Immortalised by foreign writers such as Lawrence Durrell, the Greek islands offer an enchanting escape from reality. Who has not fallen in love with Santorini, whose white houses and chapels are etched against a Hockney-blue Mediterranean. Or Kythera, birthplace of the Goddess Aphrodite? Or Lesbos, island of the legendary poetess Sappho?
It is another story for locals however. Their well water is limited and all supplies must come by boat from mainland Greece. Even seafood. Long ago the seas were fished out.
Life was never easy on the rocky islands. Now the flood of of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East has made it even tougher. Especially for the North Aegean islands of Lesbos, Chios and Kos. With a resident population of only 500, one tiny island received more than a thousand refugees, mainly Syrian Muslims, in a single day.
True to their reputation for generous hospitality, the Greek islanders have done everything within their means to accommodate those wet and hungry refugees who survived the short, but perilous boat trip from the west coast of Turkey.
A grim side effect for their efforts is a big drop in tourism – as much as 65 per cent in Kos – on which all the Greek islands depend for their livelihoods.
The only heartening news is that those islanders who have found themselves on the frontline of the refugee crisis are to be nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.