The Dreams of the Greeks During the Quarantine Period Are Recorded” (by Korina Petridi – Thodoris Nikolaou, published in Vice.com on 24/11/2020)

The Greek project “Draumar” records the collective trauma of the pandemic, as reflected in dreams.

Inspired by the project of the Italian anthropologist, Mateo Meschiari, In the spring of 2019, anthropologist Alessandra D’Onofrio and journalist Daphni Scaglioni began to collect and record the dreams of the Greeks during the quarantine period.

They named their project “Draumar”, which in Icelandic means dream. They chose this word because, as they say, it sounds like dream and at the same time like trauma.  In essence, the project – which is still under way – aims to record the collective trauma of the pandemic, as reflected in the dreams of the subjects who experience it.

“We want to do a mapping of the collective fantasy, see if a map can be made and what it can tell us,” notes Daphni Scaglioni. Initially, the two women asked citizens to send their dreams by email. This way, however, did not allow anonymity, which is why the first recordings were limited. The creation of an anonymous platform then prompted more Internet users to share their experience, resulting in the archive today containing more than 100 dreams.

The objective is for the dreams that will be collected to be the raw material for artistic creation. Thus, when the recording is completed, “Draumar” will appeal to people of art to illustrate the material. “At the same time, the aim is to create a historical record, a repository of the collective fantasy during the pandemic”, adds historian Leoni Thanasoula, who has joined Draumar’s team since September. 

Already, specific patterns emerge in the dreams that have been gathered. In most of them, death and fear of it prevail – loved ones who have died come back, buildings collapse, situations of captivity unfold. People wait in endless queues or run to catch ships and planes, often unsuccessfully.

“Anthropologically it is interesting that in dreams the pattern of guilt is repeated, not wearing their masks, carry the wrong keys, or wear the wrong clothes,” comments anthropologist Alessandra D’Onofrio. This condition also seems to affect the architecture of dreams, with spaces in most dreams being complex, maze-like or inaccessible. Similarly, mobility and some of the basic senses are limited.

Dreams and Images

“Draumar” gave VICE a number of dreams, collected during the first and second quarantines. Photographer Thodoris Nikolaou illustrated some of them.

As are emerging in the dreams that have been gathered. In most of them, death and fear of him prevail.

“We want to do a mapping of the collective fantasy, see if a map can be made and what it can tell us,” notes Daphne 

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I was with my adult son in a very large outdoor area fenced with barbed wire, where there was a large sofa. He wanted to go to a concert, but he didn’t know how it would be done under the new circumstances. Eventually we agreed he would go to get the ticket and come back and listen to the concert sitting alone on this couch. At least the sound would reach that far.

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We’re with the kids in the car, I drive terribly stressed to make it somewhere. Balanced in front of the windshield there is a deep dish with a food we never make, something between trahana and chickpea soup. I’m racking my brain to figure out how to translate the name of the food into English and what’s the name of the complex data analysis system I used, but the name wasn’t saved in Word or whatever, I can’t find it with the little girl yelling at me all the time from the back seat “why Mom?” and my frustration going up like a fever on a mercury thermometre.

“Because I have to finish this paper and deliver it, the deadline has passed and I have another 320 pages to translate into English.” “Yes, but why, Mom?” And in my frustration, I press the throttle harder and harder, I’m lost, I don’t remember where I’m going, the speed increases and I’m driving convulsively around the alleys of a strange area. The dish wobbles, it too finds itself in a balance of terror, but it doesn’t fall. “Why, Mom?”

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A typical dream I had at the beginning of June was at sea. Me, my brother and our best friend were swimming, there was a huge wave, we held hands, sat on the bottom. It covered us up and passed over us painlessly. Intense fear but also security at the same time that it’s the three of us and we’re going to make it.

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I was with my family and we had gone to a bad school where there was a teacher who had imprisoned all the children in the classrooms and wanted to take our hands off, cut off our fingers to make the legs of the chairs. And then he killed them all, and it was just us who got away, my dad and my little brother were home. Me and my big brother were together and Mom was with us. The school was weird, they were selling stuff, it was made of concrete. It had a very large balcony but it was high because outside there was the sea. One of us had fallen into the sea and a fish had come and rescued us with its fin. In the end we ran towards the door – that’s what I remember and that’s where I woke up.

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I walked in with my dad (who is dead) in a room. I felt emotion and pride. I was supporting him, he was weak, emaciated, but my usual dad, with his humor, his cynicism, his self-irony. The house was different, with a wooden floor and two large built-in libraries on two sides, leaving enough room on both sides, with books on the back too. He picked out some books and gave them to me. He was excited like a little kid at having found them again. Take this, and this, and this. As if it was a house from the past where we walked in for a while and had to collect as many memories as we could, in book form. He was looking for something specific. It was a little notebook. “It may seem small, but it has it all in it,” he told me. And he took it for himself this time. In a fairly large recess created by the (wall-like) libraries, my cousin was presenting something, as if a show had just begun. We got close, and as soon as she saw him, she stopped with emotion. “Don’t tell me it’s your dad?” she asked. Yes, I told her tearfully. He started making jokes about a wandering corpse, etc. He was smiling. She came to hug him. I felt uncomfortable as we should protect him because of coronavirus. She told me it’s impossible not to kiss him after all these years.

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I was in the courtyard of a church. I wasn’t sure if it was a wedding or a funeral. Probably the second. First arrived the owner of the café, which is my hangout in the neighborhood. She had blood on her face and she said, “I’m not kissing you because I have coronavirus” Second a colleague who was soaked, as he said he was “on fire” with fever. I was very scared. I thought they shouldn’t come to church, that they should have closed the churches and that I would not go in. Eventually, though, I walked in in fear and it was a Catholic church, with a priest doing something like a concert and I, trying to settle into a pew wrapped in bubble wrap and scared, started singing.

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A dream that comes back often, before and during the pandemic when I’m stressed, is that I’m in a demonstration and I’m being chased by the MATs [riot police]. I live near the center, but the roads to my house are closed and I can’t get through. I never get arrested. But I always hide in alleys. I haven’t done anything in the demonstration, I was just marching. It is worth noting that since I became pregnant with my first child, i.e. 13 years ago, I have not been on a march. Also, in the marches I went to before I was 28, I have never been a “trouble-maker” and I have not been chased, only once in the demonstration against Clinton’s arrival in Greece, in 1999 or 2000.

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I was trying to talk, but my voice wouldn’t come out. From time to time my voice sounded distorted, robotic, very scary to me. As time went by, the sense of vision was altered, and I could see faces around me like burnt, deformed. In the end, I lost my sanity, and my thoughts didn’t make sense.