Refugees on the island of Kos | Credit: picture-alliance, AP Photo, Thanassis Stavrakis
Refugees on the island of Kos | Credit: picture-alliance, AP Photo, Thanassis Stavrakis

Dionissis Arvanitakis, a Greek baker who gave away 100 kilograms of bread every day to refugees arriving on the Greek island of Kos, has died. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker released a statement Sunday expressing his respect "for an exemplary European citizen."

Dionissis Arvanitakis, a Greek baker who provided free bread to refugees on the Greek island of Kos, died Sunday. He was 77 years old.

Arvanitakis was raised in a poor family of 10 children and emigrated to Australia at the age of 16. He eventually returned to Greece in 1970 and opened a bakery with his savings. 

In March 2015, he started giving away 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of bread to refugees who arrived on the island, saying at the time, "I know what it feels like to have nothing."

Between 2015 and 2016, around one million refugees arrived on the Greek Aegean islands which are located east of Turkey.


Gained respect

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker paid his respects for the baker. In a statement, Juncker said Arvanitakis was "an exemplary European citizen" who showed "rare generosity and sensitivity towards the hundreds of unfortunate immigrants." Juncker added, "my Europe is the one Dionissis Arvanitakis symbolized." 



Arvanitakis was awarded the EESC civil society prize by the European Economic and Social Committee in 2016.



 

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