Stay where you are and ‘never come back’

In 2008, I left Greece to study abroad. Since then, family and friends advised to stay away from home, from Greece

Yorva Tsiakara

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So we’ve got to this point, where you don’t feel welcome in your own country anymore, where you have to rethink even visiting for a few days.

In 1923, as part of the population exchange, my grandparents were kicked out of their homes in Smyrna and Constantinople . My mother grew up listening to her dad’s stories of how, at the age of 16, coming from a wealthy family, he had to move to Greece and start his life over. My grandpa started as an egg-seller and ended up building a company and a household, comfortable enough to offer to be able to offer to his child everything he had experienced as a child himself.

In 1967, my parents had to live under a dictatorship. They were threatened to be arrested for living their lives and were living under a regime of brutality and repression. With elections over elections, they finally managed to be living in a Parliamentary Republic. They survived that crisis and managed themselves to create a household and give their own children anything they needed and much more.

‘Stopped counting’

In 2008, I left Greece to study abroad. At first, I was counting down the days for my next visit back home. I had this big calendar on my wall in my tiny flat in Paris, and every night I was so happy to X one more day and feel closer to my flying date. My visits became rarer, less excited, I stopped counting down.

In the summer of 2015, I had booked a flight back home, which I was the least eager about. I had to vote to a referendum that didn’t mean anything and see my country depressed, poor, stressed and destroyed. Not able to use their own money, oppressed by the situation, panicked and overwhelmed. It was not an image you would get excited to go back and see, not a situation pleasant to live in. I wondered so many times why I boarded on this flight last June. And yet, despite waking up each morning in Athens, wondering why I am still here, I soon find myself reserving another flight for yet another holiday at home.

Stay away

Family and friends advise you to stay away from Greece, away from your own home, away from them. You tell them you miss them; they reply with an update of the latest austerity measures and their recent experience with the capital controls, a term even my grandma pronounces perfectly today.

“There is no money here, what would you come to do here anyway?”, they ask you. The possibility of you ever going back has been lost; even the thought of it seems silly. And you sit there, in your office in London, where you’re trying to build an easy-peasy life, away from the Greek political drama and EU’s austerity measures, wondering what makes you even think of going back and wanting to try to survive in today’s Greece, like your parents and grandparents did.

But you look outside your window and start daydreaming of blue skies, mornings by the sea and that Athenian vibe… and you’ve got your answer.