Witness to History – Summer of 1974 Part 1

I was visiting Greece with my mom in the summer of 1974.  On 20 July, we returned to my aunt’s house in Piraeus from a lovely weekend on a nearby island.  Just before the ferry boat docked a lone naval officer in full uniform and carrying an attache case jumped over the ramp of the ferry onto the land.  Gasps were heard all around me but soon we were caught up in the hustle and bustle of disembarking from the ferry.  My cousin and I noticed that unlike other days the usual navy ships were missing and the many sailors coming off boats for shore leave or returning to the ships were absent.

We arrived by taxi several blocks from my aunt and uncle’s house and walked through their working class Piraeus neighborhood.  Children played soccer in the streets and in a nearby playground.   Then we heard screaming from a neighborhood store.  People rushed over, then several ran out and down the street.  Parents yelling for the children to come in. The streets and playground deserted. My aunt stopped a woman running by, her face white and tears flowing down it.

Turkey had invaded Cyprus and Greece was at war.

We rushed to my aunt’s house and a neighbor was crying on her porch comforted by other woman.  Her son was in the army and she feared for his life.  My aunt got us in the house and then she took her wallet and some grocery bags and left. Within twenty minutes she had scoured all the local markets for staples. Flour, olive oil, sugar, eggs, bread, potatoes, canned vegetables and water.  She knew what happened in war having survived the Occupation.  My aunt emptied out her bags and left again, this time going further out into the surrounding neighborhoods.  She came back with more supplies.

Television was government controlled.  We left it on with static until the government decided to let the populace know what we were learning from radio stations in Europe.

My uncle came home and told us what news he had learned. He spoke to my mom and I saw her hand over her passport and mine.  Then my uncle came to me and said he was taking me to the American Embassy.  My aunt and uncle didn’t have a car back then, so we were on my uncle’s motorcycle riding through Piraeus and then through streets in Athens.

The American Embassy in those days was atop a grassy hill overlooking one of the wide thoroughfares in Athens.  It looked so majestic and so American.  Grass was unheard of in rocky Greece.  Today as my uncle and I rode up, it was surrounded by uniformed Greek soldiers.  While an embassy is sovereign territory it depends on the host country to protect it.

The soldier told my uncle that only Americans were allowed through their lines. I remember the long walk up the hill as my uncle grew smaller and smaller behind me.  I didn’t know how he must have felt to allow his niece out of his protection.  I only know how frightened I was leaving him. I reached the entrance and walked in.  There was a marine standing guard, an American flag and the seal of America with an eagle in tile in the floor.  I didn’t know which one to kiss first.

Embassy personnel, a young man, sat me down in an office and spoke to me.  He checked my and my mother’s passports.  Took down our information where we were staying, phone numbers and addresses.  He calmly gave me the radio frequency of the American station in Athens on a slip of paper.  He told me to listen to it continuously because if Americans had to be evacuated that station would provide instructions.

Then he said, “we guarantee your safe passage out of Greece.  But your mother is a Greek national under international law and we can only evacuate her if Greece allows her to leave.”

My father had died when I was five.  I have no brothers or sisters, no aunts or uncles in the United States.  Where was I going to go without my mom.  I cried all the way back down the hill and into my uncle’s arms.

Crete – A Weekend With Myths, Legends, and History

I had the honour of guest blogging at Novel Adventurers.  Here is an excerpt.


The wonderful thing about visiting my family in Greece is that when I need to escape for a weekend getaway, I have hundreds of islands to select. I’d always wanted to see the Palace at Knossos, so Crete it was.

I flew in and grabbed a cab to my beachfront hotel. I spent the day swimming and as the day drew to a close and I walked along the shore listening to the gentle sound of waves lapping against the sandy beach, a single white flip-flop was tossed among the waves. I reached it and kicked it onto the beach, continued my walk, and eventually headed back to my hotel.

And if you want to read the rest…click the link.

Crete—A Weekend With Myths, Legends, and History


And if you want to read The White Flip Flop, the story this trip generated, click here to purchase a copy of 

Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology


Greek War of Independence 1821


The 25th of March is the independence day of the Greeks from the Ottoman Empire.  The Ottoman Empire defeated the Byzantine Empire in 1453 and Greece fell under Ottoman rule.  The traditional story is that the Metropolitan Germanos III of Patras blessed a Greek flag in the Monastery of Agia Lavra on the 25 of March 1821 and ushered in the uprising against the Ottoman empire.

Greeks revolted many times over the years against Ottoman rule but the revolt began in ernest in 1821.  Uprisings started in the northern parts of Greece and moved into the Peloponnese.  A crucial meeting was held in the city that is now called, Aegion.  Aegion is the city near the two villages that my parents come from. The Greeks fought under various leaders one of which was Theodoros Kolokotronis who became commander-in-chief of the Greek forces in the Peloponnese.

Kolokotronis Statue Athens

Kolokotronis Statue Athens

The makeshift Greek navy fought against the Ottoman navy in the Aegean Sea achieving successes.  Lord Byron travelled to Greece to fight on behalf of Greek independence and Greeks revere him as a national hero.  He spent his own money to outfit the Greek navy and protested against Lord Elgin’s removal of the Parthenon marbles from the Acropolis.  He died of a fever In Missolonghi while preparing to attack the Turkish fortress at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth.

I remember Greek Independence Day as a day of speeches, poems, Greek food, wearing Greek costumes, Greek flags and the singing of the Greek National anthem.  As a child, I learned about the ‘hidden school’ where Greek children were educated in secret in order to retain their heritage under Ottoman rule.  There is a song about the moon guiding the children to and from the school where they would learn Greek. I can still see the hall festooned with Greek flags.  My friends and I dressed in our traditional costumes.  Each child and sometimes parents, wore the traditional costumes of the area where one’s family came from.  I was taught to appreciate being Greek in an open and democratic society and to never forget the land of my parents and my heritage.