I have to make a point here now that 90% of the guards at Neapoli prison are very polite, curtious people. Some are even empathetic and treat me and Mark like real human beings with feelings. Mark has good relations with the majority of the guards and has never had any problems. The boss, second to the Governor, is a very good, honest and fair person. You just sometimes catch the odd person on a dodgy day.
From January to March I learnt a lot about the procedures in the prison, transfer days and times, which should be avoided or you could be left outside in the blizzard for over an hour (voice of experience) only to be let back in for a 5 minute visit. My visits with Mark became like little mini dates. He would go get two coffees, one for him and send me out one and we would sit and chat for as long as they would let me. We discovered the best time was to arrive between 9.30 and 10 because visiting ended at 11 so if it wasn’t busy the majority of guards left us to it until 11 instead of the allocated 30mins. They became used to how our visits would go, making jokes about being my waiters with my coffee. Afternoon visits were a lot busier and shorter so therefore less personal. Mark and I worked on us, our relationship adapting to this new situation and learning how to hang on to “us” during those morning coffee dates. They were all I lived for during thos first three months and the hope that this would all be over soon.
Ok next blog will let you know what happened during the first bail application process. Thanks for reading everyone
Naten e mire x