Monday, September 12, 2016

Lekani, village of refugees also in need of Family Trees!

(NOTE: Clean-up/repairs are well underway in flash flood impacted villages. And people are abuzz analyzing Prime Minister Tsipras's annual address Saturday night opening the 81st Thessaloniki International Fair. He said, amongst other things, that: there is light at the end of the tunnel, thousands more doctors/nurses will be added to the nation's hospitals, and the Thessaloniki Metro would be done soon...But is there now another EU loan crisis on the horizon?)
Per my previous post I made the bus to Lekani, Kavalas, but it was packed...and my hostesses were waiting as planned in the town square to show me a good time. (I just continue to wonder how exactly I earned VIP treatment every time I visit Girls School graduates 45 years or so later. But I digress...)

Many have noted that the Greek people have been amazingly kind to the Syrian refugees even as they are in dire straights financially. It's because many come from refugee families -- especially during the Exchange of Populations in 1922. Lekani was a Turkish Village, so the Turks went to modern Turkey (remnant of the Ottoman Empire) and Greeks in Turkey came to Greece‎. Many were Pontian people from the Black Sea area. Sofia Makridhou's father came from Trapezounda when he was 7. She herself spent 15 years working in Cologne, Germany, after graduating in 1970.  Then back in Thessaloniki as a single parent, Sofia worked for 24 years in a hospital taking food trays to the patients. Stability is a hard-won attribute in these parts, but resilience is rampant.

Currently only a few hundred people live in Lekani full-time, where the mai‎n crop is potatoes -- and like many places, the younger people have left and visit during the summer or special holidays. Another Girls School grad said her grandfather was a teacher; there were then over 500 kids in the grammar school, many speaking only the Pontian dialect and trying to learn Greek.  It was recently reported that 1.5 million Greeks have left the country since the financial crisis began, the "brain drain" (in English!) frequently referenced as seriously hampering economic development.

On the September 4th, Lekani celebrated it's annual "Potato Festival," created some years back to bring people to the village to both eat and buy potatoes (10 kilo bag for 6 EU) -- and to celebrate the Pontian Heritage, which goes back to the Ancient Greeks. I was blown away not by just the dances -- my absolute favorites! -- but by the town's junior dance group. They were totally amazing, right down to the 5-year-olds at the end of the line. It was a very good day.
At lunch with the Makridhous, I started on the topic of Family Trees and how much I lamented not having asked my grandparents the salient questions. At which point, Sofia's mother Zoi ("Life") -- who had pictures from my 1969 visit stashed in her plastic photo box -- chimed in, "I didn't ask my parents/grandparents those questions either."  More information lost!

Ask those questions of your parents/grandparents immediately and write the names‎ of your ancestors down for your kids and grandkids...have I said this before?

(Published in The Greek American Herald, October 2016)

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

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