Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lost some Naousa pals, found many new ones!

The rather bleak financial situation here in Greece has not stopped me from visiting with relatives wherever I can find them, including in my Dad's hometown of Naousa where I just spent 6 days. Returning 35 years later was difficult in the sense that my main contacts have "left" as the Greeks prefer to say regarding those who have passed away. That included Alkinoy and Christos Lalas (Yiayia X's first cousins, at whose house I usually stayed) and their son Tassos, who died suddenly last August. He was my age and partner in crime whenever I visited Naousa. Zoi se mas.

So I made it my business to drum up new contacts ‎-- starting with the oldest relatives on my list, most of whom I had met in the "old days." Christos Lalas had 4 siblings who altogether produced 18 children, none of whom went to the States. Elizavouda is 91, lives alone, and is no slacker. Her kids Dina and Kosta live in the building next door and have devised an ingegious steel bridge to connect the 2 buildings (see photo). Don't you love it?

Dina's husband Giannis Kosmides comes from the nearby village of Rodohori, where I have been before. She graciously drove me there and helped me seek out 3 Girls School graduates, all of whom she she knew. Another now lives is Veria and is related to her husband; we spoke by phone, Then Dina gave me the grand tour of Aghios Nikolaos and environs. (Many more women now drive in Greece, and that takes some skill :)

Very happy to also meet Tasso's daughters Ethimia -- she now runs her father's light fixture/accessories store near the Aghio Mina church -- and Alkinoy. Tasso's Brother Manolis (who hosted me in Veria) also has a daughter Alkinoy. Both girls seem to have inherited their Yiayia Alkinoy's warm, welcoming traits!

Dr. George Koukoulas gives me a copy of his book!
‎I was invited by graduate Despina née Kosmidou '78 to have Sunday lunch in her Naousa home in the Alonia neighborhood --not far from where my Yiayia's ancestral home once stood and where my dad Steve grew up in the 20's. Her kids go to Yalakia, a school that just celebrated its 160th birthday and where no doubt my father went to grammar school before leaving for America in 1929. And who introduced her to her husband? Maria Koukoulou, daughter of my Yiayia's cousin Dr. George Koukoulas (who is still going strong at 91 himself and has written his autobiography). And to top things off Despina's husband's family name is Mitsanis, though the name Stavros Mitsanis -- Angelo Mitchell's father, stephanosied by my Yiayia's brother Tony Gust in Stockton -- did not ring any bells.

Rang my bell though, reminding me just how small a world we live in. Which is why Greece needs to be respected and supported as an enduring, important member of the family of nations. Lots of things have gone down here in the last 100 years, many not the fault of the Greek people per se.  ‎They have suffered enough, in more ways than the average second or third generation Greek-American can fully appreciate. 

Meanwhile, I am collecting names and phone numbers of new contacts in Naousa and can hardly wait to see them again. Zito Hellas!

NOTE: How has globalization affected Naousa? Beginning in 1875, textile factories were established there and provided work and prosperity for over a century. Many such factory buildings dot the Naousa landscape -- and now, except for one, they are all sadly shuttered because such goods could be produced much more cheaply in China and Pakistan. Even the famous Naousa area cherries and peaches -- and most people were spending mornings these days picking/processing in their family orchards -- bring little profit anymore as foreign markets have fizzled.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network.

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