Ελευθερια σ’αγαπω

By Kyra Karastogiou, Stephan Beck, February 2018

The first Greek Waldorf school has opened in Athens.

2015: In the midst of the crisis

At one of our meetings with members of the Waldorf school initiative in Athens two years ago we still asked the question: “… do you really think it makes sense in a time of crisis to set up a Waldorf school here in Athens when there is 60 percent youth unemployment and a huge wave of refugees?

“Years ago, when the conditions were easier, so many attempts failed. The crisis hadn’t even started yet! How is it supposed to succeed now?”

Panos smiled shyly and answered: “Wasn’t it the same with you almost 100 years ago in Stuttgart? There was a raging economic crisis. In such times space can open up and the impossible becomes possible.”

2016: The school approaches

Various initiatives to found a school in Athens had always failed. Even the necessary legal framework did not exist for a long time. The Greek school system does not cater for alternative education. Private schools are rare, extremely difficult to set up and never funded by the state. A school with a special educational concept must be a private school which is nevertheless obliged to comply with the Greek curriculum.

The teachers worked untiringly to harmonise the Greek curriculum with Waldorf education. They did so alongside their normal everyday professional duties. There was no finance, no building and potential teachers also still needed to be found. Despite all these obstacles there were a number of people who sensed that the school was waiting to be born. Sandra, one of the teachers, once said: “I have a gut feeling that the school is approaching. It is a feeling like being in love.”

December 2016: Lift-off

There have been various kindergarten groups in Athens for more than a decade and the question about a school kept being raised. But this time it is different. Suddenly there is a whole series of parents who show really great interest in founding a Waldorf school. They help the initiative to lift off. The first concrete steps are taken: an association for the establishment of a Waldorf school in Athens is planned and a building is found. On inspection of the building and penetrating into the completely overgrown garden, large graffiti are visible up the whole building to the roof: Ελευθερια σ’αγαπω (Freedom, I love you). The foundation initiative can immediately relate to this motto!

After difficult negotiations with the bank which owns the building, a good lease is agreed with much support from the Software AG Foundation, the Friends of Waldorf Education and a number of local parents. The renovation of the building can start. The future teachers set to tackling the many different tasks with a will. Many parents immediately register their children.

2017: Something great is happening

It has been clear for many months that something great is happening here in northern Athens. A lease has been in place since 1 March 2017 and the clearance work can start. Neighbours in the Marousi district keeping dropping by in amazement and wish us much luck, some even offer to help.

Work is taking place in every corner of the property. Once the overgrown and dried up undergrowth was thinned out a bit, it was possible to see inside. A class 12 from Stuttgart was here in May – 38 motivated 18-year-olds who worked very hard to clear the area. Later a group of students from Hochschule Stuttgart came and built a play space with the playground designer KuKuK.

2 September 2017: Trianemi (Three Winds) opens

Saturday, 2 September 2017 is the day of the opening festivities. Now it is 4.30 in the morning. A light is still burning. Is someone still cleaning? Have the coat racks been fixed to the wall? They hadn’t been at midnight. The architect from the foundation initiative of the Athens Waldorf School has done a magnificent job together with the parents, volunteers and trades people. The ruin of a building has been turned into a wonderful place for children.

Now the moment has arrived. It is Saturday evening, seven o’clock and still 35 degrees. The Athens parents with their children are just back from their holidays: brown from the sun and festively dressed, they appear at the festivities. They bring bowls of chilled melon, plates of feta cheese, pita bread and other tasty treats. Their children play in the sandpit which was only filled that same morning. The first brave ones climb on to the climbing frame and the roof of the new hut in the playground. Despite the beaming eyes of the teachers, founders and parents, it is evident that they have performed an immense amount of work and the tension has not quite drained away yet.

An infinite amount of love, work and idealism has come together here. On 28 August, six days before it was due to open, it was still not clear whether the school could really start. The education ministry had not yet granted permission. The relief is all the greater when it finally arrives!

A children’s orchestra from the neighbouring music school plays “Ode to Joy” and the children present are allowed to conduct. They conduct as suits their temperament and the orchestra responds. There is a clear feeling: this place will belong to these children, that is why it was created! People keep arriving. The inner courtyard has meanwhile filled up. All the doors in the building are open. There is pleasure in the faces of the visitors as they look around the lovingly furnished classrooms. Three hundred people were expected, five hundred came.

When the visitors are formally welcomed, the festivities are already in full swing! Children, parents and guests have filled the building with life in no time at all.

11 September 2017: Hope in catastrophe

The teachers welcome almost 80 children to the first Waldorf school in Greece. There are two pre-school classes, one class 1, one class 2 and one class 4. Full of joy and with high expectations, the teachers lead their amazed pupils ceremoniously through a rose arch.

In an environment in which the social system has almost wholly collapsed, the health system no longer functions, there is high unemployment and poverty is evident everywhere, the achievement in founding this school is all the greater. After all, it brings hope and confidence back to where it belongs: to the children!

Since many families cannot afford the full school fees, we ask the Friends of Waldorf Education, who supported us together with the Software AG Foundation, about donations for individual children. One possibility would be to make an appeal at the Christmas fairs. The Uhlandshöhe Free Waldorf School has gladly taken on the mentorship of the Trianemi Waldorf School.

About the authors: Kyra Karastogiou is a class teacher at the Uhlandshöhe Free Waldorf School in Stuttgart; Stephan Beck is a class teacher at the Tübingen Free Waldorf School. Both are belong to the founders of the Trianemi School.


Gillian Schoemaker, USA, 06.03.18 02:03

This is wonderful news - at last, Waldorf education in Athens!
I am a eurythmist in the Camphill Special School in Pennsylvania.
I come regularly to Greece (I lead occasional tours )
and would very much like to have contact with the school.
Please do be in touch with me.

Susan Weber, Keene, NH, 06.03.18 17:03

I am deeply moved to read about this moment, as I have asked many colleagues over the years why Waldorf Education had not yet found any presence in Greece. Congratulations and all good thoughts for the work with the children and families.

Martin , 06.03.18 18:03

80 students at opening - that's impressive. Best of luck on this act of love and hope.

Yvette Worrall, 06.03.18 20:03

We at Raphaeli Waldorf School on the east coast of South Africa are getting ready to move next year - the centenary of Waldorf's first school - to the huge piece of land we have been gifted overlooking the mountains and sea. We are feeling nervous of all the work still to be done; our wooden classrooms moved; other buildings adapted; trees planted after a devastating fire. Your outright courage, sensitivity and long term trust are a glorious inspiration for our future. Congratulations!

Judith Soleil, 07.03.18 17:03

This is so inspiring! I hope to be able to visit the school one day.

Margot Amrine, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 08.03.18 01:03

This is such joyful news! Fred and I hope to visit some
day. Best wishes!

Thesa Callinicos, Paonia, Colorado. USA, 08.03.18 06:03

I'm overjoyed to hear of your beautiful beginnings like a butterfly bursting its cocoon. Congratulations!

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