In the words of my uncle:
‘It was right after the war.I remember getting back from the military injured,both physically and mentally. My mind was filled with blood and pain,but also with a sense of freedom. I’ve seen hell,I’ve conquered hell and now i am back to continue with my life.I was in my mid-twenties, no degrees and my resume was basically one word: served in the army.
I arrived at my town, only to realize that nothing had changed. The little corner store where i used to buy ice-cream was still open, the bulb outside the cafe was still broken. Fortunately my parents were still alive,since war didn’t reach this corner of Greece(note from Katavasis:if you haven’t figure it out already,i am greek). Oh i can smell the freshly made bread my mother had just baked. They welcomed me,with my 7(!) other siblings.
I wasn’t one of those veterans, obsessed with war or tormented by the fallen. Yes, as i said, the army wasn’t a pleasant experience and i still have memories i dare not to bring up as they would break me,even after all these years. I was changed though. More so because i’ve seen how life can be unbearable. My little community wasn’t enough for me. I needed to experience more. And on the other side, the economy was collapsing. Some of my brothers had already left to get a degree or visited relatives to America and stayed there. I wanted to get out and also help my aging parents,who i hold dear.
It was sunny that day.I was sitting on a bench watching my father’s farm animals. Cows,chickens,goats etc eating the grass away.I heard the voice of an old friend. He was holding 2 big pieces of paper. They were my tickets. What i felt wasn’t joy,but regret and fear. I hesitated to touch them,like they were tainted with the new world and cursed with the memories i would lose if i left the country. A cool breeze rushed through me. I took a big breath and grabbed them tightly.
I packed one bag.One shirt,two pairs of underwear and my almost torn up trousers. My mother cried. She hugged me with a purpose to not let go. My father gave me one of his strict looks,like i did something bad ,but then i saw approval and yes maybe pride,in his eyes. The thing is,i could stay there, handle my father’s business,attend the fields and make a good living.I had the option.He was a hard working man and he could help me with my future. I couldn’t. My heart wouldn’t bear this. I needed to make it on my own. So i left.
We arrived early the next day to Athens with my friend. I had to take care of some legal documents first before i could fly. Long day. Finally, after i took care of everything we went out,to celebrate my last day in Greece. Now, he was the one that got me the tickets(wasn’t easy back then to arrange such trips,especially if you live in the middle of nowhere).I was obligated to spring for him and i gladly did so. We drank wine and ouzo,listened to music and did all the things one could do at that time in that city. It was getting late and i was leaving early the next morning. Before going to sleep,he suggested we have a bite. We went to his favourite place,where they serve gyros,lamp. After eating, i checked in my wallet to pay. There i saw my last money.
What i didn’t tell you, is that i was going to a foreign country broke. No money whatsoever. My last pennies were spent on that lamb. It’s comical in hindsight. I didn’t care though. I had energy and hunger for life. So,i left. With a hangover and a bitter-sweet sensation. Australia here i come!
Part 3( soon ).