Three cities – three milestones: Nafplion, Athens, Chicago. Three sisters: Marika, Angeliki (my grandmother) and Ioulia. Marika got married to a Greek-American grocery man just before world war II and moved with him to Chicago, USA. This photo was taken in 1960 in Athens, the only time that Marika visited Greece after her marriage. I got hold of it via my cousin Elena (Marika’s granddaughter) who lives in Chicago. This is one of the good things about Facebook and the web. You get to know valuable things that you wouldn’t notice otherwise. Our aunt who lives in Athens gave this photo to my Chicago cousin as a gift when Elena visited Greece a few years ago. So the photo traveled around for a while before reaching me.
I love the American branch of my family tree. For as long as I remember, cards and family photos kept coming and going over the Atlantic on Christmas, Easter and all important family occasions. Yet, after 1989, when one by one my American cousins visited Greece as a coming of age journey to discover their Greek roots, they became more than just familiar faces in the pictures. They became my cousins, young people with beautiful smiles who warmed my heart. And then in 1998 when I visited the family in Chicago I felt as if I have always lived with them. My uncle and aunts welcomed me warmly and their grandchildren offered me a real home during my stay. My stay with them imbued our relationship with the intimacy associated with close friends who live in the same neighborhood or town with you. By meeting and spending time with my American cousins, I had the opportunity to have an extended family, very important for someone like me, who was raised by two parents who are both only children! Today, 25 years later, I feel we still nurture the affectionate bond between us.
The three sisters depicted in the photo are no longer alive. Nevertheless, the little girl and the young man dressed in uniform are thriving. The little girl is my Athenian aunt who is a very lively person in her sixties whereas the young man is my beloved uncle who lives in Chicago with his wife, four children and three grandchildren. I am saving money to be able within the next few years to travel again to the US, this time with my son. I want him to have the chance I had and meet his cousins and his uncles and create his own bonds. I wish to everyone who shared this part of my family history to empower the relationships with people who mean a lot to them and also create new ones.