After fatal Greek train crash, a campus simmers with rage

April 04, 2023 01:42 PM EEST | By Reuters
Image source: Reuters

By Karolina Tagaris

THESSALONIKI, Greece (Reuters) - A month after 12 students at Greece's largest university were killed in a train crash, messages of grief across the campus are tinged with rage.

"This crime will not be forgotten," a note on a makeshift memorial at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki reads.

Fifty-seven people died in the country's deadliest rail disaster on Feb. 28, when a passenger train and a cargo train travelling on the same track collided head-on.

Many of the victims were students returning from a long carnival weekend and in the days after the crash, grief over their loss spilled into angry street protests at safety failings at the country's ailing railways, which authorities have acknowledged.

"This intense sadness turned into rage," said Konstantina Ksini, 22, an engineering student whose friend Agapi Tsaklidou was killed and who was shocked after seeing another funeral notice at the university's entrance.

"It's gut-wrenching. A funeral notice for a kid we knew... This broke me," she said. "It infuriates us that this could have not happened."

The crash stirred anger against consecutive governments and a political system that has repeatedly ignored calls by railway unions to improve safety and hire more staff. The government has promised a transparent and thorough investigation.

"It is a shame for Greece, a European country in 2023, to have railways which are not safe," said Lysimachos Papazoglou, a professor of veterinary surgery, whose 22-year-old physics student son Giorgos died.

Moments before the crash, Giorgos entered a cafe in a carriage that was obliterated.

"It's as if there was a crack in the future, telling you the future no longer exists," Papazoglou said, his gaze fixed on a photograph showing his two sons smiling alongside their mother in a swimming pool. "The kids were the future, not us."

A makeshift memorial lists the names of those killed alongside their departments. Twenty-six students were injured.

"We paid a heavy price in blood in this tragedy," Rector Nikos Papaioannou said.

In the university cafes, corridors and classrooms, discussion has shifted to what can be done.

"This sadness, this anger, we tried - as students - to turn it into a fight," said Evangelia Grigoriou, a civil engineering student.

In a nearby classroom, a black-and-white drawing shows a derailed carriage with the word "murderers" in red. Elsewhere, a hand-drawn poster on window shows two trains crashing.

"We'll be quiet when the kids are sleeping," it reads. "Not when they're killing them."

(Additional reporting by Alexandros Avramidis; Editing by Conor Humphries)

Top LSE Listed Companies