The Leper Colony – much nicer than it sounds!

I had to dedicate a whole post to the Leper Island colony just off of the island of Crete. I should probably start by saying that it is disused! There are no Lepers there anymore of course, it is now a tourist attraction strangely enough. However, it was used about 100 years ago to isolate people with leprosy from the rest of the ‘healthy’ population.

My experience there

The remains of the houses

I traveled there by a short boat as part of an overall tour of the area. And of course I loved it, it was all about modern history of the people that used to live in Crete. The island itself it situated about 5 km away from the mainland, which people could technically swim without too much problem, but it seems that not many people tried. I learnt that people from the overall population with the disease were shipped out to the island with out much notice or say in the matter. This included people of all ages and professions but it was mostly the poorer people as the richer more influential people may have been able to buy their way out of it.

Conditions of the island

Picture of the Doctors from inside the museum

It seems that because there were kids, adults and even elderly people, naturally they made a school on the island to educate the younger members of the community. These people were often strangers when they first met. They constructed houses to live in and even made a library too. They grew their own food and operated pretty much in isolation from the rest of the mainland. They were allowed to receivee post and send items back to family and friends, who they no doubt missed very much, However, all letters that left the island had to be disinfected and after this was done they were adorned with a large red cross to show they were safe. Sadly, people on the main land receiving these letters became ashamed about being associated with something that they thought was unclean. The conditions on the island were, as you can imagine, less than ideal. They were left with out much support from the authorities and doctors. They were left to create their own rules and in some cases this was extremely unfortunate. Some of the lepers escaped back to the mainland but they were soon rounded up and taken back by boat.

All for nothing

So strangely, as we understand more about the condition of leprosy, we understand that country to popular belief, the condition itself is not actually contagious! The affected people were originally removed to this island to prevent the illness (that includes loss of limbs only in the very extreme cases) from spreading to the healthy population. But it seems that that was all for nothing after all since the condition does not pass from person to person in the way it was expected.