A documentary on the Social Solidarity Clinic of Thessaloniki

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originally published at http://www.analyzegreece.gr

A documentary on the Social Solidarity Clinic of Thessaloniki – interview by Stratis Bournazos with journalist Stavroula Poulimeni

«Solitaire ou Solidaire?», «Solitary or Solidary?», is the title of a documentary on the Social Solidarity Clinic in Thessaloniki, which is currently in the final stages of production. The documentary is the product of collective effort from a team based in Thessaloniki – comprised of journalists, photographers, filmmakers, and audiovisual technicians. A few days prior to its completion, the team needs our help. The ways in which we can all help can be found by visiting the ΚΙΑ Documentary Film-Greece Facebook page – and we strongly urge you to do so.

It is interesting that, while the expectation was that cooperation with solidarity structures was deemed essential to the political project of a left government by many (for example, see here, here, here and here), this interview is published following the arrests of individuals acting in solidarity to refugees in Lesvos and Chios. It remains to be seen whether this will turn into a generalized trend or whether, at the eleventh hour, government and solidarity initiatives will seek to forge a cooperation for the reform of health and social care in Greece.

The Social Solidarity Clinic (abbreviated as KIA in Greek) has been operational in Thessaloniki since 2012 and is already an institution. Before moving on to the documentary, tell us a few words about KIA: how it began, what it has achieved during the past few years, how it move forward…

KIA began in Thessaloniki on an initiatie by health care workers who had taken part in solidarity in the hunger strike by 300 migrants in Athens and Thessaloniki in 2011. At the time, exclusionary measures were being pursued in the Greek health care system, then aimed at undocumented migrants, a trend which was later on generalised to include all of the uninsured. The Social Clinic has managed all these years to provide free primary health care to all, both migrants and Greeks, who have been excluded from the National Health care System. At the same time, it is undertaking a political struggle for the right to universal and free access, independently of the economic and social insurance situation of every patient. It did not, in other words, attempt to replace the collapsing health care system – on the contrary, it attempted, and to a large extend succeeded in keeping people alive during the crisis. In addition, both for the members of KIA as well as for other citizens taking part in similar initiatives, the collective struggle by doctors and patients was a challenge towards a truly universal health care system.

What was your motivation for making this documentary?

Our motivation was twofold: on the one hand, the social isolation we bore witness to affects more and more people around us. On the other, solidarity as a practical, not as an abstract or ideological, answer to exclusion and isolation: as the only way, in the end, to stand tall and to resist. Our leads are patients who agreed to share their stories, as well as members of the Social Clinic. I would like to point out that in the space of four years, KIA has grown from 15 to 200 members. The film therefore attempts to piece together the stories of the people in KIA during these four years, as well as life in the Social Clinic as a continuous struggle, and a daily routine that is very important in many respects, because in many cases it «shared» a common vision.

What insights did you have on the relations between people, both while making the documentary as well as through the years during which KIA has been operational? Can solidarity really be «transfused»?

Solidarity is «transfused» to society through these structures, but it is not always expressed at the times that political subjects wish it to – and certainly not in the ways in which they expect it to. What’s certain is that, through the process of mutual support, even patients who are dependent on the one who is offering them help, manage to cross over to the other side, the side, that is, of the one offering solidarity. An equal relationship gradually develops, which was one of the aims of KIA anyway. It does happen, yet at the same time it is difficult. On the one hand, because the needs of patients always take priority relative to the political project for health care. On the other hand, because solidarity is always an invitation, never an obligation.

Making a film during the crisis requires time and economic resources which cannot be easily found. How did you overcome these difficulties?

There were indeed difficulties, whether in terms of time or money. They were overcome due to our wish to complete an effort which has lasted for about four years. And of course, due to the economic support offered by people interested in promoting the central idea of the documentary, that is, solidarity many people showed their «solidarity to a film about solidarity», and this works to an extent, without covering every need, of course.

If you could choose one or two scenes that accurately represent the work being carried out at the Social Clinic, which ones would you choose?

The scenes that show people waiting at the Social Clinic, which demonstrate how its members tried to deal with a large number of cases, as well as the relief that a smile and some care provides to someone in pain. We also witnessed that in Idomeni, where the Social Clinic went to a number of times, in order to provide help to people queuing to cross the border, or to those trapped in the cold for days.

The documentary team: Theofilos Kalaitzidis, Irini Karagiozidou, Akis Kersanidis, Aimilia Kougioumtzoglou, Kiki Moustakidou, Stavroula Poulimeni, Chrysa Tzelepi
Translated by:Despina Biri
The original text was first published on:Enthemata Avgis
Link to original version:Solitaire ou Solidaire? (Μόνος ή Αλληλέγγυος;) Ένα ντοκυμανταίρ για το Κοινωνικό Ιατρείο Αλληλεγγύης της Θεσσαλονίκης

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