We took the opportunity to do some root tracing while in Greece. I wanted to go and be in the villages of my grandparents. To stand where they stood, to understand the distances they traveled to better their lives but most importantly to honor them.
The first stop was the very small village of my grandmother, my mom's mom, Elatos. This was a fairly rough ride in the car, so I could not begin to imagine how it must have been in the early 1900's when she lived there, with eight brothers. Lived there until she was at least 14 or 15 years old. Reconciling the elegant lady that I knew, with the cliff-hanging village she was born and raised in, I realized that she too was an exercise in contrasts, like me. I used to ask her wouldn't she like to go back to her hometown for vacation, I have a better understanding now how difficult that might have been for her. Maybe she didn't talk a lot about the village, or maybe I just didn't ask enough questions. What I wouldn't do to speak with her today, and ask her "how was it for you?".
There is no family left of ours in the village, and when we arrived it felt a bit abandoned. There is a new church, built in the 70's, and a school house, both were locked, and there was no one around to ask about the house of my family. The old abandoned church stood there with it's doors unlocked. I'm not too adventurous, and get pretty creeped out by a lot of things, but I opened the old door to the church and stepped inside. Above the door, the date of 1831 was carved in the stone.
This was the church that my grandmother was baptized in.
The iconostas was still there, most icons removed, but a few remained. Candle and icon stands in gold stood there looking as new as the day they were placed there. As polished and proud as the day my yiayia was christened when she was a little baby. I made the sign of the cross and kissed the icon as we always do, and stood for awhile. I gained strength and peace standing there. I was stocking up on all that came before me, and putting it in a place that I can go to, remember and stand tall when times get tough.
Walking out of the old church the view across the mountains was incredible, the possibilities endless.