Greek minister mourns 'heroine' gran who helped refugees

Lesbos Island (Greece) (AFP) –


Greece's migration minister on Wednesday paid homage to a 90-year-old grandmother on the island of Lesbos who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for helping refugees.

Dimitris Vitsas said Maritsa Mavrapidou, whose death was announced Wednesday, was a selfless "heroine" whose stance was a "shining example" to all.

"Her sweet memory will accompany us forever," the minister said in a statement.

The daughter of ethnic Greek refugees from Turkey, Mavrapidou and two other elderly Lesbos women became instant celebrities in 2015 when they were pictured bottle-feeding a refugee baby whose parents had just landed on their island after braving a perilous crossing of the Aegean Sea.

They were part of more than a million refugees and migrants, mainly people fleeing the Syrian civil war, who landed on EU shores that year.

"That picture will remain deep in our memories," the minister said.

In 2016, Mavrapidou was part of a group of Lesbos islanders nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

All three women insisted they had done nothing special.

"What did I do, my son?" another of the three, Emilia Kamvysi, famously told Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

"They were gentle people and they were just passing through," she later told AFP.