That’s my mom in the white dress.
In the middle. The little girl. Aged two, I think. Maybe three.
Now she is in her eighties.
A very young eighties ….
This photograph was taken a few years after my grandparents, Peter and Panorea Christelis, arrived in Germiston, South Africa, as refugees from the island of Imbros. That’s Gokceada in Turkey today.
And she is with her parents in front of my grandfather’s first business in South Africa.
A cafe. Bakaliko.
The Australian Cash Store. Cash because he did not give credit.
Now I ask myself – why on earth did he call it the Australian Cash Store?
Did he actually mean to go to Melbourne?
Know something … I’ll never find out.
Yes, of course I have asked my mother.
She has no idea.
My grandmother might have had the answer but she’s no longer around to give it, though she still sheds light in so many ways ….
My brother has this photograph on his kitchen wall.
And I know that in a few years from now this photograph will inevitably be lost.
It will disappear. And I may be the last person to ask this question.
So it’s not that no one will know the answer. Because it seems they don’t.
But no one will ask the question…
Ten or eleven million in Greece.
Another ten million or so around the world.
All with similar questions.
History is culture.
And culture is like a rope.
Moving from the past, through the present, into the future.
Understanding the past to illuminate the future.
Creating shared context.
Thousands – millions – of little stories like this one.
So many of them without answers.
It’s the questions that lead to the answers that are the threads.
And these threads together make a rope.
The narrative of the Greeks.
PS Does anyone have the answer?
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The rope analogy is so appropriate in describing how crucial our link through history and culture really is to grounding us in the present. My father, the Spartan, described how they made rope from the fibrous threads of the “Athanatos” plant that grows at will among the rock. How perfect !
I certainly don’t have the answer but, if I were Peter Christelis, I could have called it Australian “just because”. I believe our lifes are full of decisions that make no sense to others but are full of meaning in our personal story. Meaning without reasoning; that’s what I have in my mind.