Lechovo, a village near by the small towns Kastoria and Florina, is located in the middle of the northern Greek mountains of Western Macedonia in a beautiful hiking region at an altitude of about 900 meters. It is known for the highly developed stonemasonry and bricklaying craft of its habitants. The village, like the entire structurally weak region of northern Greece, is severely affected by the economic crisis.
In her movie “LECHOVO” director Anita Makris documented the situation of the local people: “When I entered this small village where the Greek side of my family comes from, I saw a place of endless emigration. This is a film about how to lose one’s job and the basis of one’s existence. Neglected places are trying to find ways out of a desperate situation.
LECHOVO…stands for the loss of livelihood in the age of neoliberalism. But also how the people of Greece are trying to find ways out of that situation.”
Lechovo also suffered destruction and violence during the German occupation. To commemorate the crimes in the region and in the hope of a world in which solidarity and peaceful coexistence is possible, the cultural association Profitis Ilias initiated a hiking and mountain biking project, which aims to connect communities and to make the structurally weak region attractive for visitors: “Paths of Peace“.
There is also a small folklore museum in the village and the guesthouse Monopati.
Activities for Volunteers:
Community work ( supporting the cultural association Profitis Ilias with the preparation of cultural events in the village)
Publicity work to disseminate information about cultural and tourist attractions of Lechovo and the “Paths of Peace” (via websites and social media)
Translation work into German and English
Help with the digitization of the historical archive of the village
Maintenance and Repair of the “Paths of Peace”
Accompaniment of visitors on excursions
Help in the MONOPATI Youth Hostel, which is open to individual tourists and groups (for example: reception and housekeeping)
The inhabitants of the village are really friendly and open-minded, so the volunteer should be communicative and not shy about meeting new people. The volunteer should be practically oriented, enjoy landscaping and housekeeping activities and at the same time be interested in educational programs and content development.
Report from Durkje Salman in Lechovo (February 2022- February 2023)
Since February 2022 I have been volunteering in Lechovo. Lechovo is a small mountain village in the northern part of Greece. Life here may seem traditional and different from the rest of Greece, but the past year was an amazing experience. The volunteering project in Lechovo is completely new and I was the first volunteer to go to Lechovo. This meant that I helped build up the project and had to figure out what to do and what the community of Lechovo needed from me.
Over the past months I have been doing a lot of different work and projects. Some of the most important projects were the categorising of the English library, the digitalization of the museum objects and working on a website for Lechovo. These projects were very important for the preservation of the history of Lechovo, but also thinking about the future and the needs of the village.
Lechovo has a long history, with lots of culture interwoven into it. During the Second World War the Nazi occupation forces burned down parts of the village. Therefore, Lechovo is a so-called ‘Martyr Village’ and a good understanding of this is required from the volunteers. I helped with the remembrance of the Second World War events, and also wrote and talked about it for websites and documentaries.
Furthermore, my work centred around the cultural activities of the village. The village exists off a lively community with a lot of cultural traditions and celebrations. The Cultural Association ‘Profitis Ilias’, for which I also work, is in charge of the organisation of most of these activities. Meaning that over the past year I helped organise multiple celebrations, such as Carnival and the traditional Panagiria, worked with the traditional dancers of the village, and learned some Greek traditional dances myself, and learned a lot more about the importance of keeping their culture alive.
Except for these projects and the cultural activities, I also engaged in a lot of other (work related) activities. We organised multiple activities for and with the children, such as Christmas crafts, but also clean ups of the village, to make them more environmentally aware. For the youngsters we also organised an exchange with Berlin, in cooperation with the former Concentration Camp Ravensbrück, to incite awareness about the Second World War in Greece and other countries.
The project, and my work, have been centred around the history of the village and its culture. Therefore, the volunteer work was closely tied to the community, which means that I also became part of this community. This has been very rewarding, since the people are very welcoming and friendly. I learned a lot from my interactions with the people. Such a close interaction with the villagers is something that has made my past year in Lechovo extremely special and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Report from Luise Steeck in Lechovo (1.9.22-31.8.23):
Me and the other voluteer in Lechovo are working for the cultural association Profitis Ilias. As the new volunteer I still have to adapt to the village life, find a way to be helpful for the community and learn the Greek language.
The past weeks I did all kinds of work. Mostly we were working in the small museum of the village and digitalized the artefacts which are up to 500 years old. Additionally I worked for the community center and painted the fence of the local school. We also participated and helped at different cultural events the past days as the parade on οχι-day or the local pita festival organized by Profitis Ilias.
For the next weeks and month there a more activities planned. I started visiting some elderly people at home to help them with daily tasks such as going to the local mini market, which could be a challenge for them since Lechovo is a really mountainous place. This visit gave me the possibility to get to know their life history and I am looking forward to learn and talk more as soon as my Greek improves. We also want to offer different activities for the community as for example creative activities for kids and German lessons for everyone interested.
Lechovo is a beautiful place, especially right now in autumn the nature and the mountains around look amazing. The people are incredibly open and welcoming and always down for a chat. I already got to experience a lot of Greece and its culture during my time here, nights at the bar, talks with the locals, the pita festival, visiting the panigiris at the nearest cities or travelling to Thessaloniki and I am really thankful for that.
In cooperation with:
REPORT FROM VOLUNTEER