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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 October 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Greece and closed all its borders,” said Papathanasiou. “In the end, I didn't leave until October.” Greece and Turkey's shared history is at the heart of Papathanasiou's essay in Letters from Greece. Greek-Turkish relations have been marked by alternating periods of mutual hostility and reconciliation ever since Greece won its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821. Papathanasiou wrote about Florina both today and in the context of the mass migration of refugees during the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. “My grandfather was one of those refugees forcibly expelled from Anatolia, which is the westernmost protrusion of Asia,” Papathanasiou said. “At the time, these people were settled in the newly-won lands of the north, in Greek Macedonia, which needed populating.” His grandfather Vasilios built a stone house for his young family with five children, which still stands today. “I never got to meet my biological parents and have only recently reconnected with my two brothers, who still live in the house our grandfather built,” Papathanasiou continues. “Today, the house is dwarfed on all sides by multi-storey apartment buildings built in the 1970s.” His eldest brother Vasilios is named after their grandfather, in line with Greek tradition. His middle brother is Georgios. The family considered developing their property many times but in the end couldn't because of the history attached to their grandfather's home. “Up until only a few years ago, my brothers had to chop and burn wood in a combustion stove to prepare dinner and heat water for a shower. Thankfully, that's one thing they've now modernised.” With thousands of new migrants from countries like Syria and Afghanistan now arriving in Greece each day, the timing of Papathanasiou's piece is poignant in the context of history. “The vast majority of these new refugees are now crossing into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, whose border is a mere ten miles from Florina,” Papathanasiou explains. “The Albanian border is close too, another thirty miles further west.” He acknowledges that borders have shaped a significant part of both his personal and family history. “This is Greece,” said Papathanasiou. “At the crossroads of three continents - Europe, Africa, and Asia. With such unique geography, it's no wonder the country's history is so rich.” Avloniti is more philosophical in her outlook for Greece. “In a country ground down by financial and ideological collapse, it is perhaps inevitable that we Greeks are living through a paradox: mourning for the old while simultaneously searching for and celebrating the new,” she said. “Ours is a case of existential limbo; like a castaway washed up on a new shore, a Greek THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 OCTOBER 2015 13 FEATURE today is in equal parts numb, sc and - dar Letters fr online on 9 November 2015, with subsequent instalments following every four days. All r in Gr for fr For mor to www com/books/lettersfrom-gr Writer Peter Papathanasiou. Nymfaio Florina, Greece. The same view during winter.
10 October 2015
24 October 2015