Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When Greeks went to Germany...and some stayed.

You might be wondering what kind of lives those AFS Girls School grads have lived. Most have worked very hard to raise families in better economic times and are now stretched to help raise grand kids. Jobs have run the gamut...and many of those women now live in Thessaloniki and still work very hard -- so, no, not everyone got those early pensions!

When I was at the school in 1968-78, many students were being brought up by Yiayia because parents were in Germany or Sweden working in factories to save and get ahead -- good economically at the end of the day, but difficult for their kids meanwhile. Germany wanted Greek workers until they didn't, not unlike the fate of Mexicans in California. Greeks mostly wanted to be in Greece, and many returned at some point.  There are many songs lamenting life in a foreign land.  But there are many Greeks who went and stayed, like our friend Rosa '69 (from a previous post).

And then there is Soula '76. After a difficult marriage in Athens fell apart, she moved to Thessaloniki with her 2 small boys even though she had been doing very well sewing for a designer boutique. Why did she leave for Germany in 1990? She couldn't make do here: "I was hungry"  (literally and figuratively). She left an extended family that included 3 priests. Her sister Anna went with her.

Soula front and center!
Soula arrived in Germany on a Sunday and got a job on Wednesday, working for a small business that altered clothes. When the proprietor died 14 years later, she took over the shop now run with one employee. She is her own boss and makes a good living, which is why she could afford to come to the Girls School reunion from Essen laden with SMILE paraphernalia reminiscent of the slogan/awards that underpinned our school dormitory ethic and good times. Soula also brought her iPad and became our official reporter! 

She loves living in Germany primarily because her boys are also ensconced there. Her one grandson goes to "Greek School" (just like I did in Stockton, California once-upon-a-time) and plays soccer for a team called "Thessaloniki."  AND she admires the German people for following the rules and being disciplined.  Soula came to Greece for 10 days with a long to-do list and in whirling dervish mode. She is very organized on many levels.

We had lunch up in a Thessaloniki neighborhood where her recently deceased 96-year-old Uncle Archimandritis Gavril had lived. She sat in his same chair at the same restaurant he always ate lunch at and greeted a number of local vendors/friends along the way  -- showing a kind of sentimentality that I can relate to. No stone was left unturned.

Soula clearly loves her homeland. But like I said, she is very organized...and says that she will be buried one day in Germany.

(Wanna bet?)

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