I wandered among the gods;
To men I must come back
In Florida, the sky is never blue, like in Greece; humidity makes it grey. The clouds permanently cross the sky, even it does not rain as frequently as threatening they seem to be; and when they do, the rains are short. If you are not outside to see, after several minutes, you are not longer have the possibility to know what happened, as water had evaporated, because of the warmth. The humidity increases the unpleasant effect of the warmth. In London, your glasses steam when you entry in a shop in a winter day; here, it is the opposite: it occurs in full summer, when you get out from a space with ear conditioning. And ear conditioning runs almost everywhere.
The real benefactor of Florida is the Ocean. It is the one that offers you the greatest pleasure, at least from physically point of view, but the psychically also; just sinking in its water, you recover yourself after any stress. Its waves, parallel with the tape of the road, were tenting Anastasia.
She had only few kilometres to drive up till her house, when the mobile telephone sounded. She does not like to talk at the phone, especially when driving, but it was her son calling. She must answer. He never calls her without a serious reason. Ah, if the caller had been one of those women alleging to be her friends whether she accepted them to speak hours, she surely would not have answered. Even a few minutes ago the telephone sound several times. She was just thinking what a plague the telephone became, because of those people wanting to talk not having anything else to do. But her son was. The ocean could wait as well.
- Yes, Kostas.
o Mom, come home immediately. Dad has been shot.
- What are you saying about? Let me stop the car; I am in traffic.
o Do not stop. Come home.
- What happened? Where is the dad?
o At the hospital. He is in coma.
- I will arrive immediately. I am close by the house.
Still, she stopped; was not longer able to drive; her hands were trembling. Fotios was in a trip with his friend on the hunting land of the club of which he was a member. She had told him not to go in this trip without sense; it is Sunday, the season for hunting is closed and they should enter there like poachers. But Fotios was too determined for being persuaded.
She needed more than one minute to recover herself. Still, she must go home to see what happened, so pluck up courage and left. She arrived and, surprisingly, her bad condition was almost out; just driving – that of which she was afraid - calmed her. She closed the car and enters the house normally.
Only when she enters the living room the worry came again. Kostas was like a statue and Vicky, her daughter, was on the floor in shock, real or simulated. Kostas said he had received a telephone call, from which more persons talked – Mike among them, his father’s friend – and that, from the whole the flurry, he understood that his father was shot and he is in coma now in the hospital. Which hospital, where he was wounded, who fire? He did not know more.
In very that moment she realized that all the responsibilities were on her shoulders, that she was alone and must keep her lucidity. She cannot cry. The Fotios’ friend, the one along whom he went in the trip, must know more. She called him. In obvious state of excitement, he confirmed that Fotios has been shot in his head and even himself is easily wounded: “We was transported here, at the emergency hospital, by a helicopter. Anastasia, I lost my best friend. You must come immediately at the hospital, to do all the best for him, as I do not know he will survive long time”.
They lived in Miami and the hunting field was north to New York, one hour of driving from the airport. The hospital must be in the same area. She had to solve some administrative problems, first to obtain the ticket for flying to New York and talk with a friend woman to take care of the house and Nicky. Kostas had suddenly became a mature person and told her he is determined to go along with her at the hospital. She succeeded, and several hours later they arrived.
At the hospital, besides the doctors, two guys from F.B.I. were waiting for them. Their task was to be sure that it was an accident and not a premeditate crime. They said that, on the hunting field, besides Fotios and his friend, another member of the club was there for hunting birds, though the season for birds was closed. He missed the first fire but, following the fly of the bird, he shot again, just when the bird was about to get down among the trees. Instead of the bird, he has hit Fotios and his friend.
From the doctors she learnt that the bullet entered through Fotios’ face, below the eye, and stopped in the bone from the back. Consequently, his brain is flooded with blood and it will take very long until the haemorrhage will stop. Now, he is in coma, in intensive therapy, in a very critical situation. Maybe, he will survive, but needs much good luck.
Contrary to the appearance, Fotios was not a rich man. Now, as a vice-president of a small navigation company, their financial position improved. They were able to buy a house in Coral Gables. Still, it happened after a long period of missing and hard life.
His father inoculated him the passion for hunting and now he was pride to show to his friend the estate to the club of which he was a member, a very large one. He had other passions as well: the flowers, for example. At home, he has a lot of orchids. But nothing was to be compared with hunting. And now, just it, the hunting, the one that gave him the greatest satisfactions . . .
The smell of newly-baked bread, especially when you are a little hunger, may be more appetizing as many others. The old Constantinidis used to do pastry as well; this was his trade. Now, he must go on with working – even sporadically – for maintaining those two little grandchildren of him, orphans. He baked two times a week, sometimes three, according with the orders from the shop for which he worked when he was active. The owner appreciated his products and was happy to sell them.
He lived upstairs, but their wonderful smell was to feel at the grand-floor too, where it incited Anastasia’s nostrils. The pastries were good to eat, as they were sweet. But the smell of newly baked bread aroused the whole her body. This is why, from time to time, she used to go upstairs, where the old man, with a smile on his lips and light in sight, gave her some from his delicatessens.
Though her appearance on the world was expected, her parents have not experience for growing up a child. They were educated people, but young and exaggerated severe. Without a special reason, her mother had forbidden her to go upstairs. For those three years old of her, it was difficult for Anastasia to resist, so she used to slink up now and again, when the mother was out of doors.
Everything was all right, until one day, when, coming down, at the foot of the staircase, the mother was waiting her. Without saying a word, she took her by the hand and pushed in the bathroom. Only there, she said: “When your father will come, he will take care of you” and closed the door. The bathroom has not a window, the light could be turn on from outside, so she stayed on darkness. She does not know how long; there was not any guide mark. Usually, her father comes in the twilight, and the previous scene occurred before noon. She heard him first quarrelling with her mother. She didn’t distinguish the words. At her ears only strong sounds were arriving, those characteristic for a violent altercation. Finally, the door was opened. He was visible nervous and – as he did not want other complications – took his belt and leather her up till she swooned. The only justifying phrase was: “You will not want to go upstairs again”. In that day she did not succeed in eating.
In the next morning, the parents were alarmed. After an agitate night, with convulsions and shouts, now she was in a burning fever. They were concerned about her health and thought to call for a doctor. They were only for a few years in that small town and did not know many people. Though he was an advocate, he did not work in the law system, but in a bank, so he was knew only in financial circles. His wife, instead, was very active in women circles. Inside of medical world they did not have many acquaintances. This why they appeal to that paediatrician doctor who took care the child in her first year. This one promptly came and promptly supposed what had happened. When he tried to undress the girl, for be sure that his supposition is real, the parents opposed. The doctor assured them that, from somatic point of view, there is nothing grave; the fever will goes out. But – with the risk of losing a client - he added that, from psychically point of view, such happenings could have undesirable traces on the child. The girl will never forget this happening.
It maybe seems odd, but the one who should have better sentiments was not her mother. The maternal love had in her case a degenerated form, turned into aversion face to her own child. She was a beautiful woman. Fully aware of her qualities, she had a really cult for show off them. Up till a limit, it is natural to do this way. Who would not do it? But she frequently exceeded this limit. Those who knew her in intimacy tell that she used to speak hours with herself in front of the window. And there were windows in every room of her house. In society, she was a very agreeable person; in family, instead, she behaved stern and authoritative. Nobody remembers of seeing her smiling. She was unpleasant all the time.
A possible explanation is the fact that, before marrying, she loved a young boy and was loved by him. The boy’s mother opposed of the marriage, without saying why. It seems that she intuited or knew something. But, to remain low-spirited whole life because you married with other man and to avoid the responsibilities as wife and mother, this indicates a special psychological character. We cannot speak about love in her case.
Did she revenge herself on her own daughter? Nemesis – the goodness of revenge – used to punish the crimes, namely bad acts, with the aim of conserving the order, the balance of the society. On Anastasia she was revenging without reason, as the girl did not make grave mistakes. Homer said about „divine justice”. Anastasia’s mother was not divine at all.
Her father was more reasonable and it is almost inexplicable how his wife exercised such a great ascendancy over him and beat the child with inadmissible cruelty. He could confine himself with something easier, even normal would be to understand the whish of a child of only three years old and be more indulgent. But the theory, according with the parents must explain what a child is good to do and what is bad to do, works only the case of normal parents.
For the moment, the happening had some consequences on the parents: the scare moderated them for a while and diminished the stress on Anastasia. Her life improved for a while. Several weeks she did not received not at least a slap on her face from those of which she used to receive before several time a day. She was aloud even to go outdoors, in the courtyard behind the house, small enough and uninteresting.
Instead, the interdiction of not having friends was kept with authority. It is odd, as mother had a strong wish of socializing; not as to have friends, but a public, audience, as many attendances to admire her. She was beauty, intelligent, but just her wish of astounding made those who could become her friends to withdraw. Maybe just her failure made her to forbid the friendship of her daughter with other children, from simple jealousy.
Father tried, in his style, to ameliorate the situation: he bought for Anastasia a little dog. His gesture is almost characteristic for him. Instead to solve a problem correctly, he try to soften the consequently of un-solving it.
Anastasia grows fond of the dog. Its name was Lucky. They became inseparable friends, even during the nights; they used to slip together. They used to communicate unilateral by word of mouth and bilateral by looking each other. The problems were solved as soon as they were related to the partner. The good feeling were amplified and the bad one grown dim. Lucky was the perfect friend that never disappointed her.
But, the real change occurred one year later. Her father received a job of vice-president at a bank in the Crete Island. Consequently, they moved there.
All men from her family were educated people. Still, for a better understanding of their philosophy of life and the consequences on Anastasia’s evolution, we must take account by the social conditions and the mentality of time and space where they lived in.
Her paternal grandfather, Afanasie Antoniadis, was graduated from the Kapodistien University from Athens, economic section. He was born in Nafplio, in Peloponez Peninsula. Unlike most Greek localities, which have an old history, Nafplio has a new one: it was the capital of the first independent Greek state, Hellenic Republic, at the beginning of the War of Independence, from 1821 up till 1834, when the king Otto, the first king of Greece, decided to move the capital in Athens. Anastasia’s grandfather married with Elena Grigoriakis and had with her four children: three daughters and a boy, Anastasia’s father, Manolis Antoniadis. This one was also graduated from the Kapodistian University in Athens. Like his father, he was probably pride, because the university wears the name of that who was the head of the independent stat, Ioanis Antonios Kapodistias. After graduated, he left Athens for working in Astacos and then on the island of Limnos, at Agricultural Bank. Limnos Island belongs to Greece since 1912, after the first Balkan War. Several years later, about 18.000 Russians landed here, for avoiding the persecution of the Bolsheviks. Most of them died of hungry and ills. The island was implying in many wars, due to its geographic position, controlling Dardanelle Strait. Anastasia says that her grandfather was a rich man, having among other businesses the monopoly of matches, but he sold his businesses in Suede, where he thought to be more secured. The history of the island suggested him many reasons to be prudent. Still, this was a bad idea. It is difficult to know today if the culprit for losing his fortune was himself or his followers. Sure is the fact that his fortune was squandered. Maybe the Civil War was the culprit? Perhaps! We do not know why the fortune of Anastasia’s grandfathers dispels. Sure is she did not benefited by it. We only know that her father, after graduated the University, left Athens, for working on an island, though general trend was inverse. People used to leave the islands and came in Athens, all the more, as they were close by Turkey. But the main reason was the economic one: Greece was fully provided with helps from abroad, the investments were in bloom and, from all these, the capital of the country derived advantages. As a young graduated, he preferred a good offer in province. In the same time, he married with Despina, from Athens as well. Both of them must left the capital, the city where they spent their childhood, where they had friends and a particular way of life, wholly different in comparison with that in an island.
They had resided close by one another, next to Platia Gyzi. This is an area wished by anyone, relatively not far from the centre, but in a quiet district. At their youth, the distances were much smaller than for an adult, so that the track up till Syntagma or Omonia, where dancing saloon and public housed where at very turn, seemed a trifle. There are a few bus stops, but, for their young feet, only a quarter of an hour of walking. But the great pleasures were just beside their houses. The entertainments in public houses, with noise and moving, are nice between fifteen and twenty years. But when you want to be with your girl/boy friend, you will look for a more peaceful and discrete snug nook. The beautiful park “Pedion Areos Gardens” was just in vicinity. A few people knew it as well as they did. Every alley was stepped on hundreds times. But more wished is the hill about, a kind of a park as well, divided into fragments at its foot and almost wild toward the top. Opposite to the appearances, Athens is a city on hills. Only down, on the great avenues, the ground seems plate. As you turn off a little, you start to climb much more you thought before. Some streets are so abrupt as you wonder how cars can circulate on them. The town was built on the rocks. And still, the vegetation is abundant. It is the merit of the municipal administration, of course, but of the citizens too. Every house and almost every apartment in blocks of flats has vegetation throughout the year. There is plentiful of flowers during the winter as well. The Athenians have a particular cult for them. The island where they moved is as rock-like as Athens, but the preoccupation for vegetation of their citizens is much smaller. Consequently, only the rock is to be seen.
In Athens, the both youngsters wandered the same areas, but not together. They had different friends. Their marriage, arranged by the parents, was hastily decided and executed, followed by the departure from Athens.
Quitting Athens, all the advantages that enjoyed their youth disappeared. The transition from youth to maturity, with its troubles, occurred suddenly. If, before leaving, they were in the middle of the family and friends, now they were alone, among unknown people, with lots of obligations, not knowing how to solve them. There were no one to seek council from; the uninterested friends disappeared. We may suppose without doubt that, from psychological point of view, this change affected both of them and the unpleasant moments was not few. And, for making everything more complicated, the sheet cherry on the top of the fancy cake appeared: a child.
The beating given to Anastasia by her father and some of his ulterior decisions were not entirely of him, but influenced by his wife.
In Crete, they had a large house, only for them, in the neighbourhood of which an orchard of fig-trees was. For Anastasia, the orchard was like Heaven. There, she could play freely, without friends, but without her mother’s permanent presence too.
Lucky remained her single friend. They used to sleep together and care of one another. With him, she learnt the silence. Her mother speaks a lot, but communicate a little. With Lucky she is not able to speak, but they understand one another by looking. They simple stay one by the side of the other and each of them knows what the other is thinking. Maybe there were not just thoughts; sometimes they were only feelings, because, yes, they felt the same.
The father’s transfer from Limnos in Crete was, without doubt, a progress. Psychological, if Limnos, considered to be Hephaistos’ forge, could mark a child’s psychic, Crete is known thanks to the feature film “Zorba, the Greek”, in which Anthony Quinn acted. Mythology? A whole literature! As about Aphrodite, Hephaestus’ wife, she could be a concurrent for any woman. We do not think that Anastasia made such connections at her age, but . . . who knows? In time, she has learnt many mythological legends and even important events from the history of the island. She forgot some of them, did not understood very well the meaning of others and why they are so important; finally the film is that what remained inside of her heart, but this occurred much later, when she was being in foreign countries. Maybe, this is why, her Greek proud soul, fiery and full of life, so well rendered in the film, imprinted in her mind; it recalled about her country. She knew it was made after a book, she knows even the author’s name, Nikos Kazantzakis, as he was born in Crete, but she never read it.
Unfortunately, Anastasia was born with very poor eyesight. She had great problems with her eyes the whole her life. From Crete, she used to go in Athens every month for therapy, beginning with the age of six years. When the school started, she was not able to see what the teacher was writing on the blackboard. From this reason, her father engaged two home teachers. The school was useful only as auditory exercise.
Anyway, no matter of these considerations, Crete is the largest island of Greece. There are a lot of things to see and learn there.
During the Second World War, the island had a lot of sufferings. With its geographical position, in the middle of Mediterranean Sea, it was expected. The towns were strongly bombs. In the meantime, they have been rebuilt in great measure, though their architecture was without rhyme or reason. Now, there is a strong American military base on the island. The north coast, instead, is an almost continue string of summer bathing resorts, visited by many tourists, and summer is there almost permanent. The picturesque of the island is inside of it, in the mountains. All of these could not interest Anastasia, at her few years old, when she came here. Later, Mythology and historical sites would have been on her understanding, if someone had taught her. The multi-millenary history of Greece begins just here, and Knossos is only one from the most known sites.
They did not stayed just in Heraklion, the capital of the island, but in Malia, a resort on the north coast, a little toward East. For Anastasia was even better. Heraklion was at that time a town with recently built blocks, ugly and with tangled streets. Anyway, she would not go alone. For visiting monuments she was too small; she would not understand much. Mali, instead, was all she need. The locality is small and relative peaceful, if the noise made by the tourist does not disturb you. A child disturbed by such noise did not born yet. Music was to be hearing permanently. The near beach has sands just good for playing on and, surprisingly, the mother likes to go there and, sometimes, took the child with her.
From Anastasia’ diary
“In Crete, I liked the beach. I was seeing it as soon as I went outside, in the way toward the centre of the town, if looking at the right. It was a pity that, from this place, we never see the sun over the sea. From morning till night, it was on the other side, over the mountains. I liked the beach because it was very coloured, with many umbrellas: red blue, green, yellow; all colours. The most beautiful were the orange ones. I would go to the beach every day, but they could not let me go alone. I used to go only along with my mother and only when she wanted to take me. I never knew when she wanted and when she didn’t. Anyway, I was very happy when she did, as I could play in the sand.
One day, though it was very warm – in Crete is even warmer than in Limnos – mom wanted to go in other locality, where every year, in August, when it is the warmest, there is a festival of raisins. Its name is Sitia. I do not know why we need to go there, as raisins are to be found here as well. But, as mother’s will is out of any commentaries, the three of us left: mom, daddy and I, plus other two families, each of them with two children. They were grown up, talked and laughed each others, ignoring me. I do not know how much they enjoyed themselves, but I liked a lot. Not the raisons. Those ones were like ours. As a matter of fact, I did not eat many of them. There were there lots of things much more interesting. People ear different there. But the most I liked just the people. All of them used to laugh, speak and cheer. I never saw such much cheerfulness. Maybe they were a little under the influence of the wine. My parents and their friends drank too, but they were not so joyful. They do not know how to enjoy? Maybe!
We visit also a theatre in the open air, in a place named “Venetian Fortress”. There, I only stayed obedient on the chair, because there was nothing for understanding. They only were speaking words. After a while I slept. When I woke up was already at home.
In Crete, the most and the most I liked the birds. They were coming in huge flocks. Not all the time; only now and again. On said they were migratory birds. They do not want to stay here, only pass by. Sometimes, they did not stop at all. I liked most the look at how they were crossing the sky. There always was one of them in the front, leading the others. Even the soldiers at parade do not walk so nice.
The years went on, the girl grow up, some things began the change. She visited even the ruins of the palate in locality, a centre of Minoan culture, not as large as that at Knossos, but evocative enough for provoking everyone’s interest. The inhabitants were preoccupied by politics of that time; the past did not interest them. The helps from abroad and how to use them were their main topics in everyday talking. They thought they were modern people, but they had archaic mentalities in fact.
The adults’ preoccupations could not interest Anastasia; she had her owns. Her parents’ philosophy concerning the children was limited at the idea that, besides the school, they can allow to have a hobby.
They chose for Anastasia the swimming. She had a good body for sport and, for swimming, there is not need good eyesight. After several trainings, the coach said the girl had a good hand to be ahead. The expectations were confirmed and, after five years of serious trainings, she was a good swimmer, a possible candidate for the following Olympic games. But an accident occurred; she wounded herself at shoulder and haunch. It was not very grave, but her father scared and forbidden her to go on. (On does not know if the decision was entirely of him.) The girl’s first great dream crumbles away suddenly. She needs some time to forget.
Before reaching the age of fourteen, Anastasia’s father communicated her an important decision for her life.
- My daughter, now, as you finished general school, we will send you in England for your education.
o Why? Why must I leave?
It was not useful to insist. She only cried, realizing there was nothing to do and that, behind the father’s decision, the mother’s sentence was. A few days later, she received the confirmation. In a moment of sincerity, father said directly: “forgive me for taking this decision, but the mother is very sick”. She was not sick at that time of something special; it was her ill of all along: the schizophrenia. She cried again. Maybe, her father had a different opinion: with such a mother, the child could not have a normal life; far away from her, Anastasia has a better chance. The life will show if it was a good decision or not.
On the territory of nowadays Greece and particularly in islands, many Christian saints were, even the apostles. Some of them had there all kind of visions, reaching the highest point with that of the Saint Joan on Patmos Island, on the base of which he would write “Apocalypse” from the New Testament. On does not know what vision Anastasia’s parents had. Probably they thought it was of a good augur.
The preparations did take long time. It was clear the decision was not a recent one, but long ago thought. Soon, she left.
It was a calm day. Even the water of the sea seems to sleep in the arms of the gulf. Only the moving of some aeroplanes in the blue sky shows that life did not cease; at least there, up, something occurs. There was not a single cloud. It was warm. Maybe a little too warm, but a light breeze, which had just begun, made the atmosphere even pleasant. It was in harmony with Anastasia’s mood. Now, she found comfort and was quiet. Tomorrow she is to leave.
This happened one hour ago. Meanwhile, the breeze turned into wind; the water begun the swing itself. The wind, blowing stronger and stronger, became a real storm. The waves were rushing upon the seawall as if they wanted to manifest their protest because it was in their way. Anastasia’s contemplation turned into a test of resistance. She tried a while to cope with it. To defy the wilderness of the nature was a little pleasure now; it doesn’t matter more than people’s one. It was fortifying her feeling of fighter, especially because, after the last events, it seems she will need it. The sea became more and more foamy and was blowing up drops up to the high cliff. You did not know what – the wind or the wave – was roaring. A really uproar was. Black clouds had invaded the sky and were flying faster than the aeroplanes.
Finally, she leaved, after came to the conclusion that she resisted enough for the test of will.
In the morning, she found that none of drop of rain fell. Everything was only spectacle. Like in the life: much noise for nothing. Sometimes! Other time is the contrary: when you do not expect, it rain out of the blue. And how it does . . .
At the airport, the mother came back immediately the airplane takes off, wanting to return to her preoccupations. The father, instead, tried to look for a while the bird going away, as if he wanted to scan not only the space, but the time as well.
Anastasia arrived on the airport of London with a small plate hanged from her neck, with her name on it, destined to the aunt Louisa to recognize her. So far, it was well. The stewardesses behaved amiable with she. Even the passengers were affectionate, wondering by her solitary travel at those 13-year and a half as she had. Only their questions – too many and a little embarrassing – were uncomfortable, but only at the beginning. Now, she was almost sorry the travel would finish. She did not make problems if her aunt won’t recognized her; she got already accustomed among the strangers, though – curiously enough, till then, she lived alone most time. To recognize her aunt by herself was not possible, as she never seen her. She only knew that the aunt will take care of her in the following years. As her parents did not spoil her, the change might be auspicious.
In the crowd after the landing, she had not time to wake up, when someone pulled her by the arm out from the stream of people. “So, you are Anastasia!” Of course, she was!
Unlike the passengers in the airplane, the aunt seems not to know how to smile. She was looking like her mother not only from this point of view. Maybe there are some differences, she thought, hoping they will be favourable. Maybe she will get rid of beatings, at least.
At the airport, the aunt did not come alone, but with a man, of course her husband. Nobody told her about him, but now Anastasia found normal for her aunt to have a husband. He seemed to be a good man, but he did not talk.
They drive a lot and enter the house immediately. She saw almost nothing around. Even to eat she could not. She was not hungry. There will be enough time tomorrow, to enlighten. Maybe it will be well. She wants it so much . . .
At the beginning, she thought she will live with her aunt, but, a little late, she learnt that was wrong.
The aunt was her mother’s sister. She was born in Lyon, in France, from Greek parents. They still lived there. How they arrived in Lyon is a long story. Their father was born in Smyrna. There is not a more wrong place and time for a child’s birth. The echoes of “massacre from Smyrna” persist even today.
But, as it is told, “every evil is toward the well”. Those who rescued safe and sound left Smyrna as soon as they could; some closer, some farer away, according with their possibilities and preferences. All of them left to France, where Anastasia’s grand-grandmother had some relatives. The Anastasia’s grand-grandfather had businesses in Smyrna; he was ships owner and dealt with commerce. He was a rich man and had a nice and large house. Now, all these were of the past. They were succeeded to leave, because – thanks to his social position – he learnt a moment sooner what will happen and fly in time. Their son, Dimitrie Tsandakis, Anastasia’ grandfather, had just finished “Aroni” school in Smyrna, one of the most famous, the same from the Aristotle Onassis graduated. In Lyon, Dimitrie married Sophia Sakelariu, also from Smyrna, from where she had left in similar conditions. After he graduated the Faculty of Low in Lyon, the both of them left to Greece, where Despina, Anastasia’s mother, was born.
The aunt and the uncle adopted the Anglican religion. For the grandparents, the religion was a real problem. France was Catholic. Those two variants – Catholic and Orthodox – are at the opposite poles of Christianity. The Greek people preserved the initial idea of Christianity as a religion of poor people, offering them a psychological support. This is how they are even today one of the most faithful nations; in those four centuries of Turkish occupation, the Orthodox church was their moral support, a real psychological medicament.
At the other end of Europe, German tribes, christianised by the Wulfila, as they were conquering territories left defenceless after the collapse of Western Roman Empire, imposed the their Christianity with the sword. The military leaders built fortresses, turned later into citadels and castles, becoming the feudal lords of the Middle Age. There, in the Occident, the priests have distorted the Christian religion from its initial role. As economic situation was more and more prosper in Occident, in opposition with that in Eastern Europe, the priest became arrogant. The divergence came to its apogee in 1054, when the Great Schism occurred. (A French intellectual, after a visit in Armenia, exclaimed with proud “Look how far the Catholicism had arrived”. It is hard to imagine a greater ignorance. First, Armenia is not Catholic, but Orthodox. More then it, it is one of the cradles of the Orthodox Christianity. Our French man confounds the Catholicism with the Christianity and thinks that it was born in France.) Without doing a comparative analyse of those two branches of the Christianity, we must keep account that any religion must be judged for its consequents, not only for its intentions. What the Catholicism brought? What the Orthodoxy brought?
How our Greeks felt in Lyon is hard to learn. They kept their religion, the reason from which they permanently felt to be different face to the people around. That’s why, probably, Anastasia’s aunt, along with her husband, adopted Anglican religion, as soon as they came in the United Kingdom.
After nine months
Nobody was born after nine months. This was the necessary time for the aunt to fulfil the formalities for interning Anastasia in a boarding school for children with special problems, most of them from other countries, with other mother tongues.
It was clear the aunt did not love her. She used to talk with her husband in French language, in the presence of the girl, about her problems. At the beginning, they could talk in English as well, as Anastasia’s knowledge would not allow her to understand, but they did not want to risk. They spoke French very well, as they were born in France and spent there their childhood. Also, they knew Greek language as their mother tongue, but they were in England for many years and preferred to speak the language of the adopted country. But, in the presence of Anastasia, they talk the language of which she had no chance to understand. What is the meaning of it? Besides the lack of sincerity, the evidence they were conscious of their incorrect attitude.
In school, the lessons were less aimed to prepare for life the girls, giving them necessary knowledge, but to fill their time with something. They were children the parents of which did not want to deal with their education and were not interested in their future, or cannot do it. Some lessons were compulsory, as English language, others at choosing, as music or painting. For Anastasia, the equitation offered the most satisfaction. It happily combines her inclination for sports and love for animals. Lucky, her first pet was now only memory, but one of the most powerful. She could not keep a pet in the boarding-school and used to cry every time she remembers Lucky. Fortunately, not far from the school there was a horse stock farm. She chose to go there. Her love for animals convinced the staff of the farm and they accepted her. Soon, they even loved her. The equitation is not only sport; the attendance of the animal is just more important, the only one that creates an affective relation between man and animal. The thoroughbred horse strives to do what the man orders, as he understands what the horseman wants and want to make his pleasure. This desire exists, because a communication relationship had set down between the two ones, but also a sentimental one. It is not possible to create this intercourse on the saddle with the horsewhip, but alongside the horse, side by side, taking care of it. The name of the horse that she received was Atlas. She would prefer to baptize the horse by herself, but it already had a name, and it was even a nice one.
Horseracing was one of her greater pleasures and satisfactions, as much as it occurs in a sad period of her life, a very sad one, of the banishment. She was alone – or almost alone – the most part of her life. She was an interning pupil, in a boarding-school, during the adolescence age, when children have the greatest need of friendship, of love and direction from the parents. In school, she had not friends. Her handicap was a minor one in comparison with the other’s ones.
As she cannot stay all the time at horse stock farm, at school she chose to do painting. There was a lady giving them some indications, but the most of time she let the girls to do what they want, with only condition to be quit. Anastasia’s feeble eyesight was not a major impediment; in painting is not necessary to see very well. One day, the lady even remarked her originality, probably just because of her weak eyesight. They painted hundred times those several subjects that they had: the trees from the small park close to the school – when it was nice weather – and those few objects in the room, the same for years, in the same position, as the girls was not allowed to move them. It was natural, because every child would put them in a different position, which was not possible, but surely a good reason for quarrel.
She wondered many times “Why her parents sent her there?” Their ration seemed to her more and more evident; in Greece, they would be shamed; all the relatives, friends and acquaintances would condemn them for aliening their child. If the father had the excuse of the work, the mother had not only one reason to care of her single child, except an uncommon selfish. Being in England, one may suppose she has better conditions face to those in Greece. They could not learn the reality was not quite so.
Their activities were those of filling the time, according with the inclinations and possibilities of every child. Not a minute for history, physics, geography and other similar ones. Mathematics? God forbid!
On Sundays, though the children were of different religions, they used to go at the Anglican Church near the school. It is so not because one wants to convert them, but from practical reasons: the staffs of the school were not so numerous to lead every child to his church and there were not churches for all the religion confessions. As all girls wear uniforms, in church they seem to be Anglicans. But, in their minds, just the uniformity raises some questions, knowing they were different. Still, they keep the questions for themselves; anyway they would not receive answers. Only one of them, a little solitary girl, seeing Anastasia like her, took the courage:
- I know the difference between Christianity and Judaism is the first recognise Jesus Christ as Messiah and the others don’t, but do not know what is the difference between Orthodox and Catholic churches.
o I do not know much on this topic. I am Orthodox, but my aunt in London is Anglican. She never explained me what is the difference. Only from their conversations with other persons I learnt a little. We should enter the history, but, for being honest, I do not know much. Actually, I think there is not any difference of the doctrine. It is politics, economical interests and ambitions.
- I supposed so. If it is politics, let’s it aside. Anyway, I am not conversant with this subject.
From Anastasia’s journal
From the time being, I try to forget my trouble. For a long time now on, I will be far away from everything my life was, with its ups and downs. It’s true, I used to got beatings, was reprimanded almost every day, but there were my plays, my dog, the animals I loved. My schoolmates ignored my, due to my weak eyesight. The most of them! Not all. I felt that some of them had good feelings face to me.
What will be in the future I do not know, but I have not reasons to be very optimist. My aunt and uncle, the only persons that I know, do not seem to be very delighted with my coming. They probably think I will be a burden to them. Maybe it is only an impression of the first moment. I will see. They have not children, are not too young, and I am a novelty in their house. The uncle is distant, but the aunt is just sour.
I remember that, in the school in Crete, not all the children behaved badly with me. I felt that some of them wanted to close by me, but did not dare. I did not see well, cannot participate in their plays and was isolated. Most children did not take into account my presence; they avoid me. This is in the best case, as others were not timid in pushing me, if I was in their way. There were good children as well, wanting to help me, but they did not know how to do it. It’s true, I did not know too how to close by them. I was feeling handicapped and isolated myself, like a hedgehog, though I had not spine.
All these memories produced to me a thought: I want to become a nurse or – why not – a doctor or a psychiatrist. Neither my schoolmates nor I knew how to communicate each other. I thing this is a problem of psychology. I will like to help people. It will be great to become a doctor, to treat people’s sufferings, to heal them. Maybe it is too much for me. There are many years of learning, and they sent me here, at this school without perspectives. My parents are eager me finish the school, marry me and get rid of me. If I say I want to follow a faculty, they would think I am joking or – God forbid – I lost my mind. Maybe in psychology I would succeed easier.
Now, I notice that only animals really are wanting for sincerely communication. Horses and dogs have the feelings hard to found in men.
As every Sunday morning, in column, two by two, with a lady in front and the headmaster behind, the girls were walking to the church. Not far away from the school, a gentleman fell down on the street. First, he propped up to the wall, and then he flowed himself down along the wall, until the whole his body became a cluster on the pavement. He seems to be conscious, but his muscles or something else did not obey to his will. Only one passer-by stops for several seconds, said something but the gentlemen did not answered. He took his hand, lifted it a little, then left it back and left. All the other passer-bys did anything else but avoid him, like the lady in front of the column and the girl following her. Only Anastasia detached herself from the group and went close to him. He was not drunk; did not smell. He was even well dressed. He was not a beggar. Certainly, he was ill. From the back of the column, the headmaster shouted: “Anastasia, enter the row”. And, if she continued to stay close to that man, he repeated: “Anastasia, enter immediately in the row”. Instead to follow the order, she rush back to the school, where she knew their doctor did not leave, yet. Surely, he must know what must do. She caught him just when was ready to go. Panting, she said him that somebody lays on the pavement and need medical care.
She came back alone to the church. There, nobody gave her attention. Still, from the lady’s look and, especially, from the headmaster’s one, she understood that a punishment will be. She was expected for a beating, as she used to receive at home, but it did not occur. Only the next morning she was told that, in the next week, she would not be allowed to go to the farm. She preferred a beating. She had even a vast experience with it. Not to meet her friend, Atlas, the only one that she had, was a punishment much too hard. Yes, Atlas was not even a horse. He was Atlas, that from the books, the one who keeps the Terra on his shoulders. The Terra? Now she feels he support the canopy of heaven that is falling.
During those four years when Anastasia was in that school, the horse and child soothed their souls each other. She was caressing him, talking in Greek, the only loving language. Her great friend begun to understand the words accompanied by caresses. In this way, the banishment and solitude passed easier.
The animals never disappointed her. Even since a child, the contentment came from the animals. Their sincere, disinterested love warmed her soul, made her not to feel alone. They offered pure love and gratitude, while the men repressed her, because she did not see well. This handicap should make her parents to be more loving; particularly her mother should be more delicate with her own child. It was not at all this way. Anastasia was treat with harshness, roughly, even beaten and, finally sent abroad in a distant country, with another language.
During the summer holidays, Anastasia used to come at home, in Crete Island. Not always! In the first one, she noticed that nothing remind from her childhood. There was not a single trace, not a sign. She knew that Lucky had died; so she was told. Still, it was expected to find at least a plaything forgotten in the loft. Nothing! The cleaning was absolute. Only the smell of lemons and the warmth of the island were saying she was at home.
One time, before leaving again toward England, her father said:
- When you will finish the school, I will marry you. I have four adequate men. Every one would be a good husband for you
o But I will be too young for marrying.
- You will have eighteen then, a good age for marrying.
o I do not have this intention.
She had sixteen years then, and the proposed partners were over twenty, one of them even thirty. It was not even a novelty in Greece. On the contrary, in antiquity it was even the adequate difference between husband and wife. Since then, some customs were changed, but not all of them and not throughout. The Greeks are remarkable people for their tenacity with which they preserved some and hurried up to forget others. Unfortunately, the choice was not always inspired. It is true, none of the old civilisations lasted endlessness and then we do not wonder that the differenced between past and present are negative. Unpleasant is merely to remark the Greeks kept pre-eminently their flaws. Among them – not an important one – is their loquacity. Here is a joke with millenary age: in a barber’s – the place of many talks – the barber asks the client: “How do you want to cut your hair?” The unexpected answer amazed the witnesses: “Silently”.
Roman people, even if appreciated the Greeks in many respects, had also some negative remarks on their behaviour. There are lots of expressions like “Ad Kalendas Graecas” or “I am afraid of the Greeks even when they bring presents”. The first one contains a small joke, also multi-millenary: in Greek language, the first day of the week is Δευτέρα, namely the second. (The first is Sunday, God’s day, in Greek, Κυριακή.) A statement like „I will pay in the first day of the week” may be interpreted as never, because the first (πρώτο) does not exist in their calendar.
Until to be married, the school offers her a respite. Although they did not learn history, she knew that her country, Greece, is full of important events happened in the past and it would well to know something about them. Some are real, some legends and the last ones are even more interesting, as every legend has a moral. Crete has even very many. She has to take advantage of the vacancies and informs. It was not easy, as father is busy with his job and mother is preoccupied only by her own person; she has not time and disposition to care of the child. Still, Anastasia had to insist.
Finally, the father made time to go with she in Museum of Archaeology in Heraklion, the largest town from the island.
From Anastasia’s diary
In museum, dad but especially the guide showed me some frescos, about which one said they was made one day between 1600-1400 BC. (As we are now in 1689; it means that at least 3368 years passed since then, if not 3568. This is a very long time. My playthings of two years ago already disappeared. How is that these stones resisted so long?)
There are many frescos representing horses and horsemen. I like horses. Some of them seems wanting to jump from the fresco and come to me. I say to them to stay there; they are too old; over three thousand years. The name of one of those frescos is “The Prince of Lily” and decorated a queen’s apartment. (It means that people of that time had a queen. Why Greek people do not want to have a king? If they had had a king, they would have had a queen as well.) What liked me most was “The jump over the bull”. I keep it in memory because of its subject somehow sportive, though it is not an Olympic contest. The men must to face the bulls coming angry toward them, to catch the bulls by the horns and jump over them, turning head over heals. The fresco represent a very big bull in comparison with the men; one of them catch the bull by the horns, the second is jumping with his legs up, over the bull, and third stays aside, like an arbitrator or, maybe, a supporter.
But, honestly, I liked the best walking outside. This is so, because I do not want to stay inside. In school we stay inside almost all the time, except when I go to the horses. There is a fort, which impressed me. It was built by the Venetians (I do not know what they are, but do not seem to be Greeks.) Dad said that, in 1648, the Turks attacked the fort. These ones were our enemies from old time. Those from the fort resisted up till 1669. (More than my age) Thirty thousands defenders died, and much more among the assailants: a hundred and twenty eight thousands. For all that, finally, the Turks occupied the fort.
There is also a long defending wall, where it is more coolness; in the middle of the town it is hot. It was better inside of a park, with the name “El Greco”, namely “The Greek”, in Spanish language. This man was born here, in Crete (not just in the park). He was a painter and left for Spain, where he doing well.
From the Mythology, I learnt that Zeus, the greatest among the gods, when he was a baby, her mother hidden him in a cave, not far from here, because Cronus, his father, used to eat all his children. This was so, as he was prophesied that one of his children would take his throne. The mother deceived him and gave to eat a boulder instead the child. The story says that Cronus symbolized the time, which eat the days. There is here something I do not understand quite well. If he had not eaten Zeus, it means that time would have stopped, which is not true. Or, maybe, he lost only one day, and afterwards his wife, named Rhea, born other children, up till Zeus deposed him. We do not know who make the days now.
For not dieing by hunger, Amalthea, a goat, suckled Zeus. Though the milk of goats is not as good as the mother’s ones, Zeus grown up fast and sound. One day, peppery like any boy, Zeus broke one of Amalthea’s horns. When he grown up, sized with remorse, made a constellation named “Constellation of Capricorn”. Probably the expression “the horn of the abundance” came just from this story.
I did not visit Knossos, as it is out of the city and we had not time. One says there is a large palace there. I would like to see it, even if, now, it is not like as it was in the past. There is a nice story about it, especially because it is about a woman. Ariadna was her name. She helped her lover, Theseus, to get out from a labyrinth. He went there to kill a monster with a head like bulls and human body. This is why people named him Minotaur. Minos, because this was the name of the king and taur, because this is the Greek word for bull. It would have been easy with a mini-taur, but this one was strong and only Theseus was able to kill him. For not going in the country, the king ordered a great architect to build a labyrinth just under his palace and closed Minotaur there. Unfortunately, Minotaur needs human sacrifices. Theseus killed him, but he would not have been able to go out from the labyrinth if Ariadna had not gave him a ball of thread to mark his way. Theseus saves people, but he would had died too without Ariadna’s love.
Yes, Crete, as cradle of Minoic civilisation, is full of mythological names, beginning with Minos himself. From Crete are connected Daedalus, Icarus, Ariadna, Theseus and many others. Maybe less known is the myth according with Minos was appointed by Zeus to be the supreme judge for dead people. The place of the judgement was a crossing like a Y on a lawn. From there, a way was toward the “Happy Men’s Island” and the other toward Tartarus. Those who were to be judged must be come necked, namely dead. The judgers must be in the same situation, in order to “look with their souls to the others souls, far from his relatives, after they left on the earth all their jewels, so that the judgement to be correct”.
Of course, the myths are stories and, like stories, we do not believe them. But, as any story has a counsel, the myths must have one. For us, Mythology is even today a kind of philosophy “en miettes” (in bits), as French people would say. But, before crumbs, it was a whole piece. Aristotle said, “The lover of myths is somehow a philosopher”. With the meaning of lover (filo) of wisdom (sofia), Anastasia is part of this category as well. Still, somebody would explain her its subtlety, the deeper meaning of the story.
When Anastasia finished the school, her mother and aunt arranged a meeting with Fotios. They liked him, or at least so they affirmed. Anastasia was less delighted. She thought he is too direct, sure of himself, even rude. But she married at her father insistences: “I do not want my daughter to work; not a single woman from our family did. Fotios is the single suitor for you, so that you must marry him.” And she married.
Not to work does not mean to stay for a song, to do nothing. It has the meaning of do not have a job, not working out of doors. Inside, instead, women work hardly. The custom dates from the antiquity, when women did not go out from the house not even for the shopping. The husband made all purchases. It’s true that he was only negotiating. One or two slaves used to transport the shopping. Sophocles synthesised the Greeks’ opinion about women’s role in the society thus: “A man’s life values more than a thousand women’s life”. The birth of a boy was a joy. A newborn girl could be killed and nobody condemned it. Often she was put in a basket and exhibit in a visible place, maybe someone will take her. If this case, she became a slave. For all that, inside of the dwelling, the wife was the real master of the house. The only condition was to become a wife. The alternatives were: hetaira (courtesan), slave or premature dead.
In the meantime, the Greek’s mentality changed, but it still has some ancestral remains: as they have not slaves and most prices are no longer negotiated, they left the entire activity of supplying on the women’s shoulders, so that they carry the shopping bags from the market, no matter how heavy the are. In the rest to time, they must be mothers and housekeepers. They are condemned to fulfil all domestic endless works, like their forerunners, the Danaides, obliged to full up a cask without bottom. Even if they did not kill their husbands, I do not wonder to want it now and again. Only the Danaides did, not on their own initiative, but because they were said it must do. Or, maybe, this is a remain of an older faith. Éa (she) was the Babylonian god of wisdom and knowledge, the creator of first people, while for Semite people, El (he) - symbolised by an old man with beard, possible with horns, representing the force and fertility - is a peaceful god, which prefers the rest, slip and even drinking. But the time of Bacchus is over, so that, now, the men are content with a coffee. Greek coffee. Not because it would exist, but the patriotic pride climes it. It is in fashion to drink “café frappé”, even during the winter, as it last more, thanks to the ice in large quantity, which must to thaw.
To smooth down Anastasia’s forehead, her father said a joke:
- One says that, if you want a husband wise, nice and rich, you must marry three times.
o The question is: in which order?
- I think the first must be rich, to introduce you in the society; the next must be clever and, finally, a young and nice one, to caress your old bones.
o I think the first must be clever, to teach you. When you will enter in the society with the second, the rich man, you need know what to do.
- In this case, you may marry only two times, as you are clever by nature.
o Thank you!
- For nothing. I made a compliment to myself; your are my daughter.
She thought that, if her father had introduced her in the society, she could marry only one, with a young man, but she refrained, so her father spoke on: “Anyway, the moral is the same: marry with Fotios. He is not very rich, but not in the least poor. He is graduated from the University, so he will manage. And he is not stupid; I think he is even intelligent.”
Fotios was born on the Hios Island, in 1945. His father was a navigator. After the disaster from Smyrna, not only the Greek’s patriotic enthusiasm suffered a shock but also, due to the change of population, Greece received over one million from Turkish territories. Besides the crowd of the Greeks from provinces, which invaded the towns after the independence, these ones added, people without elementary means of existence. The economic situation of the country was lamentable, but it was improving fast, when the Second World War and especially the Civil War followed and has put again the country in difficulty.
The emigration, knowing by the Greeks for the previous years, seemed to be again a solution. In England, he has an uncle, left earlier. With his help, Fotios left in England, where he hopped in a great fortune. In London he graduated from the University, specialised in economics.
Fotios was a handsome man, so Anastasia’s parents’ decision – because they decided - was not too bad. The girl accepted, though it was not her choice. Anyway, her opinion was not taking into account.
Hios, where Fotios was born, is one of the places in which the natives claim to be Homer’s grave. An other place is Ithaca, where he was born. There is not a single prove in this respect. The heap of stones, declared to be his grave, was never studied, so that nobody knows if some bones are under them, which is very well; if they had done it they could have destroyed the legend. Homer – if he really existed – was an exceptional poet and reciter. At his times, what we say to be literature – from the letter, namely the written sign – was conveyed orally, by such talented men, who must have exceptional memory. At the poems learned from the forerunners, they added their original contribution, so that the question if Iliad and Odyssey are entirely composed by Homer is nonsense. They cannot be the creation of a single author.
Today, any adolescent would be pleasant to recognise himself in Homer’s hero, Ulysses: brave, intelligent, strong. Odysseus adds to the first qualities the disposition for travel, knowing, adventure, especially if a Penelope is waiting for him at home.
Like Penelope, Anastasia always waited Fotios to come back, even if his adventures were not like those of the famous hero. Moreover, the last time, instead of defeat Cyclops, he remained with a single eye and, instead to fight with the opponents for regain his position close by his lover wife, Anastasia was that has to fight for keep him alive.
Tall, handsome, having a degree, Fotios was lionized by most women. As for him, he did not neglect the opportunities. Only Anastasia hoped that, as husband and father, he will not take advantage of them even for the Greeks, men’s liberty has very large limits, unlike the women’s ones.
The time proved that she was right. Besides the negative impression from the beginning, she had numerous opportunities to remark many others: he was ladies’ man, intemperate, loving more hunting and fishing than his own family. As a matter of fact, he neglects his family almost all the time. Life proved that Penelope was the real hero, namely Anastasia, and not Fotios.
For the time being, they married. There was not a great party. As a matter of fact, there were not many people to invite. From Anastasia’s part, hardly came her parents. Greece was in the period of the “Colonels’ dictatorship”. From Lyon the grandparents came. From Fotios’ part the mother and uncle came; they lived just in London. Friends? She did not; instead he could fill a large saloon with them. He must explain them and excuse with the reason it will be a limited, intimate party. And so it was. Those a few closed friends strived to be decent, though sometimes one could guess their bachelors’ jokes.
For Anastasia, what followed in the next days was a really honeymoon. As a matter of fact, only after the wedding party she had the possibilities to know London, and Fotios proved to be a competent guide, really expert of the places; less of the museums but more of the life of London. Anastasia learnt latter that here, in the museums, there are inestimable values, collected from throughout the world, including her native country. But she never saw them. Instead, she saw Swiss. Her grandparents from Lyon bought for them two tickets for a cheap trip, as present for their marriage.
They left with a noisy group of youngsters. The most were students. There was also a leader who did not seem to be a student, but all of them listen his advices. Fotios and Anastasia must listen him as well, as their program was common and he was the one knowing what they had to do. He was the guide of the trip.
They had not time for gather documentary evidence. Everything happened so fast . . . Between the little wedding party - when they received this trip as present – and the day of leaving were only eight days, full with other activities. (The true is we cannot know how they would pass the time, no matter how long it would been.) This is why, on the route to Zurich, they had several bewilderments during the talks with the others from the group. These ones knew very well the program of the trip; knew what they will do every day, what they will visit and what they will see there. You nearly can wonder why they go there, if they knew everything before.
- There are over fifty museums and a hundred art galleries in Zurich.
o And we are to visit all of them?
They began to get afraid. The group was very homogenous; all of them were students with the same preoccupations. Only Fotios and Anastasia do a discordant note. Now, they were wondering how the trip would be with such a company. But they were merry, communicative, not at all freakish, so that there were some hopes.
If we start from the origin of the word museum, we thought it would be a place where all arts patronized by the Muses meet. But the meaning of it is more large now and we have “Museum of clocks”, “Museum of pipes” and lots of others, though we do not know that such muses to be existed.
Our heroes’ stress ceased when they arrived. The city seemed to them more beautiful than everything they had seen before. Not only the architecture was different and extremely nice, but also the way in which people care of their dwellings. There were flowers in most balconies, though the summer passed long time ego. Artesian wells were overall and show windows compete with the most elegant from London.
Their great chance was the short staying in Zurich. Excepting the sightseeing of the city – very nice and interesting – the visits of the museums and all king of “tourists’ spots” were for them a really ordeal. Fotios was uninterested and Anastasia did not understand much from the guides’ explanations. Too much historical information, the relevance of which seems useless. She wondered: what would be the importance of something occurred hundreds years ago? St. Peter Church remains in her mind, because she had said that it has the biggest clock on a tower. It has 8.67 meters. Till then, she thought that in London is the biggest. As a matter of fact, about many things she thought those in London are “the most”.
The last day in Zurich was for shopping. They had not much money – Anastasia never had – but it was a pleasure to look at the show-windows and even to visit some shops. She was surprised hearing the shop assistants speaking several languages. Anyway, it was a more relaxing day in comparison with the previous ones. When they left Zurich seemed a relief. She knew there are here some of the very powerful banks in the world, she heard that – in order to be safe – many of rich people from other countries deposed money here, but they died and money remain in Swiss banks. So, she was not entirely ignorant, she thought. Still, the trip begins just now. They will see Swiss and not a city.
Travelling through Swiss really was relish. Before leaving, they had a surprise. In the previous evening, together with some students from the group, they proposed to celebrate with a glass of bear, a local speciality, in the bar at the ground floor of the hotel. At their group, two Polish guys, together with two young ladies, added. They tried to go at the restaurant, but all places were taken. Very angry, they enter the bar, already drunk with vodka from own resources. Hearing about a celebration, they decided all people must drink champagne. Hardly they succeeded to go to bad. Changing the drink, the Polish men needed to carry by hands in their room. The surprise came in the morning. Next to the bus waiting for them to transport to the train station, the bus of Polish tourists was and its driver was no one else but one of the boozers. He seems to be sober, but the alcohol was not completely eliminated in those few hours. The French adage “drunk like a Polish man” is true. They did not go as far as the train station, but in a trip among the mountains.
From Zurich, they travelled by train. She never rode by train. In Greece she used only ships and cars, big or small. In England, she saw trains going along the highway, but she did not have the opportunity to use them. The novelty grown dim immediately she saw the landscape. The localities, very nice, were like those from the books for children. She hardly accepted they are really. The mountains were covered with snow. She never dreamed something so beautiful and what she was seeing was even real. At the foot of the mountains everything was green, with very many flowers on the balconies of the houses.
In meanwhile, they learnt their destination was Vevey, a very small town, the real aim of the trip being the mountains close to it. But not far away Lausanne was, a name that has not need more explanations; she was said that it is well known all over the world. The headquarter of the International Olympic Committee is there. Not the piece of news that the locality in which they will stay annoyed her, but the ironic way in which a boy said it, together with other information. Among them, the fact that the locality was mentioned for the first time by the Greek philosopher and astronomer Ptolemy, who gave it the name Ouikos. It was a detail and she was not obliged to know it, even if she would be a very educated girl, but that mischievous boy reproached her: “How is that; you, a Greek lady do not knew it?” Other information was interesting and useful, yet. So that, “One for all and all for one” is the motto of Swiss (Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno).
She expected at least the hotel to be a big one, but was surprised when saw that it not bigger than a house. A big house, but still a house. In fact, there were two houses, as their group needed more than one. The bigger house had a restaurant at the ground floor, where all of them will eat. The other house, a little smaller, had only a large living, but it was even nicer for this.
Next day they walked around. The great trip, a climbing on the mountain, was to be in the following day. They will leave early, as the day will be a long and hard one. It would better to be on the top of the mountain before the noon, when – because of the warmth – the snow melt and the risk of the avalanches is greater, though they will walk on a safe path. The idea of an avalanche is inciting; it would be great to see a real one, not only on the TV. Still, it would be dangerous, so it’s better without them. After the breakfast, they will receive from the restaurant a small package with food, as they will be back only in the evening. With them will be a professional guide for mountains.
At the small bar of the second small house, some natives came. One of them, close to the third age, is in the centre of attention, and the other one is his yes-man. The topics are, of course, picked up from the happenings on the mountains. He seems to be an old alpinist. Now, he is telling how, after he climbed using a fissure, he must traverse the wall of stone toward another fissure, for continuing the climbing. The crossing was of about ten meters long. It was possible on something like a narrow slab of grit stone. It was inclined outwardly and had only 50 centimetres large. He must creep only with the half part of the body, the other hanging over the chaos. The risk to slip outside was great. He must advance like a snake, with small movements, wary and very slowly. If he had slipped, he would have fell. The single optimistic thought was the idea that other people passed by there, so it is possible. Besides, in the middle of the crossing there was a piton stuck in the rock. He started! Little by little, he took the courage. One meter, two . . . it works. Finally, he arrived at the piton. Here, surprise! The piton is not fixed in the rock. He can take it out with his had and put it back. It must be stick, he thought, so takes the hummer, strikes the piton and noticed there is not the smallest chance. The rock is compact. He thought to recuperate the piton – maybe it could be useful – but only then he realised that the one who left the piton there did it with a reason. Which one? To laugh of those like him? On him, the piton had a beneficial effect: gave him a hope and courage, raised his moral. So, he must leave it there. The continuation of the crossing was much easier. It was a climb that he wanted for a long time. The route is a symbol for any professional alpinist from this area.
All the listeners in the bar were full of admiration, although, in an undertone, one can hear whispers saying that the guy was not just a professional alpinist and that he only uses some subjects wanting to be in the centre of attention. And, if someone gives him a glass of cognac, he would have a lot of other stories to tell. The real alpinists are not talkative. The difficulties of a route, the emotions, satisfactions, shortly, their feelings during the climbing need a huge talent and, finally, people would not understand them.
The natives spoke different languages, without someone to translate. It means they understand each other, even if everyone used his mother tongue. Anastasia heard her grandparents from Lyon speaking one of these languages. She does not understand, but recognise its musicality. This is French. The other languages are German and Italian, she was said. She liked the most how the Italian language sound.
A student from the group gave her more information about Swiss. This time, he was an honest boy; there was not a smallest irony in what he was saying. He realised that Anastasia is inadequate educated, but she is not guilty for that. On the contrary, she wants to know, and he informed her decently. It was just pleasant to do it, as Anastasia immediately understood the signification of the received information, spontaneously making intelligent connexions between the new notions. It was a pleasure to talk with her.
Most interesting was to learn that, though most modern countries are constitute on national criterions, and some other want to make now new countries, Swiss is a confederation constituted on the base of some common values from more nationalities. It seemed her to be the most intelligent governing, though she heard there were disputes not always solved in agora. Even in religion, besides Luther and Calvin, in Swiss, Zwingli was one of the parents of Protestantism. He was killed in a fight against some Catholic cantons. She could see that not always the religion has spread by peaceful persuasion.
They woke up early. Even if they did not do, the guide knocked at every door for be sure that all tourists woke up. Of course, the great problem was the dressing the equipment. They took it from London. One of the suitcases was full with the footwear and clothes necessary for a trip on the mountains. They never used them; only tried on in the shop. Now, it was more than amusing, and Fotios was fretting useless, harrying Anastasia. Finally, they finished, though something else could be improved or at least studied how it would be better. A surprise came at the restaurant: there was nobody there, except the attendances relieving the tables. At the question “Where are the others?”, the answer let them without words: “They had already left”.
Fotios was smiling silently. He killed two birds with one stone: it was a lesson of punctuality for Anastasia and got rid of the climbing, for which he has not a little desire. In the last years he did not walk a hill; as for the mountains, he saw them at distance. He was Londoner hundred percent. Much more agreeable would be a walk in the area and, in case of need, to see some of the housed inside. Of course, where the access is permitted, like in bars or restaurants.
It was too early for such visits, so they began with a walk. It was an opportunity of observing that here, like in any other locality, there is a big clock on a tower. In this way every citizen knows the time, no matter where he is. Nobody could excuse his lack of punctuality by saying, “I did not know what time it was”. And the Swiss’ punctuality is recognised, as well as the quality of their watches. They were in the centre of Europe, where the industry and commerce on large scale was born. The lack of punctuality is considered not only an offence of the partners. Punctuality is a necessity. Without it, the industry cannot work. No matter how Greek she would be, Anastasia has to imagine that, for assembling a machinery, each piece must be there at the right moment. Its lack stops the whole course of fabrication. The society is like a machinery as well. Each person is a part of a mechanism, which works only if every part fulfils his role. The reciprocal consequence – as hard as real – is evident: the faulty pieces are removed and replaced with some good ones. Anastasia assimilated the lesson. She will be a very punctual person the whole her life.
They learnt that in Vevey lived for a while many personalities, like: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Oskar Kokoschka, famous Austrian painter, Victor Hugo, Graham Greene, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Russian novelist, Le Corbusier, known Swiss architect, the actor Charles Chaplin, Polish novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz and many others, too many for such a small locality. Remarkable is that the native people are proud with those who visited their town.
All in all, the trip offered to Anastasia nice days, lots of novelties and, maybe, Fotios seemed more agreeable now. In England again, they had to solve some important problems, one of them even urgent: that of the dwelling. In the house of her aunt it would impossible. Fotios lived in a small bachelor flat, at the last floor of a tall building. The expression “bachelor flat” is just adequate: only a boy without obligations could stay there. Now they were two and possible three in short time. The trip seems to be productive from this point of view as well.
The second problem was that of Fotios’ job. Although he was graduated, he was contented with a small salary. Now, the hope was again from his uncle, who helped him so far and played a role even in the arrangement of their marriage. This would not be a difficult problem to him, as he was a man with many relationships. Not only in England; even in Australia. Yes, even in Australia. There he found a job for Fotios. Why not in London?, nobody knows. But, after a trip in Swiss, why not to go in Australia?
And they left for Australia. On the way, the plane made a stop in Singapore. Some information about the town they learnt during the fly, from a book-leaf, founded in the pocket from the back of the chair in front of them: an insular town-state, near to Malay Peninsula, highly urbanised, (more land was artificially created), independent now, but under British sovereignty in the past, hosted a trading post of East India Company, the world's fourth leading financial centre, and the port of which is one of the five busiest in the world. The confronting with reality, when they got down from the plane, was one of a different nature: in a few seconds, they were completely drenched. Because of the perspiration. The warmth was expected: Singapore is close to the equator. The humidity was that took them at unawares. The sky is grey and the sun hardly could be seen. The town is like an anthill. There is in Europe the belief that people in the areas close to the equator are lazier, because of the warmth, unlike those toward the poles, more active. One explains in this way the advance of European civilisation face to the other continents, like Africa. Also, people from the southern part of Europe are less hardworking than the others. Well, Singapore – and not only it – proves the idea is a false one. People from here are hardworking and lively. Today, Singapore is one of those “four Asian tigers” and the third highest per capita income in the world. The explanation of its development could be even the former British domination. It is that offered to the inhabitants the opportunity of learning what they have to do and they applied the lesson as soon as the favourable occasion appeared. It was here, in Asia, the place were the adage “If you want to help someone do not give a fish; but teach him how to fishing” has appeared. Helps received other people as well, but the effect was according with people’s mentality, which use it usefully or on the contrary. The stop was a short one.
Finally, they landed in Sydney. Nice, very nice! The building of the Opera, with its original architecture, was to be seen from the aeroplane. They have to visit it as soon as possible; it is included on the List of World Cultural Patrimony UNESCO.
In the first four days, they will stay at the hotel, where they reserved a room. Four, because after three day, the hotel gives one for free. In meanwhile, they will have to rent an apartment, the hotel being much too expensive for their budget. For the time being, the single desire is a good slip. After a travel so long, you cannot want anything else.
As expected, but they did not know, the slip was short. The difference of the meantime zone, the so-named jet-leg, made its effect. After less than three hours, they woke up. Until the morning they made plans. The office, where he must go, and the shops she want to visit – only for seeing, in the lack of money – will open much latter. So far, everything seems to be very nice, and the perspectives even delightful. A single thought troubles them: will they adapt to the warmth of Australia? In their short visits in Greece it was embarrassing. They were used with the climate of England. In Australia it was much warmer. But, as other people support it, they will do too.
Making plans over plans, the night passed easier. Now, the great day is to follow.
And the great day passed. It would have been better if it had not been. When she was eager to recount to Fotios what wonderful thinks she saw in the city, he not only did not let her, but tell her to gather all things, to pack up the baggage, as they have to fly to Perth in few hours. His job will be there, at the other end of Australia. So he was said in central office, in fact the single one, as the second is to be set up now, by Fotios, in Perth. It is he the one who must do it. Their justify was that the majority of the ships come on the western coast of Australia from the eastern coast of the American continents, as well as from Europe and Africa. Fotios will deal with the Greeks who travel, want to be engaged or have different problems.
- And when they will visit Opera and the others from Sydney?
o In vacancies.
- And, with the room in hotel reserved for other three nights?
o The hotel belongs to a company that has a net of hotels and already transferred the reservation in Perth, where it has another hotel.
This is the situation! Maybe, all evil is for better. There, he will be alone, without chiefs, which is not bad at all. He will be able to make the program as he want. And Perth is a very large city. It is the capital of West Australia. It is not only an important economic centre, but also an ideal place for recreation. The wonderful beaches on the seaside of the ocean are famous. It has many universities; even if they are not interesting for Anastasia and Fotios, but it proves that the city is a civilized town. There are lots of places to visit, especially now, after the wedding and the trip in Swiss, as they got used to visit spots.
Why they must leave from England to Australia is harder and harder to know. First, England used Australia as place for deporting the prisoners of civil law. It was impossible to escape from there. It’s true, later, the continent was considered as a new beginning, because there a different society starts to develop there. English people, even some rich ones, used to go in Australia, and particularly in India, for gaining more money. But, there were other times. Fotios’ uncle was wrong when he evaluated his nephew’s possibilities. It’s true, there are Greeks in Australia, as throughout in the world, and Fotios would dial just for them: for Greek emigrants working in the navigation. This would be his job. Unfortunately for him, it was not a way to make fortune. He was deal with poor people or in difficulty.
Greek people are known for the dichotomy of their sentiments: the well and evil are in equal proportions in the same person and do not mix each other. Sometimes a Greek is kind and affectionate, sometimes is acrimonious, without intermediary situations. In commerce, they compete one with others pitilessly, but – when some patriotic topics appear, they join as nobody else. Speaking about the Greeks from England, it is famous the Churchill’s retort, when they claimed to for Cyprus: “The Greeks let give us back the Baywater district from London and we will give them back Cyprus”. The number of Greeks in Baywater is overwhelming. Pan V. Vandores wrote it in his book “Greece with gods and without”, a very nice one. From the same book we learn that, in London, there are seven daily newspapers and numerous periodicals, four printing presses, eight hotels, twelve cafés, twenty six hairdressing saloons, thirty six commercial offices, ninety shops and many others. The book was printed in 1978, so the author information is just from the time when Fotios left England. Of course the competition among the Greeks is bitterly and it would not be easy for Fotios, though he is a Greek as well. Still, to leave in unknown with a wife pregnant seems a gesture at least hazardous.
A white cloud like a parachute is moving from the offing of the sea toward the continent, as if it hurries away of something and is eager to land on a safe place. When it nearly arrived, it crumbs itself in smaller and smaller fragments and, in the end, it melts in the blue of the sky. It was the last from the army of clouds of last evening, black and threatening. Not a single drop of rain had fallen, but the strong wind frightened Anastasia. She did not slip well from this reason. Surely, on the sea, she thought, it was terrible, maybe a hurricane. And if – wind or hurricane, what it would be – make a tornado and it, the tornado, will sweep the land? She is here, near to the sea. It’s true, there are buildings around, but there are a lot of things on the balconies and among the buildings. The wind can turn them in projectiles. This is just the danger of the tornados: the object-projectiles carried by the wind with speed. Even in case of the tsunami, not the wave make the greatest damages, but the objects brought by the water in its withdrawn, which sweeps everything in its way, like an avalanche. In our human world is the same. Resist only those who are strong and stay well on their feet. The others are took by the wave and strike what they meet in their way. They are the real destroyers, not the wave. The wave is the cause. The effect is the same, even when the cause was wanted to be a good one, as . . . the heaven is paved with good intentions. The Christianity as well, firstly a religion of poor people, born from the wish to offer a good chance at least in a future life, known the horrors of Inquisition. And later on, the people’s equality in the face of the God, became equality between people, and from here, to the idea of democracy, followed by others like socialism, communism, with their leaders: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin . . . And the course goes on . . .
- Ah, I forgot the mild on the fire. Now, I have to work with cleaning. Fotios will drink tea, as he does not like the milk smoked. It’s good that he is slipping yet. Last night he came late from the . . . office.
o Good morning, darling.
- Good morning. Did you wake up, finally?
o Would you make to me a coffee? I hardly open my eyes.
At the beginning, the warmth of Australia did not trouble her. It was almost warm as in Crete. The discomfort appears when the row of torrid days is too long, and here it seems endless. In fact, we should say torrid night not days, because the days are easier to support. During the nights, instead, you cannot slip. And if you don’t have a good rest, the day becomes harder. Everything went acceptably up till the seventh month of her pregnancy. The last two months turned her existence into an ordeal, both days and nights. In each hour she was wondering if she would be able to carry the pregnancy up till the end. She consulted a doctor and learnt she will have a boy. Of course, Fotios was glad. She wanted a girl, to educate her, as she had not the chance. On the other hand, it is said that boys are easier to bring up. Besides, maybe Fotios will love the boy more than a girl and it would be a reason to make him to stay more at home, as she is not sure that he works all the time, as he pretend to do.
But, till to give birth, the warmth is insupportable, and they cannot afford to put ear conditioning. It cost too much for their income, insufficient even for a modest family.
To make time to pass easier, Anastasia remembered that, in school, she learnt how to paint. She did not allow buying oil colours, but she could use watercolours, much cheaper. As a matter of fact, in school they painted only with watercolours. Of course, she would like to work with oil colours, as the great painters did. Maybe she will succeed sometime. Sure she will succeed, but not now. At the first sight, watercolours are a minor kind of paintings, while the true paintings is that with oil colours. She supposed it is difficult, though there is a question: “why the painters want to do something difficult, while they have the possibility to do the same on a easier way?” The difference between watercolours and the oil ones is the medium in which the pigment is solved: water in the first case and oil in the second. The water dries immediately, but a single drop of water, fell on the finished painting, destroy it. The oil needs several days to become dry, but the painting is more resisting. The painters chose the oil with optimal length of drying in order to can work on the painting, mixing the colours or laying coats over coats. So, it is much difficult to do good paintings in watercolours, where you cannot improve or correct them. What you did first is done. If it is good, it’s all right. If not, you must throw it, before anyone else to see what you done. It’s true you cast only a piece of paper. The idea of painting seemed to Anastasia a genial one. Fotios will never know about her new passion.
Still, a new problem appeared: around the house there are not trees and in the house she has not objects like those in school. Now, she found that she does not know how to paint other things. She thought it will be easy, but it isn’t. In school, the lady did not teach them how to do it. She was content if they stay in silence. For every object she must find a way to paint. And there are lots of objects. But, she has time and will succeed.
She does not cherish illusions to sell her future paintings. Although they need money, she realizes that she is not enough skilled. But it is a way to pass the time and, for the moment, this is what matter. In the future, who knows? Maybe she will become famous.
What stroked her is the naïve painting of the aborigines, totally different of that from Europe. Those pretending to be professionals, as they followed some lectures in a school of art, advanced the word naïve. Unfortunately, the school, besides several useful things, bordered students’ freedom of creation and make them imitators of the teachers. Noah’s Ark was built by a dilettante, Noah himself; Titanic was built by professionals. It is true, in that case of the aborigines, there is not a person, but a people and his culture.
At the first sight, Anastasia does not like the aborigines’ paintings, even the colours are nice. It is amazing how these men found in nature colours so living and so strong. The design is special. She realizes that it convey some symbolic messages. Every figure says something what she does not know; it is inspired from legends or make reference to them. She is discontented that does not understand. In fact, it is expected: it is the culture of a people about which she knows nothing. A remark is still clear: unlike the Europeans, the aborigines did not want to imitate the nature. Their painting is elaborated, have a symbolic content, and is full of messages addressed to those knowing the legends, their faith. The symbols were elaborated in the past and are renew permanently. These paintings cannot be appreciated al long as you do not know their legends, their mythology. Only when she will understand the message will be able to make the first steps toward what their art really is. In order to feel as they feel, she should have the same faith, to be as inveterate of the truth and value of their legends as they are, which is impossible.
On the other hand, she thought to the visitors in the museums in Europe and even to herself. The medieval European paintings is in a great measure one of the church, in face of which the tourists formally say without conviction “Wow, how beautiful!”, but they do not understand the message of the painting, what it represent, because the majority of them do now the Biblical parabola illustrated in that painting.
Something is sure: we like or not, the aborigines’ art is a true one, of a value much greater than our modern one. The power of creation of these “naïves” is impressive.
Finally, she gives birth. In the world, Kostas appeared, a nice and sound boy, looking like his father. For the beginning, the life of his parents, especially that of the mother, became suddenly very difficult. Fotios was outside almost all the time, but – with all his efforts – the incomes were less than modest. Anastasia, alone and without experience, managed with difficulty, though she saves money as much as possible. She even began to sew clothes for the baby, though she was not skilled for it.
For all that, when the situation became desperate, they must renounce at the dream of Australia. From England none help came; on the contrary, Fotios’ mother, moved there after her husband’s decease, asked for money, and her lover son used to send. The single salvation could be Greece, where they could live for a while. From there, Fotios will search for another job.
The Greeks are not, as we would tempted to think, some family’s authoritarian heads, judging after their presence in society: alone in cafés, taverns or playing backgammon in parks, while the women do shopping, bring up children and fulfil all domestic works. In reality, the women take the important decisions. Men’s presence in public places, even when they claim to do a small business, is only an abandon of the family with its problems. It is interesting to notice that in many cafés, there are carpets on the floor, even in some of those arranged in front of the buildings, on the sidewalks, but there are not carpets in the kitchens. In the apartments the cold floors prevails, from marble or imitation. In the most cases, the men’s “business” is limited at a tiny shop without clients at the ground floor of the building, without selling, a shop that should be closed before to be open. He stay there permanently, alone or playing backgammon with a friend. The family has other financial sources. When there are more men, they talk about all kind of thinks, sometime politics. Usually as less they know, as passionate and harsh discuss. If they had had more information, they would have arguments and would talk more peaceful. In fact, they are poltroons and cowards.
Anastasia’s father obeyed to the decisions of his wife, a woman wishing to control the others’ life, not for their interest, but for her pleasure. He removed her own daughter, because her presence was incommode for his wife. For Anastasia, the so-called education in England was in fact banishment.
Fotios put his trust in his uncle and wife’s hand, being married by them. Once married, he was not much interested in his family. The women, yes, but not particularly his wife. The old mentality, according with a wife is mother, housekeeper and stay at home was perfect for him. And, as he was a man of success to women, it seemed odd to him to renounce at his main pleasure.
Their departure from Australia was decided by a woman too: Anastasia’s mother, having as single motivation her wish to control the life of the new-born nephew, although, in short time, she will not want to know about him.
It’s true, their financial situation was precarious and there was not other perspective, not even an equivalent one, no way a better one.
It seems that the Greece in which they came had the same houses, but not the same people. It is a way of saying that the houses were the same. Each time when she came at home during the vacancies, there were to be found some new and very nice houses instead of those modest old ones. Greece was blooming year after year. Now, just this evolution stopped. But what strikes her more was people’s attitude: they seem to be scared. In short time, she learnt what happened: it was what we today say the “colonels’ dictatorship”.
After centuries of privation, the Greeks had believed they are the representatives of democracy and their fundamental right is to be against; against to the neighbour, to the friend and, particularly, against anything means order, finally against to the government. They did not understand that Zeus made order in Chaos and not the contrary. They confound democracy with anarchy. Besides, because of the insidious Soviet influence, the communist opposition created insurmountable problems to government. Arthur Schopenhauer wrote in “The Fundaments of Morale”: “The poor man will not recognise that the social inequality has as cause the inequality of merits”. These poor in spirit not at all.
Confident in themselves, as an effect of their victory against the Turks – for which they deserve all praises – and because the investors are interested in their country, the Greeks thinks they are very keen. Unfortunately, keenness without culture produces in most cases only indiscipline. You must understand what happens around and why, for judging correct. Only in association with education the true intelligence show that anarchy, as a produce of the indiscipline, does not help and that, on the contrary, as a member of an well developed society, he can realize himself on an upper level.
Civilisation is a word in the social area. Clever is not that who knows many thinks but that who understands how they work. The Greeks do not know how thinks work in the modern society. They consider themselves to be over such considerations.
To a certain extent, the ignorance and the facility with which they are attracted with the communist slogans has as cause the lack of intellectual tradition. It seems odd this affirmation face to the people on the culture of which the European civilisation was founded. It must be explain.
Because of the Turks, two migration of Greek intellectual occurred:
- at the collapse of the Byzantine Empire;
- after the War of Independence.
In the first case, the reason of emigration does not need too many explanations; it is easy to be intuited. It is true that those who left sowed the culture in Europe. The Renaissance, of which the Occident is so proud, was achieved in a great measure by the Greeks that flied by the fear of Turkish yathagan. They brought the culture first in Italy and then throughout the world. By them has benefited Occidental Europe, but not the localities from the nowadays Greece territory, which were already part of the Ottoman Empire.
In the second case, the revolutionists accused the intellectuals by collaborationism with Turkish authorities. The most were in the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul and proximity. From this reason, they could leave anywhere in the world, except Greece. Again, Europe was preferred and America.
After such a great spoliation, it was expected that it was hard for Greeks to self-governing. He was an oppressed people in the past and is easy to be manipulated today.
In consequence, they arrived in the situation that a little order was necessary. Unfortunately, those who proposed to do it – the colonels – proved that they are not good administrators, and what they did after the military coup d’état was only a dictatorial regime. They did a certain order, but some actions were exaggerated. This was the reason of people’s fear.
A job for Fotios? Absurd! Back to London, at the uncle that helped so far.
It is not clear why, this time again, the uncle did not find a job for Fotios in United Kingdom. Thanks to his relationships, he found one in New York. Anastasia remained with Kostas in Greece and Fotios left to New York, to undertake his job and find a house for the family.
He had not acquaintances in the United States of America, so that he must manage alone. He succeeded and, before the winter, he came to take Anastasia and Kostas in the “New World”. For Anastasia, new was Australia too, but particularly the United Kingdom at her less than fourteen years old. Why America has to be newer than the others she will have to learn latter.
It is not that New York from view-cards and albums. That is Manhattan, a district of the great town, its centre. Here, where they will live, the town is a normal one, like those from Europe. The house is a little unusual. It looks like with those from Australia, but Europe as well. It has the grand-floor by masonry (bricks and stones) and the floor by wood, with the roof very sloped. Not so much as those from Swiss, but almost. During that trip Anastasia was strike by the novelty and beauty of the landscape, now she was wondering about the utility of this style of building. The explanation is to come a little later, when she must clean the snow in the front of the house, to can get out in the street. When it brighten up and thought she get rid of the snow, that of the roof fell just in front of the door, so she must work again. Such snow she never saw till then. In Crete it never snows, in the United Kingdom is colder than in Crete and more humid, but the snowfalls are insignificant, and in Australia you may complain of warmth, not of the snow. How people from Manhattan succeed to drive with such of snowfalls is a mister, as she moved only in her district. She visits Manhattan only a few times, as a tourist.
Like most people from the United States, they wanted to buy a car. Fotios especially. A second hand one, as they do not own money for a new one. People advised them not to do it. Neither of them knows how to drive. Fotios rarely went out from London and when he did it was by busses or train. As for Anastasia, she used to go only as far as the horses stock farm – less than two hundred meters on a lateral street – and one a week toward the church, in row, with all the girls and teachers. An old car could breakdown just when you do not want it and they do not know how to repair the smallest shortcomings. Anastasia was surprised to learn that nobody would help them on the highway. People do not want to loss their time – time is money – but, in the last years, they are afraid of robbers, who simulate a breakdown and, if you stop, they plunder you, maybe will run with your car. Besides, unlike the rest of the country, where – due to the long distances – every adult has at least a car, in New York the car owners are less than a half of the population. It is simpler to move by buss and especially with metro, without troubles, tantrums and ambushes.
For the beginning, as expecting, they came up against serious financial difficulties. They were alone, without relatives or friends. They must buy everything, from broom and dust pan, with the Fotios’ modest salary, like in Australia, with the difference that his income had a certain stability this time and the possibility of increasing in a future not too long. But, till then, they must think over the last cent. Anastasia began to sew clothes not only for the child, but also for themselves, the adults, for inside.
As a trouble never comes alone, Anastasia became pregnant again. Of course, a child is reason of joy, but not in such moments. During the antenatal period it was still well; here it was not as warm as in Australia. The great difficulties appeared after the birth. First, she had a great joy. The child was a girl. They baptized her Nicky. Now, the mother was busy with the child, Kostas was still small, Fotios working out of doors, the disaster was total. The victory – Niki means victory in Greek language – if it is to be one, will be very remote.
But, as people say, the man does not know how much he is able to suffer. There were hard years. What count is that they went. Now, they have American citizenship, Kostas attends the school with good results. His classmates call him Kosty. Even Fotios’ salary increases. Not as much as they hoped but, anyway, it was much better. Nicky was a little too capricious, but she was still too young to make problems.
With goods and evils, the children were those who give sense Anastasia’s life. To the inherent difficulties of bringing up children, in her case the financial problems and the absence almost total of the father added. Only her love for children compensates them. She would not touch them with a slap and even that small reproofs necessary for their education, like “it is not well to do it” she would want to not exist. Her love for children would be sufficient. She is amusing even today of some nice happenings. In the day when they celebrated Nicky’s two years old, the girl said: “Mom, when I will grow up and will be a boy . . .”. If her brother was elder and was a boy, she is to be like him at the same age. Some years later, when the daughter of another family was to marry, Nicky remarked: “How well was for you, mom, to marry in family with dad; the poor Eleanor – this was the bride’s name – must marry with an alien”.
Or another time, several years later, when their financial situation improved a little and was able to go in a small trip on the mountains, the four of them crossed through a small canyon. After a turn, on the narrow road, more path than road, a huge boulder was. Dissatisfied, Kostas asked his father for explanations. He loved very much his father and the rare presence of him made him more valuable. Now, the father, proud to can show his knowledge, lectured him a speech about the effects of the erosion and, to be more convincing, he gives as an example o rock being up to them, about to fall.
- Look at that rock above us. It is in equilibrium now. Between it and the wall, there is a crack. In time, the crack will increase because the rains. During the winter, when water will freeze and will dilate, the rock will loss its equilibrium and will fall, like that one.
o And now, where it?
o The equilibrium.
If something was lost, it means it must be sought and found. Logical, isn’t? Kosty, thinking that it is a good moment to show his superiority, said:
- Speaking about lost thinks. A drunken man was looking for something on the pavement, at the light of the street lamp. A kind passer-by asked him:
o Did you lost something?
o Yes, my watch.
o Ah, we fist find it.
After one minute or two, as there was nothing on the side-walk, he asked:
o Are you sure you lost your watch here?
o Not here, a little further on.
o What do you look for it here, then?
o Because there is light here.
In school, Kostas learn well. She, Anastasia, went to all the meetings with the parents. She was also proud for her child success, but not this was the main reason. She was convinced that her simple presence would make the teachers to take account that Kostas is not a leaf in wind, that somebody is interested in his education. As for the child, this one will know that what he does is important. The effect was visible in his attitude: he was sure of himself, proud of his achievements and eager to know more. Shortly, he was a good boy, and Anastasia was happy to notice that she is able to do something important in her life.
- Hey you! Do you know why the Greeks got beating at Smyrna?
- Because they were frankincense.
Kostas doesn’t like the insipid jokes of his classmates having as subject his Greek origin. Usually, he answer sharply, but this time he did not found a reply and his fellow mate allows to go on his tirade:
- Why do you look at me like a dying duck in a thunderstorm? Do not you go to the church? Do not you heard about smyrna and incense?
This is a joke: both smyrna and incense are aromatic substances used in religious celebrations. They boy seems to know more about this subject. Scenting a favourable atmosphere, another classmates enter:
- He runs away from the church as the devil from incense (another specific expression).
This was too much. Kostas feels that he will blow up if a hard reply does not come to him immediately. An alternative would be to jump and blow him with the fist, but the subject was serious and a beating is not a convincing argument. Besides, he goes to the church, though not every Sunday and only obliged by his mother. Fortunately, his friend, Patrick, came to help him. Patrick is not his name, but a nickname, due to his origin. He is a Scottish boy with red hear, always ready to prove those who thought themselves to be trueborn Americans they are ignorant. He intervene with seriously:
- Smyrna is the tree the bark of which they extract a perfumed substance, used in religious ceremonies. Probably there this tree grows up.
o In Mythology, Smyrna was the daughter of a king – I forgot his name – abused by her father. Because she wants to commit suicide, the gods took pity of her and change her into a tree. From the bark of it Adonis appeared.
This was the reply of Andrew, the “scientist” of the class. Usually, he put an end to any talk through well-informed interventions.
- Ah, Adonis, this was a young nice man; all women were falling in love with him.
It would not be than a girl’s reply. She was Myra; beautiful, but a little ninny. She does not like Kostas, because he said to his friends – and she learnt – that in Greek language the word moira is read mira and means destine. From here, they issue more ironies, all on the theme “God forbid me for such a destine”. But Andrew was there:
- Adonis was a god, not a certain boy, and the girls were Aphrodite and Persephone, two goddess fallen in love with him. In order to solve the problem, Zeus decided Adonis to stay four months a year with one of them and another four with the other. In the other four months he might do anything he want.
o To go to other goddess.
- The meaning of the legend is the death and renew of the nature, represented by Adonis, who enter four months under the earth during the winter, to Persephone, and get out in spring to Aphrodite.
Kostas was saved. It would be nonsense to continue the discussion, so he went away discretely. Usually, after such interventions, Andrew remains alone.
- Mom, when we will go in Greece?
o I do not know. When we will have money.
- It means it will last a long.
o Do not become naughty. You could see how much I strive to save money; I sew clothes for you instead to buy them, we do not go anywhere also to save money and you want to go in Greece. What did you think at it so suddenly?
- My classmates ask me all kind of things about which I know nothing and they reply “What kind of Greek are you, if you do not know such a simple thing?
o And they, how they know?
- From books, from their parents . . .
o You can read books as well, even if we do not have them, but there are libraries.
- There is an hour to go from here up till the library. It means to lose the time on the roads.
o But the school, it has not a library?
- It has, but it is poor. The true is my classmates do not know much, but they learn some things and ride the high horse. I would want to have reply and shut them down.
o You will. I want as well to go. You realise how much I want to review Greece. We will overcome. Just a little more and fortune will smile us. We have come here alone, without relationship, nobody helped us. We must buy everything with the modest salary of your father.
- He told me last Sunday, when I was with him fishing, there is chances of improving it.
o May it please Got to grant it!
- We will have money to pay the tax for registration at the tailoring courses. If I will have a diploma, I could sew clothes for other people and we will have a supplementary income.
o To attend a course would be all right; to work for money, I do not the father will agree with it. In his opinion, the mothers must stay at home.
- This is the old mentality of Greek men. Here, we are in the United States of America.
o Yes, but we are still Greeks.
- We will see!
The passion for tailoring was not quiet new; she inherited it from her mother. Here is a sample. One day, a new big and nice shop was open in their town. As her mother liked to see at show-windows, saw a very nice coat and skirt. Even if she did none intention of buying something and much the less that costume, probably very expensive, she enter and tried it. All onlookers admired her. It was exactly her size. We must say that Anastasia’s mother had a nice body, worthy of a cover girl. The saleswomen asked her if to pack it up, or she will go with the costume put on her. She answer that she will think if to buy it or not and left. From other shops she bought stuff, lining, buttons and the rest of materials, in order to make a similar costume. At home, she drew from the memory the model and, in two weeks, she finished a costume similar with that from that what she saw in the show-window. She put on it and went to the shop. Of course, they admired her again and asked her when she bought it. She proudly answered: “I did not buy it; I made it by myself”. One of the shop assistants said:
- I can’t believe it. It is exactly our model.
- But I really made it.
And, as there was nothing to add, they asked her if she want anything else. “A blouse for this costume” was her answer. You can imagine how proud she was.
Finally, after many years, they went in Greece. Tailoring courses she followed as well, even one of culinary art. As for their capitalization, to gain money sewing for others, her son was right.
- Mom, dad took you like Zeus carried Europe and crossed the continent from Southeast toward the Northwest?
o Do you begin to read from Mythology?
- I have begun formerly and do not read; I gather evidence.
- I have just read that Zeus fell in love of a nice lady. As she was timid and coward, but loves animals, he turned himself into a bull and, in this way, he was able to draw near she. When he was near enough, he seized her and took her away. They landed in Crete, but you left from Crete to England. In a picture on shows how the bull swims with a girl on his back. You have flied, isn’t it?
o I was nice, but did not see well. Still, not so bad for confounding a bull with a man. I love animals. That’s true. To England I flied alone, with an aeroplane. The bulls able to fly were not at that time. Maybe in the meantime people had invented some. Yes, I left alone, very lonely. Your father was to young then to take me with him. As for flying, he used to fly . . . like butterflies, from a flower to another.
- Look what puzzles me, and this in not from Mythology, but from history. In Crete, from you are…
o I am not from Crete; I am from Limnos.
- O.k., I know it. From Crete, where you spent your childhood, . . .
o Up till thirteen year and a half.
- So: there were in Crete human settlements of 3-4000 people as early as in Neolithic.
o Of course, it was Crete where the oldest European civilisation developed.
- The problem is: these settlements, besides the fact they were very large for that time, they were very strong fortified. It means they had strong enemies from whom they must defend. The question is: for what those people want to fight? Today, on invokes all kind of pretexts: religion, ethnicity etc. But then?
o The fight for resources.
- I do not think they did not have what to eat. There were not so many people like today. When I am thinking to primitive people, I imagine settlements of several tens, maximum hundreds of people, but it seems that it was not quite so.
o When the Trojan War was?
- A little later, about the end of the Bronze Epoch, which means between 1600 and 1100 BC, but it was not in Crete. As a matter of fact, we do not know where it was, whether it was or it is only a collection of stories. Anyway, it was in a different epoch. I am wondering why people from Neolithic fought each other.
o Read about it and, if you will learn, let me know.
Fotios laid down his suitcase and the umbrella on the entrance hall and enter the living room with a preoccupied air. He have not a hat, as it is not longer in fashion even in Europe, all the more so in the United States. People a bit well-to-do circulate by cars and needn’t hats and overcoats, so these presence would humiliate them; they would put a label of poor man on the bearer. Even those less rich use busses or metro, so they can adopt the approximately the same clothes, especially in the cities. Outside of the towns, because of the long distances, even the poorest people use cars or busses. Fotios has not a car, as he lives in New York.
But with the umbrella things are very different. Fotios came from London and the umbrella take part from the compulsory clothing of every respectful man. Each Londoner has an umbrella with him in any day, no matter how sunny it would be. Fotios had came from London and – one knows – the English people are conservative. So, he do not renounce to carry an umbrella, even if in New York it does not rain as frequently as in London and the custom of bearing an umbrella does not exist here, but he wants people to notice that he was a Londoner.
Anastasia has her problems so she does not pay attention to her husband’s full of importance attitude. Still, some common activities must be coordinated, so she comes him in reality:
- I received a letter from my father.
o Really? I suppose something important happened as you tell me about it.
- I do not know how important is for you, but for me it is. He is ill.
o What is it about?
- He said he has pains in the area of the heart.
o This does not say much. Between nothing and very grave, anything could be. I feel paints too, particularly when it is cold.
- Your paints are because of the rheumatism that you took from London, with its humidity. Daddy surely has more than some feeble paints. He never complains, no matter how ill he was. Now, his letter has a different tone. Besides, our climate, in Greece, at least in Crete and Athens is dry and marine. People do not have rheumatism there. He says he feel ashes when he get angry.
o With a wife like your mother one wonder how he resists.
- Good to you I am not like she, but maybe I will change myself.
o Till then, let’s eat something. I must return to the office.
- I am wondering why you came.
Yes, Fotios used to work lot enough and would work more if one had asked him to do. In this respect, he was a serious man. He want to be a good professional and to be recognises as it. He wanted also to gain much money for the family and for his pleasures, some of them more important, especially for women.