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Leila Leila and Hartwig are the first full-time inhabitants of Ecotopia, a new developing sutainable coliving community on the island of Ithaca

"The key words that connect me to Ithaca are very big gratefulness to be here, a feeling of being part of land, part of the island, and part of the people."

"On this morning, the first thing that went through my mind was quietness again. Usually, there are no thoughts in the morning."

"My main motivation for living here is to live in peace, to have a feeling that everything is cool and going smoothly. It's very easy to be peaceful here, very easy to stay in my centre, in my middle, to feel connected ..."

"On the other hand, I don't perceive myself as being different from the people here. I feel very close to them and what I share with them, but I see big differences between a middle European person and the people here in their expectations for themselves and of what the other person should do. [on the bus to Vathi]"
"All my life, I was very much used to be a stranger, a foreigner, even in the country I grew up in. But here, I feel like I am completely normal; it makes me feel very, very good ..."
"All my life, I have been trying to harmonize and fix things, because I feel the energies of something going wrong around me, something that most people don't. When something is going wrong or it falls out of balance, I can feel it. It's the same if I am cooking or talking to people ... I see the relationship between farming and healing. The relationship between them was growing and developing in peace ... My father is from Iraq, but I do not know Arabic except for a word which means a place -مير , where a living being can live and develop to be at peace with oneself."
"We started the farm in Austria in 2002, but now we don't have it anymore, we changed it in 2012, moved to a very, very small place. The farm was 10 hectares, 3/4 fields and meadows, so it could feed you in a very good way, but it didn't feed us ... So Hartwig had to go to Vienna to work every day, and it was too much for him. At the farm in Austria, we had 4–5 people helping us as volunteers at all times. During very busy times, we had 14 people all together, including friends and volunteers."
Photos, interview and self-portraits as part of this story were done on Leila and Hartwig's new farm on the south side of Ithaca – an Ionian island which is on the site of Ecotopia project./you can enlage the images by clicking on them /
Rolf Brunner, founder of Ecotopia, is living on the nearby land of Sarakiniko project, where there are still some people interested in living a more independent, but not isolated life.
  • Ecotopia is a relatively new project spanning across 37,500 m² of land that is for sale under certain conditions: no electricity and water from outside, small housing, no fences ... Rolf Brunner is the initiator and landowner of the Ecotopia project. He is living on Ithaca since 1997: “After a successful career, I decided in 1997 to do something completely new. Since then I live on this beautiful island of Ulysses. As a co-initiator of the well-known Sarakiniko-alternative-project and organizer of its development, I do have a rich experience in this kind of group dynamics. So now, I want to put all this knowledge together. Ecotopia will be a paradigm for a small but solid and sustainable model of living together.”
  • Main concept: Good neighborhood is possible. "Our time needs it. If free landowners decide to follow some common rules and are willing to follow them because they created them by themselves, then Ecotopia is real." More on https://ecotopia.jimdo.com.
Leila and Hartwig are very experienced ecological farmers. However, they treat their new farm on Ithaca as a new adventure, which means observing, experimenting and finding out step by step the ways to cultivate the land here./you can enlage the images by clicking on them /

"We decided to have a farm in Austria because Hartwig was very unhappy at his job, and I was trying to find a solution for my family at the time. We already had our first kid, and I saw farming as a perfect solution. However, we were very incompetent in the beginning, and the idea of how it should be like ... Oh Gosh, there was a lot of flows against us, it wouldn't work that way ... The way it turned out was that we had a lot of people from all countries, volunteers working with us, learning with us ... So, you know, learning was really everything ... From the beginning, it was how to deal with your grain, how to deal with your forest, how to deal with the animals. At the beginning, I only had animals as babies, because I said I had to grow with them and they had to grow with me so that they could get used to us. We also had dogs and cats. So there were a lot of babies running around everywhere. And it's good to grow with them, get to know them in a very deep way, because I believe very much in being with and being a part of the nature and animals and everything ... And it was good for kids. We also adopted a daughter from Ethiopia, it was a good time for her to grow up in the farm. It was not a farm like nowadays, we had to do everything. But Hartwig never quit his job, because we needed money. The ideal, original idea was that he could quit his job as we would have enough money to live on farm, but this never happened."

New land, new project, new life for Leila and Hartwig is now happening on Ithaca.

"Now, there are more and more people like that ... I said, 'back to the roots'. You have to know where your food came from, you have to know how to survive on a farm, or not on a farm, but how to make yourself independent from supermarket and all that stuff. This is what I wanted to teach myself, my children and all volunteers that came. So that means ..."

"However, I take things much easier now, I am much easier going ... It's life, it's experience, it's growing older ... No longer being that dependent on money ... No more stress about the money ... One thing is that Hartwig has retired, he gets money ... And the other thing is, I am very sure that what I have always done, wherever I was, I could earn money with my hands if I need some, because I'm healing, treating, repairing, so I know very well I can manage ... I've been working for twenty years, healing."

"I would really like to be the one that is watching how the stuff is growing, how it is developing ... We do a lot of planting, and now we just watch it, something like 'Wow, what's going on there? Incredible!' I've been very curious about all these things that are possible ... To learn now. I have to experience it to see ... We also have a connection with a young person who collects local seeds as a hobby. He is an artist. He makes jewelry ... It is tourist jewelry, but very nice ones, and besides, he is collecting seeds and working with plants. He has a garden in the mountains."
Leila and Hartwig are experimenting with ship wool, to protect young plants from too much heat.

"We make our own olive oil ... in a very easygoing way."

"I like making olive oil in a traditional and more natural way, because mountains olives are perfect. They are very small, they are fewer in number, but they give perfect oil."
/you can enlage the images by clicking on them /

"You can pick olives from the neighbors and it's only the work because the traditional way of picking olives here means crawling in the trees and cutting the twigs. So twigs are sometimes very big and they have a special technique to keep the olive trees healthy, keeping them from growing too much in all directions ... In the stones. And the stones on this island are very heavy and the trees break ... It's a pity."

"Finally, as my vision of the island, I would love it if the people kept their trust and got more of it, because I found a lot of trust here. When we were talking to people here, mostly businessmen, you know, small businesses, who say 'Yes, there is crisis, but' ... So this 'but', you know, is very, very important. Live your life and don't give too much attention to this big stuff which is not really ... It has nothing to do with life. It's completely on another level. And I think that the people here have the chance not to go for all this fear and existence stuff, before getting back to roots and trust. I think here it may be possible, because not so much got destroyed, not so much got lost as in so many other places, where people really feel the fear and have lost hope. And are very frightened with what's going on in the surroundings, in the world as a whole. Because when you put a focus on that, you become a part of it. You can invite what you need but you can invite what you fear as well. But if you have a little bit of the idea, of the feeling of happiness, just because of being, you know, being awake in the morning ... Just because it's nice that we can keep what we have ....

BOJAN: It has already been six months since we spent time together on Ithaca. My aim is to continue the story when we meet again and experience fresh new moments.
Released by MED Land project / photography, audio conversations, editing: BB / on-location team: Leila and Harwig Morth, Marko Vodanović, BB / research: Nejc Jordan, BB / text editing: Tadej Turnšek

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Bojan Brecelj
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MED Land project