Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Return to Naousa is bittersweet...

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. Going back there was hard because my closest contacts had "left" as the Greeks say when talking about those who have passed away. That included Alkinoy and Christos Lalas (Yiayia X's first cousins, at whose home 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 connect with others, starting with the oldest relatives on my list. Time to put more faces on those names!
Christos Lalas had 4 siblings who altogether produced 18 children, none of whom migrated to the States.  His sister Elizavouda, is now 91, lives alone, and is no slacker. Her daughter Dina lives in the building next door, and they have installed an ingenious steel bridge to connect the two. Amazing, I still can't get over it!

Dina's husband Yiannis comes from the nearby village of Rodohori, where I had also been before to visit students. She graciously drove me there to help me reconnect with  3 Girls School   graduates. A 4th now lives is Veria; we spoke by phone. Then Dina -- who has worked for the governments of Arkohori and Naousa -- gave me the grand tour of Aghios Nikolaos Grove and environs. (Many women now drive in Greece, unlike when I would appear in remote villages circa 1970 driving my trusty VW.)

Very happy to also meet Tasso's daughters Ethimia and Alkinoy...but first a sweet visit with my father's cousin Dr. George Koukoulos and his wife Roi. I have an old photograph of me and my parents having lunch with them and brother-in-law Angelos Valtadoros circa 1972, seemingly at a restaurant in Aghios Nikolaos Grove. My "Uncle George" -- at one time the town's main doctor -- is still going strong at 91 and has written a very interesting memoir. They still live in his ancestral home, which on the ground floor once housed his father's store and then his doctor's office...and they still navigate a rather frightening, no-handrail wooden staircase that winds up to the second floor.

Dr. George Koukoulas gives me a copy of his book!
‎I was invited by a 1978 Girls School graduate to have Sunday lunch at her home in the Alonia neighborhood -- on the same street where my dad grew up in the 20's and not far from where my Yiayia's ancestral home once stood. Despina's kids go to "Yalakia," a grammar school that just celebrated its 160th birthday and which my father attended before leaving for America in 1929. She gave me a book and CD celebrating that anniversary...could Efstathios Xanthopoulos be in that photo  on page 36 of the 1926-27 second grade class ?

Many miles and many years did not mitigate against family roots and renewed relationships. It is indeed a small world we live in...and thus we need to pay attention to what's going on in Greece and support our enduring "patrida." Lots of ugly things have gone down here in the last 100 years, most 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. 

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Zito Hellas!

NOTE: How has globalization affected Naousa? Beginning in 1875, renowned textile factories provided work and prosperity for over a century. Many factory buildings dot the Naousa city landscape -- and now, except for one, they are depressingly 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 and middlemen drag their feet paying the farmers. Very tough times indeed!

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

No comments:

Post a Comment