Zenovia’s secret (Consolidated text )

Posted by: Maria Atalanti

Published on: 25/03/2023

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This novel is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real.
(Chapter 1)

Melbourne – Australia, June 2019

Zena had just buried her father, Demetrios Vassilopoulos from Alexandria of Egypt. For the first time in her life, she had felt so much sadness. Her heart was uprooted.

She was sitting in her apartment in central Melbourne, staring at the panoramic view of the Yarra River. Tears were coming out of her eyes; she, who never remember having cried in her life. At least no one sees her, she thought ironically.

Her father had come to Melbourne in 1952 – 1953, when the ethnic revolution in Egypt, nationalized his cotton processing factory in Alexandria. He had inherited it from his father and he from his own father. It was his fate to lose it.

In Melbourne he worked hard, in whatever job he could find, but his own knowledge was limited to cotton processing. However, with his education and his experience in business, he soon became active in the construction sector, with great success.

The intense effort to build his professional career from scratch, did not leave him time to think about marriage. At the age of 46, in June 1978 he met her mother. She was called Jane; she was Australian and much younger than him. They lived together for some time and Jane became pregnant. She did not want to keep the child, but Demetrios was adamant. So, in January 1979 she was born. Her mother, Jane, disappeared soon after her birth and never appeared again.  Demetrios called her Zenovia, as his grandmother was called, a dynamic woman, who had left behind many questions, as his own father used to say.

So, Demetrios undertook entirely her upbringing. He was a loving, affectionate father. Zena grew up happily with him, even without a mom.

She remembered, smiling bitterly, how much she was tormenting him when he tried to set some limits or impose a punishment on her. Not only did she escape him, in the end she did hers. But he always forgave her.

A typical example is when he tried for years to send her to the Greek school to learn Greek. Not only she did not want to go, not only she did not study, but she also refused to answer him in Greek when he was trying to speak to her in that language.

-Poor, sweet father, she thought. You had a daughter so untamed and uncompromising! Maybe this, I took after my mother!

Nevertheless, her father was the man of her life. She had reached the age of 40 and did not have a single serious relationship. She never understood if this was because she was attached to her father or because she found all the men she knew unimportant and insignificant. Maybe it was both.

She, professionally, would characterize herself as a free journalist. She wrote political articles, but mainly environmental, and sold them to various newspapers and magazines in Australia, but also in America. She had worked for National Geography for a short time, but her uncompromising character did not let her commit permanently somewhere. She had traveled to many parts of the world, mainly in Australia, America, and Asia. From her job she had a significant income that ensured her a comfortable life while she lived in Melbourne. Most of the time, however, she was on the road, looking for new issues and passionately supporting the rights of the planet itself.

Now she was sitting on the couch of her living room, with a box full of letters, at her feet. On the top was a black and white photo of a very young woman – she would not be over 18, and an elderly gentleman. One would think she was his daughter, but her dad had told her that it was her great-grandmother, Zenovia, and her great-grandfather Demetrios Vassilopoulos, a cotton merchant from Alexandria.

-The unfortunate little girl, Zena thought, she should be poor, to get married to the old man!

She looked more closely at the photo, looking into Zenovia’s inexpressible face to find a sign of her feelings, a message from the past. In an instant she was trapped by her eyes, large, almond-shaped eyes, with dense eyelashes. She was surprised to realize that they had the same eyes, although they did not look alike in anything else.

Zena was tall, hair brown to blond, with black eyes. This made an impression on those who meet her. Her eyes, her gaze in general, were unusually intense and piercing. One would expect that with such light hair and white skin her eyes would be green or blue, even brown. On the contrary, her black eyes and strong eyebrows captivated those who looked at her.

-Who knows, what strange combination of genes gave me these eyes, she thought. Surely great-grandmother Zenovia played her part!

She remembered her father’s last days at Royal Melbourne Hospital, when he struggled with cancer. She was trying to be with him all the time. First time they had spoken so much. He, in a situation between this life and eternity, was trying to draw from his memory and pass on, to his always indifferent daughter, the story of the family. He talked to her about Alexandria, this most ancient city on the shores of the Mediterranean, with its glorious history, about his father, Evangelos Vassilopoulos, his mother Antigone and about her great-grandmother, Zenovia. His parents had died in a car accident in Alexandria, in July 1950 and since then, he has basically been alone. He had devoted himself to his business until the ethnic revolution of 1952 in Egypt, which resulted in his factory having been nationalized by the State. Then he decided to leave for Australia and make a fresh start. Nothing kept him in Alexandria anymore.

For the first time Zena learned that her great-grandmother was from Cyprus. A beautiful island near Alexandria that had a strange history, with conquerors succeeding each other. The last invaders on the island were the Turks. This happened in 1974 and no solution has yet been found. The Cyprus problem was played for 45 years at the tables of international poker unsuccessfully, because it seems that the special interests of the big ones did not favor the solution or rather favored the preservation of the situation.

-I would be interested in exploring it from a journalistic point of view, she thought. After all, my great-grandmother came from there.

But the most important thing – and the most difficult for Zena – was when her father told her about the box with the letters, title deeds, photographs, and relics of the family. He asked her to read carefully all the letters and do everything she can to find her roots in Cyprus.

Zena was amazed.

-I imagine that everything will be written in Greek. I, as you know very well, do not speak Greek. Why didn’t you do it, Dad?

-I’ve never had enough time. I was working almost 18 hours a day and I had to spend time with you as well. You can afford not to work for a few months and search for the traces of Zenovia. And to prevent your thoughts, the letters must not be given to someone to translate them. You must learn Greek so that you can read them yourself. There are family matters and must be managed by the family. That is, you, he said with bitterness. There is no one else left.

Her father’s voice, so weak and broken, was stern and imposing. She did not react. She felt guilty for the first time for her indifference.

Zena, born in a multicultural country, never felt the need to search for her family’s past. The inhabitants of this country came from everywhere in the world and the only thing that separated them was their past. Together they could create a new culture and inspire it in the rest of the world. Why did they have to cling to the past? Why should they know a story or a language that would separate them? That was her own philosophy.

Then, the fact that she had never met her mother, and as much as she did not want to admit it, this was a big emptiness in her life, that limited her interest to the present. She did not want to know about the past.

But now, she was entangled in this situation and did not know how to get out of it. Despite the promise she had made to her father, she had not given up her thought of giving the letters to someone to translate them. She would be looking for a trustful person, after all.

On the other hand, she was obliged, anyway, to retire from work for a few months. With the death of her father, she would have to manage her financial and inheritance rights. Her father had assured her that his business was lucrative and that she would earn a significant amount of capital if she sold it. She knew that the State would get a respectable amount, but there would be enough profits left for her. These situations were complicated, required time and patience, and it would certainly have been better if she were in Melbourne, rather than travelling.

-Maybe, she thought, it’s an opportunity to review some things in my life. I am now 40 years old, and I could stop running. I may focus more on political reporting. I will also read about Cyprus because it seems that this case is interesting.

Tears began to come out from her eyes again. She could not restrain herself. Her father is gone! In fact, he was the only person she had in her life. She did not have close friends. Most of them were her professional associates that she did not have much to do with them. On the other hand, her relations with men were brief and superficial. She had never shared her heart with anyone. She was independent and felt self-sufficient. But was it so? There has been always her father. The rock in her life, the anchor of her ship. Now, he was gone…

She got up to prepare a tea. While drinking her tea she began to look at the photos that were inside the box. In addition to photographs of Zenobia, there were photographs of grandfather Evangelos’ and his wife Antigone. To her surprise, Evangelos was a very handsome man. Tall, blond, he did not look much like the Greeks she knew. Maybe she looked more like him. Her father looked like his mother, Antigone. Brunette, with Greek distribution. Her attention, however, remained in Zenovia. She looked at her and looked at her again. She was a very beautiful woman, with harmonious features and bright eyes. How did she get married to this old man? Strange.

She realized that inside the box, there were, in addition to the photographs, letters written in Greek, with two different graphic characters and some official documents, which would be title deeds. These were written in English. They referred to some lots of land in the province of Paphos in Cyprus. There were some other documents in Arabic. These should be from Alexandria, she assumed. She tried to sort them out and put the letters in chronological order. They were written between 1922 and 1930.

-Zenovia, it seems, would correspond with her son, she thought.

As she was looking at the photos thinking, she slept on the couch. Her sleep was restless. She saw Zenovia coming out of the photo and trying to push her back in the frame, with her. She resisted, while Evangelos laughed and told her not to worry. She woke up sweaty and suddenly exclaimed:

-I know what I’m going to do. I remember that in the gym I go, there is a Greek who everybody calls “teacher”. I ‘ve never paid attention to him, but I think he is a teacher of the Greek language. First, I will speak with him and then see how I proceed. If he seems reliable I will ask him to translate the letters. I will never be able to learn Greek. Sorry father!

With this thought she relaxed and went to lie down on her bed. She slept relatively calmly, but in the morning she woke up with a headache. She took two painkillers and set off for the gym. She remembered seeing the teacher, usually in the mornings, there. It seems he would work in the afternoons and evenings.

She began to exercise and look right and left, lest she spotted him. At first she did not see him anywhere, but when she was about to leave, he showed up. He stepped on a treadmill and began to exercise. Although she herself was exhausted by what she had already done, she went up the treadmill next to him and greeted him.

-Good morning. I am Zena Vassilopoulos, she told him. Are you a teacher of the Greek language?

He looked at her in amazement. Never had this impressive woman looked at him. What has changed now?

-Good morning, he told her. I am Alexis Ioannou. I didn’t know that you were of Greek origin. I understood it from your last name, he explained.

-Yes, I have Greek origin on my father’s side and that’s why I would like to talk to you, if you have time after you finish. Are you really a teacher of the Greek language?

-Yes, I am, he replied with a laugh. I can see you in an hour in the gym cafeteria. If you can wait, of course.

-I will wait, Zena replied and greeted him.

To pass the time, she entered the sauna. There she relaxed and tried to put the issues that preoccupied her in order.

-Handsome man, it was the first thought that came to her mind. I have never noticed him before! And charming! He has black eyes, black hair, harmonious features, a toned body. He’s perfect!

She got angry with herself and her thoughts. I have a different purpose now, she concluded. And she prepared the words she would like to say to him about the issues that concerned her.

In an hour they met in the cafeteria of the gym. She was shining after the sauna and he was cool, after the shower he had taken. Both looked fresh and beautiful.

They ordered a freshly squeezed juice and sat on a coffee table near the window.

-I am listening, Alexis told her.

Zena explained to him about the problem that concerned her and concluded:

-In a few words I would like you to translate the letters of my great-grandmother and her son to me – I think so at least, because as you understand I can’t learn Greek at this age. I will pay you what you think appropriate.

His response was succinct:

-I disagree. This is the address of the institute I work for. I give Greek language lessons to adults every Tuesday and Friday, at 8.00 in the evening. Please come to try. You owe it to your father.

And leaving Zena dumbfounded, he left. An anger was stirred up in her for his audacity.

-Who, after all, thinks he is? I did not ask for his opinion. I suggested him to do a job.

To her surprise, however, she had decided to go the next day to the address he had given her. It was obvious. Something had changed inside her.



(Chapter 2)

Alexandria 1900

Zenovia looked at herself in the mirror and was once more surprised by her image. She, Zenovia, who was born in Statos, Paphos, who grew up in poverty, with a mother who forced her to wear only black clothes to look like an old woman, lest men fall in love with her and “spoil” her, as she used to say, stood here, beautiful, with the most elegant clothes that existed.

-How extraordinary life is! She thought.

She remembered her life in the village. She was born in 1874 in Statos, Paphos. Her mother was called Eleni and her father Kostis. She spent her first years, as far as she could remember, in the mountains of Paphos grazing goats with her other friends. They were happy in those years. In 1885, at the age of eleven, her father died. The blackness of mourning that covered her mother and herself could not be described. Her mother was constantly lamenting, and that was justified. On the one hand poverty, on the other hand the lack of a protector to take care of them, seemed in her eyes like a future without hope.

The only close relative they had was her father’s brother Onoufrios who lived in Ktima, the largest city of Paphos. He was involved in trade and whenever he could, and this was not often, he would come to the village to see if they needed something to help them. Her mother placed all her hopes in him so that she could marry her only daughter as she was: without a dowry.

Growing up, Zenovia became beautiful. Her mother, instead of rejoicing, was terrified. A feeling of insecurity possessed her that someone would “spoil” her before the wedding. She forced her to wear black clothes and a scarf on her head so that her face would not be visible. On the other hand, she was pushing Onoufrios to find her husband as soon as Zenovia turned fifteen.

So Onoufrios took her to Ktima to stay a few days with him and his wife. They themselves had no children and it was their pleasure to have Zenovia. Her aunt, Elpiniki, made sure a nice dress was prepared for her, so that she would not be presented with the miserable clothes that her mother forced her to wear. There, she was also seen by Demetrios Vassilopoulos, a merchant from Alexandria, who had dealings with her uncle. He fell in love with her immediately and asked her uncle to marry her.

Demetrios Vassilopoulos was over fifty, while Zenovia was only fifteen. Despite his age, he was well-built and quite presentable. He was tall, with a fit body, gray hair, grey mustache, and brown eyes No matter how much Onoufrios tried to convince Zenovia and her mother that, in addition to being wealthy, he was also an extremely good person, both refused.

Her mother took Zenovia back to the village and make her ware her black clothes again. The events that followed, however, and their wretched poverty, forced Zenovia to accept, and in 1890 they got married and left for Alexandria. This wedding looked like a funeral for the mother and daughter.

Throughout the journey, Zenovia was crying. She did not know if she could ever see the mother and her village again. Demetrios was kind and loving with her and assured her that they would come and visit her mother and she could come and stay with them if she wished.

When they arrived in Alexandria and Zenobia saw their house, she was stunned. She had never seen anything more beautiful and bigger. It was a two-storey, stone-built house, with a garden, four bedrooms, two living rooms, a library, a dining room, a kitchen, toilets, warehouses, stables for the horses and rooms for the servants.

-It’s a palace, she thought.

But what impressed her the most was the love and kindness of her husband.  Close to him she had begun to feel  security, which slowly turned into gratitude, happiness and then into deep, constant love.

With the birth of their son in early 1891, her happiness was fulfilled. They named him Evangelos, at Zenovia’s wish. It was then that she realized that she was very uneducated and clumsy in relation to the aristocratic society of Alexandria, with which she interacted. So, she asked her husband to help her get educated, to learn how to dress and behave.

At that time, the Greek community, which numbered around 60,000 inhabitants, flourished in Alexandria. It was an organized community, holding the economy of the city in its hands. They had established banks, hospitals, schools, theatres, controlled industry, and commerce. The social gatherings of Alexandria had nothing to envy from those of the most important cities of Europe.  An uneducated girl from the mountains of Paphos, did not fit in this environment.

Demetrios did not hesitate for a minute. He brought home the best teachers. Soon Zenovia learned to read and write, while at the same time she indulged in the world of fashion and savoir vivre of the time.

The unpolished village girl who grazed goats in the mountains of Paphos, became an elegant Alexandrian, worthy of her husband’s place in society. But what pleased Zenovia most of all, was when in the evenings they both sat in the living room and Demetrios talked to her about his day and the problems he faced. Through the conversation she always tried to help him make the right decisions. These hours, which brought them closer together, were for both the real happiness.

One such evening, Demetrios talked to her about his life. He was not always the wealthy Alexandrian businessman. In fact, he was not even an Alexandrian. He was born in Limassol, Cyprus, mid-1830s. He did not know exactly when. His parents had died when he was at a very young age, probably from malaria. The mistreatment he received from his relatives and his almost permanent hunger, forced him at the age of about ten to sneak into a ship that was in the harbor. This ship brought him to Alexandria. He did not know where he was, but he did not care. He was simply far from the crappy life he lived.

He initially managed to get a job for a Greek merchant, as the child for the errands. He slept on the floor of the shop and ate only the leftovers of his boss. That was his reward. Slowly, slowly, as he was carrying out the merchant’s orders, he met various Greek businessmen and accepted better offers. Everyone liked him because he was polite and hardworking. He learned on his own how to read and write, so as not to be disadvantaged compared to other children of his age. After passing by various bosses, he ended up at the age of 16 to ask for a job from the cotton merchant, Emilios Vassilopoulos.

The first question that Vassilopoulos asked him was:

-What is your name and surname?

-My name is Demetrios, I don’t have a surname, he replied.

-A child without a surname, anonymous in the crowd, Vassilopoulos commented philosophically. Your life has no value in this phony society my child.

-It has value for God, who brought me into the world, Demetrios courageously replied.

This phrase impressed Vassilopoulos, who not only hired Demetrius, but he also began to trust him for his personal matters. So little by little as the years went by, Demetrius entered deeper into the cotton business and in the end Vassilopoulos, who had no children, named him his heir, with the only condition to keep his name. Thus, the child from Limassol, without identity, inherited the glamour, the name, and the property of a merchant from Alexandria, originating from Constantinople.

At first when he took over the business on his own, things weren’t that good.

-I worked hard to bring it to where it is today, Demetrios added. And I am so glad that that I can shared it with you and our son. Since I did not get married while I was young, I was afraid at some point that Vassilopoulos’ fortune would be extinguished. But now, I have both a child and an excellent partner by my side!

He looked at her with adoration and took her hand to his. Zenovia felt a tear in her heart. How much she loved this man!

At home, Zenovia had servants and very little she needed to do herself, other than to run the household. This gave her time to read, to be very involved with her son and his education, and whenever she could she went to her husband’s business. Demetrios greatly appreciated this, although it was not a common occurrence in their time. He informed her about his transactions, he met her to his associates and soon Zenovia proved to be a very smart businesswoman. Her opinion mattered and Demetrios trusted her. He himself, even an experienced businessman, as a particularly good person, sometimes could not suspect the danger. Zenovia, however, taught by her mother that all people are potentially dangerous, was more careful and protected her husband from pitfalls.

She found the involvement with business interesting. It was a challenge that gave her the opportunity to develop skills she never knew she had. On the other hand, it helped her keep her thoughts away from her homeland and her mother. No matter how well she spent her life in Alexandria, nostalgia was a wound in her heart.

Demetrios, aware of this deprivation, he bought an area, just outside Ktima, overlooking the sea and had a house built there. Of course, it was not as luxurious as their home in Alexandria, but there they could spend their summers and Zenovia see her mother. Zenovia loved this house very much. The beautiful view it had and its size, which was to the extent that she knew, made her feel it more her own than the mansion in Alexandria.

In this way Zenovia and Evangelos spent all their summers in Paphos. When his work allowed it, Demetrios joint them.

During the cold months of winter, when there was snow in the mountains of Paphos, her mother came and stayed in the house in Ktima, where the climate was mild and sweet. She had brought with her some goats and hens and Evangelos enjoyed rural life when he came to Cyprus. At the same time, her mother cultivated various seasonal vegetables and had planted fruit trees, such as apple trees and fig trees. So, the house in Ktima had been transformed into a normal farm with all the good things for Zenovia and her son and at the same time it was the paradise of her once so destitute mother.

Ten years have passed since Zenobia had married Demetrios and left for Alexandria. Her life had changed drastically. She had never dreamed of such luck for her and her mother. She was only 26 years old and gorgeous. Her hair was brown and her eyes wide and black. Her skin, now that she lived in Alexandria, away from daily exposure to the sun, shone alabaster, with rose cheeks and red lips. She was aware of her beauty. She could see it in her mirror, but above all she could see it in the eyes of the men who were looking at her erotically. Some even had the audacity to flirt with her, believing that having an old husband she would be ready for adventures. Those she put angrily in their place. The education she had received and her affinity with the world and society had opened other horizons that she did not even know existed. Zenovia was happy. And she was complete.

Her involvement with her husband’s business was another chapter in her life, which like salt and pepper made her everyday life spicy. She found women’s gatherings and gossip meaningless and thought about how unfair it was for women not to work when they had that fluency. Oh yes, Zenovia did not want anything else in her life.

However, there was a thorn that preoccupied her and at times it tarnished this fullness that she was experiencing. Her husband showed great weakness to their son to the extent that he was not able to impose any discipline on him. Evangelos knew it and knew that when he wanted something extravagant, Dad was the right person to ask for it. Demetrios adored Evangelos and tried to offer him all that he never had in his childhood. This worried Zenovia, who grew up with an absurdly strict mother.

-Don’t worry, Demetrios told her. Love never harmed anyone.

The truth was that their Evangelos was a very handsome, intelligent, and capable boy. In his lessons he was very good and if he did not have so many demands and if he did not ask for so many favors from his father, Zenovia would have no complaints. But he grew up knowing that he might have whatever he asked for, and that was what worried Zenobia. The complete ignorance of the possibility of not satisfying all his desires, simply put him in a very fragile position. What if at some point he did not have the means, nor the favorable conditions to satisfy his desires?

Zenovia, unable to prevent her husband’s unstoppable offer to their son, at least tried to admonish him, talking to him about the lack of goods and poverty in the world.

-I know, Mom, he replied one day. Many times, I donate the gifts that dad buys me to the kids on the street, who have nothing. I’ve made a lot of friends like that. What should I make so many gifts for?

Zenovia was stunned. Maybe Demetrios is right, she thought. Maybe a lot of love doesn’t hurt anyone. But she was still careful and talking to her son. Life is not just about laughing and pleasure. It’s full of twists and turns. She knew this very well. And she wanted her son to be prepared for all eventualities in life. A life that no one knew how it will be developed.




(Chapter 3)

Melbourne – Australia, June 2019

The next day, Zena, at 7.45 in the evening, was outside the Institute where Alexis Ioannou was teaching. Even though she was concerned that she could not understand Greek at all, and how she would be able to follow the lesson in a class, that had been going on for a long time, she decided to enter.

She walked into the class, before Alexis came, and began to observe the other students. They were a total of ten at the time and they were talking to each other. The four seemed Greeks, three others of European origin and to her surprise they were three Asians. That made a big impression on her. All of them were adults, between twenty-five and forty years old.

-What Asians are doing in a class of Greek language? she thought.

Alexis joined along with two or three others, probably Greeks. As soon as he saw her he popped a bright smile and went to greet her. He took her hand and said to her:

-I’m so glad you came! Today we will study a poem by Elytis, one of the greatest Greek poets of the 20th century. He has also been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Don’t worry if you don’t understand. It doesn’t matter. We can talk later, after class and see how I can help you reach the level of this class. I’m sure you’ll remember even those few Greek you learned from your father. It’s like someone who doesn’t know how to swim and is thrown into the deep. He will be forced to swim.

Then he introduced her to the other students. She was surprised to realize that one of the Asians was a professor of Chinese at the University of Melbourne and the rest quite educated people.

-What am I doing here! She thought.

Buts she decided to stay for the first lesson.

Alexis took a book, opened it on a page and gave it to her.

-Try to follow the text, even if you don’t understand he said. I’ll explain to you afterwards.

He sat down among his students and began to read:


Greek the language they gave me;

poor the house on Homer’s shores…

My only care my language

on Homer’s shores…

There breams and perches

wind beaten verbs,

green streams in azurre ones

what I saw in my inwards

sponges, jellyfishes,

with the first words of Sirenes

rosy oysters,

with the first black chills…

My only care my language,

with the first black chills…

There pomegranates, quinces

Dark haired Gods, uncles and cousins

emptying oil into the huge vessels

And breaths from the ravine

scenting wicker and lentisk

broom and ginger root,

with the first singing of finches

sweet psalmodies,

with the very first Glory to Thee…

My only care my language,

with the very first Glory to Thee!..

There laurels and palm leaves

censer and incense

blessing the swords and muskets

on the soil paved with vine leaves,

the smell of roasting lamb,

glass clinks and “Christ is risen”

with the first fireworks of the Greeks!

Secret loves,

with the first lyrics of the Hymn…

My only care my language,

With the first lyrics of the Hymn! *

Of course, she did not understand a word. Only the phrase ” Greek the language they gave me” had any meaning for her. She felt a lot of discomfort. She wanted to leave. But for the first time in her life, she was embarrassed to do so. Her classmates commented in Greek on the poem, as much as they could, and then she realized that they did not speak Greek very well either.

When the time passed and the lesson was over, Zena did not leave to talk to Alexis. He was conversing with some other students, so she proceeded to the Chinese professor and asked him how he decided to attend Greek language courses. Why?

-Because Greek, along with Chinese and a few other languages in the world, are the first languages and the oldest cells of civilization, he replied. Do not forget that the fathers of our philosophies, Confucius and Socrates lived around the same time and taught similar things in a different way.

Zena thanked him puzzled.

-Is there any other culture than the one I knew so far? She thought. Has my obsession with dealing only with the present, distance me from other interesting topics?

-What are you thinking and you’re so troubled? Alexis teased her. Come, let’s go and have a coffee and talk about the lesson.

Soon they both sat in a café, sipping hot chocolate, since in the southern hemisphere it was winter, Alexis asked her how she felt today in class.

-How do you want me to feel? Zena wondered. I didn’t understand a word. The only phrase I understood was: The Language Given to me was Greek… If I wasn’t embarrassed I would have left.

-That’s all I’d like you to understand. It is a phrase spoken by a very great poet, wanting to declare the greatness of his language. Then, in simple words, he describes the poor country of Greece, its antiquity through the reference to Homer, erotic love, without even mentioning it, simply with the sound of words, the Greek landscape, the struggles for the freedom and the religion of the Greeks, Christianity. You don’t have to understand more now. What I would like from you is just to study the lyrics: Greek the language they gave me; poor the house on Homer’s shores…. You can find the online translation for the whole poem, but it doesn’t matter. It is important to understand these two verses and read about Homer as well. We will study more the poem in the next lesson.

-It seems strange to me that I am sitting here with you and having this conversation. My own philosophy, so far, is that everything that has to do with languages, history, and religions, etc., divides people and causes hostility and wars. Now, in the 21st century we live in, our concern must be our planet to have something to bequeath to the next generation. In the way we act, we will destroy the land that gave birth to us.

-I agree with you completely. But the study of languages, especially ancient languages, brings us into contact with the structural components of our culture. It helps us to understand who we are and having this knowledge to be able to correct the mistakes of the past. It is not history and religions that cause wars. It is their exploitation by the skillful megalomaniacs of all times, who seduce the crowds with big words and pompous expressions, as, we fight for our country or our religion and become heroes – a very popular argument to convince people to kill each other, while they are left untouched. But let’s leave that. It is a big issue that we cannot solve. What we can do is educate ourselves. Education broadens the horizons of a person, helps them to see behind the pompous words and gives them discernment. And to somehow discharge the atmosphere, I am asking you: do you know what your name means: Zenovia?

-You find me completely unprepared. I’ve never thought about it. It’s just a name. I imagine there would have been some great person with that name and people continued it to honor her.

-You’re right about that. Zenovia was the queen of Palmyra, an ancient city in Syria. There was also a saint with this name, but the origin of the name did not start from them. It existed. Your name is ancient Greek and is a word composition. The first synthetic comes from “Zeus”, which is the name of the Father of gods and humans, according to the ancient Greek mythology. It is an ancient Indo-European name, and a relative root exists in many ancient languages. It was originally related to heaven and light. Inclined this name, it changes completely and becomes: Dios. This perhaps correlates it with the Latin “dies”, which means day. The second synthetic is the word “vios”, i.e., life. In short, your name means the life of the one who dominates the sky and the light. And seeing how much fire you have inside you, it suits you perfectly!

Zena did not know what to say. This was a new world for her.

-You managed to impress me! I admit it. And your own name? Alexis. Does it mean anything?

-Of course. Initially, it is nickname for the Alexander. And that’s a word composition. It consists of the dictionary prefix “alexi”, which means to repel and protect, and the word “anir” which means man. In short, he is the one who protects men. It is an ancient Greek name with Mycenaean origin. And of course, it is the name of the great general Alexander. Do you know about Alexander the Great?

Zena laughed.

-Your name suits you, too! You have the power of protection within you. Even me, you make feel safe. I know, in fact I have heard of this great general, but as I told you I am not interested in wars. Neither those which are won, nor those which were perished.

Looking at her watch she added:

-It’s too late. I must go. I’ve enjoyed our conversation very much! But one more thing: Does the name Demetrios mean something?

-The original name was Demetra, i.e., the female of Demetrios. Demetra was the goddess of agriculture and in her, our ancient ancestors, saw the cycles of the seasons. It is also a word composition and has as a second synthetic the word metir (mother) and as the first synthetic the word Da (Earth). In a few words, the name Demetra means mother earth.

-I am speechless. Demetrios was my father’s name and he raised me with so much affection and care! For me he was mother earth. How much it all fits in! But I must leave. Good evening Alexis.

-Good evening. Will you come for the next lesson?

-Of course, I will come. I want to explore the world of the Greek language! It’s very interesting.

Arriving at her apartment, Zenobia felt light and alive. A new horizon had opened in front of her.

-Ah father, even after death you guide me! She said aloud. And what a man this Alexis is! Too interesting guy. Let’s see where this trip will take me.

She sat down on her computer and began to read her messages. The one that caught her attention was one of her father’s lawyer. He advised her to start the process for the sale of the company “Dem. Vas. Construction Co.” and suggested to her several ways to do so to have the greatest benefit.

She did not hesitate at all. In her mind it was clear what should be done. She wrote:

Dear John

Thank you for your advice and I am sure that all you have in mind is my well-understood interest. My father always told me to trust you because you are an honest lawyer and a good man.

My instructions to you are the ones below. I know you probably don’t agree with me, but that was my father’s wish and mine:

You will start negotiating with my father’s associates and key executives of his company, Mr. Nick Georgiou, and Mr. Jacob Papadopoulos. These people have worked hard for the company for many years and supported my father when he was sick and could not perform. They deserve to be the ones who will manage the company in the future.

At first you will approach them, and you will see if they are interested, them or their children. We will be flexible with the price and the ways of repayment. They certainly do not have much capital to make available. You, I am sure, know how to do the negotiation. The only condition I am putting in place is to keep the company under the name given to it by my father, until it is dissolved.

I will always be here and discuss with you whatever comes up. For some time, I will not travel, I will remain in Melbourne, to settle various family matters.

My decision is final and there is no point to try to dissuade me.

Thank you for always being a good friend for my father and for me.



She looked at the message for a few seconds, made sure she wrote what she wanted to say, and pressed SEND.

She got up and walked into the bathroom. After taking a hot shower she prepared a cup of tea and sat in her favorite armchair, looking at the River Yarra. She could see the lights of the cars that were moving and the colorful lighting from the buildings that were reflected in the river. She loved this city! This was her town; this was her homeland. Why should she add to her life names like Alexandria and Cyprus?

-It’s too late, she thought. That box of letters and photographs, her father’s wish, but above all Zenovia’s eyes had put her on the road. The journey had begun.

When she lay down to sleep, two phrases, she had heard today, sounded in her mind:

… but Greek along with Chinese and some other languages in the world, are the first languages and the oldest cells of civilization,

… the study of languages, especially ancient languages, brings us into contact with the structural components of our culture.

-“Ancient civilization cells”, “structural components of civilization”, she whispered. A new world for me. I will explore it.

And she slept as those phrases sounded in her mind.




* Translation in English


Babiniotis Dictionary of the Modern Greek Language


(Chapter 4)

Alexandria 1905

Fifteen years had passed from the time Zenovia went to Alexandria. She had joined society for good and had met all the important Greek merchants who worked with her husband. One family with which they had frequent contact, was the Benaki family. People very rich with aristocratic origins and strict principles. Zenovia, despite the huge leap forward she had made in her education and cultivation, knew that she could not reach the members of the Benaki family. These were highly sophisticated individuals, associated to music, poetry, literature, could talk about any subject and their point of view was important. So, she was careful in her conversations with them so as not to seem ignorant or misinformed.

In 1905, the middle daughter of the family, Penelope, returned to Alexandria. She had married in Athens in 1895 the wealthy Phanariotes merchant Stefanos Delta. Together they had three daughters, Sophia, Virginia, and Alexandra. They were the perfect couple, according to the social norms of the time.

Zenovia and Penelope were of the same age. They were both born in 1874. The first in a mountainous village of Paphos and the second one in a rich house of Alexandria. The first did not receive any education in her childhood and the second had received, at home, the best education that existed in her time. They both grew up with strict principles, to the standards of the societies they had lived in.

Their first meeting took place at the Benaki’s house, in an event organized for the return of Penelope and her family to Alexandria. In an environment, where everyone was talking and no one was listening to what the other was saying, the recommendations were made, and a spontaneous sympathy was born between the two women. Zenovia invited her to her house and Penelope did not refuse.

Thus, a friendship began between them, from those that are rarely created. Zenovia saw in her an extremely refined woman, full of sensitivity and richness of spirit, while Penelope saw in Zenovia an authentic, unpretentious, and dynamic woman.

Soon, Penelope’s return took an unexpected turn. Alexandria’s society began to buzz with gossip. Penelope had fallen in love with the Vice Consul of Greece in Alexandria, Ion Dragoumis! Benaki’s daughter, a married woman with three daughters, in love with a flirtatious young man. Scandal! Disgrace!

Ion Dragoumis was the son of the politician and Prime Minister Stefanos Dragoumis. He was a deeply politicized person and together with his father and son-in-law Pavlos Melas organized the Greek Orthodox communities against the Bulgarians, contributing to the Macedonian Struggle. He was also a poet and a writer.

The meeting was fatal for both. She fell madly in love with him, and he surrendered to the charm of this, so beautiful and cultured woman. Penelope was desperately divided. Her love gave her wings and energy and her place in society kept her tied to the earth. Because of her honesty and the principles with which she grew up, she confessed her love for Ion to her husband in the hope that he would free her from their marriage. But that did not happen, and she kept being trapped in an unresolved dilemma.

Zenovia heart anxiously the gossip about her friend, without ever taking part. One day when they were alone, she spoke to her:

-You know very well that the society of Alexandria is buzzing about your relationship with Ion Dragoumis. I am not concerned about all this, and I don’t care. But if you want to talk to me and open your heart, I will always be here to listen to you, without judging you.

-My good friend, it’s not easy to talk to. But I know the purity of your heart and your confidentiality. And I need to talk about it. I have always had a conventional marriage with a man who was approved by my family and fulfilled the conditions of society for my class and origin. I can’t say that I didn’t love him in the past or not loving him now, but what happened to me when I met Ion was something that I didn’t know a person could feel.

-I thought that love is the relationship that a married couple has with each other. I had never fallen in love before. The magnetic force that drew me close to Ion, started from deep inside me and extended to every pore of the body, to every hair of my head. This man represents for me the food that pervades the cells of my body and the water of my spirit. I wanted and I want to be with him all the time, to talk to him, to listen to his voice, to learn his thoughts and to share my own with him.

-But I am tied with chains called marriage, called children, called origin, called Benaki family. My father has become furious, with the gossip that circulates. I did not try to mislead him, nor do I have the power to abandon Ion. My life is a vicious circle. It’s the most powerful and the most magical thing that has ever happened to me.

-Despite the longing of my soul, I have so far respected my marriage. Our relationship is platonic, but I don’t know how long this can last. I am afraid that this dilemma, this disease, will shatter my existence. But I’m happy it happened to me. I would have spent my life without getting to know erotic love. And erotic love is perhaps the ultimate emotion that a person can feel.

Zenovia remained silent for a while. She did not know if there were any words that could rest her friend.

-I have no intention of judging you, nor of admonishing you. I recognize the fire that burns your soul and I can see your face lit by its flames; My dear friend, with all the privileges that life gave you, beauty, riches, intelligence, education, an excellent family, you chose the fire of love, which can destroy you. My own life is exactly the opposite. I live happiness in a marriage that began without love, but was built on love, giving, and understanding. Perhaps this is a safer recipe for happiness. But it certainly doesn’t catapult you into heaven. Still, you could be right. In this short life we live in, it is worthwhile to experience the ultimate, even if we risk setting ourselves on fire. I, probably, would n’ t chosen it. But I don’t reject your choices. And above all, I do not dispute the fact that it is the fate of person to fall into the traps set by the gods during one’s life.

-Sometimes you don’t choose. You follow. She continued thoughtful.

On that day Penelope may not have left vindicated, but perhaps relieved. She spoke to someone who did not judge her, to someone who may not have agreed, but she understood. That was very important to her.

Zenovia was constantly thinking about her friend and her dilemma. She could not decide what was the right thing to do. And maybe there was no right or wrong. The course of life would shape the future. And she knew that very well herself. Deep down she knew that the future consolidates and shapes the present. What today is incomprehensible, tomorrow it will make sense in the order that governs the universe.

But her concern was not only that. Now Zenobia was 31 years old, and her husband was around 70. His health was no longer so good, and he easily got tired. They had visited the best doctors that Alexandria had at the time, and they all prescribed: rest and healthy diet. Zenobia did everything to help him. She would go to work with him every day, make sure he was healthy eating and was rested as much as he could.

Demetrios was overwhelmed with the care of his young wife. He often teared up when he thought about how much he owed her.

-It’s me who owes you to you she told him. You gave meaning to my life and filled the absolute void with interesting action.

One day Demetrios asked her to sit down because he wanted to speak to her seriously.

-Please, he told her when he started talking, don’t interrupt me until I’m done. I want you to listen carefully to what I am going to tell you. When I decided to marry you, everyone was telling me that it was nonsense to take a girl for a wife, at my own age. Deep down I understood that they were right, but I had already fallen in love with you and when you finally accepted, nothing could stop me from taking you for my wife. With such a young wife I expected many joys in my life, but I’ve never imagined that this girl could stand up to me like a mother.

-When I talked to you about my childhood, I didn’t analyze much the issue of deprivation that I always carry, for the fact that I didn’t have a mother to take care of me. This lack is perhaps my biggest complaint in life. And you, such a young woman, you give me what I was deprived of, so generously, that not even my own mother could give me. I can’t describe my emotion and gratitude for that.

-Zenobia started to say something here, but Demetrius stopped her.

-Please don’t interrupt me. Listen to the end of what I’m trying to tell you. Although no one knows God’s thoughts, chances are that in a few years I will die. When this happens, I want you to know that it is my desire to marry a younger husband so that you can live your life as you deserve. I will transfer all my assets to you, so that you are rich and independent and can make your choices, without restrictions; You already know very well how to run our business. I believe that you will be the best guardian for our son, and you will direct him correctly, as you have done so far.

Zenovia was upset by this conversation. She did not even want to hear what Demetrios was saying. She really loved him and the prospect that she would lose him terrified her. However, she controlled herself and replied:

-You talk about your approaching death as if it is at the next turn of the road. I do not accept that! I will do everything in my power for you to live many more years. Since you are referring to it, however, I would like to clarify a few things for you. If for you I am a mother, for me you have been a father, the best, the most affectionate, loving father that has ever existed. You don’t owe me anything. I owe you everything.

-Although I would not like to discuss the macabre issue of a possible death of yours, it is nevertheless important to clarify this to you: if you pass away, Demetrios,, I will also leave Alexandria. My life is in Cyprus. You may transmit the house and factory to our son. I will go to live at our home in Ktima. This house is the most precious thing you have given me so far. I am happier to milk the goats than to live in luxury and take part in glamorous dinners. With you, all this makes sense. Without you it doesn’t. So, take these thoughts out of your mind. Your property belongs to our son.

The whole conversation brought tears to the eyes of both. But deep down they knew that all this was an imminent possibility. Zenovia got upset, but Demetrios began to think. He took his wife’s words very seriously. He had to find a way to secure her financially, wherever she wanted to live. Nothing would be left to chance. Her desire to spend the rest of her life in Cyprus complicated things somehow, but he would find a solution.

The next morning, he visited his friend, the banker, Antonios Papadopoulos. He asked him if there were banks in Cyprus and if there was a way to deposit an amount in his wife’s name. His friend promised him that he would investigate the matter and inform him. Demetrios left relieved.

Zenovia, after that day, took more care of Demetrios. The thought of losing him terrified her. She would never have expected that a relationship so important to her, would be born from a marriage, which she was forced to have. Although Evangelos had not yet turned fifteen, she would take him with her to the factory, whenever he had no school. He had, as well, to start being trained in the secrets of the job.

The involvement with the company did not particularly excite Evangelos. He was a very handsome teenager, tall, blond, who preferred to go out with his friends instead of learning about the cotton trade. But here Zenovia was adamant. No one could soften her. Neither Demetrios, nor Evangelos. The child needs to learn the basics of the job, now. And so Evangelos, despite his protests, had begun to receive his first lessons in the complex world of the commerce.

No matter how much Zenovia was concerned about organizing her own life, she did not forget her friend and the drama she was experiencing. In the evenings, when she lay down to sleep, she tried to imagine Penelope and her feelings. She did not know how, but she found, in a way, that her friend’s life looked like an ancient tragedy she once attended to. They had gone with Demetrios to one of the theaters to see a performance presented by a troupe that came from Greece.

Oedipus Tyrant was called. It was the most shocking thing she had seen or heard in her life:  The son who killed his father and got married to his mother, not knowing who they were. That is how the gods wanted it. They led his footsteps and created the circumstances of life for him to unknowingly commit these crimes. Her friend, the so moral and honest Penelope, was caught in this net and did not have the strength to take a decision. And any decision was fundamentally damning.

-Do we choose in our lives, she wondered?

She thought of her own life. Who could have ever imagined that she would take such ways when she was a little girl in the mountains of Paphos? And who still knows where she will be led?

She shuddered. It is so irresponsible to judge each other when no one knows which is the next crossroads they will encounter and how fate will be waiting for them there.

She sent all her love to Penelope and fell asleep. Tomorrow would dawn a new day. And she had to be strong.



Penelope Delta

Ion Dragoumis


(Chapter 5)

Melbourne – Australia, November – December 2019

Five months have passed since the death of Zena’s father. Her life had changed drastically since then. Her acquaintance with Alexis and the lessons of Greek had added another dimension to her world. This had brought diversity to her daily life and made her realize that there are unexplored worlds waiting to be discovered.

Since she had stopped traveling abroad, she had time to study the Greek language. Beginning in this not-so-conventional way, the study of a difficult poem, she had a challenge that suited her temperament. It was much more interesting to approach the language like this, compared to the method they used in the Greek school, when she was a child.

She used to read the words loudly and tried first to pronounce them correctly and then to enjoy their sound. At first it was very difficult, but little by little she began to enjoy it. Then she translated each word to understand the meaning – that’s where Alexis helped her in – and in the end she felt that she possessed the message that the poem or text wanted to express. The most difficult thing of all was to try to speak in Greek herself. She did not dare to do that.

The method she followed, and the research she did for every word, introduced her, in addition to understanding the language, into the world of history and Greek culture. The whole process was an additional challenge, which did not leave her indifferent. She studied with interest and passion the subject she had a complete denial of, a few months ago.

Alexis had played an important role in the whole effort. After class they often went out to dinner or even to gatherings of the Greeks in Melbourne, where they listened to Greek music, poetry, and even lectures. In a city where more than 110,000 Greek-speaking people live, which according to some is after Thessaloniki the city with the largest number of Greek inhabitants, Zena met her father’s compatriots. She found this meeting interesting and with the encouragement of Alexis began to make friends.

She often took the letters that were in the box left to her by her father and tried to read them. She still found it difficult. She did not want to give them to Alexis. She wanted to do it by herself. Apart from her initial impression that the letters were only between her grandfather Evangelos and her great-grandmother Zenovia, she had realized that there was also a letter to her, written by her father. She would definitely read this first once she would be able to do so.

In the months that passed she was exclusively engaged in the study of the Greek language, her outings with Alexis and some contacts with her lawyer on the issue of the sale of her father’s company. For the first time she stayed so long away from her job. But she felt that from this change she would come out stronger and with wider horizons.

What troubled her was Alexis’ attitude towards her. He was friendly and discreet. Even though she saw in some moments something erotic in his gaze, he never made a more daring move. She, who was used to ephemeral relationships, which began easily and ended painlessly, felt uncertain about this attitude.

Once, when she asked him about his love life, about his relationships, he replied generally and vaguely, clarifying, however, that he was not interested in ephemeral love affairs. As strange as this may seem to her, somewhere inside she felt respect for this man, who cared more about her spirit, rather than her body. It was a noticeable change in her life.

But nothing stands still. The winds, which begin to blow from other dimensions, intruding into the material world and dragging in their path the order and harmony that we think we have built around us, turned life in Australia upside down and shook Zena’s pleasant living.

The seasonal fires that burn in Australia every year, this year took on uncontrollable proportions and proceeded, destroying everything in their path. The fire brigade forces could not intercept them, and the ecological disaster was enormous. Forests, dwellings, fauna, and flora were lost at breakneck speed, while the sky was filled with toxic gases.

In the face of such an event Zena could not remain indifferent. She left the study of the Greek language and her relaxed daily life and left for the places where the battles with the fires were taking place. She initially joined forces with the volunteers who were fighting to save the animals, especially the koalas, and fought with them. But she soon realized that her own role could have been more meaningful and interventional.

She began writing articles and sending them to various newspapers, magazines and websites in Australia, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and wherever the readership was English-speaking. Through an extremely vivid writing, she presented to the reader the battles that were taking place with the flames, the agonizing effort of the volunteers to save wildlife, but above all their self-sacrifice.

She gave to the word “heroism” another dimension and separated the role of volunteers from the term as it is commonly used: “heroes, she wrote, are not the ones who are mandated to kill or be killed for a controversial idea. Heroes are those who voluntarily abandon their daily lives and fight to save life and nature, anonymous, without any benefit, for a universal cause. That’s what heroism means.”

Her articles awakened in the readers feelings of solidarity and brought to the surface the sleeping instincts of generosity that every person possesses. Many donations arrived in Australia from all over the world, thanks to Zena’s writings. Some people also came as volunteers.

Zena had been carried away by the fever of this need and this purpose and had almost forgotten about Alexis. They only exchanged some scattered messages. But she herself was identified with the work she was doing. Growing up in a multicultural society, her ideals were universal and the love for our planet and nature was the driving force for her actions.

However, in mid-December she was forced to return to Melbourne because her lawyer had reached an agreement to sell her father’s company to his associates Nick Georgiou and Jacob Papadopoulos. The deal was not exactly what her lawyer would have wanted, but Zena was completely satisfied. The company would stay with people who cared about it and that was what mattered to her. She was sure that her father would be happy.

On December 19, 2019, at 11 a.m., everyone met at her lawyer’s office in central Melbourne. Messrs. Nick Georgiou and Jacob Papadopoulos, dressed in their suits and with their faces all a smile, could not hide their joy at the deal. They both embraced Zena with fervor and did not know how to thank her. They knew very well that the company could be sold much more expensively on the free market, and they recognized the generosity of the daughter of their former boss.

-Don’t think that I don’t recognize the power that money has, Zena told them. It may not bring happiness, but it can bear some of the burdens of misery. However, my father and I have always believed in the success that the creative power of people, who care about a business, can bring. This company encompasses all the work of my father, since he arrived in this country. And you both helped him with that. It is worth the company to become yours. I hope you continue to love it and work together in the future for the good of the company and for a rich future for your children.

On behalf of both, Nick Georgiou spoke:

-We really thank you for this attitude and we assure you that we will continue with the company as we worked when your father had been alive and even with more enthusiasm, since it will be ours! As you probably know, our parents came to Australia, refugees from Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of 1974. They started working in your father’s business as simple builders and later we were employed here. So, we care about this business because it supported our parents in a foreign country and contributed to our own education. Be sure that your father’s name will be preserved as long as this business is in our hands.

-It is with this conviction that I hand over to you the work of my father and I am sure that you will be able to take the company even further. You don’t have to thank me. I am simply responding to my father’s wish, but also to my own view of life.

Jacob Papadopoulos looked at her smiling, took her hand in his hands and without further ado invited her:

-Our dear Zena it would be a great pleasure for both of us, but also for our families, if you come to our house at Christmas to celebrate together. We will all meet in my own house, and we will have a Cypriot feast.

Zena’s first reaction was to find an excuse to refuse. She had never agreed to attend such gatherings, but something told her that it would be very rude. So, she replied:

-Thank you very much for the invitation. I’ll try to be there. Could I bring a friend with me?

-Bring as many friends as you like. Everyone is welcome. I will send you the address by message.

After leaving, Zena felt light and happy. Much happier than she would have expected herself to be. It was not just this job had ended. It was a job that had ended well. So well that it would make her father happy.

She was surprised at this metaphysical disposition she acquired after the death of her father. She was talking to him, she felt like he was alive, and she was trying to please him.

-These are not for me, she whispered to herself. What has happened to me lately, I do not understand!

Then she remembered the Christmas party. She should not have accepted, but how could she tell them? Luckily she thought about asking to bring a friend. She would talk to Alexis.

-And I hope Alexis doesn’t have other plans, she said loudly.

In the evening she called Alexis. He was very happy to hear her after so long. They talked about the work she had done for the fires, about some downturn they got lately after some heavy rains, and in the end Zena told him about the invitation.

At first it seemed that he had arranged something else, but he was willing to change his plans to be with her. Zena felt very flattered. He would take her in his car, around 12 noon on Christmas Day.

Fortunately, she thought about it and texted Mr. Jacob Papadopoulos to let her know how many children both families had together. In fact, how many grandchildren, because the children of the new owners of the company had grown up. So, she bought gifts for everyone, wore a very elegant blue dress, and waited for Alexis.

When he arrived, Zena appeared with a bunch of packages, which took them some time to sort out. As soon as they were finished Alexis took her in his arms and Zena expected them to give the kiss of Christmas wishes. But he gave her a passionate love kiss and said to her:

-You can’t imagine how much I have missed you!

Zena, although waiting for this kiss for months now, was so surprised that she could not speak.

-Why now, she whispered at some point. For so many months you have been aloof and indifferent. A completely different person from the men I had met in my life.

-Because of that, he replied. I’ll tell you a few things about me so you can understand. But this time I have missed you so much, that I couldn’t hold back myself any longer.

-My parents are from Cyprus. Specifically, from a village of Messaoria called Marathovounos. In August 1974 the Turkish troops occupied my village and my parents left only with the clothes they were wearing. I was only a few months old at the time. You can’t imagine how difficult it was for a young couple to be with nothing, with a baby in their arms. After staying some time in a tent, in a camp in the free part of Cyprus, they decided to leave for Australia.

-They stayed in Melbourne until 1989. I was then 15 years old then. I had grown up here, I considered Australia my homeland, but they wanted to go back. At first things were very difficult. We all had to adapt again to the new homeland: Cyprus. For them it was easier. Hard for me. At school I almost didn’t understand anything. But I was lucky enough to have an excellent Greek language teacher who helped me a lot. She made me love the Greek language. Because of her, I studied at the Department of Classical Studies and Philosophy of the newly established University of Cyprus. As soon as I finished I wanted to come back.

-You see, when I was at school I had met an Australian, Helen, was her name, and I wanted to find her again. We were constantly writing, but my desire was to see her. At the begging, we stayed together, and everything was fine. But then she left. She wanted to get to know the world, she told me. I suffered a lot. You see it was my first love. Then I was very wary of women and especially those I really liked. I also lived in ephemeral relationships, so much so as not to commit myself and not suffer.

-At the University of Melbourne I had, in the meantime, studied in a field on how to teach a foreign language to adults and so I began to teach the Greek language as you have met me.

-I had noticed you from the first moment I saw you in the gym. But you didn’t even look at me. You were the successful, independent Australian, without inhibitions and commitments. I wasn’t looking for that. When you spoke to me, I must admit it, I did my best to keep you close to me and get to know you. That’s why I asked you to come to my class. And luckily you came!

-You scared me that day. But you magnetized me at the same time. You have a charm Alexis; I must acknowledge that. And I did not regret it. I have been waiting for this kiss for a long time, she said with a laugh. And much more… But you? A rock!

-Zena, I have fallen in love with you! I wouldn’t want to start a relationship with an expiration date.

-I’ve never committed myself. But you are different. All my relationships were ephemeral. I wouldn’t want one similar, either. All this has left me a void. And since my father has died, everything around me has acquired another substance. I’m ready to start something serious if you’re ready for it too.

-I have fallen for you!

In the meantime, they had arrived in the area, Balwyn North, outside Melbourne which was the address given to them by Jacob Papadopoulos. Following the instructions of the GPS, they arrived outside the house. Before they came out of the car, they squeezed each other’s hand and looked into each other’s the eyes. In this way, they made a deep promise.

They took all the gifts and got out of the car. Both families were waiting for them cheerfully and excitedly. They were in the garden, baking barbeque. A Cypriot Christmas custom! The children were diving in the pool and Greek music was heard.

-Welcome to our home, my daughter, an old lady told her and kissed her. God bless you.

And for the first time in her life, Zena shuddered with emotion and happiness.

-Father, she thought. Thank you!


Australia bush fires


(Chapter 5)

Melbourne – Australia, November – December 2019

Five months have passed since the death of Zena’s father. Her life had changed drastically since then. Her acquaintance with Alexis and the lessons of Greek had added another dimension to her world. This had brought diversity to her daily life and made her realize that there are unexplored worlds waiting to be discovered.

Since she had stopped traveling abroad, she had time to study the Greek language. Beginning in this not-so-conventional way, the study of a difficult poem, she had a challenge that suited her temperament. It was much more interesting to approach the language like this, compared to the method they used in the Greek school, when she was a child.

She used to read the words loudly and tried first to pronounce them correctly and then to enjoy their sound. At first it was very difficult, but little by little she began to enjoy it. Then she translated each word to understand the meaning – that’s where Alexis helped her in – and in the end she felt that she possessed the message that the poem or text wanted to express. The most difficult thing of all was to try to speak in Greek herself. She did not dare to do that.

The method she followed, and the research she did for every word, introduced her, in addition to understanding the language, into the world of history and Greek culture. The whole process was an additional challenge, which did not leave her indifferent. She studied with interest and passion the subject she had a complete denial of, a few months ago.

Alexis had played an important role in the whole effort. After class they often went out to dinner or even to gatherings of the Greeks in Melbourne, where they listened to Greek music, poetry, and even lectures. In a city where more than 110,000 Greek-speaking people live, which according to some is after Thessaloniki the city with the largest number of Greek inhabitants, Zena met her father’s compatriots. She found this meeting interesting and with the encouragement of Alexis began to make friends.

She often took the letters that were in the box left to her by her father and tried to read them. She still found it difficult. She did not want to give them to Alexis. She wanted to do it by herself. Apart from her initial impression that the letters were only between her grandfather Evangelos and her great-grandmother Zenovia, she had realized that there was also a letter to her, written by her father. She would definitely read this first once she would be able to do so.

In the months that passed she was exclusively engaged in the study of the Greek language, her outings with Alexis and some contacts with her lawyer on the issue of the sale of her father’s company. For the first time she stayed so long away from her job. But she felt that from this change she would come out stronger and with wider horizons.

What troubled her was Alexis’ attitude towards her. He was friendly and discreet. Even though she saw in some moments something erotic in his gaze, he never made a more daring move. She, who was used to ephemeral relationships, which began easily and ended painlessly, felt uncertain about this attitude.

Once, when she asked him about his love life, about his relationships, he replied generally and vaguely, clarifying, however, that he was not interested in ephemeral love affairs. As strange as this may seem to her, somewhere inside she felt respect for this man, who cared more about her spirit, rather than her body. It was a noticeable change in her life.

But nothing stands still. The winds, which begin to blow from other dimensions, intruding into the material world and dragging in their path the order and harmony that we think we have built around us, turned life in Australia upside down and shook Zena’s pleasant living.

The seasonal fires that burn in Australia every year, this year took on uncontrollable proportions and proceeded, destroying everything in their path. The fire brigade forces could not intercept them, and the ecological disaster was enormous. Forests, dwellings, fauna, and flora were lost at breakneck speed, while the sky was filled with toxic gases.

In the face of such an event Zena could not remain indifferent. She left the study of the Greek language and her relaxed daily life and left for the places where the battles with the fires were taking place. She initially joined forces with the volunteers who were fighting to save the animals, especially the koalas, and fought with them. But she soon realized that her own role could have been more meaningful and interventional.

She began writing articles and sending them to various newspapers, magazines and websites in Australia, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and wherever the readership was English-speaking. Through an extremely vivid writing, she presented to the reader the battles that were taking place with the flames, the agonizing effort of the volunteers to save wildlife, but above all their self-sacrifice.

She gave to the word “heroism” another dimension and separated the role of volunteers from the term as it is commonly used: “heroes, she wrote, are not the ones who are mandated to kill or be killed for a controversial idea. Heroes are those who voluntarily abandon their daily lives and fight to save life and nature, anonymous, without any benefit, for a universal cause. That’s what heroism means.”

Her articles awakened in the readers feelings of solidarity and brought to the surface the sleeping instincts of generosity that every person possesses. Many donations arrived in Australia from all over the world, thanks to Zena’s writings. Some people also came as volunteers.

Zena had been carried away by the fever of this need and this purpose and had almost forgotten about Alexis. They only exchanged some scattered messages. But she herself was identified with the work she was doing. Growing up in a multicultural society, her ideals were universal and the love for our planet and nature was the driving force for her actions.

However, in mid-December she was forced to return to Melbourne because her lawyer had reached an agreement to sell her father’s company to his associates Nick Georgiou and Jacob Papadopoulos. The deal was not exactly what her lawyer would have wanted, but Zena was completely satisfied. The company would stay with people who cared about it and that was what mattered to her. She was sure that her father would be happy.

On December 19, 2019, at 11 a.m., everyone met at her lawyer’s office in central Melbourne. Messrs. Nick Georgiou and Jacob Papadopoulos, dressed in their suits and with their faces all a smile, could not hide their joy at the deal. They both embraced Zena with fervor and did not know how to thank her. They knew very well that the company could be sold much more expensively on the free market, and they recognized the generosity of the daughter of their former boss.

-Don’t think that I don’t recognize the power that money has, Zena told them. It may not bring happiness, but it can bear some of the burdens of misery. However, my father and I have always believed in the success that the creative power of people, who care about a business, can bring. This company encompasses all the work of my father, since he arrived in this country. And you both helped him with that. It is worth the company to become yours. I hope you continue to love it and work together in the future for the good of the company and for a rich future for your children.

On behalf of both, Nick Georgiou spoke:

-We really thank you for this attitude and we assure you that we will continue with the company as we worked when your father had been alive and even with more enthusiasm, since it will be ours! As you probably know, our parents came to Australia, refugees from Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of 1974. They started working in your father’s business as simple builders and later we were employed here. So, we care about this business because it supported our parents in a foreign country and contributed to our own education. Be sure that your father’s name will be preserved as long as this business is in our hands.

-It is with this conviction that I hand over to you the work of my father and I am sure that you will be able to take the company even further. You don’t have to thank me. I am simply responding to my father’s wish, but also to my own view of life.

Jacob Papadopoulos looked at her smiling, took her hand in his hands and without further ado invited her:

-Our dear Zena it would be a great pleasure for both of us, but also for our families, if you come to our house at Christmas to celebrate together. We will all meet in my own house, and we will have a Cypriot feast.

Zena’s first reaction was to find an excuse to refuse. She had never agreed to attend such gatherings, but something told her that it would be very rude. So, she replied:

-Thank you very much for the invitation. I’ll try to be there. Could I bring a friend with me?

-Bring as many friends as you like. Everyone is welcome. I will send you the address by message.

After leaving, Zena felt light and happy. Much happier than she would have expected herself to be. It was not just this job had ended. It was a job that had ended well. So well that it would make her father happy.

She was surprised at this metaphysical disposition she acquired after the death of her father. She was talking to him, she felt like he was alive, and she was trying to please him.

-These are not for me, she whispered to herself. What has happened to me lately, I do not understand!

Then she remembered the Christmas party. She should not have accepted, but how could she tell them? Luckily she thought about asking to bring a friend. She would talk to Alexis.

-And I hope Alexis doesn’t have other plans, she said loudly.

In the evening she called Alexis. He was very happy to hear her after so long. They talked about the work she had done for the fires, about some downturn they got lately after some heavy rains, and in the end Zena told him about the invitation.

At first it seemed that he had arranged something else, but he was willing to change his plans to be with her. Zena felt very flattered. He would take her in his car, around 12 noon on Christmas Day.

Fortunately, she thought about it and texted Mr. Jacob Papadopoulos to let her know how many children both families had together. In fact, how many grandchildren, because the children of the new owners of the company had grown up. So, she bought gifts for everyone, wore a very elegant blue dress, and waited for Alexis.

When he arrived, Zena appeared with a bunch of packages, which took them some time to sort out. As soon as they were finished Alexis took her in his arms and Zena expected them to give the kiss of Christmas wishes. But he gave her a passionate love kiss and said to her:

-You can’t imagine how much I have missed you!

Zena, although waiting for this kiss for months now, was so surprised that she could not speak.

-Why now, she whispered at some point. For so many months you have been aloof and indifferent. A completely different person from the men I had met in my life.

-Because of that, he replied. I’ll tell you a few things about me so you can understand. But this time I have missed you so much, that I couldn’t hold back myself any longer.

-My parents are from Cyprus. Specifically, from a village of Messaoria called Marathovounos. In August 1974 the Turkish troops occupied my village and my parents left only with the clothes they were wearing. I was only a few months old at the time. You can’t imagine how difficult it was for a young couple to be with nothing, with a baby in their arms. After staying some time in a tent, in a camp in the free part of Cyprus, they decided to leave for Australia.

-They stayed in Melbourne until 1989. I was then 15 years old then. I had grown up here, I considered Australia my homeland, but they wanted to go back. At first things were very difficult. We all had to adapt again to the new homeland: Cyprus. For them it was easier. Hard for me. At school I almost didn’t understand anything. But I was lucky enough to have an excellent Greek language teacher who helped me a lot. She made me love the Greek language. Because of her, I studied at the Department of Classical Studies and Philosophy of the newly established University of Cyprus. As soon as I finished I wanted to come back.

-You see, when I was at school I had met an Australian, Helen, was her name, and I wanted to find her again. We were constantly writing, but my desire was to see her. At the begging, we stayed together, and everything was fine. But then she left. She wanted to get to know the world, she told me. I suffered a lot. You see it was my first love. Then I was very wary of women and especially those I really liked. I also lived in ephemeral relationships, so much so as not to commit myself and not suffer.

-At the University of Melbourne I had, in the meantime, studied in a field on how to teach a foreign language to adults and so I began to teach the Greek language as you have met me.

-I had noticed you from the first moment I saw you in the gym. But you didn’t even look at me. You were the successful, independent Australian, without inhibitions and commitments. I wasn’t looking for that. When you spoke to me, I must admit it, I did my best to keep you close to me and get to know you. That’s why I asked you to come to my class. And luckily you came!

-You scared me that day. But you magnetized me at the same time. You have a charm Alexis; I must acknowledge that. And I did not regret it. I have been waiting for this kiss for a long time, she said with a laugh. And much more… But you? A rock!

-Zena, I have fallen in love with you! I wouldn’t want to start a relationship with an expiration date.

-I’ve never committed myself. But you are different. All my relationships were ephemeral. I wouldn’t want one similar, either. All this has left me a void. And since my father has died, everything around me has acquired another substance. I’m ready to start something serious if you’re ready for it too.

-I have fallen for you!

In the meantime, they had arrived in the area, Balwyn North, outside Melbourne which was the address given to them by Jacob Papadopoulos. Following the instructions of the GPS, they arrived outside the house. Before they came out of the car, they squeezed each other’s hand and looked into each other’s the eyes. In this way, they made a deep promise.

They took all the gifts and got out of the car. Both families were waiting for them cheerfully and excitedly. They were in the garden, baking barbeque. A Cypriot Christmas custom! The children were diving in the pool and Greek music was heard.

-Welcome to our home, my daughter, an old lady told her and kissed her. God bless you.

And for the first time in her life, Zena shuddered with emotion and happiness.

-Father, she thought. Thank you!


Australia bush fires


(Chapter 6)

Alexandria 1906 – 1910

It had been five years since Demetrios fell ill. Little by little, Zenovia had taken over the entire business. She turned out to be a very smart and capable entrepreneur. Her dynamism and determination had impressed but often frightened their partners and competitors. At a time when women had little role in public affairs, Zenovia acted without inhibitions and second thoughts. With the simplicity that characterized her, she considered her role natural and supportive to her husband.

Demetrios felt boundless admiration for his wife and often wondered what he had done in his life to deserve such luck. When he told her so, she replied with a laugh:

-You are the kindest person in the world. That is enough. God sent me to take care of you, as you have taken care of me. Life is given and taken.

Despite her success, Zenovia also granted power to their son. This was done gradually and discreetly. She entrusted him with various negotiations and did not intervene at all.

-If he makes a mistake, she used to say, it doesn’t matter. Thus, he will learn. From his mistakes.

Evangelos was a smart young man and learned easily. The problem was that he preferred fun to work. This was another reason why Zenovia entrusted him with initiatives. She knew that the sense of responsibility would force him to act more seriously.

She often talked to him about the poor past of both his parents and tried to make him understand that all this can easily be lost.

-You must fight, she told him. Life gives us nothing. Everything may go away within a day. And you, my child, are not used to poverty. You don’t know how to manage it.

The influence of Zenovia on her son was such that she kept him in a balance and despite the tendency he had to have fun and late nights, he also responded well to the business.

In 1906 Penelope left with her family for Frankfurt. Maybe this was because her husband had jobs there, maybe because they wanted to take her away from Ion Dragoumis. But her love for this man was flaring up. It was not going down.

They kept correspondence with Zenovia and she informed her that she had begun to write and was preparing a book with historical content for young people and children.

-My goal, she wrote in Zenovia, is to educate Greek children, and especially those who live abroad, about the history of Greece.

Zenovia had no doubt that she would make it. Her education, sensitivity and excellent use of language were the guarantees for her success.

Although this activity gave some meaning to her life, she did not stop thinking about Ion. With Zenovia they had developed such a relationship that she felt that she could tell her anything without encountering criticism or contempt.

She wrote to her in one of her letters:

-The fact that I insist on keeping our relationship platonic, does not help me at all. Many women surround Ion, and he certainly will not stand up. Many times, he has pressured me, but the power of my upbringing is so enormous and oppressive that I cannot overcome it. A few days ago, I sent him a letter full of despair. I copy an excerpt to you:

«… I only know that I love you, do you hear it, Ion? I love you wildly and I want your hug and your mouth that kisses passionately, I want you all, mine forever, and I ache mercilessly and unbearably, and I want to leave tonight, before my letter, not to talk to you anymore, not to write to you “I love you”, only to come there, to rush to your house,  to hung your neck, and without a word, to drown your breath, kissing you on the mouth, until you close your eyes and drop your head on my shoulder, pale and weary, half-dead with emotion, pain, and joy that kills. I know I’m crazy, but love drives someone crazy.” *

-And you, my friend, will consider me crazy, but these feelings overwhelm me every day and sometimes give me strength to live, sometimes they kill me…

Zenovia was really terrified of Penelope’s drama and tried with words of love and encouragement to give her courage to endure this Calvary that she was going through, until the circumstances of life placed the events where fate destines them to stand.

In 1908, after the information that Demetrios had received from his friend, the banker, Antonios Papadopoulos, they both traveled to Cyprus. Demetrios had in his suitcase a significant amount of money to deposit in the name of Zenovia.

As Antonios Papadopoulos had informed him, a cooperative savings bank had been established by the lawyer Ioannis Economides in 1899 under the name “Lefcosia”. Since then, many moves had been made to expand the institution to other regions. On this trip they would have to visit Nicosia to deposit the money, with the prospect a new cooperative savings bank will be stablished in Paphos in a few years.

Neither of them had visited Nicosia until that moment. The trip was arduous because it was done with a carriage they took from Limassol. Demetrios suffered a lot and so they were forced to stay a few days in Nicosia until he recovered. They met Mr. Ioannis Economides personally and admired his vision for the creation of a bank in Cyprus. He was impressed by the not insignificant amount that Demetrios deposited in the name of his wife and thanked them very much for it.

-With such deposits, our institution will soon be able to progress, he told them. My intention is that in a few years’ time all the towns and villages will have co-operative institutions. My goal is to create a bank. I have contacts with the British Commissioner, and I hope to be able to persuade him to issue a declaration soon. Cyprus must move forward.

Their stay in Nicosia gave the opportunity to Demetrios and Zenovia to get to know the city. Although the capital of Cyprus, it was a small town, much smaller than Alexandria. It stretched lazily where the plain of Messaoria began, surrounded by round, uniform walls with eleven bastions, which, as they were informed, were built by the Venetians to protect it from the Mohammedans. Unfortunately, however, this did not happen and in 1570 the Turkish troops occupied it. The Turkish occupation of Cyprus lasted until 1872, when the sultan ceded it to the British Empire. When Demetrios and Zenovia visited the city, its population consisted of Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Latins, and Armenians. After the advent of the British, some improvements had begun to be made, the roads were upgraded, the marshes dried and other similar things, but it was still a very poor city.

However, walking through its streets, visiting its many churches, the Women’s Bazar, which took place once a week and all the women sold their products there, both really liked it. They felt, behind the buildings, the old air of the city, its glories, its distant past.

As soon as Demetrios had recovered, they went to their home in Paphos, where they stayed a few days to see Zenovia’s mother and then returned to Alexandria.

Evangelos had done well with the business while the two were away. He combined the school with a daily presence at work in the afternoons.  He wanted to prove to them that he is capable, and they must consider him so. Demetrios was very proud of his son, but Zenovia had her doubts, if this lasted for longer, whether Evangelos would respond. But she showed nothing. On the contrary, she praised him for his success.

Thanks to Zenovia, life in their home passed relatively calmly and without many surprises. Demetrio’s health was fragile but the great care and support he had from his wife kept him in a stable condition. He himself felt as happy as ever. At such an old age, he felt that he was in the cocoon of love and grooming in which children live in the infancy of their lives. They had reduced their outings and basically stayed at home. In the evenings they talked in between them, and this exchange of views and feelings brought them closer to each other.

Evangelos had almost reached adulthood. He was seventeen years old and would soon finish school. He was a pretty good student and helped in his parents’ business also. Zenovia saw his tendency to feast and have fun and tried to keep him in balance. It was important that this desire to come in second place, never to be the goal of his life.

Demetrios wanted Evangelos to be sent to London after school for a year, for more specialization in trade. But Zenovia had her doubts as to whether this would be possible. The care of the Demetrios required her to be at home longer, and Evangelos had to be able to devote more time to the business. Even though they had excellent partners, the presence of some family member was necessary.

In 1909 Zenobia received a letter from her friend Penelope along with a book. The book was entitled “For the Fatherland” and was the first book published by her friend. It was a historical novel that took place in the Byzantine era, around 995 AD., when the Byzantines were fighting against the Bulgarians. A novel, hymn to love and homeland. Zenovia could see, behind the lines, Penelope’s soul in love, trying to express herself. You could not read it without crying.

In the evenings when they were sitting with Demetrios she would read it to him loudly. Demetrios, who never had the opportunity to learn history, was enchanted by Penelope’s eloquent narration and the events he knew for the first time. Even Evangelos read it and found this way of drawing knowledge much more interesting than the history lesson at school.

In her letter Penelope, among other things, wrote in Zenovia:

My dear friend,

I am very afraid that I will lose Ion. He has met an actress, Marika Kotopouli, and his attraction to her has taken him away from me.

You see, I am like an air that permeates his spirit and captivates his soul. She is flesh that stimulates all his senses and satiates his earthly needs. We are people made of flesh and spirit. It is not enough to captivate the spirit. You must feed the flesh as well. And I could not offer him this food. And now I’m losing him…

Zenovia found it difficult to answer to her friend. Whatever she said could not be a consolation in her drama. She simply wrote to her:

My beloved Penelope

The forces that dominate the world have put many obstacles in your way, and it seems that somewhere your roads are parting. Do not resist fate. And don’t forget how many gifts life has given you. Your book is a masterpiece. Both Demetrios and Evangelos liked it. We all cried while reading it. Find solace in the world of writing and be happy to have lived a great love. Not many people have this opportunity in their lives.

I kiss you


Five years have passed since she had met Penelope. Five years to see her struggling with this web of love and not being able to end it up. Surely life would decide for her. Where human beings are unable, fate acts.

Five years that Demetrios was not in good health. Five years that by taking care of her husband, she managed to get to know him better and admire the greatness of his soul. An extraordinary man, with a small child’s heart, who was never given the opportunity to let it mature. And now, at the age of 75, Demetrios was opening the layers of his soul. Now that his body was weak, his spirit was expanding, sucking the world around him, and shining with wisdom.

How many years had she lived in Alexandria? Close to twenty. The course of her own life was absolutely unexpected. A wind had lifted her from the mountains of Paphos and deposited her here, in Alexandria. Dizzy from the storm that carried her she did not have time to think. She adapted to this new world and loved it.

Surely her life in her village would be colorless and indifferent. Would this course be her choice? She did not know. Her childhood dreams have never had such an ending. No girl dreams of marrying an elderly man. But they all dream of marrying such a wonderful man. And if the only price she had to pay was his age, let it be. She certainly did not regret her life. A life that she may not have chosen herself, but she would never exchange!


*excerpt from a letter from Penelope Delta to Ion Dragoumis dated 27/7/1906, which is currently at the Benaki Museum

Penelope Delta 

“For the Fatherland” Penelope Delta


(Chapter 7)

Melbourne – Australia, December 2019 – April 2020

Zena had a great time that Christmas. Perhaps it was the most beautiful Christmas of her life. Not perhaps, for sure. It was the ice that broke with Alexis and opened the prospect of a new life and perhaps a great love. But that was not all.

The old lady who welcomed her when she arrived at Jacob Papadopoulos’ house, did not leave her for a minute. She constantly spoke to her in Greek, in the Cypriot dialect in fact, and held her hand. Zena almost did not understand a word. She concluded that she was talking to her about her village in Cyprus, Rizokarpaso. What moved her was that for the first time in her life she felt the concept of family. The presence of someone who might call “grandmother.” This world was unknown to her. And perhaps deep down, she would long for it.

When, late at night, they got up to leave, after consuming an incredible amount of food and sweets, since their lunch ended in dinner, everyone hugged Zena excitedly. She was for them the fairy of a fairy tale, who with her magic wand turned their dreams into reality.

Inside the car, Zena was silent. When she spoke, her voice was broken:

-You know, Alexis, I’ve always had only one person of my own: my father. I thought that was enough. I didn’t need anyone else. But today I realized that my life was incredibly limited and incomplete. That old lady who was talking to me, was the first person to look me in the eyes, hold my hand and wanted to share her memories with me. I didn’t understand what she was saying to me. But I knew what she wanted to say. And this is so valuable. Most likely those who have it, they do not appreciate it, as is the case with everything we have in life.

-You’re right. I grew up in a similar family environment

-and I never thought it was something important. Through your eyes though, I can appreciate it for the first time.

-I will try harder with the Greek language. I must read those letters. I must find my roots!

-Don’t worry. I’ll help you with that too.

-Thanks Alexis. I accept your help in terms of language learning. But I must read the letters myself. My father was right. It’s a family affair.

When they arrived at Zena’s house, it was nearing midnight. Zena invited Alexis to her apartment, and he stayed there all night. It was their first night together.

-This Christmas I am starting a new life, Zena thought. Everything looks different. Will actually be different, or will the power of routine make it one of the same? Time will tell…

A few days passed and everything seemed to go smoothly. They were both so in love that they did not pay attention in what was going on around them. They spent the New Year’s eve together, circulating around the city center, watching with the crowd the fireworks, which seemed to spring up from the roofs of the skyscrapers and explode brightly, filling the dark sky with colors.

-We could see them from my apartment as well, Zena said, but this mixing with the crowd gives me so much joy! These cries of excitement make me love them all!

-God what do I say! She added. This is not me. It’s some else!

-It’s you, Alexis told her. You, and you are happy.

And he kissed her.

Yes, indeed Zena was happy. She felt full. It was like her heart could not fit any more joy.

-Long live 2020, she cried. A number so uniform and stable. What can this year bring to us?

-The best! Alexis replied.

January passed all in this dreamy way. Zena was studying the Greek language, Alexis was teaching the Greek language to adults, and no cloud was seen in the sky of their happiness.

Until at some point they could not ignore the news spreading at the speed of light in the world. In the city of Wuhan in China, since December 2019, an epidemic has begun, called Covid -19. This epidemic was raging and, unfortunately, many of the cases were dying or becoming very seriously ill. The fear of a pandemic was visible.

The Australian government had begun to take measures, initially with travel restrictions for travelers from China, but slowly – slowly the restrictions were including many other countries, such as Italy, Korea, etc.

By the end of March, the whole world was in a panic. They could see on television, Italy unable to manage its patients and dead. There were not enough ventilators for everyone and so doctors had to make the macabre decision to whom to provide oxygen and who let to die. A dilemma that was in front of them every day.

In the United States, which was slow to act, excavators opened mass graves in parks and buried the countless dead, who died alone, anonymous, without a funeral. The spectacle was horrible.

Fortunately, in Australia the situation was manageable. The government had taken timely restrictive measures and cases and deaths were in smaller numbers.

April found the whole world in quarantine. People were locked in their homes, visits, gatherings, and even attendance at work were forbidden, unless it was necessary. Teleworking had been inaugurated everywhere and the only businesses operating were food stores and pharmacies. Even the diagnoses by a doctor were made by telephone interview. For the first time, the whole humanity was locked up in their homes.

Catholic Easter on April 12, 2020, found all the major capitals of the world, dead and empty. Everyone was in quarantine. Touching was the prayer sung by the tenor Andrea Bocelli, on April 13, first in the empty Duomo cathedral and then in the empty square in the center of Milan. Milan, which a few days ago was one of the busiest cities in the world. A prayer that wanted to give courage to humanity, which was on its knees in the face of the pandemic.

Orthodox Easter was on April 19. The same situation. As Alexis learned from his family in Cyprus, everyone was in quarantine. No one could visit anyone. Those who were a family and lived in the same house, could at least celebrate together. Those who were alone should be left alone. The phone was the only communication. On Holy Saturday night, the churches celebrated mass empty of believers. At twelve o’clock at midnight, people went out to their balconies and terraces, with lit candles in their hands to wish each other, “Christ is Risen”, even from afar.

Alexis managed, before the traffic was completely banned, to move to Zena’s apartment. At least that’s how they could both be together. They watched in amazement what was happening. A humanity that until recently was running to catch up with itself, suddenly stopped moving. Only the earth was still spinning around the sun. Doctors and nurses became the heroes of the time. Governments have constantly announced ways of strengthening businesses that have ceased to operate. But until when?

The saying “no evil without good” worked in this case as well. To Zena’s great joy, this shrinkage of human activity brought a good thing: Carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere were reduced. For the first time!

Nevertheless, like everyone else, they tried to adapt to the new situation and make the best use of it. Alexis continued teaching online and Zena was constantly studying the Greek language. With Alexis by her side, answering her questions, everything was easier. She often classified the letters and title deeds left to her by her father, trying to understand, to form an insight into her family’s past.

-You will have to send the title deeds to your lawyer, Alexis told her one day. The process of this property coming into your possession will not be an easy task. I understand that there are title deeds in Cyprus and Alexandria. He will have to cooperate with similar offices in Cyprus and Alexandria. Give him instructions to start now that everything is at a halt. Thus, he will have more time to deal with them.

Zena agreed and after scanning all the documents, she sent them by mail to her lawyer with the instruction to investigate how this property could come into her possession. For what was written in Arabic, he should ensure a certified translation. The title deeds of Cyprus were in English, because at that time Cyprus was a colony of the British.

She knew that she would definitely have to read the letters now. Surely she would need identification data and through them, perhaps she could substantiate the fact that she was the only heir.

One day she took the courage and opened the letter that her father wrote to her. Asking Alexis to confirm the meaning of a few words and phrases, she began to read:

My beloved Zena

If you read this letter it means that two things have happened. Firstly, that I have passed away and secondly that you have learned Greek. I hope, that’s the case and you haven’t given the letters for translation.

-How much you know me, father, Zena thought. If I didn’t meet Alexis, that’s definitely what I would do.

You have never had the patience or the mood to hear about the history of our family. To be honest, I had never been interested in the past either. The fever of the business we had in Alexandria and my struggle to create myself professionally in Australia, were of complete concern to me and I did not believe that it was worth the past at all. In recent years, however, I began to read the letters that were in the box that my father had left me.

I realized then that I was carrying inside me, my grandfather Demetrios and grandma Zenovia, but above all I was the executor of the legacy they left.

Grandma Zenovia a few years, after the death of grandfather Demetrios, had left Alexandria and lived in Paphos, Cyprus. From the correspondence between my grandmother and my father it is clear that they never met again, before her death.  When you read the letters yourself you will realize that Zenovia had a secret that she wanted to tell her son Evangelos but did not have the chance. It seems that she had written this secret somewhere, but my father had never found it.

You’ll tell me it’s been almost 100 years since then and if your grandfather didn’t find it, how are you going to find it? I would had said the same thing if I were at your age. But the years that have passed and the experiences I have lived have made me understand that life cycles do not usually close within the same generation but can be kept incomplete for many generations. I believe, my Zena, that it is up to you to close the cycle of Grandma Zenovia’s life. A woman with a strong personality and willpower. You are very similar to her!

I, my Zena, have never visited either Paphos or Cyprus, nor did I meet Grandma Zenovia. Reading the letters though, I realized that she was the most important woman who influenced my life. It’s your turn to discover it.

Now, I would like to tell you a few words about my parents. My father, Evangelos, was a very handsome man. He was tall, blonde, with an athletic body and exerted unparalleled charm on women. In his youth he was a heartthrob. But when he married my mother, at the age of 40, he became a perfect husband.

My mother, Antigone, was nothing special, but she was what one would call “a very good woman, a very good wife and mother”. After so many successes, my father, chose this woman as his wife, because she gathered all the grace that would ensure him a calm and happy family life.

Unfortunately, both my parents were killed in a car accident in 1951, as they were going from Alexandria to Cairo. That’s why my father’s letter to me is unfinished. I was only 20 years old at the time and I had to take over the entire family business. This did not last for long. With the nationalist revolution of 1952 in Egypt, soon our business was nationalized, and I left for Australia.

I know your love for your job, and I wouldn’t want you to consider that this duty will distract you from your work. It falls perfectly within the role of the journalist to solve mysteries, and, even more, when these mysteries make up one’s own life.

In the box with the letters there are also the title deeds. They concern the house in the city of Paphos and some small pieces of land in the village of Statos where the grandmother came from. Although almost 100 years have passed since then, I believe that they cannot be lost. As for the title deeds of Alexandria, I don’t think it’s worth it to look for. Apart from our business, which was nationalized by the Egyptian Government, the rest I sold when I left for Australia. I don’t think there is any property in Alexandria. But you will judge how you manage the situation there.

Among the Arabic documents there are also the birth certificates of my father and me as well as other documents, proving that we are the only descendants and heirs of Demetrios and Zenovia Vassilopoulos. I believe that these will help you in your search. I’m sure you’ll know how to capitalize on them. Our lawyer, John Peterson, can help you with the legal process.

Finally, my beloved Zena, I would like to confess to you that you have been the most precious person I have had in my life, and if my course on this earth was worth anything, it was because I was able to give birth to you. Think seriously about leaving children behind, even if you are a traveler of life, like your mother was. Think about it, to look for your mother. Half of your existence comes from her.

You know for sure this is the last time I’m talking to you. I don’t know what’s there after death. But whatever there is, I will be by your side, in eternity.

I have loved you and I will love you forever.

Your father

Demetrios E. Vassilopoulos

Zena’s tears ran non-stop. Nor did she try to stop them. It was as if they were cleansing her soul. It was like a gift of gratitude to her father. This father, who gave her so much and still gives her.

She had made her decision. She would devote as much time as she needed to complete her father’s last wish, which had become her own goal, if not an obsession.

The conditions of life now with the pandemic seemed ideal, on the one hand to learn the Greek language and on the other hand to study ways of approaching her search.

She stood up resolutely. She looked out on her balcony at the Yarra River that flowed silently and steadily. This river has always given her strength.

-Grandma Zenovia, I’m coming. And no one will be able to stop me!


Andrea Bocelli


(Chapter 8)

Alexandria 1911 – 1912

Zenovia’s life, now, was devoted to her husband and son. She was happy, even without worldliness in the salons of Alexandria,. Although she had enjoyed the glamour of the Greek community in the first years of her life there, she did not care that she had closed the door behind her. The warmth of her home and the company of her husband was enough for her.

Evangelos had almost entirely taken over the business, but Zenovia was discreetly on his side. There were various issues that worried her. The first was Evangelos’ unbridled need for fun. He was enchanted by his fascination and the successes he had with women. They all wanted him, with all of them he flirted but with none committed himself, despite the exhortations of Zenovia.

But this was not Zenovia’s main problem. In one way or another she kept him in a balance in relation to this weakness. She also had Demetrios telling her:

-Don’t worry, he’s a young man. Let him rejoice. Let him also rejoice for us too that we didn’t enjoy our youth. The principles you planted in his soul will work when the need arises.

Something else was torturing her. Something much more sensitive and subtle. Evangelos from his childhood, had met a little Egyptian, Hakim was called, with whom he became friend. This child was alone in life, so it seemed at least, and Evangelos had taken him under his protection. He gave him his clothes, his toys, Demetrios paid the fees for him to go to the Arab school to be educated. But Zenovia could see in his gaze something that frightened her. Behind his wide smile, darkness was hidden.

One day when he was discussing the matter with Demetrios, she told him:

-Don’t think I’m worried because he’s an Arab. Far from it. Our best employees are Arabs. It does not matter what the breed of a person is. He has darkness in his gaze. Something scares me. I don’t know exactly what, but I’ll find out.

Hakim came to their house almost daily. Evangelos had him as his brother. He was giving him everything. One day when Evangelos was away, Zenovia saw Hakim arriving and entering through the kitchen door. She went to meet him to tell him that his friend is out, but she stopped. Hakim proceeded cautiously looking if anyone was seeing him. He entered Evangelos’ room, opened his wardrobe, took from inside some clothes, the watch that had been given to him on his birthday, hid them under his robe and quietly slipped through the kitchen door. No one else had seen him. Zenovia took a shawl, wrapped herself, hiding her face, and followed him.

Hakim was advancing through the narrow Arab streets of Alexandria, and Zenovia followed behind him. They reached some neighborhoods that she herself had never been to. Hakim went down to a basement and began to speak in Arabic with someone. Zenovia, with the few Arabic she knew, understood that he was negotiating the price. It seems they did not agree because they were both shouting. Zenovia remained on the street and waited to see what would happen.

At some point, Hakim came out of the basement, still holding the clothes in his hands. As soon as he saw Zenovia, he pulled out a scream, threw the clothes down and began to run. Several passers-by gathered and the fence came out of his basement. Zenovia was frightened because everyone was shouting and she herself did not understand what they were saying. Nevertheless, she picked up the clothes, crushed them with her gaze and left.

When she arrived at home she was ready to faint. As soon as she explained to Demetrios what had happened, he almost missed having a heart attack.

-Do you know where you went? He told her, for the first time in his life, angrily. The whole underworld of Alexandria is there. Every day there are murders and stabbings. It’s a miracle that you came back alive! And this, for some clothes.

-It’s not the value of clothes, she replied. It is the quality of the man with whom our son hangs out. Evangelos has him as a brother!

In the night, when Evangelos returned and was told the story, he did not seem to be particularly surprised.

-It’s not the first time, he told them. It had happened on other occasions. I figured it out because I lost a lot of my stuff. But I didn’t want to believe it. I was saying, it might be one of the servants.

-Why didn’t you talk to us? Demetrios asked him.

-Maybe, because deep down I knew who it was. And he’s a childhood friend I love. I’m afraid he’s gambling. He sometimes had asked me for money. But I didn’t have so much money he wanted. And he found this way. Don’t worry. I don’t think he will come back.

But Demetrios and Zenovia did not rest. Neither did they sleep at all that night, nor in the evenings that followed. They decided to be careful and constantly advised Evangelos never to trust Hakim again, and always to be wary of everyone. You never know what people are hiding in their hearts.

-Keep your clothes to have half of them, my mother used to say, Zenovia told him. And in this case it fits perfectly.

In the months that followed, Demetrios’ health began to deteriorate. Perhaps the horror he got with Zenovia’s adventure also played a role. Nobody knows. They all focused on the illness and forgot about Hakim. Besides, he did not reappear. In any case, however, they changed all the locks and instructed the servants not to let anyone enter the house without their permission.

Zenovia’s correspondence with Penelope continued. Her friend was still writing and soon sent her, her second book, “In the Time of the Bulgar-Slayer” and in 1911 “A Fairytale without a name”. Ion Dragoumis was now a couple with Marika Kotopouli and in Penelope’s heart remained the bitterness of a love that was never completed. Through her fictional heroes, one could see this erotic pain looming and finding no vindication.

But that was not the main message of her books. The historical details described through the plot, provided the reader with the opportunity to get acquainted with Greek history, and for Zenovia these were a valuable source of information. Through the eyes of her friend, she identified with a glorious historical past of Greece and the vision of the Great Idea. Penelope had been nurtured within these ideas, and Zenovia was ecstatically following her friend’s lessons.

1912, was a fateful year for Zenobia and her family. Demetrios left calmly and quietly as he had lived, at least in the last years of his life. Zenovia was by his side holding his hand, until his last breath. He smiled happily, because although he lived for many years in solitude, since he got married he has known so much love and affection that very few people have the happiness to experience in their lives.

His funeral was attended by almost the entire Greek community of Alexandria. Demetrios was very loved and respected by all. Although his death was to be expected, Zenovia felt incredible loneliness and abandonment when she lost him. From the age of sixteen this man had her under his wings, he gave her everything, that she had never dreamed of in her village and in her miserable childhood.

She herself was only thirty-eight years old, very beautiful and dynamic. She could remarry, after all, Demetrios suggested it many times. But she was not interested in marriage. She felt that she took her share in life and what fate owed her in this chapter, gave it to her. She wanted to move on in another way. One day when they were discussing the matter with Demetrios she had told him:

-In relation to marriage and love, I have lived whatever I wanted to live. I’ve gotten so much love from you and all I’d like to do, is to give back to society. That, I believe, is my role now.

-What do you mean? Demetrios asked her.

-When you married me, Demetrios, I was just a girl who knew absolutely nothing about the way the world works today. The longest trip I had made in my life was to Ktima, when I was hosted by Uncle Onoufrios, where you had seen me first. Many girls in my place live in this way and even worse. They have no dreams, they do not know that they could work, they do not know that they have skills.

-The best thing that happened to me when I came here, was that I found out who I was and what position I could claim in this world. I didn’t know, Demetrios, that there is a place for me in the world! And almost all girls in Cyprus do not know that.

-I would like you to live, as long as I will live. Whatever the circumstances are, I am absolutely happy with you. I don’t care about riches, I don’t care about secular life, if we can share our thoughts and try to understand the world around us. This is happiness for me.

-But if you leave before me, I will go to Cyprus and try to teach the women of my country that they have rights to life. You have left me a very considerable sum of money, which I intend to allocate in this course. I will first make sure that our son has stood on his feet and then I will leave. I’m sure I have a lot to do there.

Demetrios looked at her with admiration. He did not know what to say about this woman.

-Do you think that women born in Alexandria – and I am referring to Greek women – do know their place in the world? They are simply more educated and have better manners. Even your friend, Penelope, never dared to oppose her family. Neither her education, nor her intelligence, nor her dynamism managed to defeat the establishment.

-I don’t know if you know it, dear Zenovia, but in Europe there is, today, a movement that demands vote for the women. As we speak, women are demonstrating, being tortured, imprisoned for a woman’s right to obtain a vote. They are called suffragettes. Are you also a suffragette? He told her with a smile.

-No, dear Demetrios, I don’t know who they are. Nor do I aim for so big things. I just want to tell the women of my country that they have rights in life. That they have abilities. And if some stronger than me manage to change the world and give women the right to vote, well done! It’s about time!

-There is no need to repeat to you once again, my dear Zenovia, how happy I am with you and how much I would like us to live together forever, because I know it: my biological clock will soon stop beating. It is good to be realistic and admitting the truth. You are a unique person and wherever you are and whatever you do, you will bring happiness. Blessed will be those who will live beside you, he said with a sigh.

Zenovia remembered all this and wept in the evenings when she was left alone. In the mornings she went to the factory with her son. This was a great consolation for her. In every corner, in every person she met, she saw Demetrios and the influence that his presence had everywhere. In all areas and in all their partners. She herself acted in a way that she believed would make Demetrios proud and give justification to him. Each of her decisions had a single goal: to successfully continue the work of her husband. And to give this message to her son.

The long-standing absence of herself and Demetrios from the business had left its marks. Now that she was present every day, she was able to discern that many things were now working automatically and could soon collapse if someone did not put everything in order. Her dynamic personality took the reins and left some would-be usurpers, empty-handed. At the same time, she advised Evangelos and explained to him how various astute, either collaborators or competitors, tried to erode them.

Evangelos was left with his mouth open with his mother’s insight and intelligence. He felt that they were all fooling him and that he proved once again, naïve, and gullible. He was trying to learn, but at the same time he was resting on the security provided by his mother’s presence. And this worried Zenovia.

-My son, I will shortly leave, she was telling him often. You must learn to read the meaning behind the words, especially the beautiful words. You must look not only at the smile on people’s faces, but also at their gaze. It is difficult for the deceitful to have a clear look.

Evangelos tried, but he also liked his feasts and his partying friends. And surely they did not belong to the category of hardworking and honest people.

On the other hand, a new category of “friends” was brought to the fore. They were the would-be lovers of the beautiful and wealthy widow. Zenovia wanted to throw them in the face that the property was not hers but Evangelos’s, but she was restrained. Her son was not at all ready to manage all those crows who would besiege him to seize their business. Thus, she left them in their delusion. And she fooled them, until they got tired and left.

Zenovia spent her evenings, alone in the living room, chatting mentally with Demetrios. She recounted to him her daily problems and heard in her mind his voice answering back. It may seem macabre, but this fantastic conversation relieved her and helped her put her thoughts in order. The “other” voice was the voice of reason and moderation. In this way Zenovia maintained her strength and good sense. Demetrios was by her side during these difficult times, and it was sure that he would be by her side forever. This beloved guardian angel in her life, would never abandon her!


(Κεφάλαιο 9)

Μελβούρνη – Αυστραλία – Μάιος – Σεπτέμβριος  2020

Η καραντίνα σε παγκόσμιο επίπεδο συνεχιζόταν και τους μήνες που ακολούθησαν. Το να συνηθίσεις τον εγκλεισμό δεν είναι εύκολο για κανένα άνθρωπο. Στην αρχή όλοι το είδαν σαν μια ευκαιρία να ξεκουραστούν, όσο περνούσε ο καιρός όμως η επιθυμία να κυκλοφορήσουν, να είναι ελεύθεροι και πάλι, άρχισε να τους γίνεται εμμονή. Ήταν η πρώτη φορά που η ανθρωπότητα ζούσε τέτοια εμπειρία.

Σε διεθνές επίπεδο οι φαρμακευτικές εταιρείες συναγωνίζονταν η μια την άλλη ποια θα κατασκευάσει πρώτη το εμβόλιο που θα απέτρεπε την μετάδοση του ιού και την βαριά νοσηλεία. Παράλληλα έγινε υποχρεωτικό όλοι να φορούν μάσκα, να χρησιμοποιούν αντισηπτικά και να τηρούν αποστάσεις δύο μέτρων, στις περιορισμένες φορές που κυκλοφορούσαν για να προμηθευτούν τρόφιμα ή φάρμακα. Οι αγκαλιές τα φιλιά, ακόμα και οι χειραψίες είχαν απαγορευθεί. Ένας επιπρόσθετος λόγος που επιτρεπόταν η κυκλοφορία ήταν για να βγάλουν βόλτα το κατοικίδιό τους, είτε για προσωπική άσκηση. Για όσους παραβίαζαν τους κανονισμούς υπήρχαν τσουχτερά πρόστιμα. Όταν τα κρούσματα μειώνονταν οι απαγορεύσεις χαλάρωναν, αλλά με τη πρώτη αύξηση κρουσμάτων, ξεκινούσαν και πάλι. Όσοι έρχονταν από το εξωτερικό θα έπρεπε να μπαίνουν σε υποχρεωτική καραντίνα σε ξενοδοχεία για μία ή δύο εβδομάδες ανάλογα με τη χώρα.

Η Ζήνα και ο Αλέξης, ζώντας την αρχή του έρωτα τους, και έχοντας και οι δυο τις ασχολίες τους, το περνούσαν σχεδόν ανώδυνα. Είχαν ο ένας τον άλλο – τουλάχιστον πρόλαβαν να είναι μαζί – είχαν την ευκαιρία να γνωριστούν καλύτερα και να μάθουν ο ένας για το παρελθόν του άλλου. Παράλληλα η Ζήνα μελετούσε την ελληνική γλώσσα και ήταν ενθουσιασμένη με την πρόοδο που έκανε. Ο Αλέξης συνέχιζε διαδικτυακά τα μαθήματα ελληνικής γλώσσας σε ενήλικες, είχαν και οι δύο τους στόχους τους και δεν ήταν αδρανείς.

Την περίοδο αυτή, η Ζήνα γνώρισε την οικογένεια του Αλέξη γιατί είχαν συχνά διαδικτυακή επικοινωνία, μέσω skype.Ήταν πολύ ευχάριστοι άνθρωποι και απολάμβανε την κουβέντα μαζί τους. Φυσικά όλα τα θέματα περιστρέφονταν γύρω από την καραντίνα, τις ανησυχίες του κόσμου, αλλά και τα ευτράπελα της κατάστασης.

Η Ζήνα γέλασε πάρα πολύ όταν της διηγήθηκαν μία ιστορία για κάποιο νεαρό που κυκλοφορούσε με τη μοτοσυκλέτα του, ενώ απαγορευόταν η κυκλοφορία. Όταν τον σταμάτησε η αστυνομία, δικαιολογήθηκε λέγοντας:

-Βγάζω βόλτα το κατοικίδιό μου!

-Και πού είναι το κατοικίδιο σου; Τον ρώτησε ο αστυνομικός

-Εδώ δεν το βλέπεις;

Και τους έδειξε μία γυάλα με ένα ψάρι που κουβαλούσε πάνω στη μοτοσυκλέτα του!

Ήταν απίστευτες οι δικαιολογίες που εύρισκαν οι άνθρωποι για να κυκλοφορήσουν και να ξεγελάσουν την αστυνομία. Εξίσου απίστευτες, όσο η πρωτόγνωρη κατάσταση που επικρατούσε.

Σε αυτές τις συνδιαλέξεις προσπάθησαν στην αρχή να μιλούν στα ελληνικά, αλλά ήταν πολύ δύσκολο για τη Ζήνα να παρακολουθήσει. Μιλούσαν γρήγορα και στην κυπριακή διάλεκτο, γεγονός που το καθιστούσε σχεδόν αδύνατο για κείνη να κατανοήσει τι λεγόταν. Έτσι το γύριζαν στα αγγλικά και κάποτε μισά – μισά, αλλά πάντως επικοινωνούσαν. Το περίεργο ήταν ότι η Ζήνα επιζητούσε αυτή την επαφή περισσότερο από τον Αλέξη. Ήταν για αυτή ένας νέος κόσμος, πολύ ενδιαφέρων.

Ανάμεσα στους συγγενείς του Αλέξη που είχε γνωρίσει σε αυτές τις συνομιλίες, ήταν και η Ελένη. Η Ελένη ήταν ξαδέλφη του Αλέξη, αρχιτέκτονας, γύρω στα 35 -38, που ζούσε μόνη της. Έτσι επιζητούσε και η ίδια την επαφή με άλλους ανθρώπους, σε αυτές τις ιδιόρρυθμες συνθήκες. Ήταν μια λεπτή κοπέλα με κοντά μαύρα μαλλιά και σπινθηροβόλα μάτια. Έμοιαζε περισσότερο με αγοροκόριτσο και η Ζήνα την συμπάθησε αμέσως μόλις την γνώρισε.

Συνομιλούσαν συχνά και η Ζήνα ένοιωσε ότι θα μπορούσε να την εμπιστευτεί. Της μίλησε για την οικογένειά της και το γράμμα που της άφησε ο πατέρας της. Η Ελένη της πρότεινε να της στείλει τους τίτλους ιδιοκτησίας και όταν θα επιτρεπόταν η διακίνηση θα πήγαινε στη Πάφο για να δει τα τεμάχια και να της στείλει και σχετικές φωτογραφίες. Η Ζήνα δεν δίστασε καθόλου. Της διαβίβασε τα σκαναρισμένα έγγραφα, που είχε δώσει στο δικηγόρο της και περίμενε.

Παράλληλα επικοινωνούσε συχνά και με το δικηγόρο της, ο οποίος την διαβεβαίωνε ότι προχωρούσαν καλά. Είχε ήδη αναθέσει σε ένα δικηγορικό γραφείο στη Πάφο την υπόθεση, το οποίο ανάλογα με την εξέλιξη των περιορισμών στην λειτουργία των δημόσιων υπηρεσιών, θα την διεκπεραίωνε, μεταβιβάζοντας την περιουσία στη Κύπρο στο όνομά της. Τα έγγραφα στα αραβικά είχαν μεταφραστεί και πιστοποιηθεί από την πρεσβεία της Αιγύπτου στην Μελβούρνη. Ο πατέρας της είχε δίκαιο. Ανάμεσά τους ήταν τα πιστοποιητικά γεννήσεως του παππού και του πατέρα της, καθώς και μια βεβαίωση ότι ο παππούς της ήταν ο μόνος κληρονόμος των Δημητρίου και Ζηνοβίας Βασιλοπούλου. Άλλη βεβαίωση αφορούσε τον πατέρα της και ότι ήταν το μοναδικό παιδί των Ευάγγελου και Αντιγόνης Βασιλοπούλου. Όλα ήταν σε τάξη.

-Ο δρόμος έχει ανοίξει, σκεφτόταν η Ζήνα. Μοιάζει πολύ εύκολη υπόθεση. Ας δούμε πώς θα εξελιχθούν τα πράγματα.

Ο δικός της ρόλος τώρα ήταν να διαβάσει το γράμμα που άφησε ο παππούς της, Ευάγγελος, στο πατέρα της. Ήταν ένα πολύ μακροσκελές κείμενο που φαινόταν ότι γράφτηκε σε διάφορες χρονικές στιγμές, ανάλογα με την επιθυμία του Ευάγγελου να μιλήσει στο γιο του.

Η ανάγνωση των επιστολών δεν ήταν εύκολη υπόθεση για τη Ζήνα. Χρησιμοποιούσε λεξικά, ρωτούσε τον Αλέξη, έπαιρνε σημειώσεις, τα διάβαζε και τα ξαναδιάβαζε για να είναι σίγουρη ότι κατανοούσε το κείμενο. Όμως έβλεπε το όλο εγχείρημα σαν πρόκληση, γεγονός που της έδινε την κινητήρια δύναμη και τον ενθουσιασμό να προχωρεί.

-Δεν έχω δει άνθρωπο με μεγαλύτερη έφεση στη μάθηση της ελληνικής γλώσσας, την πείραζε ο Αλέξης. Έχεις μάθει περισσότερα σε μερικούς μήνες από ότι έχουν μάθει όλοι μαζί οι μαθητές μου σε δύο χρόνια!

-Οι μαθητές σου μαθαίνουν τη γλώσσα για το κέφι τους. Εγώ τη μαθαίνω για να γνωρίσω τον εαυτό και την οικογένειά μου, του απαντούσε.

Έτσι λοιπόν άρχισε να διαβάζει και αυτό το κείμενο, όπως ένας εξερευνητής που μπαίνει σε μια σκοτεινή σπηλιά και δεν ξέρει τι θα συναντήσει, μα αυτό είναι που τον σαγηνεύει.

Έγραφε λοιπόν ο παππούς Ευάγγελος:

22 Αυγούστου 1937

Αγαπημένο μου παιδί, Δημήτριε,

Σήμερα έκλεισες τα έξι σου χρόνια. Νοιώθω βαθιά συγκίνηση που μεγάλωσες τόσο και που κατάφερα, μετά την τόσο άστατη και επιπόλαια ζωή μου, να αφήσω έστω και ένα απόγονο.

Είσαι μικρός ακόμα για να καταλάβεις αυτά που θα ήθελα να σου πω και για αυτό τα γράφω. Δεν ξέρω πόσα χρόνια θα ζήσω ακόμα ή όταν εσύ μεγαλώσεις θα ενδιαφέρεσαι να μάθεις την ιστορία της οικογένειας και τη δική μου πορεία στη ζωή. Εγώ στη νιότη μου δεν θα ενδιαφερόμουν. Ένα γραπτό κείμενο όμως μένει και κάποιος μπορεί να το διαβάσει όταν είναι έτοιμος να το εκτιμήσει.

Οι γονείς μου, Δημήτριος και Ζηνοβία Βασιλοπούλου δεν κατάγονταν από την Αλεξάνδρεια αλλά από την Κύπρο. Ο πατέρας μου από τη Λεμεσό και η μητέρα μου από ένα χωριό της Πάφου, που λέγεται Στατός. Ο πατέρας μου είχε ορφανέψει από μικρός και στα δέκα του περίπου μπήκε σε ένα καράβι και έφθασε στην Αλεξάνδρεια. Εδώ δούλεψε με ένα μεγαλέμπορα βαμβακιού τον Αιμίλιο Βασιλόπουλο, ο οποίος του άφησε την περιουσία και το όνομά του. Βλέπεις το «Βασιλόπουλος» δεν είναι το πραγματικό όνομα της οικογένειάς μας. Κανείς δεν ξέρει ποιο ήταν το επίθετο του πατέρα μου.

Η μητέρα μου, Ζηνοβία, ήταν πολύ φτωχή και ορφανή από πατέρα. Για αυτό φαίνεται δέχθηκε να παντρευτεί τον πατέρα μου που ήταν σαράντα χρόνια μεγαλύτερός της. Παρά τη διαφορά ηλικίας όμως ήταν το πιο αγαπημένο ζευγάρι που γνώρισα στη ζωή μου.  Δεν μπορείς να φανταστείς πόσο δεμένοι ήταν!

Ο πατέρας μου, Δημήτριος, ήταν εξαιρετικά καλός και τρυφερός άνθρωπος. Ποτέ δεν μου χαλούσε χατίρι και αυτό πολλές φορές εκνεύριζε τη μητέρα μου. Ήμουν βλέπεις μοναχοπαίδι και μου είχε απίστευτη αδυναμία. Ίσως να ήθελε να δώσει σε μένα όσα στερήθηκε εκείνος. Ποιος ξέρει; Τον αγαπούσα πάρα πολύ. Κοντά του ένοιωθα τόση ασφάλεια και μια ευτυχία που νόμιζα δεν θα τελείωνε ποτέ.

Η μητέρα μου ήταν πολύ πιο αυστηρή και συχνά είχαμε τις συγκρούσεις μας. Όσο μου έκανε τα χατίρια ο πατέρας, τόσο αυτή ήθελε να μου επιβάλει πειθαρχία και τάξη. Τώρα πια, ξέρω ότι είχε δίκαιο. Μα τότε, θύμωνα πολύ μαζί της. Ερχόμασταν συχνά σε σύγκρουση και παρόλο που κατάφερνε με τον τρόπο της να ομαλοποιήσει την κατάσταση στο τέλος, εγώ ήμουνα επιφυλακτικός μαζί της, καλού, κακού. Το μεγάλο επίτευγμα της μητέρας μου όμως ήταν ότι, παρόλο που ήταν ένα αμόρφωτο κορίτσι από ένα χωριό της Πάφου, κατάφερε να μορφωθεί και να διοικεί μαζί με τον πατέρα μου την επιχείρησή μας. Ήταν φαινόμενο για την εποχή εκείνη.

Υπήρξα λοιπόν, ένα καλοαναθρεμμένο παιδί με όλα τα καλά του κόσμου στα πόδια του. Μεγάλωσα και μορφώθηκα σε μια πόλη που το ελληνικό στοιχείο μεγαλουργούσε. Ήμουνα όμορφος νέος, πλούσιος, μορφωμένος και όλες οι ωραίες Ελληνίδες, γυναίκες της Αλεξάνδρειας ήταν στα πόδια μου. Ποτέ μου όμως δεν εκμεταλλεύτηκα καμιά τους. Φλέρταρα με όλες, αλλά μέχρι εκεί. Η Ζηνοβία μου κρατούσε σφιχτά τα λουριά. Ήταν κέρβερος σε αυτό το θέμα. Μου άρεσε όμως να διασκεδάζω, να έχω πολλούς φίλους, να βγαίνω έξω και να ξενυχτώ. Η δουλειά στην επιχείρηση ήταν για μένα κάπως βαρετή, όμως ένοιωθα την υποχρέωση να συμβάλω. Δεν καταλάβαινα όμως, για πολλά χρόνια, ότι ήταν και ευθύνη μου.

Ανάμεσα στους φίλους που είχα, ήταν και ένας Άραβας που λεγόταν Χακίμ. Ο Χακίμ έπαιξε μεγάλο ρόλο στη ζωή μου και θα πρέπει να σου μιλήσω για αυτόν. Τον γνώρισα όταν ήμασταν παιδιά. Εγώ είχα όλα τα καλά του κόσμου και αυτός ήταν ένα φτωχό παιδί, που δεν είχε τίποτε δικό του. Γίναμε φίλοι και εγώ του χάριζα τα ρούχα μου, τα παιχνίδια μου, τον έπαιρνα συχνά στο σπίτι για φαγητό και ο πατέρας μου, του πλήρωσε και πήγε στο αραβικό σχολείο. Δεν ξέρω αν είχε οικογένεια. Ποτέ δεν με πήρε στο σπίτι του ή τελοσπάντων εκεί που ζούσε. Η δική μου οικογένεια όμως του χάρισε τόσα πολλά, όσα ελάχιστα παιδιά Αράβων είχαν τότε.

Είχα αντιληφθεί από τότε, που ήμασταν παιδιά, ότι πολλές φορές πουλούσε τα παιχνίδια που του έδινα για να πάρει χρήματα. Εμένα δεν με ένοιαζε. Είχα πολλά. Το θεωρούσα φυσιολογικό. Ο Χακίμ ήταν για μένα αυτός από τους φίλους μου που με έπαιρνε στα καταγώγια μαζί του, αυτός μου γνώρισε τον αγοραίο έρωτα και προσπάθησε να με εμπλέξει στον κόσμο του τζόγου. Εδώ όμως απέτυχε. Η Ζηνοβία μου είχε εμφυτεύσει τέτοιες αρχές που σε μερικά θέματα μπορούσα να αντισταθώ. Όλα αυτά φυσικά δεν τα γνώριζαν οι γονείς μου, παρόλο που η μητέρα μου ήταν καχύποπτη.

Όταν ο πατέρας μου αρρώστησε και η μητέρα μου έμενε σχεδόν μόνιμα μαζί του, το βάρος της επιχείρησης έπεσε πάνω μου. Τότε ο Χακίμ με παρότρυνε πολλές φορές να πάρω χρήματα από αυτά της εταιρείας για να διασκεδάσουμε παρέα. Ομολογώ ότι μερικές φορές το είχε σχεδόν καταφέρει, όμως γνώριζα ότι η Ζηνοβία παρακολουθούσε τα οικονομικά της εταιρείας και θα το καταλάβαινε. Έτσι συγκρατήθηκα.

Εκείνη την εποχή, είχα αρχίσει να χάνω μερικά από τα ρούχα μου και αντικείμενα αξίας από το δωμάτιό μου. Υποψιάστηκα τον Χακίμ, αλλά δεν είπα τίποτε. Μέχρι που μια μέρα τον είδε η μητέρα μου και τον ακολουθήσε. Όταν ο  Χακίμ κατάλαβε ότι το σχέδιο του αποκαλύφθηκε,  εξαφανίστηκε. Ο Χακίμ, παρόλα τα ελαττώματά του, σεβόταν πολύ τη μητέρα μου.

Το 1912, ο πατέρας μου έσβησε ήρεμος και ευτυχισμένος στην αγκαλιά της μητέρας μου. Εγώ πόνεσα βαθιά για το θάνατό του. Τότε κατάλαβα πόσο πολύ τον αγαπούσα. Ένα μεγάλο κενό γέμισε τον κόσμο μου και δεν ήξερα αν θα τα καταφέρω στη ζωή, χωρίς την σιωπηλή υποστήριξή του.

Η μητέρα μου, παρά τη μεγάλη της θλίψη, ανέλαβε δυναμικά τη διοίκηση της επιχείρησης. Διόρθωσε τα λάθη και τις παραλήψεις μου, όταν εγώ διεύθυνα την εταιρεία, αλλά προσπαθούσε συγχρόνως να με καταρτίσει ώστε να είμαι σε θέση να τα αναλάβω όλα μόνος μου. Η ίδια εξάλλου ήθελε να φύγει, για να ζήσει στη Κύπρο.

Δυστυχώς, γιε μου, δεν κατάλαβα ποτέ την αγωνία αυτής της γυναίκας να μου δώσει τα μέγιστα εφόδια για να διαχειρίζομαι τη ζωή μου σωστά. Από τη μια δυσανασχετούσα μαζί της και από την άλλη βασιζόμουν στο γεγονός ότι όλα θα πήγαιναν καλά με την παρουσία της. Πήγαινα στην επιχείρηση κάθε μέρα, και τα βράδια διασκέδαζα με τους φίλους μου. Δεν μπορούσα να αντιληφθώ ότι από τη μια μέρα στην άλλη όλα θα μπορούσαν να καταρρεύσουν σαν χάρτινοι πύργοι.

Το 1916, η μητέρα μου πήρε ένα τηλεγράφημα από το θείο της Ονούφριο, ότι η μητέρα της ήταν άρρωστη και αν ήθελε να την προλάβει ζωντανή θα έπρεπε να φύγει για την Κύπρο. Τότε είδα για πρώτη φορά στα μάτια της την αγωνία. Φοβόταν να φύγει και να με αφήσει μόνο μου, αλλά ήξερε ότι θα έπρεπε να πάει στη Κύπρο. Και γνώριζε ότι, κατά πάσα πιθανότητα, ποτέ δεν θα γύριζε πίσω.

Έκλαιγε πολύ φεύγοντας. Ποτέ δεν την είχα δει να κλαίει τόσο. Ούτε στη κηδεία του πατέρα μου. Φοβόταν για μένα. Εγώ την καθησύχαζα ότι όλα θα πάνε καλά. Ότι ήμουν σε θέση να χειριστώ τη ζωή μου και ότι θα επικοινωνούσαμε.

Τα αισθήματά μου όταν μπήκε στο καράβι ήταν ανάμεικτα. Από τη μια ένας αέρας ελευθερίας γέμισε τον κόσμο μου, από την άλλη φοβόμουν. Η μητέρα μου ήταν αυτή που έλυνε όλα μου τα προβλήματα. Θα τα κατάφερνα άραγε χωρίς αυτή;

Ενώ βρισκόμουν σε αυτή τη παραζάλη συναισθημάτων και αμφιβολιών, εμφανίστηκε ξανά στη ζωή μου ο Χακίμ. Ένα βράδυ, σε ένα από τα νυχτερινά κέντρα που σύχναζα, τον είδα. Στην αρχή ήταν επιφυλακτικός αλλά βλέποντας εμένα να είμαι φιλικός και να μην αναφέρω καθόλου το επεισόδιο εκείνο με τη μητέρα μου, ξεθάρρεψε. Και αυτή ήταν μια κομβική στιγμή στη ζωή μου, γιε μου.

-Θα αφήσεις τη μελέτη, να πάμε να περπατήσουμε, την διέκοψε ο Αλέξης. Σε λίγο θα αρχίσει η απαγόρευση κυκλοφορίας. Δεν θα προλάβουμε.

-Με έκοψες πάνω στο καλύτερο, αλλά δεν πειράζει. Έχω ήδη κουραστεί αρκετά.

Φόρεσαν τις μάσκες τους και βγήκαν στο δρόμο. Ελάχιστοι άνθρωποι περπατούσαν, όλοι φορώντας τις μάσκες τους και κρατώντας αποστάσεις. Η υφήλιος ζούσε κάτω από την απειλή της θανατηφόρας πανδημίας.

Η Μελβούρνη θεωρείται η πόλη των ανέμων. Τώρα, Ιούνιο μήνα, αρχές του χειμώνα ένας τσουχτερός αέρας φυσούσε και τους πάγωσε. Οι εναλλαγές στη θερμοκρασία κατά τη διάρκεια της μέρας είναι συχνές και έτσι τώρα, παρά το γεγονός ότι όλη τη μέρα ο καιρός ήταν ήπιος, είχε κρύο. Περπατούσαν κατά μήκος του ποταμού Γιάρρα γρήγορα, για να ζεσταθούν.

-Πρώτη φορά στη ζωή μου αντιλαμβάνονται πόσο μεγάλο δώρο είναι να μπορείς να περπατάς ελεύθερα, είπε η Ζήνα. Πράγματα που ήταν δεδομένα μέχρι χθες, τώρα είναι είδος πολυτελείας. Ποιος θα το πίστευε πριν μερικούς μήνες;

-Η ζωή είναι γεμάτη ανατροπές, το λέμε συχνά, αλλά δεν πολυκαταλαβαίνουμε τι σημαίνει. Αυτή η πανδημία μας άλλαξε τα φώτα. Ελπίζω σύντομα να βρεθούν τα εμβόλια, για να μπορέσουμε να κυκλοφορήσουμε ελεύθερα και να πάρουμε τις ζωές μας πίσω.

Συνέχισαν να περπατούν σιωπηλά, νοιώθοντας τον κρύο αέρα στο πρόσωπό τους. Η Ζήνα κοίταξε τα σύννεφα στον ουρανό που ταξίδευαν με ταχύτητα, έρμαια στους δυνατούς ανέμους. Το ποτάμι ήταν ασυνήθιστα σιωπηλό και άδειο. Μια πόλη, μια μεγαλούπολη, νεκρή, υποκλινόμενη μπροστά σε ένα αόρατο ιό, που με την παρουσία του γονάτισε την υφήλιο.

-Όπως φυσά ο άνεμος και παρασέρνει τα σύννεφα, ας φυσήξει και ο αέρας που θα διώξει αυτή την πανδημία, ευχήθηκε μεγαλόφωνα η Ζήνα.

-Να χαίρεσαι που δεν είναι πόλεμος, της είπε ο Αλέξης. Το μεγαλύτερο από τα κακά που μαστίζουν την ανθρωπότητα, είναι ο πόλεμος. Και καλύτερα να μην τον γνωρίσεις ποτέ! Τώρα οι κυβερνήσεις προσπαθούν να διαχειριστούν την κατάσταση. Σε ένα πόλεμο, υπάρχει το χάος και το χειρότερο, όλα τα ποταπά της ανθρώπινης φύσης βγαίνουν στην επιφάνεια. Οι άνθρωποι γίνονται κατώτεροι από τα ζώα!

-Καλύτερα να μην γνωρίσεις ποτέ τον πόλεμο!

Η Ζήνα τον κοίταξε, κάπως έκπληκτη για αυτό το ξέσπασμα. Ο Αλέξης δεν είχε βιώσει τον πόλεμο, αλλά οι δικοί του ήταν πρόσφυγες και σίγουρα θα του είχαν μιλήσει για αυτό. Του έσφιξε το χέρι και του είπε τρυφερά:

-Ώρα να γυρίσουμε πίσω. Τελείωσε ο χρόνος της σωματικής μας άσκησης. Να είσαι σίγουρος ότι κανείς δεν θέλει να ζήσει ένα πόλεμο.

-Υπάρχουν και αυτοί που προκαλούν τους πολέμους, της απάντησε. Και να ξέρεις: ποτέ οι λόγοι τους οποίους επικαλούνται δεν είναι οι πραγματικοί. Δεν υπάρχουν πόλεμοι δικαιολογημένοι. Όλα γίνονται για την δύναμη και εξουσία των λίγων. Ποτέ, για την ευτυχία των πολλών!

Συνέχισαν να προχωρούν προς το σπίτι σιωπηλοί. Η Ζήνα είδε απέναντι της ένα άλλο ζευγάρι να περπατά με τα πρόσωπα σκεπασμένα με μάσκες.

-Ποιος θα το πίστευε ότι θα ζούσαμε ποτέ στον αστερισμό της μάσκας! Είπε, προσπαθώντας να ελαφρύνει την ατμόσφαιρα. Έχουμε όμως, Αλέξη μου, ο ένας τον άλλο. Και αυτό είναι ευτυχία! Ας την χαρούμε όσο υπάρχει. Οι άνεμοι που φυσούν μπορεί να την σκορπίσουν. Ας ζήσουμε το τώρα!



(Chapter 10)

Alexandria – Cyprus 1913 – 1916

Zenovia spent her days in their business and her evenings at home. There were no surprises in her daily life. There were only concerns about the frivolity with which Evangelos treated their business. It was not because he was not trying to learn. He tried. The problem was that this was not the priority of his life. And this made Zenovia insecure.

She believed that the marriage would help him to settle down, but Evangelos had no such intentions.

-I’m fine as I am, he told her. I’m still very young. Why committing myself? Besides, I don’t love any girl. When I fall in love, I will get married.

Zenovia was afraid that he would not be able to fall in love easily. He did not look at the girls seriously. He saw them as trophies. And unfortunately, he blew many hearts with his frivolity. Among the girls who saw him erotically was one, whom Zenovia particularly liked. Her name was Antigone. She was young and orphaned by father. She was neither particularly beautiful nor particularly rich. She reminded Zenovia of herself in her village. Antigone, of course, was much more educated and cultured than she was then. She had a purity and a quality that Zenovia was sure she could make her son happy. But she could not convince Evangelos. So, she waited…

In 1913, her friend Penelope Delta returned to Alexandria. It was a relief for Zenovia to share her thoughts with her. Ever since she had lost Demetrios, she had no one with whom she could speak from the heart.  Of course, she mentioned to her, her concerns about Evangelos. She was not at all surprised by Penelope’s reaction. She knew this was the right thing to do.

-If you are here and bear the burdens of his life, Evangelos will not mature, she told her.

And she was absolutely right. Zenovia could understand this. But she was not making the decision to go away. She was trying to create the conditions for Evangelos, that would not leave him room to fail, and then to leave.

Demetrios, from the very beginning, when he took over the business on his own, had followed an infallible policy, which made them the most reliable business of exporting cotton, in Alexandria. And Zenovia was following this policy, exactly, in the same way.

Unlike other cotton traders, who tried to exploit Egyptian growers and suppliers, their own business was based on being fair to them and remunerating them according to the quality of the product. As a result, the growers preferred them and so they always had the best cotton for export. In the same way, they had as permanent customers the best factories in England and France. This was a key reason why the business was consistently one of the most lucrative in Alexandria.

To achieve this goal, they had in their work Egyptians who knew the language well and could negotiate with the cultivators. In addition, they were able to identify any cunning locals who wanted to deceive them and sell them cotton of lower quality.

In turn, they paid their Egyptian employees very well and had them as members of their family. This relationship and trust created conditions of loyalty, on the part of these employees, who basically came from the same family. Initially Demetrios had worked with the father and then with his two sons, Mahmud, and Ahmed.

Zenovia, after the death of Demetrios, relied heavily on these two Egyptians, especially Mahmud, who was particularly skilled and serious. She had him as her right hand. She herself knew very little Arabic and it was difficult to negotiate with the cultivators. The fact that she was a woman made the whole situation even more complicated because these peasants could not conceive of how a woman could have such abilities and such power.

Thus, she was trying to create conditions of trust between Evangelos and Mahmud, because she believed that in this way her son would have some serious support when she would leave. Evangelos accepted this relationship with pleasure because he did not like to negotiate with the peasants himself. So, he willingly recognized Mahmud’s supremacy in this area. The two seem to have been doing quite well. This gave a feeling of relief to Zenovia.

At the same time she was trying to educate her son, how to  negotiate with the European buyers of their products. Evangelos was educated, he could speak fluently English and French, so he could easily communicate with them. On the other hand, he had the gift of being pleasant and very willing to guide them to Alexandria by night, spending, unfortunately, a lot of money to entertain them. It was here that Zenovia struggled to inspire him with some measure, but in vain. Evangelos had no sense of proportion and had no intention of learning it either.

With Penelope in Alexandria, Zenovia had the right company to share her concerns, and this helped her a lot. Of course, she did not forget her friend’s admonition to move away from the business, but she was still not ready.

Penelope, from her part, informed her about the correspondence she had begun with various personalities of the time, such as the French byzantinologist Gustave-Leon Schlumberger, so that she could be informed about the correct historical details of the books she was preparing. Writing was her most important occupation, along with raising her children. She was even preparing a book on this subject entitled: “Reflections on the upbringing of our children”.

Her unfulfilled love for Ion Dragoumis had not subsided, but he was now a couple with the actress of the theater, Marika Kotopouli and there was no prospect of returning to her. He stayed inside her like a sad thorn that sometimes hurt her and sometimes blossomed like a fragrant rose. It was this that gave a fragrance to her life and let her take a sneak peek at the world, beyond the status quo she knew.

But, although Zenovia was reluctant to make the decisions she had to make, fate does not know how to make favors and detours in the flow of the events. In 1913 she received a telegram from her uncle Onoufrios asking her to return to Cyprus, because her mother was very sick. At the same time, Penelope’s family leaves Alexandria for Athens for permanent settlement. Her father, Emmanuel Benakis, had been elected mayor of Athens.

Without much preparation, Zenovia is forced to leave for Cyprus. Ascending to the boat, she was crying incessantly. Something not so common for her. Maybe she was crying for Demetrios who left forever, maybe she was crying for the insecurity she felt for her son, maybe she was crying because her life in this glorious city was over.

She remembered when, 26 years before, she had also entered a boat to come to Alexandria for the first time. She was crying, back then, too. Out of fear, out of ignorance, out of the dark unknown that surrounded her. Now she was crying for completely different reasons. She was crying because she was leaving behind an important part of her life, perhaps the most creative, and her son, who she feared was not ready for this separation.

Before leaving, she met Mahmud for the last time and begged him to take care of Evangelos. She gave him her address and asked him, if things ever get too bad, to notify her. They had to give space and time, however, to Evangelos to try on his own.

She spent the first months in Cyprus, at the bedside of her mother, Eleni. Her mother’s condition did not allow her to think about many other things as well. She constantly tried to relieve her, to take care of her, to give her the affection that she had been deprived of, during her life.

In December 1913 her mother left, happy. As much as she suffered throughout her life, the love and care of her daughter in these difficult times, filled her with gratitude and vindication.

The funeral took place in her village, Statos. The church of this small village is dedicated to the saints Zenovios and Zenovia. This moved Zenovia and made her feel so at home in this environment. Her mother, Eleni, was buried in the village cemetery, next to her father, Yiannis.

After the funeral, Zenovia stayed a few days in the village, before returning to her home, at Ktima. There she saw once again the poverty and misery of the inhabitants. Almost all of them were indebted to loan sharks and often, when they did not have to pay, they lost the few lands they owned. Little girls, from the age of ten, went to houses in the cities to become maids, just to have something to eat. Their fate, in these cases, was in the hands of their bosses, with all the dangers that this entailed.

Zenovia’s heart bled when she noticed this misery. For the first time she understood that it was not possible to financially support all these girls, simply with the money left to her by Demetrios. Not even with so much more could she. The problem was general and huge. She had to think about something else.

During the days she was in her village, she began to visit the places she grew up in, the Upper Fountain (Pano Vrisi), the Lower Fountain (Kato Vrysi), the monastery of Panagia Chrysorrogiatissa, just outside the village and Euridice, the only relative left there.

Eurydice was a second cousin of hers with whom they grew up together. They were about the same age and when they were young, they grazed their goats together in the mountains that surrounded their village. Eurydice was her best friend and the two shared their childhood secrets.

Now it seemed to be at least ten years apart from each other. Zenovia was still fit at the age of 42, with some gray hair, but fluffy and beautiful. Eurydice’s life has been much tougher. Although they were the same age, she had almost all her hair white and her face was full of wrinkles, from constant exposure to the sun, since she worked daily in the fields. Her back had been bent by the constant bending over and this caused her horrible pains. She had four daughters, of whom three were married and she had nine grandchildren.

-My Euthymia has not get married yet, she said. Men want a dowry and I have nothing to give her. The others took it all. I’m languishing a lot about it.

-Don’t languish, Zenobia told her. If Euthymia loves any young man, tell her to take him. I will endow her myself. I will give her my mother’s house, the goats and all the animals that live in the yard. When I return to Ktima, she comes with me to make the transfer of the property.The other fields I have here, let them to be cultivated by your other daughters. Distribute them to them as you think.

Eurydice was surprised. She had never expected anything like that. She almost knelt to kiss her feet. Zenovia prevented her with tears in her eyes. She remembered very well what poverty is. And if she, herself, was lucky, that’s rare. Most girls, grow up and die in their misery.

The house of Zenovia’s mother, when she left for Alexandria, was one of the poorest in the village. Later, with the money sent to her by her daughter, she took care of it, and now it may have been small, but one of the best in the village. It consisted of two rooms, built with the stones of the mountain, connected in between, with smaller stones (gravel) that filled the gaps and stabilized the construction. The roof was flat, made of tree trunks, reeds, and soil. There they spread out to dry their frumenty and other products that they conserved dry. The walls, inside, were whitewashed with lime and glowed. The floor was paved with slabs of Cypriot marble, yet another luxury that was added later. The floor in most of the houses of the village was plain soil. Next to it, they had a stable built for the goats and the donkey.

Euthymia went crazy with joy. She did not know how to thank Zenovia. She really had an interest in a young man in the village, but his mother would never accept her as a bride, because she had no dowry. Now that things had changed, the way was open.

-The fate of women is hard, Zenovia thought. It is not enough that they work, day and night, to raise the children and cultivate the fields, they also have the obligation to provide the family’s home. I need to think how I could help! How I can add even a gravel to the progress of this place.

By spring, she transferred the ownership of the house in the village to Euthymia and she paid for the wedding of the new couple, herself. The appreciation she received from the newlyweds and the whole family of her friend Eurydice, was incredible. Never in her life had she feel more important. But she knew this was just the beginning. She still had a lot to offer to her home country.

Before she left the village to return to her home in Ktima, Eurydice and she went out for a final walk to the places where they used to graze the goats together, in their childhood. Suddenly, Eurydice said to her:

-I must tell you something from the past. I think you must know.

Zenovia looked at her curiously. What could she tell her?

Eurydice began to speak. While Zenovia was listening, she could not hold back the tears running from her eyes. In the end she fell into the arms of Eurydice, crying with unspeakable tears.

In the evening, when the two friends returned to the village, Zenovia had composed herself, and so no one understood anything. The next day she was accompanied by Eurydice’s husband back to Ktima. The trip was done by horses or donkeys. There were no roads, or cars.

When she arrived at her home, Zenovia was exhausted physically and mentally. In her mind was constantly Demetrios. She had a deep desire to have him by her side, to talk to him. When Eurydice’s husband left, she sat down alone and began to think.

It took some time until she got up to go to bed. The morning she woke up, she stood at her favorite window, facing the sea. She saw the deep blue shimmering on the horizon as the sun’s rays played on the surface of the water. She thought of her friend, Penelope, and said aloud:

-I will do what Penelope does to exorcise her pain. I’ll write!



(Κεφάλαιο 11)

Μελβούρνη – Αυστραλία –Σεπτέμβριος  2020

Η Ζήνα την επόμενη μέρα σηκώθηκε πρωί – πρωί πριν ακόμα ανατείλει ο ήλιος. Ήθελε να συνεχίσει το διάβασμα του κειμένου που είχε γράψει ο παππούς Ευάγγελος στον πατέρα της. Χρειαζόταν μεγάλη προσπάθεια για να το κατανοήσει και έτσι προτιμούσε την ησυχία του πρωινού.

Ο Αλέξης κοιμόταν ακόμα. Ετοίμασε το τσάι της και κάθισε στην αγαπημένη της πολυθρόνα απέναντι από το παράθυρο που έβλεπε προς τον ποταμό Γιάρρα. Είχε μόλις αρχίσει να ανατέλλει ο ήλιος και έβλεπε στον ορίζοντα ένα αχνό φως να απλώνεται και να χρωματίζει τον ουρανό.

-Τι γλυκιά η ώρα του πρωινού! Σκέφτηκε. Είναι η πιο υπέροχη στιγμή της ημέρας. Είμαι τυχερή που μπορώ να αντικρίζω τον κόσμο από ψηλά, έχοντας μπροστά μου μια ανεμπόδιστη θέα. Ας είναι καλά το ποτάμι.

Βολεύτηκε στην πολυθρόνα, πήρε ένα λεξικό στο χέρι και το γράμμα του παππού Ευάγγελου και συνέχισε από εκεί που είχε μείνει την προηγούμενη μέρα. Ξαναδιάβασε την τελευταία παράγραφο και συνέχισε:


Ενώ βρισκόμουν σε αυτή τη παραζάλη συναισθημάτων και αμφιβολιών, εμφανίστηκε ξανά στη ζωή μου ο Χακίμ. Ένα βράδυ, σε ένα από τα νυχτερινά κέντρα που σύχναζα, τον είδα. Στην αρχή ήταν επιφυλακτικός αλλά βλέποντας εμένα να είμαι φιλικός και να μην αναφέρω καθόλου το επεισόδιο εκείνο με τη μητέρα μου, ξεθάρρεψε. Και αυτή ήταν μια κομβική στιγμή στη ζωή μου, γιε μου.

Εκείνο το βράδυ ήταν διακριτικός και έφυγε νωρίς. Ξαναεμφανίστηκε όμως και την επόμενη μέρα και την μεθεπόμενη. Ρωτούσε να μάθει τι είχε γίνει με τους γονείς μου και έδειχνε να στενοχωριόταν που δεν ήταν κοντά μου. Ποτέ δεν κατάλαβα αν έπαιζε θέατρο ή αν ήταν ειλικρινής. Μάλλον το πρώτο θα συνέβαινε.

Για να μην σου τα πολυλογώ, γιε μου, σε μερικές μέρες μου ζήτησε δουλειά. Μου είπε ότι δεν είχε καθόλου χρήματα και έπρεπε να εργαστεί. Καθώς του απαντούσα, άκουα μέσα στο κεφάλι μου τη φωνή της μητέρας μου που μου έλεγε «Όχι», την ώρα που εγώ έλεγα, «Ναι». Ντρεπόμουν να πω «Όχι»,  σε ένα παλιό φίλο. Πρέπει στη ζωή σου, γιε μου, να μάθεις να λέεις «Όχι»! Αυτό το «Όχι» μπορεί να σε γλυτώσει από πολλά δεινά.

Δεν φτάνει που του έδωσα δουλειά, ενώ είχε δώσει δείγματα της αναξιοπιστίας του στο παρελθόν, τον έβαλα δίπλα στους έμπιστους υπαλλήλους των γονιών μου, Μαχμούτ και Αχμέτ. Δεν ήθελα να νοιώθει μειονεκτικά!

Θυμάμαι ότι ο Μαχμούτ με κοίταξε με δυσπιστία, αλλά δεν είπε τίποτε. Έτσι οι τρεις τους συνδιαλέγονταν με τους ντόπιους παραγωγούς και εγώ με τους Ευρωπαίους εμπόρους. Αυτό με βόλευε και δεν ασχολούμουν και ιδιαίτερα με τη δική τους δουλειά.

Με τον Χακίμ εξακολουθούσαμε να συμπεριφερόμαστε σαν φίλοι, να βγαίνουμε έξω παρέα, να διασκεδάζουμε. Ξέχασα τι είχε συμβεί στο παρελθόν και άρχισα να τον εμπιστεύομαι και πάλι.

Οι μήνες περνούσαν και σιγά – σιγά ο Χακίμ άρχισε να μου διαβάλλει τους Μαχμούτ και Αχμέτ. Μου έλεγε ότι πλήρωναν λιγότερα τους παραγωγούς και χρέωναν την επιχείρηση περισσότερα και άλλα παρόμοια. Δυστυχώς, ήμουν τόσο ηλίθιος, που τον πίστεψα!

Έτσι κάλεσα τους έμπιστους αυτούς ανθρώπους και τους είπα ότι δεν θα τους χρειαζόμουν άλλο γιατί ο Χακίμ θα αναλάμβανε όλη τη δουλειά μόνος του. Ντράπηκα να τους πω τι μου είπε, γιατί ίσως βαθιά μέσα μου ήξερα ότι δεν ήταν αλήθεια. Ο Μαχμούτ με κοίταξε με ένα ειρωνικό βλέμμα, αλλά δεν είπε τίποτε. Ευτυχώς γρήγορα βρήκαν δουλειά γιατί όλοι οι έμποροι βαμβακιού γνώριζαν τις ικανότητές τους και ήταν περιζήτητοι.

Εγώ εξακολουθούσα να πορεύομαι με τον Χακίμ στη πιο καίρια θέση της επιχείρησής μου και τα βράδια να διασκεδάζω μαζί του. Η μεγάλη ειρωνεία είναι ότι όλα τα έξοδα τα πλήρωνα εγώ, σαν πιο πλούσιος από τους δύο!

Πέρασαν έτσι τέσσερα χρόνια, από τότε που έφυγε η μητέρα μου. Δεν της είχα πει ποτέ, στην αλληλογραφία που είχαμε, για τις ενέργειές μου αυτές. Αντίθετα της έλεγα ότι όλα ήταν καλά. Όμως σιγά – σιγά έβλεπα τους παραγωγούς να μας εγκαταλείπουν και τις εταιρείες του εξωτερικού να αγοράζουν από αλλού.

Μια μέρα με κάλεσε ο διευθυντής της τράπεζας και φίλος του πατέρα μου και μου είπε:

-Αγαπητέ Ευάγγελε, δυστυχώς δεν μπορείς να έχεις άλλη πίστωση. Ήδη τα πράγματα είναι πολύ κακά και ίσως θα έπρεπε να εξετάσεις την πιθανότητα να κηρύξεις πτώχευση. Σε είχα προειδοποιήσει εδώ και πολύ καιρό και δεν έκαμες κάτι να διορθώσεις την κατάσταση. Αν δεν κηρύξεις πτώχευση, κινδυνεύεις να πάεις φυλακή για χρέη.

Εκείνη τη μέρα έφυγα από την τράπεζα ένα ράκος. Προς μεγάλη μου έκπληξη έξω από το γραφείο του διευθυντή συνάντησα τον Χακίμ. Ήταν λες και με περίμενε.

-Τι συμβαίνει φίλε; Με ρώτησε.

Του απάντησα και εκείνος, είχε το θράσος να μου προτείνει να αγοράσει την επιχείρηση για ένα ευτελές ποσό. Ο Χακίμ, ο δήθεν φτωχός φίλος,  είχε λεφτά για να αγοράσει την επιχείρησή μου και εγώ δεν είχα δεκάρα! Ούτε που του απάντησα. Τον έσπρωξα και βγήκα έξω από την τράπεζα.

Άρχισα να περπατώ στους δρόμους σαν χαμένος. Έφτασα στο λιμάνι  και προχώρησα σε κάτι βράχια, εκεί που έλεγαν ότι στεκόταν τα παλιά χρόνια, ο φάρος της Αλεξάνδρειας. Έμεινα να κοιτάζω την θάλασσα, έτσι που μούγκριζε αγριεμένη και μια ιδέα άρχισε να σχηματίζεται στο μυαλό μου. Να πέσω στη θάλασσα να σκοτωθώ. Δεν έβλεπα άλλη λύση. Ντρεπόμουν τόσο για την κατάντια μου!

Ξαφνικά, και προς μεγάλη μου έκπληξη, είδα το Μαχμούτ να με πλησιάζει. Δεν ξέρω πώς με πρόλαβε πριν πηδήξω από τα βράχια. Η παρουσία του αύξησε το αίσθημα ντροπής και αηδίας του εαυτού μου. Με πήρε από το χέρι και με έβαλε να καθίσω. Τα δάκρυα έτρεχαν από τα μάτια μου ασταμάτητα. Ο Μαχμούτ ήταν σιωπηλός. Δεν ήταν άλλωστε και άτομο που μιλούσε πολύ. Πέρασε λίγη ώρα και μετά μου έσφιξε το χέρι λέγοντας:

-Μη φοβάσαι, όλα θα πάνε καλά. Η μητέρα σου τα ξέρει όλα. Θα στείλει χρήματα στη τράπεζα για να σταματήσει την αγωγή εναντίον σου. Ήδη έχει ειδοποιήσει τον διευθυντή με τηλεγράφημα. Φυσικά τα χρήματα που θα στείλει δεν αρκούν αλλά θα είναι μια αρχή. Και ύστερα εσύ θα πρέπει να δουλέψεις σκληρά. Τέρμα ο Χακίμ. Εγώ θα σε βοηθήσω, όπως μπορέσω.

Ένα άλλο κύμα ντροπής με κατέκλυσε. Η μητέρα μου τα ξέρει όλα!

-Ποιος ενημέρωσε τη μητέρα μου; Ρώτησα. Εσύ; Γιατί;

-Γιατί όταν έφυγε μου ζήτησε να σε προσέχω. Ήξερε πως μας έδιωξες. Ήξερε και για τον Χακίμ. Όμως με βαριά καρδιά ήθελε να το τραβήξει ως το τέλος. Διαφορετικά εσύ δεν θα μπορούσες να μάθεις.

Φεύγοντας εκείνη τη μέρα από το λιμάνι, δεν μπορώ να πω πως ένοιωθα καλύτερα. Ήμουν ένα ράκος. Όμως είχα αποφασίσει να προσπαθήσω. Θυμήθηκα το μυθικό πουλί, τον  φοίνικα, που αναγεννάται από τις στάχτες του. Ίσως να μπορούσα και εγώ να το κάνω.

Ο Χακίμ είχε αποδειχθεί ο χειρότερος φίλος που θα μπορούσε να έχει ο άνθρωπος. Συνειδητά είχε καταστρέψει την επιχείρηση. Αγόραζε φθηνά και χρέωνε την επιχείρηση ακριβά. Χάσαμε τους καλούς παραγωγούς και συγχρόνως χάσαμε και τους καλούς πελάτες. Την διαφορά την επωφελείτο ο ίδιος. Σύμφωνα με τους υπολογισμούς μου, είχε τσεπώσει δεκάδες χιλιάδες αγγλικές λίρες. Και εγώ δεν είχα δεκάρα. Μόνο χρέη.

Το πατρικό μου σπίτι το νοίκιασα και τα χρήματα πήγαιναν στη τράπεζα, για το χρέος. Κοιμόμουν στα γραφεία της επιχείρησης. Ο Μαχμούτ μου είχε βρει κάποιους νέους παραγωγούς και αγόραζα από αυτούς μικρές ποσότητες βαμβακιού, που πουλούσα σε μικρά εργοστάσια του εξωτερικού. Η μεγάλη πελατεία του πατέρα μου είχε χαθεί. Δούλευα ατελείωτες ώρες. Ήμουν ο διευθυντής, η γραμματέας, ο λογιστής, ακόμα και ο εργάτης. Δεν είχα να πληρώσω κανένα. Ο Μαχμούτ με βοηθούσε αρχικά μόνο συμβουλευτικά, αλλά μετά κανένα χρόνο, όταν μπορούσα να του παρέχω μισθό,  ήρθε να δουλέψει για μένα.  

Με συμβούλεψε από την αρχή να πάω να καταγγείλω τον Χακίμ στην αστυνομία.

-Και τι θα ωφελήσει αυτό; Τον ρώτησα. Κανείς δεν θα του κάνει τίποτε.

-Συμφωνώ μαζί σου, μου είπε. Όμως με τις διασυνδέσεις που έχει, θα το μάθει και θα φοβηθεί. Είναι πολύ θρασύδειλος ο Χακίμ. Θα φύγει από την Αλεξάνδρεια, πριν κάνει άλλη ζημιά.

Έτσι και έγινε. Ο Χακίμ εξαφανίστηκε. Δεν ξέρω αν έφυγε από την Αλεξάνδρεια, σίγουρα όμως έφυγε από τη ζωή μου.

Τα χρόνια που ακολούθησαν εγώ εργαζόμουν πολύ σκληρά. Μέρα – νύκτα. Είχα ξεχάσει και τα γλέντια και τις γυναίκες, τα πάντα. Μόνο δουλειά, δουλειά, δουλειά. Όσο και αν σου φανεί παράξενο, θα ήθελα εδώ να σου εκμυστηρευθώ κάτι. Αυτή η περίοδος της ζωή μου, η φτωχική, η μοναχική, η χωρίς διασκεδάσεις, υπήρξε η πιο γόνιμη αν όχι η πιο γεμάτη απ’ όλα τα χρόνια που έζησα. Κάτω από εκείνες τις συνθήκες εγώ έπρεπε να δημιουργήσω. Και όταν ο άνθρωπος ανακαλύψει μέσα του εκείνη τη δύναμη της δημιουργίας, είναι σαν να γνωρίζει το Θεό. Είναι κάτι που σε αρπάζει και σε συντροβολεί στα ουράνια. Και όσο πιο μεγάλη η στέρηση, τόσο πιο μεγάλη η δύναμη. Και αυτό το χρωστώ στη μητέρα μου και στην δική της διάκριση να ξεχωρίσει ότι αυτό θα ήταν το φάρμακό μου. Ξέρω πόσο πολύ θα την πόνεσε αυτή η επιλογή της!

Η μητέρα μου με παρακαλούσε στα γράμματά της να πάω να τη δω, μα δεν μπορούσα να φύγω. Το ανέβαλα συνεχώς. Στην αρχή με κάποιες νύξεις, αλλά σιγά – σιγά ευθέως, άρχισε να μου μιλά για κάποιο μυστικό που ήθελα να μου αποκαλύψει πριν πεθάνει. Δεν ξέρω τι μυστικό θα μπορούσε να έχει η μητέρα μου, αλλά για μένα ήταν αδύνατο να φύγω. Στα τελευταία της γράμματα με ενημέρωνε ότι είχε γράψει για αυτό το μυστικό και είχε φυλάξει τα γραπτά της σε τόπο ασφαλή, μόνο για μένα. Δυστυχώς, γιε μου, δεν βρήκα ποτέ αυτά τα γραπτά.

Εκείνη την ώρα ξύπνησε ο Αλέξης και σηκώθηκε.

-Καλημέρα. Τι κάνεις; Ρώτησε τη Ζήνα. Βλέπω διαβάζεις ακόμα το γράμμα του παππού σου! Μπράβο μεγάλη πρόοδο έχεις κάνει.

-Καλημέρα Αλέξη. Δεν μπορείς να φανταστείς πόσο ενδιαφέρουσα έχει γίνει αυτή η ιστορία! Μοιάζει με μυθιστόρημα. Ο φίλος του παππού, ο Χακίμ, τον κατάστρεψε οικονομικά και μετά από το σοκ, αυτός κατάφερε να ορθοποδήσει. Η γιαγιά η Ζηνοβία είχε ένα μυστικό που ήθελε να αποκαλύψει στο γιο της, μα αυτός δεν το έμαθε ποτέ. Πολύ ενδιαφέρον σου λέω!

-Ξέρεις, δεν νομίζω ο άνθρωπος να μπορεί να γράψει σε μυθιστόρημα, κάτι που δεν μπορεί να γίνει στη ζωή. Μήπως δεν είναι η ζωή η έμπνευση του κάθε συγγραφέα; Έτσι και με την ιστορία της οικογένειάς σου. Αν δεν εύρισκες αυτά τα γράμματα και όλα τα γεγονότα συγκεντρωμένα σε μερικές σελίδες, δεν θα ήξερες ποτέ πώς μπλέχτηκαν τα υφάδια της ζωής και δημιούργησαν το ύφασμα της πραγματικότητας. Είναι η συμπύκνωση που τα κάνει τόσο ενδιαφέροντα. Έπειτα τώρα που τα διαβάζεις ο πόνος είναι πολύ περιορισμένος. Τότε που τα ζούσαν οι άνθρωποι, ο πόνος ήταν αβάστακτος.

-Τι ωραία που τα λες, Αλέξη! Με εντυπωσιάζεις, κάποτε, σε πόσο βάθος βλέπεις τα γεγονότα. Έλα να προγευματίσουμε τώρα και αργότερα αξίζει τον κόπο να το διαβάσεις και συ.

Άρχισαν να ετοιμάζουν μαζί το πρόγευμα, φρυγανιές, τυρί, φρούτα, μαρμελάδα και  καφέ. Ο Αλέξης σιγομουρμούριζε ένα ελληνικό τραγουδάκι και η Ζήνα ακολουθούσε λικνίζοντας το σώμα της ρυθμικά. Ένοιωθαν και οι δυο ευτυχισμένοι, ιδιαίτερα κάτω από αυτές τις συνθήκες του εγκλεισμού, που σε πολλούς ανθρώπους έφερναν άγχος και ανασφάλεια.

Μέσα σε αυτή την ευχάριστη ατμόσφαιρα, η Ζήνα άκουσε το χαρακτηριστικό ήχο στο κινητό της, ειδοποιώντας της, ότι  είχε έρθει ένα ηλεκτρονικό μήνυμα. Το πήρε στα χέρια της και άρχισε να διαβάζει.

-Είναι από το δικηγορικό γραφείο στη Κύπρο, είπε στον Αλέξη. Το στέλνει στο δικηγόρο μου και το κοινοποιεί και σε μένα. Λέει ότι το κτήμα στη Πάφο βρίσκεται σε τουριστική περιοχή και έχει μεγάλη αξία. Αναφέρεται σε €3.000.000 μέχρι €5.000.000! Προτείνει μάλιστα ότι κάτω από τις σημερινές συνθήκες, που είναι πολύ δύσκολο για κάποιο να ταξιδέψει, να εξουσιοδοτήσουμε το γραφείο με πληρεξούσιο για να αναλάβουν αυτοί την πώληση και να μου καταθέσουν τα χρήματα.

-Θα ήθελες κάτι τέτοιο; Ρώτησε ο Αλέξης.

-Όχι, σίγουρα θέλω να πάω στη Κύπρο, να γνωρίσω τον τόπο και να δω με τα μάτια μου το σπίτι της γιαγιάς Ζηνοβίας. Περίμενε τόσα χρόνια, ας περιμένει ακόμα λίγο. Όταν κυκλοφορήσουν τα εμβόλια θα μπορούσαν να εμβολιασθώ και να ταξιδέψω. Θα απαντήσω αρνητικά.

-Περίμενε να πάει η ξαδέλφη μου η Ελένη να το δει και να μας στείλει φωτογραφίες. Αξίζει να ακούσουμε και τη δική της εκτίμηση. Όσο μεγάλο και αν μας φαίνεται το ποσό που εισηγούνται, μπορεί να είναι υποτιμημένο.

-Έχεις δίκαιο. Σίγουρα θα απαντήσω αρνητικά. Η απόφασή μου, να πάω η ίδια στη Κύπρο, είναι αμετάκλητη.

Τελείωσαν το πρόγευμά τους και η Ζήνα έδωσε στον Αλέξη να διαβάσει το κείμενο μέχρι το σημείο που είχε διαβάσει η ίδια.

-Με εντυπωσιάζει η κίνηση της γιαγιάς σου να αφήσει το γιο της να καταρρεύσει εντελώς και μετά να επέμβει, ενώ του είχε τόση αδυναμία. Σκληρό καρύδι η γιαγιά σου! Τι δύναμη!

-Ναι, ήταν πολύ επικίνδυνο. Αν δεν τον προλάβαινε ο Μαχμούτ θα μπορούσε να είχε σκοτωθεί.

-Λες ο Μαχμούτ να τον ακολουθούσε;

-Σίγουρα. Εφόσον ήταν συνεννοημένος με τη γιαγιά Ζηνοβία και γνώριζε τις προθέσεις του τραπεζίτη, θα ήξερε τους κινδύνους μιας τόσο απελπισμένης στιγμής. Τώρα καταλαβαίνω γιατί ο πατέρας μου ήταν τόσο επίμονος να πουλήσουμε την επιχείρησή του στους καλούς συνεργάτες του, έστω και στη ζημιά μας! Κουβαλούσε μέσα του την ευγνωμοσύνη του παππού Ευάγγελου προς τον Μαχμούτ. Και είμαι βέβαιη ότι και ο παππούς Ευάγγελος, αντάμειψε τον πιστό Μαχμούτ με κάποιο τρόπο.

-Αυτή η ιστορία μου θυμίζει πόσο σπάνια, αλλά και πόσο πολύτιμη είναι μια πραγματική φιλία. Συνήθως αποκαλούμε φίλους, αυτούς με τους οποίους μοιραζόμαστε κάποιες στιγμές, κάποιες χαρές και κυρίως ώρες διασκέδασης. Φίλοι είναι όμως μόνο εκείνοι, που όταν έρθει η ώρα της ανάγκης, βάζουν το προσωπικό τους συμφέρον σε δεύτερη μοίρα και προσφέρουν. Πράγμα σπάνιο, πάρα πολύ σπάνιο!

Μετά από αυτή τη ανάλυση των γεγονότων η Ζήνα κάθισε στον υπολογιστή της και έγραψε στην Ελένη:

Αγαπητή Ελένη,

Το δικηγορικό γραφείο που ανέλαβε την υπόθεση της μεταβίβασης της περιουσίας μου στη Πάφο με ενημέρωσε ότι η αξία του κτήματος ανέρχεται στο αστρονομικό ποσό των €3.000.000 μέχρι €5.000.000! Θα ήθελα και τη δική σου άποψη πάνω σε αυτό. Μου προτείνουν να το πουλήσω αλλά εγώ δεν έχω τέτοια πρόθεση. Το κρυφό μου όνειρο είναι να ξανακτίσω το σπίτι της γιαγιάς Ζηνοβίας και ένα μέρος από τη ζωή μου να το περνώ εκεί. Δεν ξέρω αν αυτό είναι εφικτό. Σου αναθέτω, σαν αρχιτέκτονας, να εξετάσεις το ενδεχόμενο και να μου πεις την άποψή σου. Δεν ξέρω αν υπάρχουν ίχνη της κατοικίας που στεκόταν κάποτε εκεί, αλλά αν υπάρχουν, σε παρακαλώ να τα καταγράψεις. Έστω και αν είναι ερείπια, δεν παύει να είναι το σπίτι της γιαγιάς μου.

Σε ευχαριστώ.

Με φιλικούς χαιρετισμούς


Το ξαναδιάβασε ακόμα μια φορά και πάτησε το SEND. Το μήνυμα έφυγε. Δεν υπήρχε πια επιστροφή. Είχε καταγράψει τους ενδόμυχους πόθους της.



(Chapter 12)

Cyprus 1916 – 1920

Zenovia’s house in Ktima was outside this small provincial town, on a hillside facing the sea. Around the house, her mother had planted trees and had created an orchard, with olive trees, fig trees and apple trees. There was also a chicken coop with a few chickens, two goats for their milk and the horse for dragging the carriage. A well in the courtyard, with a wooden well- wheel served the needs of the house in water. The house was not large, compared to the house where Zenovia lived in Alexandria, but it was too big for the city of Paphos. It consisted of three bedrooms, an office, a kitchen, a living room, and auxiliary spaces. It was built with stone from the area, up to one point and the rest with mad bricks. The roof was made with wooden trunks, straw, dirt, and clay tiles on the top. The floor was covered with slabs of Cypriot marble.

In the months that followed, Zenovia tried to organize her life and think about how she could help the young girls who were so deep in poverty. She saw them being wasted, getting old before reaching their thirties, being exploited.

A woman from Ktima was coming every day and help her with household chores. She was called, Susana. Mrs. Susana was the “news agency” that informed Zenovia about everything that was happening in Ktima and the surrounding villages. Who died, who got married, which children were orphaned and everything that was done, that the society commented either positively or negatively.

Based on the news, that Mrs. Susana brought her, Zenovia supported financially some girls to get married, but mainly to secure an income. She helped two impoverished sisters, who lost their father at the age of fourteen, to trainee to a seamstress and then to open their own shop, thus having a significant income for that time.

However, she understood that she would not be able to continue at this pace because soon her money would disappear, and she would need financial help herself. On the other hand, it was heard that she was helping anyone in need, and many turned to her to solve their problems. She felt that the situation had gotten out of hand. At the same time, she had been informed of Hakim’s reappearance and his employment by her son. He had not told her anything, but apart from Mahmud, others had informed her about it.

Thus, she had to keep her capital and find another way to support the poor girls. She had noticed that almost all the girls had in their homes a loom with which they weaved their dowry. Woolen sheets, silk sheets, carpets, and everything else they needed. Only the very poor, who did not have a loom. could not prepare their dowry. One day Mrs. Susana brought her a beautiful weaver with vibrant colors and vivid patterns. Zenovia had never seen anything like this.

-Where did you find it? She asked her

-It’s from Fyti, she told her. A village in the mountains of Paphos. These textiles are made there many years now. They are famous.

At that moment an idea illuminated Zenovia’s mind. She would promote a business to export Cypriot weavers to Alexandria and elsewhere. Trade was in her veins. It was a job she knew well. She would initially finance the weavers to make enough quantities and then send them to Alexandria, to merchants she knew herself.

She began with a campaign in the surrounding villages, trying to convince the young girls to take part in this effort. She explained to them that she herself would initially finance the construction of the weavers and they themselves would receive the profits. She met with great disbelief. Only the very poor, those who had nothing in their lives, accepted to participate. She bought five looms and made the following deal:

Two of the looms would go to very poor girls in the village of Fyti, who also had the know how to start making the textiles. Those who took the looms and threads would be obliged to make a certain number of weavers, and in very good quality for each month. Otherwise, Zenovia would take the looms back. Two of the looms would stay in her house, where young women who wanted to learn the technique would come to be trained to produce enough weavers for export. The last loom would be given to a girl from the surrounding villages who would be ready to contribute. Girls who had their own loom could use it.

The operation began at first timidly, with its ups and downs, but slowly began to pave. In the beginning few were interested, when, nevertheless, money began to come back and they were paid for their labor, many more jointed. Of these, only thirty remained, who were now the permanent weavers of the company. Zenovia’s house now looked like a factory. There they weaved, there they stored the goods, there they organized the shipments. This had begun to become very tiring for her, because she had ceased to have a private life anymore.

So, after a time, they rented a warehouse near the port of Kato Paphos, managed by two girls, who were more “educated”, that is, they knew how to write, read, and do arithmetic operations. They received the textiles, recorded them, prepared the missions, and paid the weavers. They used to go to Alexandria themselves. Thus, they got to know the merchants and learned the art of trading.

Zenovia watched the whole operation closely and ensured that there would be no abuses and thefts. She knew that people like Hakim exist everywhere and “whoever guards his clothes has half of them” as a popular proverb says. Although at first, she herself had financed the whole project entirely, with the boom of the business, she began to recoup the amount she gave. Their agreement was that 80% of the profit to go to the weavers and 20% to her to be able to maintain her capital. In this way, the work of supporting the girls would continue. On the other hand, the messages she received from Alexandria about her son’s business were not good at all and she was afraid that there would come a time when she would have to support him financially.

The intersection that had occurred in the society of Paphos with the introduction of the operation “loom”, was significant. Many girls, who until yesterday had nothing and their lives were doomed to misery, saw a hope rise. Most took part in the program to secure their dowry and get married. This dream was their one-way desire.

Others saw a way to help their families who were indebted to loan sharks, in order not to lose their properties. Usury was flourishing at that time. This scourge of the peasants drowned almost every family, and the breath given by the business set up by Zenovia, was invaluable.

There was a third category of girls, those with whom Zenovia was identified, who, with a clearer mind, recognized the power that economic independence gave them. It was on them that she placed her hopes for the continuation of the operation. They constituted a small percentage, but like sourdough they had the ability to inflate the dough.

The whole thing was not an easy task. In addition to the practical problems that arose every now and then, to make a real profit, the girls had to work endless hours. Many stayed up late in the evenings because they spent their days in the fields and in the hard agricultural work. With only light, an oil lamp, bending on the loom, they weaved their hope and dreams. The small income they received was a serious source of fueling their lives, which did not depend on weather conditions. They relied solely on their own labors and perseverance. Everything else in their daily lives was mainly a function of satisfactory rainfall and the avoidance of extreme weather condition.

Many families got back on their feet, many girls got married and some – a few – saw the other side of life, the independent one. The fact that the greatest profit went to them, and they were paid according to the quantity and quality they delivered, significantly outweighed the work of the worker or the maid. They were paid the value of their labor. Something that was rare for the time.

Zenovia had become a kind of heroine, she was held in high esteem, especially among the women of Paphos. However, there were also negative comments and criticisms.  For many – mostly men – she disrupted the order of society and the place of women in the family. However, the poverty that prevailed and the daily unsatisfied needs forced them to remain silent or not to be considered. Rarely, however, did girls who were married continue to work. It was basically a profession for young girls.

For three years Zenobia lived daily the fever of the business she had set up and had no time at all to think about herself and her own worries. However, after the three years that everything had taken its course and the heart of the business had moved to the port of Paphos, Zenovia began to have a private time and organize her own daily life.

She would get up in the morning, around 6 o’clock, take out water from the well and water the flowers in her pots. The orchard with the trees that surrounded the house, was taken care by Mr. Christos. Mrs. Susana was engaged in cleaning and cooking, and so Zenovia was locked every day for one to two hours in her office and studied or wrote. This gave her great satisfaction. She answered correspondence with friends or associates from Alexandria, her son and Penelope. This hour was an open window to the world for her.

At other times, however, during her secret hours, she also recorded the story she wanted to leave to her son. The story about which her friend Eurydice had told her in the village, that day. This story was sacred to Zenovia, and her purpose was to impart this sanctity to her son, who, she hoped, would be the only reader of the text she wrote. But with the hustle and bustle that existed in the house most of the time, Zenovia was afraid that it would fall into the hands of one of the girls or even worse someone would throw it away. So, she kept this text in a box of wild olive wood, which had been made for her by a carpenter in Ktima. He had told her that it is the most durable wood and can be preserved for many years. She locked it up and hid it in a secret hiding place that only she knew.

Around 10 every morning, when Mr. Christos finished his work in the orchard, took her with the carriage to the port and visited the girls in the warehouse. Every day, she had to solve minor problems and small misunderstandings. Unfortunately, she had not yet found that girl who with her personality would impose herself and take the initiative. There were some that were more initiative than the others, but none stood out. So, the daily presence of Zenovia was necessary. She stayed there as long as needed to, from two to four hours, sometimes.

When they returned home, she and Mrs. Susana had their lunch and she rested for an hour. In the afternoon she took a long walk to the lighthouse, which stood above the harbor to warn the sailors. It was a small lighthouse that the English had built, at the end of the last century, when they came to Cyprus. It reminded her of Alexandria and Demetrios. She had met the lighthouse keeper and his wife and sat with them and had coffee together.

For a couple of months, this routine gave a pleasant balance to her life. Although she was worried about her son and the turn their business had taken, she had decided to wait for life to solve the problem.

During the fourth year of her settlement in Paphos, two events turned her daily peace upside down. She had been informed by Mahmud, but also by the director of the bank, who was a friend of Demetrios, that their business in Alexandria was on the edge of bankruptcy and Evangelos was in danger of going to prison for debts. Zenovia was not a person who faltered with difficulties. She acted immediately.

She telegraphed to the bank manager that she herself, would pay a large part of the exorbitant amount her son owed. She would arrange with the bank in Cyprus to send him the amount as soon as possible. But she asked him not to report it to Evangelos when he would inform him about the bankruptcy.

At the same time, she telegraphed to Mahmud and begged him to have Evangelos up close, lest in his despair he would commit any madness. She was praying all the time. She knew she had gone to extremes, but she saw no other way to appease her son. Surely Demetrius would not agree. It was a very risky handling. But Zenovia dared.

She was in great agony until Mahmud telegraphed to her:

All good. Evangelos understood the truth. Hakim is gone. He starts all over again. I’ll help.

These few words were enough to make Zenovia cry of joy. In her son’s letters that followed, she learned in detail the facts. Now their correspondence was no longer typical. Her son was writing the whole truth to her. She was now impressed by his strength and determination.

-Now you are your mother’s son, she thought.

The other event that shook Zenovia took place sometime later, on July 31, 1920. It was the execution of Ion Dragoumis by a detachment of the police in Athens, on the charge that he was responsible for the attempted assassination of Eleftherios Venizelos in Paris. Without trial, without an indictment, without an apology, he was executed in cold blood. Eleftherios Venizelos himself, when he found out about it, exclaimed: “Horrible! Horrible! Horrible!”

It was announced by the few newspapers in Cyprus, but her friend also wrote it to her. This inglorious end of the man she loved so much and admired so much for his talents, devastated Penelope.

She wrote to Zenovia:

When a society is controlled not by law and order, but by the power and force of those who hold arms, humanity goes back to prehistory and the concept of civilization is erased from the face of the earth. In Athens, the city that gave birth to philosophy and democracy, people execute one of the brightest minds ever born… There are no phrases and words to express my abhorrence and pain…

Zenovia, that afternoon, on her walk, did not pass by the lighthouse to have coffee with the lighthouse keeper and his wife. She walked to the sea and stayed looking at the water for a long time. Her eyes were full of tears. For the pain, for all the pain of people, but above all for the injustice that man causes to another human being.

She knew that life is not fair, she knew that the world will always be like this, but she would like, she would love to bear a little of the burden of pain that people carry. She wanted to hold it with both hands and throw it to the sea, that vast and bottomless melting pot that wipes everything out. She wanted to, but she could not… Each person, alone, will have to bear his own share of the pain.


Ion Dragoymis

If you want to read more about the financial situation of the Cypriot Villagers, follow the link

Historical data in Cyprus from 1930 to 33


(Chapter 13)

Melbourne – Australia, October – December 2020

After sending the e-mail to Eleni, everything had become clear in Zena’s mind. Her goal was to visit Cyprus and discover all that she could find out there. This strange situation of the pandemic and quarantine simply gave her time to read the letters that were in the box that her father had left her.

Nevertheless, this stagnation had begun to become irritating. When cases were reduced, some freedoms were given to trafficking, when a new mutation appeared and cases increased, immediately everyone was locked in their homes. For Zena this would be unbearable, without Alexis. If she had been completely alone all these months she would go crazy. Alexis’ presence colored her life and gave meaning to her dull days.

He did not stand idly by for a minute. In addition to the lectures, he did online, he was also involved in all the small tasks that Zena’s house needed. He repaired a few dripping taps, painted almost the entire apartment, and everything else he saw that could be improved. Zena was somewhat indifferent to all this. When her father was alive and saw that something was absolutely necessary to be repaired, she asked him and sent a technician. Since he died though, she has not bothered at all.

Now she saw everything in her apartment working perfectly and the place shining. She watched Alexis working and admired his shapely, strong body, which he did not have for show but used it practically. On the other hand, she was impressed with the perfection with which he completed any work he was starting. You could not find any flaw. She was pleasantly surprised every day. She even began to feel that as the days were passing, she was more attached to him. This had never happened to her before in her life. And the strange thing was that she liked it! This man, with his old-fashioned mentality and chivalrous principles, was incredibly charming!

At the same time, she continued reading the text that her grandfather wrote to her father. The life of her ancestors as it evolved through this text was extremely interesting and kept her in agony. Unfortunately for her she was progressing slowly, due to the difficulty in the language, but she insisted on reading it first on her own. She asked Alexis only about words and phrases that made it particularly difficult for her. She was absorbed in study for hours and when she finished she felt immersed in a magical world, which was the world of her family!

Thus, grandfather Evangelos wrote to her father:

My son, I have not been very consistent in my narrative. Many years have passed since I described my life to you until my attempt to revive the business I inherited from my father. You are now fifteen years old. I hope when this text comes into your possession, you will have the interest to read it.

I worked hard for the next ten years. It was not easy to set up our business, which I so frivolously allowed to destroy. If Mahmud wasn’t by my side, I certainly wouldn’t have made it. The producers did not trust me anymore and the factories abroad did not want to hear about me. I had to flush the stingray over me. Mahmud – let him be well where he is, because he has been dead for two years – stood by me as a father. I cannot express the gratitude I feel for this. After his death, I stood by his widow as much as I could and endowed his only daughter. It was the least I could do for him.

These ten years, in addition to working hard, I also had frequent correspondence with my mother. Inside the box along with my text you will find all the correspondence I had with her. I was keeping her letters and when she died and I went to Paphos, I found in her office all the letters that I was sending her. So, there’s everything. There is nothing missing. They will help you understand how great this woman was.

But let’s take things from the beginning. While I was struggling to set up the business, my mother was setting up another business in Paphos. In her effort to help the poor women of the countryside, she had begun the trade of Cypriot weavers with Alexandria. In other words, she was sending Cypriot weavings to traders here and almost all the profits went to the weavers. So many girls were helped, and my mother made use of that innate talent she had with business and commerce.

All these years, she wrote to me, asking me to go and visit her, but I was immersed in my attempt to revive the business. I couldn’t leave for a minute, or at least I thought so. Later, when I lost her, I realized that it was much more important it to go see her. But in those years, such a trip would last at least a month, and for me it was very difficult to be away for so long. I was trying to put everything in order and then leave.

At the same time, she had dedicated herself to her goal. She was troubled by the fact that she was not at all sure if the girls alone could keep the business. She tried to train them because she knew that she herself would not live forever, but the fact that as soon as they got married they ceased to participate, did not help at all. Very few saw a prospect in this employment, but the lack of education and cultivation made it difficult for them to progress. Thus, she had set her second goal to help educate some of them. She paid the school for two or three, which were good in studying, but she was gone before she could organize the administration sector.

My mother passed away in May, 1930. She was only 56 years old. She had begun to have a problem with her legs from a long time, maybe it was arthritis, I don’t know exactly. However, with the use of a stick, she used to go, every afternoon, for a long walk The route was bumpy and in some places had rocks. It seems that somewhere she stumbled and fell. Unfortunately, she was injured on the head and although she lived for a few days, she never recovered.

Someone telegraphed me and I immediately left for Cyprus. I caught up with her before she died. She opened her eyes and saw me when I was by her bedside, but she couldn’t talk to me. She smiled at me happily and in a few hours she let out her last breath in my arms. I don’t want it to sound melodramatic because it was a very tender moment. Perhaps the most tender moment between us, in my whole life. And I am grateful to God that I experienced it.

Your grandmother’s funeral was a unique experience. I was asked where I would like her to be buried, in the town or in her village. I chose the village, where her parents were buried. Of course, I did not know that the village was in the mountains, it was about 15 miles from Ktima and there were neither roads nor means of transport.

-I will send someone to inform them, the priest told me, and we will start around five o’clock in the morning, before the sun rises.

At five o’clock in the morning we were all ready. In front a carriage with the coffin and behind it a huge procession with black-dressed women, men, children, some with donkeys, some with mules and most of them on foot. I had never seen anything like this in my life. Dozens, if not hundreds followed the coffin. Most women were young, others held infants in their arms, there were even pregnant women.

I was given a horse. At first I did not want to ride it, watching all those women walking, but the priest said to me something very wise:

-My son, to which one of them, will you give this horse? There are dozens of them. They are used to walk all their lives; they do not get tired. You are not used to.

However, I shared it with pregnant women or those who held infants in their arms.

The sad procession continued slowly, with the priests behind the coffin, chanting, many women crying, and others lamenting. It looked like a dance (chorus) of ancient tragedy. Wherever we found a spring we would stop for drinking water. When we passed through villages the people were all outside and were waiting for us with flowers and perfume containers in their hands, with which they decorated the coffin and perfumed my mother’s dead body. Some of them joined the procession, which was getting bigger and bigger. It was as if it were Good Friday, and the Epitaph was passing by.

And while people mourned Zenovia’s death, nature raged with beauty and fragrances to welcome her in her arms. It was May. In my mind came Aphrodite with Adonis and the Virgin Mary with Christ. At this time of the year, they also mourned their loved ones. The only difference was that their own loved ones would soon be resurrected. My own mother, would not.

Aphrodite on this land, in which we would soon deposit my mother’s body, ran barefoot when she lost Adonis, and red poppies blossomed from the blood dripping from her bare feet. And now the poppies were bending their slim bodies to the wind and illuminating the fields with their brilliant color, like a last farewell to Zenovia, a daughter of the land of Paphos.

As we arrived at her village, Statos, all the inhabitants were waiting at the entrance of the village to accompany us to the church. The church devoted to the Saints Zenovios and Zenovia. I was amazed when I heard it. The funeral was held by many priests who gathered from the surrounding villages to honor my mother, leading the Bishop of Paphos. The crowd filled the small church as well as all the streets of the village.

At the end of the funeral the Bishop said a few words about my mother. I don’t remember many things because I was very emotional. What was nailed to my memory was a phrase of his:

-This sea ​​of ​​people who say goodbye to you, Zenobia, are here because you are the first person who for hundreds of years has cared about these oppressed. You cared about their poverty and showed them the way to claim their lives. Let the soil that will cover you be light! Eternal thy memory.

After the funeral I stayed a few days in the village. I was hosted by Euthymia, the daughter of Eurydice, a relative of my mother, to whom she gave her parents’ house for a dowry. So, I actually stayed at my grandmother’s and mother’s house. These people felt great gratitude for her. Their hospitality, in a house so humble, was royal to me.

But unfortunately, I had to leave. Alexandria and my job were waiting for me. I went back to the Ktima, settled the finances with the bank and collected all my mother’s books and writings, as well as some of her personal belongings. Furthermore,  I left the house and the furniture to the girls who managed the business with the textiles to have it as a headquarters. I, also, told them they could use it as long as they wanted.

As I had told you before, my mother was constantly referring to some secret that she wanted to confide in me, and she had even written it. I believed that among all these documents that I collected, there would be something. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything, no matter how much I searched. Knowing my mother, I am sure that somewhere there will be this text. I can’t just imagine where.

Here Zena stopped reading. The emotional charge was great. She could not keep going.

-Grandma Zenovia was buried like a saint, she thought.

It was never cleared in her mind if there was life after death, since she was not religious at all, anyway. But reading all these stories and knowing the action of this excellent woman, she was now certain that her existence could not be lost in nothingness after her death. She felt the same for her father. In what way the spirit of people fleeing life survives, she did not know, nor could she conclude, but she was now certain that there is some kind of posthumous existence in a spiritual dimension.

-How much I wish I had met her! She said aloud.

-What did you say? Alexis asked her

-I said I would like to meet Grandma Zenovia, Zena replied. She was such a great woman!.

-Stand in front of the mirror, Alexis said to her with a laugh. You will see her opposite you. You carry your grandmother’s genes in your body but above all in your spirit! And don’t think that this whole story came into your hands, so by chance. It is an assignment to you to revive her life, but above all to find your roots.

Zena shuddered. All this so far was a game that intrigued her, but Alexis was right. Behind the interesting story, there were people, there was Grandma Zenovia, who left a legacy of a secret. And while almost a hundred years had passed and everything has been pulverized by merciless time, Zena will have to find the truth. Surreal? Certainly. But as Alexis said it is a task that has been assigned to her.

-What happened? Has Eleni replied? Alexis asked.

-Yes, she has confirmed that the assessment of the plot in Paphos by the law firm is realistic. It is a very large property in a touristic area, and many will be interested in buying and developing. What began to irritate me is the insistence of the law firm to entrust them with the sale of the land. We will lose the buyer, they say. And what about that? I’m not interested in selling!

-Be wary of this office. You never know what their intentions are. Don’t think that people in Cyprus are saints. Far from it. There is a lot of corruption and vested interests. Be careful with them.

-Don’t worry. I am a fox, and I don’t trust anyone easily. For now, I will wait. I can’t go to Cyprus unless the vaccines are released. Not less than six months’ time, I suppose. It will be summer there. And you know what? Although I have traveled to many countries of the world, I have never been to Europe, let alone to a country of the Mediterranean Sea. It will be an incredible experience for me.

-I think you’ll like it. It’s a shame that I won’t be able to travel with you at that time. I have the groups of the Greek language. Otherwise, I would come.

-Don’t worry, she told him with a laugh. It is an opportunity to test our relationship and see if it is the pandemic that keeps us together or we have found our partner.

-Let go of the cunning, Alexis told her, slightly annoyed. I have no fun for adventures.

-Okay tough, Mediterranean man! I will see whether I am a frivolous Australian or the genes of Zenovia will keep me eternally faithful to you!




(Chapter 14)

Cyprus – Summer 2021

Zena was on the plane flying to Cyprus, studying once again the letters and text that grandfather Evangelos left to her father. It was the last flight of the route, from Dubai to Larnaca airport

During the months that had passed, she had read everything many times and in her mind she had created such a clear picture of their lives that she thought she knew them. It made a great impression on her that although almost all the texts, except for the letters of Zenovia, concerned grandfather Evangelos, the central figure was Zenovia. The effect of this woman was riveting in everyone’s lives, even after her death.

In the continuation of his text, Evangelos talked about his wife, Antigone, but this sweet and kind woman seemed to be lost in the vortex of time and events, while Zenovia stood proud and dominated even today, in her own life.

Grandfather Evangelos wrote, somewhere:

When I returned, my son, from my mother’s funeral in Cyprus, I realized that I was now alone in the world. My family would end here if I didn’t get married to leave Zenovia’s genes to future generations. Then I remembered Antigone. She was the only one of my old admirers who hadn’t got married, after my financial ruin. I even knew that my mother kept correspondence with her. Thus, I went to see her. She had also lost her parents and was alone.

When I decided to marry her, I was sure she was the most ideal woman in the world for me. She is so affectionate, loving, supportive and a good mother. She does not have the potential of Zenovia, which is not at all strange, because my mother was a phenomenon, but I am happy that I chose her. She is for me the best wife in the world, and I believe for you too, the best mother.

I, my son, was late to get married because circumstances did not allow me to do so, in the way I had lived. It would be good for you to marry younger so that you can have many children and perpetuate the genes of Zenovia, but also of my wonderful father, Demetrios, who was the best person in the world.

Here Zena always wept. She was thinking of her own father who from his twentieth years was orphaned by both of his parents, when in that accident they were killed together, and he had to take over the cotton business on his own. Before he could understand well what was happening, the national revolution took place in Egypt and nationalized the cotton factory he had in Alexandria. At such a young age he had to start from the beginning. How could he think about getting married?

So, matured too, probably by mistake, gave birth to her. And he named her Zena, the name of his grandmother, not his mother, as was customary. Now Zena was almost forty-one years old and until recently she had never thought about marrying and having children. Her acquaintance with Alexis had now changed this perspective, as well as the reading of all these letters, which had created in her the desire to leave offspring. Something that, two years ago, would have been completely utopian.

At that time the air hostess passed to distribute the meals and Zena tool off her mask to eat. Throughout the trip everyone had to wear a protective mask, which they took off only to eat. The lady next to her, around fifty, with a kind face, did the same and smiled shyly at Zena.

-Are you going to Cyprus? Zena asked her in Greek

-Yes, I come from Paphos, and I had gone to Melbourne to attend the wedding of my sister’s daughter. It was done in a very close circle, due to the pandemic. Very tiring trip.

-Yes, you are right. Twenty-two hours on a plane is not a little! And the worst part is that we must wear this mask as well, all the time.

-What to do? The circumstances are difficult. Are you going to Cyprus?

-Yes, I am also going to Paphos. My great-grandmother came from there, but for me is the first time to visit the island. May I ask you something? I have read my grandfather’s letters and sometimes the city is called Paphos and sometimes Ktima. Which is correct?

-Let me explain. Paphos is an ancient city of Cyprus. The name is associated with the goddess Aphrodite, since Paphos, was the name of the mythological daughter or son of Galatea and Pygmalion. Also, Pausanias and Homer mention, as the founder of Paphos and Palaipaphos, Agapenor, Arcadian King of Tegea, who after his return from the Trojan War founded Palaipaphos, today’s Kouklia village. When the Franks came to Cyprus in 1192, the area of the city of Paphos was renamed as the Royal Estate (Ktima), and for this reason, until 1970, it was called Ktima. Now it is officially called Paphos.

-Thank you. Very enlightening information. Could you repeat the names for me to look about them, later?

-Let me write them to you.

Maria noted on a piece of paper the names mentioned about the name of Paphos and gave them to Zena.

-Thank you very much. Do you live in Paphos or in a village in the district of Paphos?

-I live in Yeroskipou. It is a municipality just outside the city of Paphos. You know goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty in ancient times, is said to have been born on a beach in Paphos. You can also see the location if you want now that you will be there. Some associate her name with the word “aphros” which means foam of the sea and the verb “dyomai”, that is, I emerge, but modern scholars consider it paretymology (false explanation). She is a Middle Eastern deity who spread to the Greek world through Cyprus, that is why she is said to have been born here. Her name is foreign.

-You know a lot of things. Are you a philologist? My partner is a philologist. He taught me to speak Greek.

-No, I’m not a philologist, but I read a lot. I like to study the history of my country. Let me tell you something else since we have caught on this issue. My village, Yeroskipou, took its name from the words “ieros kipos” that means Sacred Garden, because it is said that here were the sacred gardens of the goddess Aphrodite. Her temple was a little further down, where today is the village of Kouklia. One can see the ruins of the temple that existed in antiquity. It was the most important worship center of the goddess in the entire Greek world of the time. People came from everywhere to honor her.

-What you are telling me is magical! I feel like I’m going to take a dip in the past by stepping foot on this island. By the way let’s introduce to each other. My name is Zena, Zenovia, that is, Vassilopoulos and I am a journalist.

-My name is Maria Stylianou, and I am a simple housewife who likes to read a lot.

-Oh, I’m so lucky to have met you. But let me also ask you something else. Do you see all those letters that I keep and read all the time? My grandfather left them to my father. Most of them refer to my great-grandmother, who was called Zenovia and came from the village of Statos. This woman between 1916 and until 1930 when she died, had set up a kind of business to export Cypriot weavers initially and other items later, to Alexandria and elsewhere to help the poor girls of Paphos. Do you know anything about it?

-No, I haven’t heard anything. It is possible that with her death this operation stopped.

-You know, my great-grandmother was an incredible woman. She married at an early age to a cotton merchant from Alexandria and while she was an illiterate village girl, she was educated and helped her husband in his business. When he died, she came to Cyprus and set up this business to support needy girls to secure an income.

-I haven’t heard anything about it, but I do know that at that time poverty was indescribable. People were indebted to loan sharks and often lost their properties because they could not pay. If your great-grandmother did something to help, well done to her.

-And one more thing. In some of her letters to her son, she refers to a girl who had a strange name. A! I remembered. Her name was Andrianthe. This girl, then, seems to have been a very capable weaver and not only that. She could make Cyprus sweets, jams, and everything you can imagine. She wanted to expand the business to other products, and it seems that she had convinced my great-grandmother. They had even managed to export to London. Have you heard anything about her?

-No, I haven’t heard anything. I believe that after the death of your great-grandmother, it would be very difficult for these girls to continue exporting. They did not have the right connections and neither did they have the freedom of movement. Your great-grandmother must have been very dynamic and fearless to achieve, then, what you describe.

-Yes, I too have been impressed by her actions. It’s her own story that brings me to Cyprus. Do you know anything about Statos, her village?

-Yes, of course. It is a small village in the mountains of Paphos. You should know that the district of Paphos is basically mountainous. It is there that mainly vines are grown. This village, around 1966 – 1969 suffered large landslides due to rainfall. Thus, the government was forced to transfer the residents of the village, but also of a neighbor village to a hill above. The new village was named Statos – Agios Fotios, as were the names of the two villages that were united. In the old village, where your great-grandmother came from, there are only ruined houses. You shall visit it, I guess.

-However, I must confess to you that for the first time I have had a conversation in Greek. Two years ago, I hardly knew any Greek. But after the death of my father and my acquaintance with Alexis, my partner, I began to learn, to read the letters that my father left me. I am thrilled that I can understand what you are saying and you also to understand my Greek.

-Your Greek is fine. I thought you’ve been talking Greek all your life.

At that time the air hostess passed to collect the empty food trays. Zena and Maria wore their masks. Maria closed her eyes to rest, and Zena looked out of the window. They were passing over a desert. Endless expanses of sand and in the middle a straight road continuing for kilometers. Every now and then you could see a car crossing it.

-What a monotonous landscape! Zena thought.

Then she remembered when she visited the famous monolith Ayres Rock, in the desert of central Australia, which, when the sun beats on its surface at sunrise and sunset, the metals it contains are activated and shines red. The area is considered a sacred site of the Aborigines and has now been renamed to Uluru Park. She could never forget the emotion that filled her when she saw the spectacle.

-All places have their beauty, but above all their sanctity, she thought.

Once when she had gone to a tribe on some islands of Asia, an old sorcerer priest had told her.

-People, in the old days, used to listen to the sound of the earth and then decided where to build their temples. Now they build them wherever they find an empty plot of land.

With these thoughts Zena closed her eyes and fell asleep.

When she reopened them the landscape had changed. They were now above the Mediterranean Sea. Deep blue and islets thrown like pebbles in the waves. Glamorous beauty.

-It is the Aegean Sea, Maria told her. In a moment we will see Cyprus.

Zena’s heart was shattered. So, from above she would see for the first time the homeland of her great-grandmother. She felt a thrill that she could not explain.  Soon the pilot announced the arrival of the plane at Larnaca airport.

-Zena looked almost greedily, and Maria explained to her:

-What we are seeing now is the Karpasia peninsula, now occupied by Turkish troops. That one, that is just seen, is the Akamas peninsula. In a short time, we will make a round and land at Larnaca airport.

She noticed that the coastlines of Cyprus were smoother and straighter than the islands previously seen in the Aegean Sea. Soon, the descent of the aircraft began, and as Zena was looking at the land approaching, she could single out the houses, the cars, the green plantations, and even the people who were going to work. On the other side was the blue sea. The waves that were bursting on the shore were not huge like those of the oceans she knew. Everything was on a smaller scale.

-A lilliputian place, she thought. Which gives birth to great people!

-We have arrived; Maria told her. I’ll give you my phone number and you can come visit me whenever you want. I will be very happy. Do you have a way of transportation to your hotel, or do you want me and my husband, who will come to pick me up, to give you a lift?.

-Thank you very much! I couldn’t believe that before setting foot in Cyprus I made a friend! I have rented a car and I will take it from the airport. I will use the GPS and find my hotel. It is called Elysium. It is just outside Paphos towards a village called Chloraka.

-Wonderful! Yes I know it, it is one of the most beautiful hotels in the area. You will enjoy it. And for any difficulty you call me. The distances here are very small. Nothing to do with Australia and everything you knew.

-Yes, I know it and thank you very much! Meeting you was a great luck for me!

The exit from the airport was not so fast because all passengers had to take a PCR test and only when the results were negative to leave. Otherwise, they would have to quarantine. It was a tedious process, but it had to be done.

Before she left, Zena said goodbye to Maria and promised her that she would call her. After picking up her car, a Toyota Prius, she turned on the GPS and set off.

The time was 11 in the morning. The heat had already started but inside the car there was air conditioning, and the atmosphere was very pleasant. She turned on the radio and Greek music filled the space.

Zena drove, humming the rhythm of the music, and at the same time sorted her first impressions of Cyprus.

-The airport is relatively small, but perfectly modern, she concluded. Cypriots are light brown to brunettes of medium stature. Young women, even though they do not possess the tall bodies of the northern countries, have that charming femininity, which captivates men. Was Zenovia looking like them too?

She concentrated her gaze on the road and continued her trip. The journey began. Where will it lead her?





Ayres Rock

Pygmalion and Galatea


(Chapter 15)

Cyprus – Summer 2021

Zena, after her arrival at the hotel and the necessary procedures for checking in, which under the specific circumstances included more prerequisites, such as having a vaccination certificate against Covid – 19, contacted Alexis and informed him about her trip. She also talked to him about her new friend, Maria Stylianou. She hid from him the fact that she spoke with Maria in Greek, perhaps, because she was still not ready to do it all the time. She needed a lot of effort on her part, and she preferred to wait a while.

The next day Zena woke up early. The time change upset her body, but as she was very tired, she slept soundly at night. It was six o’clock in the morning. The day before, she had explored the hotel and saw that there was access to the sea. They had placed two jetties and created a small beach because the area in general was full of rocks and the sea wild. She put on her swimsuit and after passing by the impressive pools of the hotel, she went down to the beach.

The time of the morning was magical. The sea was quiet and especially in the space enclosed between the two jetties, it seemed motionless. For the first time in her life, Zena had seen a sea that resembled the mirror’s surface. In her homeland the sea was an ocean that roared and moaned. Here was another dimension. There was no one else at that time. She stepped towards the water and began to walk. It was so clean that she could see her legs and some little fish swimming.

When she dived and began to swim, she felt the energy of the water filling her body and rejuvenating her. She remembered that water always left her with that feeling. In the ocean of her homeland, however, the wild movement of the sea and the high waves made the whole experience a strong struggle with nature and filled her with questions about the dark mystery of the seabed. Here the clarity of the water was incredible and the feelings different. It was a hug that rocked her and tenderly turned her back to the womb that gave birth to her.

After swimming for half an hour, she returned to her room and got prepared for breakfast. She went downstairs to the dining room wearing her mask, because inside the hotel she constantly had to have a mask and only at lunchtime could one take it off.

It was difficult to resist the variety of the rich buffet. However, she tried to choose local products such as halloumi, jams, small olive pies and various fruits. It was all great!

-With such delicacies I will fatten, she thought. I must hold back, but I don’t see it!

Returning to her room, she sent a message to her lawyer from the Paphos law office. He was called Neophytos Neophytou, a purely Paphic name she had been told, because Saint Neophytos was a saint of Paphos, and his monastery was not far from the city. They agreed to meet at noon. He would come to pick her up from her hotel to go for lunch and hand over to her the title deeds in her name.

She then contacted Alexis. The time in Australia was 5 in the afternoon, when in Cyprus it was 10 in the morning. That is, seven hours apart. Thus, she had to talk to him in the morning or even early afternoon. She told him about her experience with the sea and he assured her that she would have other similar surprises in this small place, which was his homeland.

-You know, he told her, it is said that the Mediterranean Sea is the cradle of human civilization. From what we know until now, the first people who created settlements were in the region of Mesopotamia and then expanded to the Middle East and Cyprus. It would be good to visit the settlement of Choirokoitia near Limassol, where people began to settle there, , thousands of years ago, at least from 7000 BC or earlier. I believe you will find it a very interesting place.

Then she sat on the balcony of her room overlooking the sea. She breathed deeply the smell of the saltiness that reached there and took back in her hands the letters of her grandfather. She began to read them again, here and there, where her eye fell. Zenovia’s thoughts, her advice to her son, give her the impression that she had a conversation with her. And now that she was in her homeland, this conversation was taking on a different level.

-I must call Eleni, she thought. Before I meet the lawyer. It’s good to know what she’s going to tell me.

Thus, she called Eleni, who was very excited to hear her.

-Welcome, she told her. How was your trip like? How is the hotel?

-All good, Zena replied. It’s like I’m still in a state of ecstasy. Everything looks great to me. But I would like to talk to you because at noon I will meet the lawyer. Do you have anything interesting to tell me about Zenovia’s property?

-Yes, something strange happened. I contacted the Municipality of Paphos to ask about the prospects of utilizing the plot and to my great surprise I was informed that a developer was recently asking about the same piece, saying that it is his own.

-They did not give me more information, even though I asked, and they probably tried to keep quiet about the matter. Could it be, that the buyer that your lawyer was talking about, is anticipating the facts?

-Maybe, I don’t know. You did well to tell me, so I’ll be more careful. When will I be able to see you in person and go together to visit this property.

-Tomorrow I can’t because I am busy, but I will try the day after tomorrow to be there. I will be very happy to meet you in person! Be careful with the lawyer. We do not know what his intentions are.

-Don’t worry! Everything will be fine. I know how to take care of myself.

-Well, we will be contacting tomorrow to agree on the details. Until then, be careful. Not all Cypriots are saints! Now you will get to know the other side of them.

-Thank you so much! Everything will be fine, you will see.

Hanging up the phone, Zena kept thinking for a while. It seems that the pressures to sell the plot of land would intensify but she herself was not a person who was easily persuaded.

-We’ll see, she whispered.

She began to get ready because the lawyer would come in a while. They had agreed to meet in the lobby of the hotel, around 12.30 noon. She wore a yellow dress that matched her brownish-blond hair and illuminated her dark eyes. She was very impressive. She emphasized her eyes with a green pencil and put on a light orange lipstick.

-With the mask covering the face, no one will see it, she thought, but it doesn’t matter.

She always wanted her make – up to be complete. She did not like it half-jobs. She took one last look at the mirror, took her handbag, and went down to the lobby. She asked the receptionist if anyone had asked for her, and was shown a plump gentleman of medium stature, around forty, sitting further. She approached him and asked him in English:

-Are you Mr. Neophytou? I am Zena Vassilopoulos.

Although Mr. Neophytou was wearing a mask, Zena understood from the expression of his eyes that he was left with his mouth open when he saw her.

-Oh, yes of course. It’s me. I’m so glad to meet you! You’re gorgeous!

-Thank you so much! It is probably my Cypriot genes!

-I don’t know, probably it’s the mixture. Very strange the combination of your colors!

Zena laughed flattered.

-Let’s get started, she said to change the conversation because she was begging to feel uncomfortable.

-Please follow me. My car is just outside.

In the parking lot of the hotel, the Mercedes of Mr. Neophytou was waiting for them.

-We’re going to Coral Bay, he told her. There is a restaurant with amazing view. The locals call the location Maa or Paleocastro. There are archaeological remains of a settlement and walls of the Late Bronze Age, 1200 BC. The name Maa probably comes from an ancient deity. You see how the names are maintained in these places!

-I am amazed at the history of the country!

-The whole of Cyprus, but especially Paphos, is what we call, every step and an antiquity. Near the hotel you are staying in is the archaeological site Tombs of the Kings, a cemetery basically of the Hellenistic period, with burial elements that resemble similar ones in Alexandria, Egypt.

-I don’t know what to say! Everything seems to blend with the history of the past but also with the history of my family.

-Near the port of Paphos is another archaeological site, which includes houses with mosaic floors, of exceptional value and quality, of the period of the 3rd and 4th century AD. It would be good to visit them.

-I will visit them. I feel enchanted.

-With the conversation, we arrived. Here is the restaurant we will have our lunch.

They proceeded towards the restaurant, which was located high up and down you could see the bay, which looked like a horseshoe, and the tourists sunbathing on the beach. They sat at a table overlooking the sea and Zena looked at the landscape impressed. She had almost forgotten why she was there. She felt like a tourist.

Zena left the choice of dishes to Mr. Neophytou, and she did not regret it. The fish here tasted much better than she knew.

-It’s the Mediterranean Sea, he told her. Here everything is tastier.

-I got it, she replied stuffy. I’m afraid I’ll put a lot of weight on it until I leave. The food is excellent.

As soon as they finished eating, Mr. Neophytou handed her an envelope.

-Here are all the title deeds, he told her, transferred in your name. You will also have to come to my office for some signatures. The plots in the village of Statos are very small and have probably merged with the adjacent properties. We will have to claim some compensation from the current farmers if you wish. However, they are of no value, in relation to the area here in Paphos.

-No, I wouldn’t want to. From what I understood from Zenovia’s letters to her son, she had given them to the family of a friend to cultivate. All I could do is pass them on to them, although I don’t think we’ll find a way out after a hundred years.

-Okay, as you like. We can see it later.

At the time of the dessert – they had ordered a traditional baklava – Zena saw a gentleman approaching with a wide smile. So wide that it looked fake. He was around 45, tall, brunette, very fit with a tailored T-shirt to project his muscles and a relatively well-made face. He was the man who for some women would have seemed very charming, but for Zena he would not. He was just the person she would not like.

He greeted them in English and introduced himself to her:

-Andreas Nicolaou, developer. You should be Zena Vassilopoulos.

And he sat down at their table, after asking the waitress for a coffee. Zena immediately understood his role. He was the one interested in her property. She did not say anything and waited to see what will happen.

Mr. Nikolaou was looking at her, one could say with impudence, and turning a blind eye to Mr. Neophytou, he whispered something that Zena did not understand but was sure that it was a sexist comment. For a moment she thought about getting up and leaving – at least that is how her explosive temperament commanded her – but she was restrained because she wanted to see the development of this show.

The sequel was quite annoying for Zena because Mr. Nicolaou began to flirt with her relentlessly, giving her false smiles, lustful glances, and cheap compliments. How she was restrained she did not even know herself. In the end he came up with the contentious issue.

-I know about the property you have in Kato Paphos, and I would like to buy it. I can pay you as much as you want. I have already prepared plans for its development, and I can show them to you!

Here Zena could not restrain herself any longer. She became furious. She stood up and, turning to Mr. Neophytou, who was obviously in a very difficult position, said firmly:

-By what right, Mr. Neophytou, did you inform Mr. Nicolaou of my property? I made it clear to you that I am not interested in selling it!

-And turning to Mr. Nicolaou she added:

-And how much audacity do you have to prepare plans for the exploitation of an area that does not belong to you? I have said it and I repeat it: I am not interested in selling my property! And if ever I am interested, I will find the buyer in my own way. Goodbye!

She proceeded to an employee asking him to call her a taxi. Mr. Neophytou ran after her, apologizing and begging her to return to her hotel with him.

-No, she told him bluntly. Thanks so much for the meal but I had enough for today!

When she returned to the hotel she was quite upset. She put on her swimsuit and dived into the sea, which was no longer as serene as in the morning, but she did not care. Swimming helped her calm down and after taking a shower, she put on something light and sat on the balcony of her room. The dazzling daylight had begun to soften as the sun went down and dusk spread its colors on the horizon. As time passed, the rose became a deep orange, which slowly turned into red and replaced the blue of the sky.

-Magic hour, she thought. I am very lucky to see the sunset from my balcony!

She decided not to have dinner after the lavish lunch and so she ordered a salad to be brought to her room. She ate early and thought about lying down early, as well. Darkness had fallen and Zena was sitting on her balcony enjoying the sweet night and silence when she heard a knock on the door. She was surprised. She did not expect anyone. She put on her mask and a robe and went to answer it.

The biggest surprise of her life awaited her at the door, along with a bouquet of flowers. Mr. Nicolaou, without wearing a mask, and with a false smile on his lips, offered her the flowers and suggested to her with impudence.

-I came to get you to go for dinner!

-Thanks, I have just dinner and I will lie down. I’m very tired, she replied trying to look polite, but sparks were coming out of her eyes.

-So early? Now is the time to go out, he insisted, offering her the flowers again.

-I said no! She replied and closed the door in anger.

She immediately picked up the reception and complained about giving her room number to someone without asking her. The girl who answered the phone, almost cried. She constantly apologized saying that the gentleman who came claimed that he was her relative and wanted to surprise her. That is why they did not notify her. Zena left it behind. There was no point in continuing.

She sat down again on the balcony and thought about how to deal with the situation. She felt very annoyed and deep down – but in great depth – she was somewhat afraid. She decided to talk to Alexis. The time was completely inappropriate. In Australia it would be well after midnight.

-I had lost my sleep, she thought. I’ll wait for midnight to pass, and I’ll call him.

Around 12.30 a.m. she called Alexis. He was surprised by her morning phone call. When she explained to him what had happened, his oriental attitude woke up inside him. He became very angry with the behavior of the two men.

-You must leave Paphos immediately, he told her. Get in touch with Eleni and book a room at a hotel in Nicosia. You’ll get to know my parents there too. I will find a solution with the Greek language groups, and I will come as soon as possible! You will not face these deceitful on your own!

-For god’s sake, Alexis. You don’t have to come. I’m not a little girl either. I know how to take care of myself.

-I am not discussing it. In a week, ten days at most I will be there. Settle in Nicosia and do tourism there. Such behaviors can become dangerous.

He gave her no room to answer and hung up the phone.

Zena’s feelings were mixed. On the one hand she was irritated with his despotic insistence on facing her own problems himself and on the other hand she felt the sweet relief that his own concern and affection brought to her life.

After a while, she decided. She would follow his advice. Tomorrow she would leave for Nicosia!



Maa – Paleocastro

Tombs of the Kings

Paphos mosaics


(Chapter 16)

Cyprus – Summer 2021

After a restless evening, Zena woke up relatively late, with a headache. A strange feeling gripped her as if she had taken an icy shower. Her journey began with the best prospects, the feeling that she had come to a magical place, with so many interesting things to see and suddenly she had to leave in a hurry, to avoid the annoying Mr. Nicolaou.

Such behaviors were not in her character, and she never liked it to run away. In this case, however, she was facing a very strange situation and it seems that in addition to the audacity and ridiculousness of Mr. Nicolaou’s behavior, great economic interests were also involved. This story disoriented her and removed her from her original goal, which was to find her roots, but she would not back down. Her removal from Paphos would be a temporary change of schedule, until things cleared up, and she would return. That was the only sure thing.

First, she went down to the dining room and took her breakfast. She then spoke with the hotel manager and told him that for personal reasons she would have to leave, but she would return later. She did not know exactly when, maybe in two weeks. Because the incident with Mr. Nicolaou sudden visit had become known, the director apologized and assured her that it would not be repeated. Zena, who did not want to continue this, nor to confirm that it was the specific visit that made her leave, did not comment on anything.

Going up to her room, she found on her computer a message from Mr. Neophytou, her lawyer. He apologized for what had happened in the restaurant and assured her that they were accidentally met by Mr. Nicolaou and that he himself knew nothing. He begged her to go through his office to talk and “remove the misunderstanding”, as he said.

Even though by that time Mr. Neophytou had behaved impeccably towards her, Zena was sure that he was not blameless.

She replied formally and succinctly:

Thank you for your message, Mr. Neophytou. I’ll pass by to see you when I’m ready.

She sent a message to Alexis saying that she would follow his advice and leave Paphos. Then she called Eleni. She informed her about the events of the previous day, her communication with Alexis and her decision to leave the hotel for some time. She did not hide from her disappointment about the incident with Mr. Nicolaou and the turn the events took.

-Don’t be upset at all, Eleni told her. Do not think that you will lose the prospects that Paphos opened to you. You will be back, with Alexis in fact this time, and everything will be better. Come and visit our city: Nicosia. We may not have the beautiful landscapes of Paphos, but history flows everywhere. Cyprus is a mosaic of pieces that narrate the past.

-Thank you, Eleni, you are right. Although I was initially angry with Alexis and his insistence on coming to Cyprus to face my own problems, now I feel better that he will be with me. After all, I am in a foreign country, where I do not know the people and the way they behave. A local knows best how to manage the situation.

-You are a great feminist! Here most women would demand that their husbands take over the situation, you see it as an intervention. Don’t worry. I agree with you!

They both laughed. Zena really liked Eleni and found that the two of them were very well suited. They would become friends.

-I will book you a room at the Hilton in Nicosia. It is in Engomi, a suburb outside the center. Do not expect something too big or luxurious, like the hotels of Paphos, but it has all the specifications to have a comfortable stay. It also has a wonderful swimming pool, which certainly does not replace the sea of Paphos, but you will be able to swim every day.

-Starting from Paphos and coming to Nicosia, you can stop and get to know some interesting places. Just outside Paphos is the beach where Aphrodite is said to have been born. It is called “Petra tou Romiou” (Rock of the Roman) and it is a very beautiful landscape. Nearby is Kouklia, a village with a very ancient history. Apart from the temple of Aphrodite, it has a museum and a medieval villa. Just before Limassol is the ancient city of Kourion, with very interesting archaeological findings. After Limassol is the Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia, with some houses reconstructed for the visitors to see how people lived ten thousand years ago.

-Alexis has also talked to me about it. I don’t know what to choose first. Everything seems very interesting!

-Yes, it’s probably hard to see it all in one day. I would suggest you stop at Petra tou Romiou to admire the landscape and then visit Kourion. Below the archaeological site is a beach called “Lady’s Mile”. There are restaurants you can have your lunch.

-Yes it seems logical. But why “Lady’s Mile”? I mean why an English name?

-Do not forget that Cyprus was under the British from 1878 to 1960. In many ways they have influenced us. After Limassol there is another beach called “Governor’s Beach”. Everywhere, the names of the place tell the story of this country. A stormy story. Kourion and “Lady’s Mile”, are located within the boundaries of the British Military Base of  Episkopi. You see, the British, in addition to the place names, made sure to maintain their physical presence here too!

-You know I’m interested in the history of this country, but there’s too much to digest. Very bad I wasn’t interested in it for so many years!

-Well, I don’t want to delay you any longer. It’s good to start now, before the heat gets stronger. I’ll see you at the hotel tonight. We ‘ll have lunch together and get to know each other in person.

-Have a nice day, Eleni. Happy reunion tonight!

Zena hurriedly packed her things, just two days after she unpacked them, loaded them into her car, put the “Petra tou Romiou” address on the GPS and set off.

On the way she was thinking of what she had read on the first day of her arrival, about the goddess Aphrodite. Even though Maria Stylianou had told her that the etymology that her name comes from the foam of the sea, is not considered correct by modern linguists, Zena preferred this interpretation. According to Hesiod, the ancient author of Theogony, Aphrodite was born when Saturn cut off the genitals of his father Uranus and threw them into the sea. From the foam of the sea Aphrodite was born , the most beautiful of the goddesses. The waves pushed her to the coast of Paphos, where people took care of her and adored her. For this reason, she is called Kyprida (Cypriot).

-What a nice story! Zena thought. I like the way the ancients interpreted life and nature, away from dogmatisms and structured hierarchies. Simple, humane, and sinful!

Not much time had passed, and she saw the road sign: “Petra tou Romiou” and “Venus Rock” in English, even though the translation was not accurate. She drove to a hill, specially designed for cars to stop, and see the view. She came out of the car and looked down. A bay, with white pebbles and some high rocks rising at both ends. Then the coastline was lost in the distance. The waves were bursting on the pebbles, and a white foam was forming. That’s where the goddess would have come out of the sea, thousands of years ago.

The scenery was gorgeous. But not unique. She remembered “The twelve apostles” coast in her homeland, but also elsewhere. That was not what impressed her. It was something eerie that the place inspired. The white beach, the blue sea, and the silence. It undoubtedly had something divine. She saw some tourists lying with their towels on the pebbles and some swimming. It was not an organized beach here. The coast that had received Aphrodite, remained unchanged.

She stayed for a while staring at the beauty that was spreading in front of her and then got into her car. She would come back here at sunset. And she would swim. Surely the experience would be magical.

She set the GPS to the “Kourion” address and set off. From the few information she had read, she had learned that it was one of the cities – kingdoms of Cyprus. There were archaeological remains from the Neolithic times, the classical period of the 3rd and 4th century BC, but mainly from the Roman era until the 5th century AD. An area that was inhabited for thousands of years. This dive into history and the past made her shudder.

Arriving at Kourion, she found that the ancient city was built on a hill and looked towards the sea. She decided that she would not deal with the details of the archaeological site. She would simply walk among the ruins and try to feel the presence of the people who lived and created thousands of years ago in this place.

What impressed her from the first moment was the incredible view. The ancient city was located on a hill, which ended in a cliff and underneath the sea: spreading in deep blue, while the surrounding limestone rocks seemed white. All the ancient buildings were built with stone, in the same colors and carob trees surrounded the area. In the background one could see the green plantations of the region.

As she walked she saw the signs that said House of Theseus, House of Eustolius, House of Gladiators. All these houses had mosaic floors, which presented various scenes from mythology as well as Christian symbols. There were baths in many places, the Agora and other public buildings.

-The people who lived in this place, so many thousands of years ago, enjoyed a culture that has little to envy from our modern technological civilization, she thought. They may not have had the smart electrical appliances that we have today, but they were not lacking in arts and daily facilities.

Moving on, she reached the ancient theater. A semicircular amphitheater facing the sea. A panorama.

She sat in one of the stands and tried to remember what Alexis had told her about the ancient drama. The truth was that she herself did not know much about ancient Greek history and ancient culture. In fact, she knew nothing before she met Alexis. He had introduced her to the world of these ancient people, who had laid the foundations of modern civilization.

From what she could recall, the ancient drama began with the feasts held in honor of Dionysus, an ancient god of the Greeks, who was miraculously born from the thigh of his father Zeus. Zeus, from whose name comes her own name: Zenovia.

In any case, she did not remember more details, but she knew that what today we call theater and theatrical performances began then. They considered it so important for the education of the inhabitants that Pericles, a great Athenian politician and general, subsidized the needy citizens to attend the ancient performances free of charge.

-This is culture! She thought.

Then she looked at the incredible view.

-The performances must have been held during the day, she concluded. It was not possible to have sufficient lighting to make them at night. In the face of this magical landscape, people would listen to the truths and concerns expressed by the actors and in relation to the nature around them, they would assimilate the maxim of their words. Their gods, who came from nature, spoke to them through nature to succeed to introduce them to the principles and the natural order of things.

She shuddered at her thoughts. She felt that she had known a primordial truth. Just like that. From the influence of the place.

-This is how civilizations began, she thought. In the beauty and order that nature offers. Here are the arts. Wars and brutality stem from disorder and anarchy.

She looked at her watch. Noon had passed. She would eat something in one of the restaurants, below to the beach and set off for Nicosia. Enough tourism for one day. It was not possible to assimilate more. Besides, when Alexis would come, everything would be easier.

The meal at the seaside restaurant was another confirmation of the delicious Cypriot cuisine. She finished with a Cypriot coffee and a spoon sweet, which was suggested by the waiter and set off for Nicosia.

The trip was pleasant. She passed by Limassol and saw from above the city that was famous for its nightlife and cosmopolitan environment. She crossed the low parts of the Troodos mountain range and got a taste of the forests of Cyprus, with pine trees dominating. In her homeland the forests were of eucalyptus trees, although there were some with pine trees as well, that were brought by the first settlers. But it was not indigenous to Australia.

Descending the last hills, she saw Nicosia stretching lazily on the plain. Opposite was Pentadactylos. The other mountain range of Cyprus, after Troodos. Here the mountains were lower and calmer. Just opposite her, she saw a flag with a crescent moon engraved on the mountainside. She remembered Alexis’ words about the Turkish invasion of 1974 and about the uprooting of his family from their village, Marathovounos.

From the moment she set foot in Cyprus, it was the first time she met modern history. And this story was engraved on a mountain for anyone, who came to this place, to see.

-Not everything is rosy and romantic, she thought. This place is divided and engraved with pain. Something else I must learn here.

She arrived at her hotel in the late afternoon and called Eleni. They agreed to meet early for dinner because Zena was quite tired.

-We will eat in a restaurant on site, Eleni told her. It serves Greek appetizers that I am sure you will like.

The meeting was pleasant for both. Zena recounted her impressions of the places she visited, and Eleni gave her more details about the plot of land she had in Kato Paphos, on a hillside facing the sea.

-It’s a great location, she told her. Really sorry you haven’t been able to see it yet. The view is spectacular.

-Does Zenovia’s house exist?

-There are some ruins there, which mark the existence of a dwelling. There is no roof, the walls have almost been demolished, but they clearly show where there were rooms and their size. The parts of the walls that were made of stone, are somewhat preserved, but the parts made of plinths no longer exist. The floor was covered with slabs of Cypriot marble and in some places near the walls it is still preserved, but in the center of the rooms it has been destroyed. In the courtyard there are the remains of an old well, olives and carob trees. The rest of the trees have dried up.

-Do you think the house could be reconstructed?

-It is very difficult. The materials no longer exist and if we can find them they are very expensive – I am talking about the plinths. It is your choice if you want to pay so dearly to resurrect your grandmother’s house or you will want to build a new house with modern materials.

-We should visit it first, before I decide. What do you think of Mr. Nicolaou aspirations?

-It seems that he is a ruthless investor, betting on his charm. But he was shut up! Of course, your lawyer, who informed him about it, is also responsible. The expectation of profit makes people brazen and sometimes dangerous.

-We will handle this issue when Alexis comes. I don’t want to mess with these guys anymore. I’m just sorry for the delay and the waste of time.

-Consider that every obstacle is for good. You will use your time differently. I will guide you around Nicosia. It is an opportunity to get to know this city as well.

As soon as they finished the conversation Zena went up to her room. It was too late to call Alexis and so she laid down to sleep. She had decided to follow the course of events. Until now they seemed to be leading her on interesting new paths.

-I wonder, what is hidden in the next turn?

It was her last thought before she fell asleep.






Ancient Drama


(Chapter 17)

Cyprus – Summer 2021

Zena was sitting in the cafeteria of the Larnaca airport, taking her coffee. It had been a fortnight since she came to Nicosia and seventeen days since she came to Cyprus. What she understood was that she did not have enough time to assimilate impressions, meet people and learn information. The more she learned, the more she felt she did not know. Today she had come to the airport to pick up Alexis, who was coming from Australia. But his flight was delayed, and this gave her time to reflect on the days that had passed and to put her thoughts in order.

Her great friend and supporter on this route were Eleni. Soon after her arrival in Nicosia, she met the parents and the rest of Alexis’ family members. They were staying in Strovolos, another suburb of Nicosia, not far from her hotel. Their house was in the core of Strovolos, that is, the traditional center, where the houses were detached houses, built next to each other, from the beginning to the middle of the last century. It was very picturesque for her when she was welcomed one evening in the courtyard of their house, under the lemon trees of their garden.

Nicosia is very hot in the summer compared to the seaside towns, but in the evenings it is cool. A pleasant breeze was blowing, and as it smelled of the jasmine they had in their yard, Zena felt she was enclosed in a hug, in another era. Their dishes were all traditional Cypriot, moussaka, stuffed vine leaves, halloumi, watermelon and in the end a juicy galaktoboureko. Their company was very pleasant and with them Zena began to understand the Cypriot dialect and to speak Greek herself.

Alexis’ grandmother, Mrs. Myrofora, told her about her village Marathovounos. She told her that it is in the plain of Messaoria, the largest plain of Cyprus, that is, where in the years before the invasion of 1974, almost all the grain of Cyprus was cultivated. Their village was large compared to other villages. It had almost 2,400 thousand inhabitants. In addition to farmers, the inhabitants were also stockbreeders. They had a lot of sheep, goats, cows, poultry, and oxen. They made halloumi and other cheese products and sold them. It was an affluent village.

-Now it is inhabited by settlers from Turkey, she told her. Most of our houses were demolished and in their place they built a large mosque. Part of the village is a camp of the Turkish army.

Zena began to feel interested in learning about the modern history of Cyprus and being informed about the invasion of 1974. In the world where she grew up all this sounded surreal and of another era. However, her time for now, was divided between excursions to get to know the city of Nicosia and actions related to the purpose of her visit to Cyprus: to learn as much as she could about Zenovia and the property she inherited.

Accompanied by Eleni, she walked the streets of old Nicosia. Here, within the historic city center, the houses low, the streets narrow, the wooden doors with the metal frames that one could read on dates such as 1900, 1910, made Zena feel that she was taking a step back and found herself 100 years ago.

A city surrounded by walls built by the Venetians to protect it from the Ottomans. But they failed. In 1570, Nicosia fell, and large massacres took place. The Ottomans remained rulers of Cyprus until 1878 when they sold it to the British. In 1960 Cyprus became an independent State, with a given constitution and guarantor powers Great Britain, Greece, and Turkey. The gaps left by this constitution were the cause of the intercommunal conflicts of 1963. Since then, the golden recipe has never been found that restores the coexistence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Turkey, with the excuse given to it by the status of guarantor power, invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974, after the junta of Greece organized a coup d’état against the President of Cyprus Makarios. Since then, the country has been divided in half, the Greek Cypriots expelled from the northern part and refugees to their homeland and the Turkish Cypriots trapped in the northern part, by the Turkish army and mingled with tens of thousands of settlers brought by Turkey to change the demographic character of the island.

This was the short, modern history of Cyprus that Zena had learned, from Eleni, while strolling around the old city, and observing the circular, symmetrical walls with the eleven heart-shaped bastions, half in the north and half in its southern part. And in the middle the green line. A horizontal dividing intersection that includes a beautiful area and shopping streets, once full of life. Now, everything is under collapse. A region without an identity. An engraving in the center of Nicosia that separates Greek Cypriots from Turkish Cypriots. An artificial divide up in such a small town! No matter how hard both Municipalities tried, they did not succeed in persuading the Turkish army to allow the restoration of the buildings, which are collapsing more with each passing day.

-Has there ever been anyone who tried to unite this city? Zena asked Eleni.

-Few years after the war, there were two enlightened Mayors of Nicosia. Lellos Demetriades and Mustafa Akinci. The first mayor of Nicosia and the other mayor of the occupied part of the city. These people tried to realize a common vision and work so, that when a solution to the Cyprus problem is found, Nicosia can function as a unified city. And they succeeded to a large extent. They created the Nicosia Master Plan, which operates in both sides up, to this day.

-And what are these people doing on now?

-From what I know, Lellos Demetriades* – who was older – is now ill and has ceased to be the active man and the brilliant personality he was in the past. Mustafa Akinci was for 5 years president of the Turkish Cypriot community, from 2015 to 2020 and then we had placed many hopes on him for a solution to the Cyprus problem. Great efforts were made on both sides, so much, that we had believed that the time for a solution had come. Unfortunately, everything has foundered and since then our politicians have been blaming each other and of course Turkey. Then, with actions by Turkey, Mr. Akinci was not re-elected. Great damage for the resolution of the Cyprus problem. Such people are rare.

All this information had confused her, and she understood that this country was not just beautiful with a glorious historical past. It was a deeply wounded place, with an uncertain historical future. Of course, she understood nothing in depth, she was sure that a lot was hidden beneath the surface and a lot was played at the international poker tables, where nations are nothing but playing cards in the hands of unscrupulous players.

Thus, she thought to leave the matter, for the time being, and enjoy the city of Nicosia, which outside the walls exudes something modern, but it is still small compared to what Zena knew. It has, counting the suburbs also, about 200.000 – 240.000 inhabitants. However, it is not lacking in modern architecture and ambitious constructions. On the outer side of the walls, a multi-stories building has been built to the design of the famous French architect Jean Nouvel and just opposite, at one of the exits from the old town, the bridge of Eleftheria Square accompanied by the homonymous park that extends in the moat. All this, designed by the company of the famous Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid**. The park includes gardens, water elements, jets, dining areas, an outdoor theater and a well of light, which at noon on the first of October, lets the light descend vertically to a point in the heart of the project, under the bridge, where glass objects reflect it, marking the day of the creation of the Cypriot state. A technique used by the ancient inhabitants of this planet to celebrate light and honor their gods

Zena knew about the internationally renowned Zaha Hadid, who even though she herself died in 2016, the company she created in London still promotes and builds works in the style that she first presented. Buildings, mainly made of white concrete, that flow, move and curve. Besides, her work is also known in Australia. The twin towers on the Gold Coast, the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport, the Mandarin Oriental in Melbourne and perhaps others that Zena is unaware of, are works of her company.

The project in Nicosia was nearing its end and despite the reactions that initially existed from the residents, for its very modern form, the result seemed wonderful, and its acceptance was increasing.

-Wherever Zaha Hadid’s works are being built there are reactions, Zena told Helen, when they discussed the issue. But in the end, the cities that acquire them remain, with an architectural monument that will be discussed by many more generations.

-It is the proximity to the old that alienates people.

-And yet the old expresses its time and the new its own era. There are both to narrate the evolution of history through the centuries.

-Yes, you’re right. Nicosia is an architectural mosaic of the conquerors who passed through here. Byzantine monuments, Venetian walls, oriental mosques, British buildings and now a modern project that aspires to lead Cyprus to the world of the future. None of the previous ones copied the other. They all put their own identity and stamp. This is what the modern city does today. It does not copy. It is synchronizing.

All this turned to Zena’s mind as she waited. She understood that this journey was keeping for her much more than she expected. She had also her original goal: To find her roots.

-This seems more difficult than resolving the Cyprus problem! She thought. How is it possible to discover the secret of Zenovia at a time when there is no natural evidence to search for. Her house has been destroyed and as far as I know she left nothing else behind.

These thoughts tormented her on the nights she was alone at the hotel. In the end she decided to ask if there was still the bank where Zenovia had the money left to her by Demetrios.

-The continuation of that bank, I believe, must be the Bank of Cyprus, Eleni told her. But what shall we ask them for? From what you have told me, your grandfather Evangelos had closed the account, that Zenovia had with the bank. Is it possible to find something after so many years?

-I don’t know. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. I will ask for an appointment with one of the bank’s directors, lest we find something that escaped to my grandfather.

-I have some connections with the bank, and I will try to put you in touch with the right person. You know, here everything works like that. You will have to use your connections to achieve your goal. Otherwise, it cannot be done!

-Don’t worry. That’s how it is everywhere. Few are those who help because it is their duty. Usually, people must have an interest to be helpful.

-Thus, Eleni had made an appointment with Mr. Ioannides, one of the bank’s directors. The appointment was for the day after tomorrow. They could not leave Nicosia before this meeting took place.

At that moment she saw on the arrivals table that Alexis’ flight had arrived.

-It will take some time until he comes out, Zena thought. In addition to having to wait for his luggage, he will also have to go through the process of PCR tests for Covid and wait for the results.

She decided to send him a message, when he is ready to notify her to go to the Arrivals. Suddenly, she came out of the world of Cyprus and felt great joy in the prospect of seeing Alexis. He was her partner, her companion, and for the first time in her life she felt that she was seeking the warmth of his presence. And as much as she did not want to admit it, he would help her get out of that mess she had gotten into.

Her meeting with Alexis took place in an explosion of emotions. Both were incredibly happy to be together after so many days. For Zena it was a realization that this man was very important – but very important, for her. She was truly in love!

During the return trip, Zena was constantly talking trying to inform Alexis about all the events of the days that preceded. Although they also had been communicating by phone, face-to-face contact created other channels of understanding.

-Nicosia was a revelation to me, she told him. Cyprus, from a beautiful island for holidays, with a long history, was presented as a place with modern unresolved problems and deep wounds. I felt it very strongly here.

-That is a fact. Especially in Paphos, which you visited, but also in Limassol and even in Larnaca, you do not meet the separation of Cyprus. In Nicosia it is there. It’s the Green Line, it’s the destroyed houses you can see behind the barbed wire. But above all, it is the fact that Nicosia is not a tourist city to celebrate lightheartedness and ephemeral carefreeness. Here, life is in touch with reality.

-With Zenovia’s property did anything happen? Did you learn anything new? In relation to Mr. Nicolaou, what do you think of doing? I do not intend to leave it that way. Such behaviors are unacceptable.

-The house of Zenovia does not actually exist. It’s just ruins. I saw the photos that Eleni had taken. I don’t think we’ll find anything there. Of course, now that you have come, we will go to see it together.

-Regarding the secret of Zenovia, I have asked for an appointment with a person in charge at the Bank of Cyprus, hoping that something grandfather Evangelos may have escaped, we can find it now. Which is very unlikely, but it doesn’t hurt to try. My appointment is the day after tomorrow.

-As for Mr. Nicolaou, I have thought about going to the police. This is what a lawyer, Eleni’s friend, advised me. The aim is not to blame him, because we have no concrete evidence, but the involvement of the police will frighten him and leave us alone.

-I can help with that too. An old, good friend of my father’s is a senior police officer at the Police Headquarters, and he will know how to handle the case. You know here everything works that way. Using connections.

-I know. Eleni has told me so, too.

-With your lawyer, Mr. Neophytou, what will you do?

-When we go to Paphos, we will go through his office together, I will sign the papers I have to sign, I will pay him and terminate our cooperation. I will appoint another lawyer. Eleni’s friend seemed good to me, but we’ll see. There is no need to decide immediately.

It did not take long for them to arrive in Nicosia. After the necessary procedures, they ended up in the hotel room. Being apart for over two weeks, one thing had made clear to both. They wanted to be together all the time. Alexis’ oriental temperament forced him to always be on the side of his beloved, and Zena’s liberal views were shattered when she discovered that she was much happier with him, than alone.

-Together we will find the solution, Zena told him the next morning they woke up. I’m sure.



Photo: A part of the moat of Eleftheria Square

*Lellos Demetriades died on the 9th of April 2022

** Elefheria Square in Nicosia was disigned by the Cypriot Architect, one of the directors in her company, Christos Passas.

Lellos Demetriades

Mustafa Akinci


(Chapter 18)

Cyprus – Summer 2021

Mr. Ioannides was looking at the impressive woman sitting opposite him and while he knew very well that there was no way to help her, he tried to engineer something to keep her even longer in his office. She was not what we call: “beautiful as a movie star,” but she had something on her, that captivated you.

Her brown blond, long, natural hair and dark eyes were an unusual combination that immediately attracted attention. What enchanted her interlocutor, however, was the personality and the glow of her face, which betrayed a deeply intense psychic world.

-You say that your great-grandmother had left a text for her son that was never found. Your question is, if there was any chance that she had left it in the possession of the bank, for safekeeping. At the time you refer, that is, in 1922, the banking system in Cyprus was in its very early stages and functioned more like a savings bank. I do not believe that at that time, it was possible to provide this type of service. I could of course, ask for a check to be done, but it is like looking for a needle in the haystacks. Almost impossible.

-Thank you, Mr. Ioannides. I don’t want to waste your time anymore. I just wanted to see you and to rule out this case and look for something else.

-If your great-grandmother had a lawyer she would probably leave it in his custody. But then again… After a hundred years, I see it unlikely that you will find something.

-Thank you again for your time. I’ll see how I can move on. Have a nice day, Mr. Ioannides.

-Good day, Mrs. Vassilopoulos. If you find an additional piece of information that can help us, I am at your disposal.

Leaving his office, Zena did not feel so disappointed. She just knew that this possibility had been ruled out. Discussing the matter with Alexis, the day before, they had concluded that their next move would be to visit the village of Statos in Paphos and look for the descendants of the persons mentioned by Zenovia in her letters, namely Eurydice and her daughter Euthymia. Maybe she had left something to them.

The next meeting, they had to have, while they were in Nicosia, was with the Senior Policeman, Mr. Georgiou, a friend of Alexis’ father. He had made an appointment for them for the next day, at 10.00 in the morning. To this meeting she would go with Alexis, after all, he had arranged it.

The next day, at exactly 10.00 p.m., they were in Mr. Georgiou’s office, who greeted them very cordially. He offered them Cypriot coffee and listened carefully to what they told him about Mr. Nicolaou, but also about Zena’s lawyer, Mr. Neophytou.

-Do you want to file a complaint? He asked them. In the courts of Cyprus, it will take years to be examined and in fact, apart from verbal references, you have nothing tangible.

-No, Zena told him. I do not want to file a complaint. I just want to see how Mr. Nicolaou could come before his actions, stop behaving in this way and bother us.

-One minute to call the Paphos Chief of the Police, to see if he knows Mr. Nicolaou and what character he is. You know in Cyprus and especially in Paphos, almost everyone knows each other.

Mr. Georgiou immediately called the Paphos Chief of the Police and briefly reported the facts to him. Zena and Alexis waited a long time for the phone call to end. It was obvious that the Paphos Chief of the Police knew Mr. Nicolaou and the way he behaved.

-You are right, he told them. The guy is known to the police. With such frauds he has bought a lot of land in Paphos, from ignorant owners, has built many villas and sold them to foreigners, gaining a lot of money. He behaves like a charmer and considers that all women bend in the face of his charm. Note that he is also married, with two children. Your lawyer, Mr. Neophytou, is a good person, but to have messed up with Nicolaou, he will probably have lent him money and is obliged to him. Their relationship is not justified otherwise.

-My colleague has informed me that he will look further into the matter and call me back for anything new. He will also call Mr. Nicolaou himself to make him understand that the matter has come before us and sit quietly. Such types are bragging cowards, they do not bite. Do not be afraid.

Zena and Alexis thanked Mr. Georgiou and left. They were both very satisfied with the development of the case. Moreover, they did not want to deal with Mr. Nicolaou and his unacceptable behavior anymore.

In the evening they had dinner with Eleni in a traditional restaurant, in a courtyard in fact, under lemon and olive trees. Two young men with their guitars entertained the clients with old Greek songs. Zena was delighted with the picturesqueness of Nicosia. Eleni, who was their constant tour guide, took them every time to traditional restaurants, in the wider area of Nicosia and very often in the old part of the city. The atmosphere of these spaces was for Zena a connection with the past and a taste of the life of her great-grandmother, Zenovia.

As they were eating and relaxing, they planned their following moves. The next day they would all leave for Paphos. Eleni would go in her own car so she could come back at night. They finally had to visit the estate left by Zenovia and form an image of the house and the surrounding area.

Zena did not sleep well that night. This adventure, which had begun with the death of her father, had ceased to be a treasure hunt. She had begun to feel, that with her investigations she was shaking the spirits of her ancestors, who for a hundred years had been in lethargy, and called on them to reveal their secrets. Did they want to? She did not know. But the march had begun and was now going into the deep end.

The next day, on the trip to Paphos, they stopped at Choirokoitia. This Neolithic settlement, which, from the evidence that exists, seems to have begun to be inhabited from the 9th millennium BC, although the archaeological findings date back to around the seventh millennium BC, was a revelation for Zena. The Department of Antiquities of Cyprus has reconstructed five of the circular residences that existed there and has equipped them with copies of objects of that time, thus giving the visitor the opportunity to understand how the people of the Neolithic era had lived.

-You know, Eleni told her, basically your great-grandmother’s house was built in a similar way. That is, the base made of stone and the rest with plinths. Of course, Zenovia’s house was much more modern and larger, but the original technique was the same. Think, for ten thousand years, the people in this place, built their houses in the same way! It also seems, from the way they buried their dead, on the floor of their residence, they had religious beliefs, a kind of culture. There is also evidence that inside the houses there were frescoes. Due to their very poor condition, they could not be restored, but art is also a sign of culture.

-I don’t know what to say! Zena replied. From the moment I set foot in this place, one surprise follows another. Do you, the inhabitants of this island, have a sense of where you live and how heavy legacy you carry?

-Certainly not! Eleni told her with a laugh. The environment and the history of our country is something given, of no importance to most of us. We live, like everyone else in the world perhaps, in the fog of our daily problems. A look around, however, could make us try harder for the future of our country.

At noon they arrived in Paphos.

-Would you like us to go somewhere to eat? asked Eleni, or directly to the estate of Zenovia?

-I’m hungry like a wolf, Alexis replied. Let’s go to the port of Kato Paphos to have lunch and in the afternoon, when the sun falls a pit, we go to the estate of Zenovia. It will be more pleasant like that.

The two ladies agreed with Alexis and so they went to a restaurant at the port to have lunch. In the harbor, a few boats and small yachts were rocking. Tourists went back and forth to the dock and walked to the castle located at the edge of the harbor.

-How big is the estate of Zenovia? Alexis asked Eleni.

-Quite large. I am counting on the two hectares. That is why Mr. Nicolaou fervently wanted it. It would bring him great profits since it has unobstructed views of the sea.

-I think it would be good to have a land surveyor count it and define the border, because there is a great chance that the neighbors have violated it, Alexis suggested.

-I agree, Zena replied. Perhaps we should fence it, too

-The land surveyor is a very good idea, but the fencing will be very expensive, Eleni replied. This is a very large area.

-Yes, maybe you’re right. Let’s define the borders first and then we see.

-Are you planning to keep it all? Alexis asked.

-I don’t know. I need to see it first. However, my first wish is to rebuild the house of Zenovia.

-You could keep the house and an area around the house and sell the rest. It is a very large space to maintain it. With today’s demands it would be an exaggeration. Besides, are you counting on living in Cyprus, or will you come sparsely?

-I don’t know. I haven’t had any such thoughts yet. Maybe you’re right, but I’ll have to see at it first. Anxiety has consumed me. Let’s take our coffee and finally go!.

By the time they had their coffee and walked to the castle, it was five in the afternoon. Zena was not holding on any longer. With Eleni driving forward and directing them, they reached the “house” of Zenovia.

Zena immediately realized that its position was panoramic. It looked towards the sea and the view was unobstructed. The estate was located on a hillside and ended up on a small cliff, thus protecting it from future constructions that would cut off its visibility towards the sea. To the right and left were villas built. Zena noticed a sign that read: “Villas for sale” and underneath was signed by Mr. Nicolaou’s company.

-That is why Mr. Nicolaou had the demand to acquire this estate as well! She exclaimed.

-The best thing we did was that we went to the police. Such guys can become too dangerous for profit. They have no barriers, Alexis said.

-I will immediately arrange for land surveyors to come here, Eleni promised. I will let you know the date so that you can inform the police. It is good to bear this in mind, that Mr. Nicolaou has already intervened in this piece and perhaps try to prevent them.

-Ugly tangle! Zena Now let’s go see great-grandma’s house and let’s leave that for later.

They proceeded towards the ruins, where the house once stood, in which Zenovia had dreamed and fought to save the women of Paphos from misery and illiteracy. Only a few stones stood, marking where the rooms once were. You could also distinguish the locations of windows and doors. Nothing more. There was no roof. The floor, once covered with slabs of Cypriot marble, was now plain soil. Only at the edges of the rooms, near the walls remained some rows of slabs.

-These stones are the basis of the house, something similar that we saw in Choirokoitia and from above the walls were made with plinths, Eleni informed them. Exactly the same thing happened here. The plinth walls, however, have been destroyed. Inside and outside the house was covered with plaster. You can see at this point where there are some remains. The roof was made with wood, dirt and tiles. Come and I’ll show you the well.

They proceeded towards the well. At that time, Alexis noticed someone watching them from the nearby villas. As soon as he realized that he was seen, he hid himself. He did not say anything but decided the next day to call the Police officer.

After Eleni showed them the well, which was destroyed and full of stones, she announced to them that she herself should return to Nicosia.

-I have a long way to go and tomorrow’s hard day. I’ll have to leave you now. You can stay if you want. My first job will be to find land surveyors to demarcate the estate. I will let you know.

They said goodbye to Eleni and thanked her for her valuable help. Zena would like to stay a little longer to see the sunset. They proceeded again towards the house and Alexis saw, with the end of his eye, a car leaving the adjacent villas.

-Our friend is leaving, he thought. He will inform his boss about our visit unless he is the boss.

He preferred not to say anything to Zena. There was no need to upset her. It was obvious that the story with Mr. Nicolaou would not end so easily.

Zena stood in front of a spot that would once have been a window facing the sea. With the thought that Zenovia would also have stood there and plan her next steps to help the women of Paphos, she shuddered. Such women, unknown, anonymous who began such a great work, without awareness of the dangers, but only with the power of their soul, were her heroines. And one of them was her great-grandmother!

That moment she felt that, regardless of whether she would be able to find the secret of Zenovia, she would have to do something to preserve her memory and project her work. He rgreat- grandmother’s name should remain in the collective memory of the women of this place for many years to come! What began as an adventure, during the confinement, brought about by the quarantine, had begun to become a life’s work for her with completely unpredictable developments.

Alexis remained silent respecting Zena’s reflecting. Besides, he had his own thoughts that concerned him. He felt that his role was to protect her from Mr. Nicolaou and guys like Mr. Nicholas. His decision to come to Cyprus and be by her side was very correct. Zena was a very strong woman, but she was sensitive and acted in a clean way, without ulterior motives. But deceit requires different handling.

At that time the sun had begun to set. They saw it disappearing on the horizon and painting the sky and the sea with its colors. A sacred silence had spread everywhere. Peace.

They remained there, motionless, looking, absorbing the energy of the hour, while an uplift filled their souls.

When darkness began to fall, Alexis took Zena’s hand and said to her tenderly:

-Come on, it’s time to leave. We will come back and relive this beauty.

So, holding hands, they reached the car and set off for the hotel.




(Chapter 19)

Cyprus – Summer 2021

The next morning, when they woke up, Zena went to the beach to swim. Alexis then took the opportunity to call the Police Officer and tell him about the guy who was watching them the previous afternoon at the estate of Zenovia.

The Officer was not surprised by the incident. It was a consequence of the whole situation and the actions of Mr. Nicolaou. As he explained to him, the Paphos Police Director had contacted Mr. Nicolaou and informed him of Zena’s complaint to the police.

-He seemed surprised, he said that he had no ill intension, and everything was a misunderstanding. His interest is purely professional, that is, he wishes to buy the estate to develop it. Such and similar he said, until my colleague stated clearly, that he knew that on his company’s website he had put for sale the villas he intended to build on an estate that neither belonged to him, nor the owner had decided to sell.

-After that, he shut up and was forced to confess that he has now removed this advertisement from the website. The colleague concluded that there is a high probability that he has violated the borders of the estate with the villas he has built on the adjacent block. In such a case, Mrs. Vassilopoulos could of course file a complaint but as I had told you during your visit here, the trial will take many years in Cyprus, and it is not in her interest. It is better to come to a financial compromise with him, through a lawyer, so as not to get more involved yourself.

-My question, Mr. Georgiou, is that you, as the police of Cyprus, could not examine this case ex officio?

-Unfortunately, Alexis, if no complaint is filed we will not bother any more. You know, we have a bunch of cases that we don’t have time to deal with… The behavior of this gentleman has of course been noted, and in the future, if there is something else, it will be an aggravating element.

-The colleague also spoke with Mrs. Vassilopoulos’ lawyer, Mr. Neophytou. His was horrified, and I don’t think he will make such a blunder again. I don’t know, of course, whether it was a blunder, or he was blackmailed, in some way, by Nicolaou.

-We’re going to see him today. Zena will pay him, and we will stop doing business with him. Thank you so much Mr. Georgiou

-You’re welcome Alexis. Always at your disposal for whatever you need.

At that time, Zena also returned from the beach. She hurriedly entered for a shower, before getting down to the dining room for breakfast. Taking their breakfast, a little later, Alexis informed her about the conversation he had with Officer Georgiou.

-So, as we have suspected, Mr. Nicolaou has intervened in my own estate! But Mr. Georgiou is right. I have no desire to deal with him again. Nor will I waste my time filing a lawsuit, although he deserves it. We will find a good lawyer and assign him the case. We will make him pay every inch he encroached upon.

-I agree with you. We will have to complete this case soon, because I will have to return to Melbourne in a month’s time. I don’t know how long you’ll stay here. Really what are you thinking of doing?

-I don’t know. Everything is confused in my mind. I have so many issues outstanding that I cannot make decisions for the future now. I will proceed step by step. The examination of the secret of Zenovia. is preceded. Although I don’t see any light anywhere, I don’t intend to leave it until I’ve exhausted the last possibility. I have become obsessed with this issue. If this woman left something, there is somewhere. And if there is, I will find it! Where, I don’t know, but believe me, I will look for it everywhere.

-I see you very determined, Alexis said with a laugh. First, however, we will have to pass through Mr. Neophytou’s office to sign the documents and release him from his services to you.

-Yes, you are right. We start right away. I’ll call him first to see that he’s in the office.

After an hour they were in Mr. Neophytou’s office. He himself was very apologetic about the situation that arose, and so Zena was clear with him:

-I do not know why you informed Mr. Nicolaou about my estate and gave him the right to act as he has done, but even though I am very pleased with your services so far, I will have to interrupt with you. I will only pay you what I owe you so far.

-You don’t have to pay anything other than what you have already paid me to date. Although it may not matter anymore but, for the sake of truth, I would like to tell you that he alone understood that I was managing your estate when he saw me there, while I was visiting the property. From then on he became unbearably burdensome and pushy towards me, with the results you know. And if you wanted us to continue together, I wouldn’t accept. It is better to go somewhere else and even to a lawyer outside Paphos.

That is approximately how Zena’s collaboration with Mr. Neophytou ended.

-Now what do we do? Alexis asked her. What do you suggest?

-In fact, it would be a nice idea to visit the friend I met on the plane, Mrs. Maria Stylianou and then the archaeological sites of Paphos. But the fact that you will leave in less than a month, forces me to concentrate solely on my goal: to find the secret of Zenovia. For this reason, we will go directly to the village of Statos, lest we detect something.

-So, let’s have lunch and then get started.

It was very early in the afternoon when they left for the village. As they climbed the mountain the view changed. Vineyards, apple, and pear trees, among other cultures everywhere, greened the landscape in contrast to the lowlands of Cyprus, where, at this time, everything was yellow from the summer drought.

-Very beautiful scenery! Alexis told her.

-Indeed! Everything is completely different here. Let us hope that the village will also be equally beautiful. From what I have read on google, however, the original village of Statos has been abandoned in the sixties, after some landslides and a new village has been built a little higher, called Statos – Agios Fotios or Ampelitis. The village of Zenovia of course is the old one and there we should go initially, although I do not think it is inhabited.

In about half an hour they arrived in the village. The stone houses were now half-demolished. Everywhere there was a desolation. They got out of the car and began to walk in the empty streets. There weren’t many. It was obvious that even at the time when the village was flourishing, it was very small. As they proceeded they saw the church, which was still standing, but abandoned and empty.

-The church of saints Zenovios and Zenovia! Zena said. Here Zenovia was buried. Do you remember Alexis the funeral that Grandfather Evangelos described in his letter?

-Yes, I remember it. It was as if Paphos buried her heart!

They tried to get inside but the door was closed. Around the stone-built church was an open space and on one side you could see the view that stretched as far as your eye could reach, as the mountains descended towards the sea. It was gorgeous.

-At Zenovia’s funeral, this whole place must have been filled with people, Zena commented.

Suddenly, she felt that she would have to remain silent and listen to the sounds from the past, that the memory of place brought to her heart.

-It’s weird, but such places are like being alive. They are like a time machine that can take you years back and make you feel the vibrations of that time. It’s like listening to the lamentations of the women who were mourning the only one, who tried to get them out of nothingness.

-Come on, let’s move on, Alexis told her. We may find someone to guide us.

They continued to walk on the street that looked like the main street of the village and to their great surprise, among the ruins and wrecks they saw a house renovated. It was the only one in the whole ghost village. They stayed looking at it, but it was locked, and no one seemed to be staying inside. That moment they saw a woman in her sixties, coming down the road with some goats. As soon as she saw them she stopped.

-Are you looking for someone? She asked.

Alexis tried to explain to her the reason for their visit that they were looking for the descendants of Eurydice and Euthymia, but she did not seem to have known them. Zena noticed that the Cypriot language that the woman spoke was somewhat different from what she was used to hearing until now. If Alexis hadn’t been with her, she might not have understood. However, she advised them to visit the new village, Ampelitis, because perhaps someone there could help them.

Before they left, Alexis asked her about the renovated house. She replied that lately electricity was brought to the village and an old resident renovated her parents’ house to come for vacation.

-Oh, how nice it would be if all the houses could be renovated, Zena said as they left. It would be like taking steps in the past. In Australia, there are some towns of the first settlers, which have been renovated and are visited by tourists. Surely this village has a longer history!

The village of Ampelitis was located 2-3 km higher. Here the houses were relatively new and seemed to be a modern village from its street plan. The streets were straight and intersected vertically by others, forming squares. On almost all the roads there were walnut trees, and it seemed different from all the villages through which they had passed. It was obvious that it was a village of the modern era. It did not take you back in time, but it was beautiful and green.

They searched and found the traditional coffee shop.

-Here, Alexis told her, we will find the elderly of the village. These are the only ones who may have memories of the people we are looking for.

In the coffee shop, the customers were 75 years old and over. They were having their coffee and playing cards. The entrance of strangers pleasantly surprised them. They stopped their game and looked at them full of curiosity. Alexis explained the reason for their visit and asked them if they knew anything about these two women or if they have ever heard about Zenovia.

They began to talk to each other disagreeing and disproving each other’s opinion. It was obvious that what they were asked for, went beyond the memories they had rough in mind. Suddenly, an elderly man, who would have been over 90, raised his hand to silence the others. He grabbed his cane and stood, as if he were to make a momentous speech.

-I was a child, I would have been to the primary school, when I heard my grandmother talking about Zenovia from our village who wanted to save the women of Paphos from poverty but did not manage. She died and what she created, was dissolved. But everyone was proud that she had come from our village. I remember it because she was arguing with a woman from Panagia (a nearby village) who said that their village was better. And then my grandmother told her about Zenovia.

-The other women you ask for, I think I understood who they are. They both died, many years ago. Euthymia had two daughters. They sold what they had in the village and went to stay in Limassol.

After this statement the elderly gentleman sat down and turned to his silence. Alexis tried to ask something but a less elderly, around 75, told him that he was not going to talk anymore. This statement was a glimpse for old – Christos. He usually lived in the darkness of dementia.

So, they had a conversation with this man who was called, Philippos. He told them that he had been a teacher in the village, in the old days when there was a school here.

-Now it doesn’t exist anymore, he explained. You see, only elderly people live here, now. There are no families with small children. And if there is very rarely any child, attends a school in a nearby village.

At that moment Zena felt a pain in the heart. She understood that all the efforts of Zenovia to give strength and freedom to the women in the villages of Paphos failed. They, in one way or another, left their villages and went to the cities. So many villages, like Statos, lost their inhabitants and only old people lived in them.

Alexis was trying to find out if it was possible to be given the phone number of one of the descendants of Eurydice and Efthymia in Limassol, to go and visit them. The owner of the coffee shop had now joined the conversation.

-I think I understood who they are. My daughter, while we were living in Limassol, was a classmate with one of them and she may know her phone. Give me moment to call my wife.

He walked away for a while and when he turned around he was cheerful and smiling.

-My wife says that it should be Vicky who lives in Limassol. She will learn her phone from our daughter and tell us. So, the lady comes from here?

And he showed Zena.

-Not exactly, Alexis replied. Her great-grandmother Zenovia came from here. Her grandparents were from Alexandria, and she was born and raised in Australia. Her mother was Australian.

-Since her great-grandmother came from here, she also comes from here, the owner of the coffee shop said again.

-Yes, I am a fellow – villager, Zena replied. But I would like to know about my great-grandmother Zenovia. Does anyone know anything?

-Only what the old Christos, my daughter, told you. No one seems to remember anything else.

At that time, his wife arrived running. She held a piece of paper in one hand and a bag in the other.

-Oh, I caught up with you, thank god!

She gave them the piece of paper in which it was written a phone number.

-This is Vicky’s, from Eurydice that is, phone. She lives in Limassol. If you find her, give her greetings from Chrystalla and her daughter Teresa. These are some goods from our village to take with you. It’s a bit of soutzoukos (a traditional sweet, made with juice from the grapes and almonds), zivania (Cypriot alcoholic drink), some apples, two halloumi (Cyprus cheese) and a fresh bun that I ‘ve baked in the wood-fired oven.

Zena got confused. She was about to refuse but Alexis told her in English:

-Take them, otherwise you will offend them.

Zena took them and did not know how to thank them. For the first time in her life, she encountered such hospitality. They then set out to leave, before nightfall. Zena wanted again to see the sunset from Zenovia’s house.

Luckily they caught up with it. Once again Zena fell into silence and watched the sun sink and paint the landscape in its colors. She felt that these moments brought her closer to Zenovia because she was sure that she too experienced every sunset.

In the evening they sat on the terrace of their room and ate from the wonderful food that the wife of the owner of the coffee shop, gave them.

-I haven’t eaten nicer halloumi in my life! Zena said. It smells great! And the bread is excellent. As for zivania, strong drink. It relaxes all your senses.

-It is said that the halloumi of Paphos is the best, because of the plants that goats eat. Especially here, I don’t imagine them being fed with anything other than what they graze in nature. This is pure Cyprus, the Cyprus of tradition. Only in such places can one find it.

With the zivania they drank they slept deeply that night. They let their minds assimilate the multiple and intense emotions of the day, until another day would dawn with new perspectives.




(Chapter 20)

Cyprus – Summer 2021

The next day Zena woke up cheerful, had her swim, then took her breakfast with Alexis and began to make plans for the day.

-I think we should contact Vicky immediately, Zena said. I would not like us to delay it any longer. Besides, here we are talking about this is my last hope of finding the secret of Zenovia. If she doesn’t know something either, I can’t imagine what to think anymore!

-Yes I agree, we will call her and if she can, we will go and visit her today. We should be able to rule out this possibility as well to go further down.

-Where are we going to go further down, Alexis? I can’t imagine what else we could do!

-You never know, there are always unexpected chances in unlikely places. Now call Vicky. Do you want me to talk to her?

-No, I will speak directly. If she doesn’t understand my Greek, I’ll give her to you.

She took Vicky’s number and waited a while until she answered. It took some time for her to understand what Zena was telling her about and suggested that they should visit her in Limassol, after five in the afternoon when she would be home from work. She gave them her address and said she would be waiting for them.

At exactly five o’clock in the afternoon they were outside Vicky’s apartment in Limassol. It was in a building opposite the sea and surely the view would be fantastic.

Vicky was a cheerful woman at about Zena’s age. But with two boys, between 8 and 10, getting tangled in around her and staring puzzled at the two strangers, Zena realized that she had had a family for years. She showed them to the living room, which indeed had a fantastic view of the sea. It reminded Zena of her own apartment in Melbourne facing the Yarra River.

After the first formalities passed, Zena with the help of Alexis had to explain again to Vicky the reason of their visit. She looked at them enchanted. It was obvious that their story seemed very romantic to her and as if it came out of a fairy tale. When they finished she replied with some embarrassment.

-What can I tell you? I don’t know anything of what you ask me. My great-grandmother was not Eurydice, but Euthymia. I am a generation younger than you; she told Zena. My mother was the granddaughter of Euthymia. My grandmother, the daughter of Euthymia, left the village and came to Limassol, after selling everything she had in the village. We used to go to Statos from time to time, but we didn’t have anything there of our own. No one ever told me that there was a document that we should keep. My grandmother, who was also called Eurydice – now that you say it – mentioned something to me, when I was little, about a woman called Zenovia who gave a house to her own grandmother, but I don’t remember anything else.

-Yes, you are right that you are from a younger generation. In our own family all were got married in old age. Is your grandmother, Eurydice, alive? Your mother?

-My mother has sadly died. My grandmother lives but she very old and she stays in a nursing home. Due to the pandemic, no one can visit her, for safety reasons. But besides the fact that she suffers from dementia, and it is impossible to communicate with her, she does not have any possessions. Those of her belongings that have not been sold have been thrown away. After all, she had nothing of value in her possession. I’m sorry, but I don’t know how I can help you.

-Never mind, thank you for accepting us. And we are also glad to have met you. Your great-great-grandmother, Eurydice, was the best friend of my great-grandmother Zenovia.

-I am glad to have met you too. Come whenever you want again. My house is open for you.

On leaving, Zena left her phone number, in case she remembers something.

-I will talk to both my sister and my cousins. If anyone remembers something I will contact you. But I’m afraid it’s almost impossible. A hundred years have passed!

As soon as they got into the car Zena burst into tears. Alexis did not expect it and was surprised.

-Come on don’t be disappointed, he told her. We will think about something.

-How not to be disappointed Alexis! She was my last hope! I can’t think of anything else. And I want so much to find the secret of Zenovia! For my father, for grandfather Evangelos, but above all for Zenovia herself, who wanted to share it. She didn’t want to take it with her! I feel like it’s the role of my life to find this secret!

-If it is the role of your life to find it, you will find it. But now I propose something else. I think we have exhausted what we could do in Paphos. Right now, I don’t see anything else possible to do. We have run out of ideas. I suggest tomorrow that we leave for Nicosia. There we have a lot to do. We will have to find a lawyer, you will have you to speak with Eleni, what kind of house you want to be built and do not forget, Nicosia has other prospects. It is not the city of relaxation. It is the city of action. You said that. You could find a journalistic topic for you to deal with. You’ve been rusty for a year and a half now.

-You’re right. There is no point in looking for the secret while I am at a dead end. Besides, Vicky can find something new and call us. Let’s wait. As for the journalistic issue, I have something in mind! Let’s go and I’ll talk to you about it. I will see what prospects are presented and act accordingly. Thank you!

-It is not of my character to despair but for more than a year I have been dealing with this issue and it has become an obsession to me. I’ll have to move away a little bit and look at it again with a clear eye. So back to the hotel. Tomorrow we leave for Nicosia.

Alexis and Zena were in Nicosia for a week now and they were busy arranging meetings and make decisions. Zena was incredulously making the decisions, but Alexis next to her was very supportive. And when Zena was confused with her sentimentality, his own voice was within reason, and he was clearing the clouds.

They decided that Eleni’s friend, the lawyer, Mr. Eugeniou, was reliable enough to manage the case with Mr. Nicolaou. The surveyor’s investigation proved that there was a serious breach of borders and the demand for damages would be proportionate. Zena assigned it to him entirely, not wanting to meet Mr. Nicolaou again.

These days, while she was touring Cyprus, and seeing the villages and cities, what impressed her the most was the renovated house she had seen in the village of Statos. From the moment she had seen it, she had decided that she would ask Eleni to renovate Zenovia’s house. Traditional houses look as if they grow through the landscape, preserving the colors of the earth, the mountain and the plain. Zena wanted her home in Cyprus to be such. As if the earth gave birth to it.

They talked it a lot with Eleni. Although it was enclosed by modern villas, due to the large area that surrounded it, it was possible to isolate it, by erecting a fence and planting trees Besides Zena had decided that a part of the estate could be sold and from the money she would get she would finance the construction of her own house.

Eleni had captured the original design of the house and the rooms that existed. They studied it a lot and decided to add a few more rooms so that it can meet the needs of today. Its equipment and amenities would of course be according to modern standards, but the house would retain its traditional character. If they succeeded, they would also restore the old well which with a modern turbine could meet the garden’s water needs.

After settling all this, she decided to concentrate to the journalistic issue that interested her. She wanted to collect information about the two persons who, as she had been informed a few days earlier, acted for the cooperation between the two communities, very few years after the invasion of 1974: Lellos Demetriades and Mustafa Akinci. Discussing the matter with Alexis, she told him why these two people caught her attention:

-If you open any book of the history of any country, the basic information you will find is about the wars that that country has made or suffered. Heroes are those who were killed in the war or those who killed in a war. You will find very few words about the peaceful acts and the paths of communication opened by some of the inhabitants of these countries. This has always troubled me and in every country I visited, I was trying to locate such material. Especially in Cyprus, which in one way or another, is my homeland. Eleni has told me about these two people and from that moment on I would like to meet them.

-As far as I know Lellos is very sick and you will not be able to see him, but Mustafa Akinci, I think you could. We will just have to find contact information to request a meeting with him. For Lellos, we have some friends who were his close collaborators and may have some material that could be useful.

-How could I see these friends of yours?

-I will tell my father to invite them one evening to his house and inform them of the reason for the invitation. So, if they have any material they will bring it with them, so as not to waste time. They are Agni Petridou and Glafkos Constantinides. Agni is an architect and Glafkos is an urban planner.

-Who exactly are they?

-They were very close collaborators of Lellos in the Master Plan. The unified Master Plan for the development of Nicosia, that is, which included both sides of the divided city. They executed the vision of the two, Lellos Demetriades and Mustafa Akinci, as technocrats, on the Greek Cypriot side. They are very pleasant people. You will like them.

-But soon because we will have to leave for Paphos.

-Have you thought of anything else about the secret of Zenovia and you are in a hurry to go to Paphos?

-No, but the source of any possible information is there. I will finish with my research, and we will leave.

The next night, they gathered again under the lemon trees in the courtyard of Alexis’ parents. Zena met for the first time Agni Petridou and Glafkos Constantinides who were among the first collaborators of Lellos Demetriades, during the years of operation and creation of the Master Plan, around 1987 and until the departure of the mayor from the Municipality of Nicosia, in 2001. Both were successively coordinators of the technical team of the Greek Cypriot side and together with their Turkish Cypriot colleagues promoted similar projects on both sides of Nicosia.

Glafkos Constantinides is still working on the promotion of bicommunal activities, as a member of the Bicommunal Technical Committee for Cultural Heritage. This Committee is active in both communities with the aim of restoring monuments, churches, etc. left to the ravages of time, due to the invasion of Turkey in 1974 and the separation of people into two parts of a divided homeland. Glafkos gave Zena a copy of an old interview that was published in an international  magazine in of September of  1997,  by both mayors. But he also talked about his experience in bicommunal issues.

-Bicommunal activities are about learning how to work together and find out how to listen, appreciate, consider, and share ideas and solutions with professionals with different experiences and points of view. It is not unusual to start work on a planning issue with a set of ideas based on your own ‘little world’ to find out that colleagues from the other community have a rather different set of ideas. You need to stop and listen seriously to that point of view and discuss it in depth to adjust or influence what the steps will be.

-The message is that professional skills are as important as the communication skills and the ability to understand the other point of view and make it all a valuable resource for society and the city. *

Zena listened attentively to what Glafkos said and recorded in her memory the key phrase: “Learn to listen.” How many evils would be prevented if people learned to listen to the other, instead of just hearing what they say themselves, she wondered.

Agni Petridou brought her a book written by the philologist Andreas Hadjithomas and paublished in 2017, entitled: The Municipality of Nicosia during the Mayoralty of Lellos Demetriades 1971 – 2001.

-Here you will find all the projects that Lellos promoted in Nicosia and valuable photographic material, she told her. I hope that through its pages you will be able to understand his love for the city of Nicosia and his vision for the unification of Cyprus. Really, why are you so interested in all this?

-I am an Australian journalist and I have always been interested in environmental subjects and peace. I write about these issues and project acts of brave people who promoted peace and protected the environment. I came to Cyprus for a different reason. When my father died, in 2019 he left me a box of letters with the story of my family. These letters led me here in a search of a hundred-year

-During my presence here, however, I learned about the Cyprus problem. Alexis’ family, as you know, are refugees from Marathovounos. The stories I was told, the barbed wire I saw on the green line in Nicosia, and the problem that has existed for almost 50 years, raised a question in me: Has there never been anyone who has achieve something substantial and measurable for the good of this place? And then I learned about these two people who worked together so soon after the invasion. Back, when there was so much hatred and suspicion!

-I intend to write a book about people from all over the world who overcame obstacles, worked, and created through adverse conditions of hostility. Often history forgets about them. So, I thought to speak on their behalf.

And returning to Agni she asked her:

-Can you tell me Agni about your experience in the Nicosia Master Plan? I would be very much interested to hear.

Agni looked at her and her eyes lit up. It was obvious that it awakened pleasant memories to her.

-My participation in the bi-communal team of Nicosia Master Plan was the most beautiful experience of my professional career. The structure of this cooperation contained several innovative elements:

-It was possible for the first time to jointly plan the future of the divided capital

-Besides, it was the first time that young Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot professionals worked together in such a good atmosphere, with a common vision and good cooperation which over time turned into a close friendship that lasts to this day.

-It was also the first time that the Department of Urban Planning of the government and the Municipality worked together in a joint team, for years, for the good of the city

-We were given the opportunity to participate, we local technicians, with an extensive interdisciplinary team of foreign consultants, from whom we learned a lot

-I feel very lucky to have been part of the Master Plan team during its early years. A team with a vision that was chasing innovation.

-Lellos and Akinci proved with this collaboration that anything can be done. *

Zena wrote down Agni’s words. It was a living testimony of how cooperation could work, in a hostile environment, when there is goodwill and a vision for peace.

The evening passed pleasantly, and Zena felt a satisfaction that she was achieving something after the repeated disappointments about Zenovia’s secret. This filled her heart with optimism and revived her hopes that for everything there would be a way out.



*The words recorded here are the views of Glafkos Konstantinidis and Agni Petridou, as they themselves have expressed them.


(Chapter 21)

This novel is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real. Nevertheless, in this chapter Lellos Demetriades, Mustafa Akinci, Glafkos Constantinides, Agni Petridou, Katia Taoushiani and Manthos Mavrommatis and the associated of Mr. Akinci are real persons and the roles attributed to them  are their real roles.

Cyprus – Summer 2021

Zena wasted no time. She asked to be brought to her room a small table to use as a desk and she put there her laptop, the book that Agni gave her along with the interview that Glafkos brought her and began to study. At the same time, she was discussing with Alexis how she could communicate with Mustafa Akinci.

-I have asked Glafkos Constantinides and Agni if it would be easy for them to find me a way to communicate and they told me that they did not have any information themselves. What do you think we can do?

-I have something else in mind. A few years ago, when I had come from Melbourne and wanted material for a cultural event there, I visited the Nicosia Municipality and met the cultural officer, Mrs. Katia Taoushiani. She was a very kind and very educated lady, who served me directly. This is the one who organized the cultural activities when Lellos Demetriades was mayor and from what she told me they were having very interesting events. They promoted at the same time traditional cultural elements, educational activities such as the Open University and high-level intellectual events with renowned artists, such as Marios Tokas. Marios Tokas was a Greek Cypriot composer who excelled in Greece. His works are masterpieces and have been presented in many European capitals. Unfortunately, he died young. This and many more constituted the wide range of events that took place! I was impressed.

-Chatting with her at the time, she told me that her husband was the President of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry and had frequent contacts with the corresponding Turkish Cypriot Chamber. If my memory does not deceive me, his name was Manthos Mavrommatis. Even though she will now be retired, I have her phone and I may try to reach her. Perhaps, through her husband, she will be able to find something for us.

-Well done Alexis! It is useful to meet such remarkable people. If we have time I would like to meet her. Of course, as soon as we finish from here we will have to go to Paphos, but maybe later. Look if you can find Mrs. Taousiani and I will continue my study.

No more than half an hour passed, and Alexis returned with a triumphant smile on his lips.

-I have found her! She was very happy to hear me. She immediately volunteered to ask her husband for some contact information that she will send to my mobile. If we succeed we will have to go and see these people. Of course, I explained to her that I will have to leave soon, and you are committed to finding the secret of Zenovia, but we will keep them in mind.

-As soon as we have the details I will contact Mr. Akinci and I hope he will accept me soon. I am sorry that I cannot speak with Lellos Demetriades. I will try from the book that Agni gave me to find his own words and his own spirit for the period I am considering.

-You should keep in mind that the problem in Cyprus lies in a series of many events, interventions by third parties that promoted their own interests, but also phobias that the collective memory of people carries in its DNA. Do not forget that Cyprus was for 300 years under Ottoman rule and its inhabitants experienced terrible oppression, repression, and a policy of Islamization. Then the invasion of 1974 was the most violent and destructive thing ever happened in our country. Many of the modern Greek Cypriots may not know details about that period, but the collective memory is there and as far as 1974 is concerned, it is still bleeding.

-On the other hand, many of the modern Turkish Cypriots feel that the Greek Cypriots want to impose themselves and exploit them, being the most populous community on the island and face their actions with distrust and skepticism. They are mainly based on the events of 1963, by which they were forced to confine themselves to a few enclaves in various parts of the island. Of course, there is the corresponding interpretation of the Greek Cypriot side why this happened, but that is not what we are talking about. The previously stated desire of Greek Cypriots for union with Greece is another reason that makes them wary. No one, however, can deny that there has been violence and excesses on both sides, nor that there are fanatical, nationalist elements who want to torpedo attempts at a solution. But if we stay on this, there will never be any progress.

We should focus on the fact that Turkey occupies about 37% of the island and this is not in the interests of either the Greek Cypriots or the Turkish Cypriots, who every day risk losing their identity. The goal of every Cypriot should be the reunification of our homeland and the vision of a common future that can bring prosperity to both communities. Almost 50 years have passed since the 1974 invasion, and it seems that the collective memory of both sides stands between them and prevents them from looking each other in the eye. Of course, the biggest player is Turkey and its expansionist plans, but we Cypriots have no ally other than ourselves and the consensus and solidarity between us. A small amount of yeast can change the composition of a huge amount of dough. This is how we must act if we want to change the fate of our country.

-Thanks Alexis for this analysis. You know that me, a person who doesn’t know the details that you know, all this seems complicated and difficult to understand. But listening to all this, I confirm that my focus on these two people is very correct. Surely they too would have the inhibitions and wounds you describe, but for the good of their city and homeland, they overcame them.

-I let you study, and I’ll make some phone calls. Oh, wait. I have a message from Katia with Mr. Akinci’ contact details. I give them to you and the rest is up to you!

-Give me the information and thank Katia and Manthos on my behalf.

Immediately Zena wrote to Mr. Akinci explaining who she is and the reasons she would like to meet him as soon as possible, because she would have to go to Paphos. Then she continued with her study.

The book brought to her by Agni, published in 2017, wrote many details about the efforts made to complete the Nicosia sewerage system, immediately after the 1974 invasion, serving both sides of Nicosia. But she would like to focus on the thoughts and words of Mr. Lellos Demetriades himself. She wanted to understand his momentum and the openness of his spirit. At the beginning of the book, there was a greeting from himself, from which she chose to note two characteristic paragraphs:

… Nicosia also suffered a particularly difficult situation. It was mutilated economically, socially, culturally, urbanely. To this day it remains the only divided capital of Europe, but this historic city did not maintain a fatalistic attitude or show passive behavior. The municipal authority and its citizens rolled up their sleeves and were thrown into a struggle to maintain and rebuild their city, with the aim of breathing life back into its Municipality to continue its illustrious history and regain its glamour. Because they believed that, if we create, we do not perish, as the late Andreas Christofides, director of the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, said…

… The Municipality organized and designed the General Urban Plan of the City in both parts of the divided, long-suffering capital, projects that even the Government itself could not perform, since the barrier was the Green Line, the officially inaccessible space for many decades. Only the local authority was able to carry out this achievement without laws, political planning, official documents, and protocols, but unwritten agreements that are in force and are applied to this day and no Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot leader of a local or other authority wanted to stop…

At that moment Alexis returned, and Zena asked him:

-Why is the dividing line called “Green Line”?

-For a very prosaic reason. When the riots began in Cyprus between the two communities in 1963, the British General, Yang, drew with a green pencil on the map the line that would separate the Greek Cypriots from the Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia, when a ceasefire took place. After 1974 the term was extended across the dividing line.

-A line, draw with a green pencil was left to characterize the division of an island!

-How are you doing with your study?

-The interview that Glafkos brought, and was given in 1997, is just as interesting as the greeting in the book. Mr. Demetriades mentions, among other things:

…As soon as circumstances permitted after 1974 I made approaches to those on the other side of the Green Line. The task was a difficult one but at the end of 1977 I had my first meeting with Mustafa Akinci, my counterpart in the Turkish Cypriot administration of the city, We met in private in my home with our wives, officials from the North and officers of the UN force in Cyprus.

-And he continues further on:

The results were very encouraging. We got the blessing of the authorities on both sides, and we were able to start bi-communal meetings which continue to this day, attended not just by political leaders but technical people. These formed the Master Plan Team of Nicosia and they dealt with number of problems. One of the first of these was the sewage system, which was nearly finished before the 1974 invasion. Thanks to the team’s efforts it started to work in May 1980, serving both sides of Nicosia, with the treatment plant on the Turkish Cypriot side and the bulk of the network on the Greek Cypriot side… The plan was completed by members of the team under the guidance of the UN and delivered in 1987. We are now concentrating on preservation work in the city on both sides of the Green Line, to revitalize the heart of Nicosia and ensure that this area does not deteriorate because of its proximity to the dividing line.

The role of the UN has been of continuing importance: without them no meetings could have taken place and co-ordination would have been impossible….

…Of course, no one can argue that what we have achieved will be a help in solving the problems of Cyprus, but I think that the bridges we have built are necessary and conducive to an agreement for the whole island. To this day I continue my policy of working to create a unified home country. I shall stick to my policy to respecting people and creating a climate of trust, not just in Cyprus but in mainland Greece and Turkey. We need collective effort, an effort as huge as the obstacles we have to overcome…

-How essential his words really are! How I would like to meet him!

At that moment she heard a sound coming out of her computer. It was a message from Mr. Mustafa Akinci’s’ associate, Dr Meltem Onurkan Samani. Her proposal had been accepted and he would meet her in two days at his office in occupied Nicosia. She just asked her to send him the questions in advance so he could be ready.

Zena was thrilled. She did not expect such a short response. She immediately sat down, wrote the questions, and forwarded them to Dr Meltem Onurkan Samani.

On the way to the barricade at Ledra Palace, where she would be picked up by Mr. Akinci’s associate, Zena felt an agony. The man she would meet represented what, in her own world, is the hero. She recalled a paragraph from the book Agni had brought her:

… Through tireless and continuous efforts, the Mayor came to the decision to contact the respective “local authority” of the Turkish Cypriots. He considered that the project was equally relevant to the other side and its implementation was in their own interest. The Mayor of Nicosia of the Turkish Cypriots was Mustafa Akinci, a man of vision and spirituality, prudence, and realistic attitudes on this important issue. Thus, the first step and the most essential one was achieved: the two men managed to bring the Sewerage Plan back to the negotiating table – after three years and with enormous difficulties. Other welfare projects for the two communities followed. The understanding came to fruition, because the two representatives of the municipalities believed in the work, but also in the common purpose of the efforts they made, for their city to be revitalized and function at least in the field of public health.

With these words, Mustafa Akinci was characterized, in a book about Lellos Demetriades and his work. Such people, with an emphasis on the transcendence they made for the common good, should be projected, in her opinion, by the television receivers of the world, instead of shapely ageless ladies and charming men, who have only to talk about themselves.

Dr Meltem Onurkan Samani, was a pleasant Cypriot, I emphasize the term Cypriot, because in appearance the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots are no different, with a smile, which made Zena feel immediately comfortable. Along with her was another associate, Evi. They led her to an area outside the walls of Nicosia, with beautiful houses of the 60s, reminiscent of the areas of Agios Andreas and Agios Dometios on the Greek Cypriot side.

A pattern that repeats itself, she thought. And yet they have been separated by a “Green Line” for more than half a century.

She then recalled that Alexis’ father had told her that before April 23, 2003, when the barricades were opened, after a dynamic mobilization of the Turkish Cypriots, to go from the Greek Cypriot side to the Turkish Cypriot side, one had to travel by plane abroad, go to Turkey and then come to the occupied territories. In other words, it was easier to go to Australia from Cyprus than to cross 50 meters in Nicosia!

Mr. Akinci’s office was in this area, on the ground floor of a two-story building with a garden. Nothing extravagant, that is. They were greeted by his secretary and then taken to Mr. Akinci’s’ office.

A gentleman with kind features, who radiated calmness and simplicity, approached Zena, and greeted her with a warm handshake. After the first greetings had passed, Mr. Akinci suggested to treat her with a Cypriot coffee. A smiling young lady brought the coffee. They had their coffee chatting pleasantly and then Mr. Akinci answered Zena’s questions. It was obvious that returning to those years, when together with Lellos Demetriades, were fighting for their city to have a common future, was a pleasant memory for him.


Lellos Demetriades – more information


(Chapter 22)

The novel is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real.

Lellos Demetriades and Mustafa Akinci, are real persons and the roles attributed to them in the chapter are their real roles. The interview that follows is an actual interview with Mr. Akinci and all the answers were given by him. Nothing has been changed.

Cyprus – Summer 2021

-Mr. Akinci I am an Australian journalist, with Cypriot origin. I have come to Cyprus to find my roots. As a journalist, though, I am interested about the Cyprus political problem. I have spoken with a lot of people, and I have heard a lot of what has happened all these years. From all these I was impressed by the way, you and Mr. Lellos Demetriades, had acted after 1974. Mr. Lellos Demetriades’ health does not allow him to give interviews, so you are the only person that can tell me what had happened and the motivation you had.   You were the mayor of the Turkish Cypriot part of Nicosia and Mr. Lellos Demetriades of the Greek Cypriot part. Did you know Mr. Demetriades, before the facts of 1974?

Thank you for your interest in the Nicosia Master Plan and our cooperation with Mr Demetriades. As you say, we were the respective mayors of Nicosia. Lellos was mayor from 1971 and I became mayor in 1976. We didn’t know each other before 1974.

-How did you decide to work along with Mr. Demetriades, for this cause? There was a bloody separation of Nicosia and you have acted, very soon after, for the future unification of Nicosia. That was very brave of you both. Who took the first step?

The truthful answer to this question is that initially, mutual need necessitated this cooperation. The Nicosia sewerage project was underway only on the Greek Cypriot side before the events of 1974 but when the war erupted, the work ceased in July of that year. Construction of the sewerage treatment plant located to the east of the city near Mia Milia/ Haspolat was left incomplete and some of the main sewerage trunks were now on the Green Line, meaning that these too could not be completed.

So, at this point the Greek Cypriot side was in a very difficult position. They were collecting taxes from the Greek Cypriot inhabitants of the town, raising funds for the sewerage system mainly through the immovable property tax of all the households which were to be connected to the system. But when the project was forced to stop and the system could not begin to operate, the Greek Cypriot municipality faced real trouble.

Beyond the issue of tax collection, the sewerage system was badly needed in Nicosia due to the fact that the city was densely populated. A great deal of people was living in multi-storey buildings and the city required an infrastructural upgrade in order to function effectively. In the north, the situation was even worse because we didn’t have any project underway at all during that time and the soil in the northern part of the city was clay in most areas, meaning that it couldn’t absorb the effluent coming from the houses. Finding ways to cope with this situation was one of the biggest headaches for the municipality; having to try to empty the absorption pits from the households, which were filling up within a few hours of emptying them. Therefore, on one side of the city there were ongoing sewerage works which were halted due to the events of the summer, while on the other side there wasn’t even a project under design.

So, when the Greek Cypriot side wanted to do something about this situation, they had two options. The first option was to try to build another treatment plant elsewhere given that the one in Mia Milia now lay north of the dividing line and was therefore inaccessible to them. This option was physically and financially unfeasible however, given that a new site would mean that the sewage would be running against gravity, thus needing to be pumping all the time and requiring more energy and more funds. The second option was to find ways to cooperate with the Turkish Cypriot side to make the system run.

This idea for cooperation cropped up in 1977, when I was around one year into my mayorship. As I’ve explained, a major issue for us was the need for proper sewerage in the northern part of the city as the absorption pits were not able to cope. In addition, there were three factories, (one for flour, one for cold drink and one milk factory) which were discharging all their effluent without prior treatment into the Pedieos riverbed, creating a real nuisance and a potential health hazard. In other words, we also had an urgent need for a sewerage system in the north.

So, you see, it was the circumstances which necessitated this cooperation. It started with a mutual need, but from there onwards as you can imagine, real leadership was required on both sides in order to manage the challenges and obstacles created by certain political actors who were against bi-communal projects. But also logistically, this was a huge project. To implement a sewerage system in already inhabited cities is one of the most difficult infrastructural projects possible. Sewerage is one of the first elements of infrastructure needed when building a city from scratch, but our city had already been populated for hundreds of years. Imagine having to dig up the floor to implement repair works in a house that you’re already living in – it’s the same for cities.

We also faced another problem in the northern part of the walled city of Nicosia. The streets in the Nicosia old town are narrow and in addition to a lack of sewerage we didn’t have proper water supply. We had to dig two trenches, one for the sewerage and one for water pipes. So, in some areas, whole streets were dug up and it was impossible to even walk down them.

I also strived to achieve something which wasn’t part of the original plan; I agreed to cooperate with the Greek Cypriot side on the condition that the project be extended to the north. I didn’t feel it would be fair to agree that we’d finalise the treatment plant and the main trunks in order to start operating the system without agreeing to add the northern part of the city into the system. So it was agreed that areas of the Turkish Cypriot side of Nicosia would be added to the project in phases. In the first phase the northern half of the walled city and the area of Çağlayan, to the north of the walled city, was incorporated into the project. Today as everyone knows, not only the southern part of Nicosia is connected to the system but also the northern part up to and including Gönyeli. And it works well. It is perhaps one of the very rare examples where Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots worked together and achieved something collectively; where they could not be stopped.

Beyond including the northern part of the city into the system, another part of the agreement was to share the expenses fairly. On that point, I insisted that financial contribution should be decided by usage, i.e. both sides would contribute according to how much effluent they were pumping. There were other matters to be agreed upon as well but these two were the most important.

So, this is how the project began.

After our success with the sewerage system, we prepared the Nicosia Master Plan which was another very important project for the city. The Master Plan team consisted of architects, city planners, engineers, sociologists, etc. We worked with the help of World Habitat and international experts to prepare a plan involving the two sides of Nicosia. In my view, one of the major achievements of the Plan was that we were able to save the walled city of Nicosia.

The importance of the historical buildings as well as the fabric of the walled city was highlighted in this Master Plan, and we were able to raise awareness in order to preserve and inject life into this part of Nicosia. Notably, in 1986 we introduced pedestrianisation to the old city, namely Arasta street in the north and Ledras and Onasagorou streets in the south. The wall at Lokmacι was of course still in place in those days, but our vision was that one day it would be pulled down. We felt that to have a pedestrianised zone on one side and a traffic jam on the other would jeopardise the sense of harmony and so we pedestrianised the whole area. The hope was that one day, people would walk and shop through the streets safely and sit and enjoy their coffee. In this, we succeeded. Since 2008, when the wall came down, whenever I go to the area, I feel a sense of happiness knowing that the area is used as we had envisaged. Moreover, we raised awareness about the cultural heritage importance of our old inns, the Büyük Han and Kumarcılar Hanı. This legacy of pedestrianisation has continued with successive mayors and the current mayor Mehmet Harmancı, who recently pedestrianised Zahra Street opposite Ledra Palace.

So the Nicosia Master Plan was the second achievement following the sewerage system initiated by Lellos and myself. We were awarded the Europa Nostra Medal of Honour for this work. The Master Plan was also recognised by international organisations, for example it received the World Habitat Award and Aga Khan Award which were other proud moments for us as initiators of the project.

-How did you manage to overcome the practical difficulties? There were other authorities on both sides that you should convince that your cause was important, and they should help you, or at least not prevent you. I am sure there were fanatical people, on both sides, that were against these How did you manage to face them?

It is important to mention at this stage that the project was financed by the World Bank. Later, when the two sides began to cooperate, the EU also started providing some assistance to this project. It was perhaps the first time bicommunal infrastructural projects on the island were awarded EU funds. In those days the Republic of Cyprus had not yet applied for EU membership but there were financial protocols through which they were receiving aid in order to help upgrade the economy. At some point we also received funds through this protocol. So as you can see there were international actors involved, including the UN. But there were of course local actors who didn’t like the idea, particularly on our side. At the time I belonged to an opposition party and not that of the central government. We heard fanatic nationalist arguments accusing me of bringing Greek Cypriot effluent to Turkish Cypriot territories and creating a nuisance. Admittedly, sewage is not the most pleasant of all things but in this case the effluent was coming from both sides. It was mixed and couldn’t be separated.

Certain fanatics from time to time called for authorities to block the sewerage system in order to prevent Greek Cypriots from sending their effluent but I would point out that the presidential palace was also connected to the system and that if blockages were caused, nobody could predict where the sewage would come out! I also maintained that there is no difference between what Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots produce. It smells the same and has the same colour.

So in the minds of some fanatic nationalist circles I was a traitor. But they couldn’t stop the project. It has continued under various different mayors until today. The treatment system we erected and started to operate in 1980 was a lagoon system. For a system like this you need a large area, and sometimes the aerators for the lagoons didn’t work properly, which gave rise to bad smells. Around 10-15 years ago a new system was built with the help of EU aid, called a compact membrane system. This is a newer technology than the lagoon system. It requires much less area and is cleaner, so now the effluent is much better treated. It’s a pity that they haven’t started making use of the water, e.g., for irrigation purposes.

It was important to me to gain the support of the people. I organised a dinner for journalists – mainly those who were highly critical of the project – and exhibited the old drinking water pipes on a nearby table. One of the journalists present recalled that seeing those pipes in such a rusted, broken and unhealthy condition, while making it difficult to eat the meal properly, helped to understand how important the project was.

People in old Nicosia began to have pressurised water in their homes for the first time and they were pleased with the new system. We completed the first phase of the sewerage project in 1986 but we hadn’t yet paved all of the streets with asphalt. But when people see the benefit of something, you gain their support, and in the end, I was re-elected. The fanatics existed of course, as they exist today and will exist tomorrow on both sides. In order to rise to the challenges, it’s crucial to gain the support of your people.

-I believe it was difficult to take the decision to start all this. After deciding though, I would like you to describe to me your feelings and your vision for the future of Nicosia and Cyprus. I think, and correct me if I am wrong, that from all the actions taken by all the politicians, all these years, it was the only one that was successful up to the end. Please comment on this.

I think your assessment that this was the only successful initiative from beginning to end is correct, and indeed it continues successfully. I hope that it will continue to be successful for as long as Nicosia exists, because this is a joint and inseparable system. Just as humans cannot live without any kidneys, so a town cannot survive without a sewage treatment plant.

-Mr. Akinci, you have represented the Turkish Cypriot in the Intercommunal Talks for a period of five years. Although these efforts did not succeed to solve the Cyprus problem, all the Greek Cypriots I have met, think the best of you and respect you enormously. I would like to hear your vision about the future of Cyprus and if you think it is possible to be unified in the near future.

Thank you for your kind words. Throughout my political career, not only when I was representing my community as president* for five years but also when I was mayor, or party leader or MP, I tried my best to help solve the Cyprus problem. My presidency* was my greatest opportunity to work towards this aim, and after the lost opportunity of the Annan Plan, we once again came very close to the possibility of a solution during that time. Unfortunately, due to well-known reasons that I have explained on several occasions, we were not able to conclude the agreement.

For the foreseeable future, unfortunately I don’t see any opportunity to bring about a federal united Cyprus, which in itself still seems to be the only mutually agreeable solution. The positions of the two sides are currently too far apart.

My experience up to now has shown me that it will be unrealistic from now on, to expect a solution from the leaders. It will have to come from the grassroots on both sides. 

Is this possible? It is of course very difficult; it requires determination and hard work. But future generations should not lose hope.

-Thank you very much, Mr Akinci, for such a detailed and full description of the events of that time. I hope that other politicians in this country will follow your example. That is why I am recording these events. Perhaps I can inspire people to overcome the surrounding atmosphere of hostility and suspicion and fight for peace.


Note from the author of Cosmosblog:

* Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized as a state, only by Turkey.

Biography of Mustafa Akinci


(Chapter 23)

Cyprus – Summer 2021 (Paphos)

Alexis woke up in the morning and saw that Zena was not sleeping next to him.

-She would have gone swimming, he thought.

Immediately the events of the previous day came to his mind. They had left Nicosia early in the morning. When Zena finished her interview with Mustafa Akinci, nothing kept her there anymore.

-I am very pleased with my meeting with Mr. Akinci, she told him. He was very generous to me. I got the information I wanted. Now we will have to go back to Paphos. The journalistic part is over, it’s time to focus again on the secret of Zenovia.

-What do you have in mind? He asked her.

-I don’t know. When I’m there, the energy around me acts differently. I know that somewhere there is the text written by Zenovia. And I’ll find it!

Her determination had impressed Alexis.

-That’s how Zenovia must have acted, he thought. She used to set goals and achieved them. She had faith, not inhibitions.

The problem between them arose in the car on the way to Paphos. He felt that it was time to have this discussion and so he found cause from the pleasant atmosphere that prevailed and the light-hearted mood of Zena.

-You know, he told her, I’ll have to leave in ten days. If you want I can try to postpone it for another fortnight. I will contact my colleague who is replacing me and ask him to take over my teams for a while longer.

-That would be a good thing if I have found the edge in a fortnight’s time. But no one knows how much it will take. I can continue by myself. You were with me in the difficult times, I think you can go back, it is not right to take advantage of your colleague.

-You know, I have something else in mind. Now that we’re here and my parents and family are nearby we could get married. We don’t have many years ahead of us to start a family. We are both over 40 years old. We don’t have to do much. A simple marriage, preferably civil, to apply in Australia as well. What do you think?

He immediately saw that she became upset. He knew that her perceptions of marriage were negative, but he himself would not give in. He was basically a traditional man and did not like modern families, without institutional bases. He wanted the children, whom he hoped to have, to bear his name and recognize their grandparents. She replied with a general comment:

-Now is not the time for such discussions, trying to stop it there.

But he continued:

-And yet, now is the time. We have been together for almost two years. I think we match and are happy with each other. We are in Cyprus, which is the only country in the world where we have some relatives, that we could share these moments with them. Marriage is basically a great promise of life together and a shared right to happiness. It is worth having our own people close to us, to be witnesses to this commitment.

-On the other hand, you know I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like loose families who now are together and tomorrow they tear everything apart. You must decide, Zena, if you want us to be together forever or now we’re having a good time and God knows what will happen in the future.

It was obvious that she was confused. He understood that her old principles, the ideas she had about marriage and commitment, were struggling within her, and this was a new perspective, which she herself once mocked. But he had no intension to back down. He would fight it up to the end.

-Do you remember, he told her, when we went to the Christmas party that Mr. Jacob Papadopoulos was having and you felt the sense of family for the first time, how much you like it? You then wanted to live such a life yourself. The only way to live it, Zena, you, and your children, is to start a family. And that’s what I’m trying to offer you now. You should not be frightened.

-I fully understand, Alexis. Don’t think I don’t appreciate what you’re telling me or that I don’t remember my feelings that day. But it seems in the DNA that I carry inside me there is something, let’s say gypsy, that makes me to want to run away. If we exclude Zenovia who got married at a very young age, all the others got married in mature age. My own parents didn’t even marry at all. My mother ran away in the face of the responsibility to raise a child.

-Wouldn’t you like to change that? A new perspective opens in front of you without many problems. Your grandfather and father had severe financial problems and were unable to start a family early. Of course, for us you don’t say it “early”. We are at the same age with them when they decided to have children. But I repeat: We have no obstacle to moving forward. We have no financial problems either. We have a great relationship and I think you care about me as much as I care about you. What scares you?

-I wish I knew. It just came to me very abruptly. And these typical ceremonies scare me. I transfer my mother’s gypsy to my genes, is the most likely explanation.

-I’m not talking to you about a typical ceremony with many guests and traditional bride and groom attire. In any case, the restrictions due to the pandemic do not allow an open marriage. I’m talking about a simple ceremony in a town hall with my parents and family members. Nothing more. As for your mother’s gypsy genes, you can ignore them. They don’t define you. Who knows how she grew up? But you grew up in generous love from your father. See yourself now! You dedicate so much time and energy to finding a family secret. Family matters a lot to you, no matter how much you don’t want to admit it.

-I don’t disagree with anything you say. I’m just not ready. You should give me some time.

-No time, Zena. I must leave in ten days. And if you agree for us to get married, I will ask to be delayed for another two weeks.

-All right. I’ll answer to you tomorrow.

The discussion ended there, but there had been a chill between them. He was annoyed with Zena’s insistence on refusing to commit for non-essential reasons, and Zena, who was not used to giving in to blackmail, was stubborn.

Today, however, with the room lit by the morning sun, made Alexis optimistic that everything would be fine. Zena would stop the stubbornness. She was not unreasonable! He was asking her to go beyond the beliefs of a lifetime and she wanted some time. Entering the bathroom to get ready he saw hanging in the shower the swimsuit that Zena wore the night before, when she went to swim.

-She has worn another one today, he thought.

When he finished and came out of the bathroom, he noticed that Zena had not yet returned. This surprised him. She usually returned from her swim at this time. Then he noticed that she had not taken her mobile phone with her, but this was normal. She didn’t need it on the beach. What surprised him was when he noticed that the car keys were missing. He looked out the window and found that the car was not parked where they had left it the night before.

-Perhaps she wanted to be left alone to think, he considered. But why didn’t she take her mobile phone? Did she not want any communication with me?

He had begun to worry and wonder if he had pushed her too much the day before. He knew that despite her dynamism, she was sensitive and fragile deep down. That’s why he loved her. While she could be a volcano emitting fire and lava, the caress of her soul was tender and soft as a rose petal. She would become an excellent mother. He smiled at the thought that she would not allow her children to exploit her as she had exploited her father!

-But where is she? He wondered again. She is very late!

He thought of going down on his own for breakfast, the dining room would close soon, but he decided to wait a little longer. He did not want to give the message that he was angry with her. On the contrary, he would like the situation to be normal again.

He looked at his watch and the time was 9.45 am. He was about to set off for the dining room when the door opened, and Zena appeared. She looked upset, her hair was messed up, and she was holding something in her hands. The phrase “Where have you been?” froze on his lips when he saw that her right leg was bleeding.

Terrified he ran to her.

-What has happened to you? He asked her anxiously. Come and sit down and let me see your leg. How have you been injured?

-Don’t worry, Alexis, she replied. It’s nothing. Look what I found!

And triumphantly she lifted the dusty box that she held in her hands.

-What it is? He asked her. Where did you find it?

-I found it in the house of Zenovia. The secret should be inside. But it’s locked and I can’t open it.

-What do you mean you found it in Zenovia’s house? There is nothing there. Only ruins.

Immediately Zena began to tell him what happened in the morning.

-I was upset by our conversation yesterday and I did not sleep all night. I got up very early in the morning, before it even dawned, and decided to go to Zenovia’s house to see the sunrise. I believed that this would help me clear my thoughts and understand what I want. I thought I would come back until you woke up, so I didn’t leave you a note.

-Wait! Alexis told her. We must first take care of your leg before it gets infected.

He immediately called the reception and asked to be brought breakfast, as well as bandages and antiseptic to treat a wound. By the time Zena went to the bathroom to clean herself and change her dusty clothes, everything Alexis ordered was in their room.

After cleaning her wound and considering that the injury near the ankle was not too serious, they sat on the balcony to have their breakfast.

-Now can you tell me what happened, he told her

-As I ‘ve told you I was very upset and wanted to be in Zenovia’s house. I felt like that place would help me. I know it seems silly, but in all these months that I have been dealing almost exclusively with this subject, I have begun to feel the presence of Zenovia next to me, as if she is alive.

-So, I got there just as it was dawning. You can’t see the sunrise as clearly as you see the sunset, so I thought I’d climb that low wall that remained there, maybe I could see better. You remember that near the wall, some of the old slabs that were covering the floor of the house, remain. So, I pushed hard my foot on a slab to climb the wall. I didn’t make it with the first time, and I tried again, hitting my foot harder this time.

-Then the slab collapsed, and my leg was found in a hole. I lost my balance and fell. That’s why the blood and dirt on my clothes. I immediately understood that there was a crypt there. A crypt, which for a mysterious reason was not revealed for a hundred years!

-I knelt and began to remove the pieces of the marble slab. I saw underneath that there was a gap and inside this box that I brought. You can’t imagine my emotions when I got my hands on it. My whole body was trembling. I didn’t even realize that I was bleeding. Only when I saw your fright I did notice the blood on my leg.

-Well, why didn’t you get your phone? You could call me, and I would have come right away.

-I forgot about it. I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I didn’t remember my phone. Unfortunately, or fortunately the box is locked, and I could not open it.

-Why fortunately?

-Because in this way it remained well sealed and I hope that its contents were not destroyed, so many years under the floor. You know, Alexis, this crypt was dusty, but lined with marble. Zenovia had taken care to keep her secret well.

-Everything now seems to have a reason. We were looking for Zenovia’s secret here and there, but we didn’t think that since she died by accident and suddenly, she wouldn’t have had time to give it to anyone. She should have it kept at home.

-How to imagine that inside those ruins a secret might have been hiding! You know, I remember a paragraph from the letter my father left me, and I read it after his death. It was prophetic. My father wrote:

You’re going to tell me it’s been almost 100 years since then and if your grandfather didn’t find it, how are you going to find it? I would have said the same if I were at your age. But the years that have passed and the experiences I lived, made me understand that the cycles of life do not usually close within the same generation, but can be kept unfinished for many generations. I believe, my Zena, that it is up to you to close the circle of Grandma Zenovia’s life. A woman with a strong personality and willpower. You are very similar to her!

-You’re right. It’s unbelievable! Now what do you want us to do? Should we open the box with some sharp object?

-No, I don’t want to break it. I searched inside the crypt but did not find the key. Maybe we should try again. In case we still not find it, we should go to a locksmith to open it for us. Once we finish our breakfast, let’s get started. I’m anxious to see what’s inside.

-I’m anxious too. But I would like to tell you one more thing. I would like to apologize to you for pushing you so hard yesterday to decide on marriage. You can have as much time as you want. We have both waited for so many years. Let’s still wait a while. Nothing will change.

-No, Alexis. I have made my decision. I want nothing more in the world than to marry you, now. And I mean it, now. Maybe it’s the effect of Zenovia, maybe because you’re absolutely right. It’s great for people to have a family. And I no longer have any family except you. And I’m very lucky about that.

-Darling, he cried excited and jumped over the table to kiss her.

-Slowly, Alexis! You’re going to turn the table upside down, she said laughing.

-We’ll have a lot of kids too, you’ll see!

-Doubtful at the age we are, but we will try. Zenovia’s genes must be preserved!

As soon as they got up from the table Zena wet a towel and cleaned the box. Then the beautiful waves of the wood appeared.

-It must be olive tree, Alexis told her. I’ve never seen a more beautiful box before. If I’m not mistaken the lock is silver. I’m not sure of course, but you see it hasn’t rusted. It has only blackened.

They took the box and set off to pass first through Zenovia’s house and then to the city of Paphos. They had been informed by the hotel for a locksmith to go to, in case they couldn’t find the key in the crypt.

-Before we go to the locksmith, we will go through the hospital to see your leg. I noticed that you are limping.

-No, no. I want to go to the locksmith first, if we do not find the key in the crypt.

-Forget it. We will go to the hospital first. You promised me that you would marry me, and you will not cheat me on the pretext that you hit your leg and you can’t stand!

-Well, well! That’s why I didn’t want to get married. So that I don’t have anyone else to decide for me!

Laughing both happily, they set off for Zenovia’s house first and then for the city of Paphos. A new chapter had opened in their lives.



(Chapter 24)

Cyprus – Summer 2021 (Paphos)

It did not take long for them to get to Zenovia’s house. Zena stayed in the car so as not to tire her leg further and only Alexis got off.

Entering the collapsed house, he quickly spotted the hole on the floor created by Zena’s leg. It was indeed a crypt next to the wall. He knelt and put his hand inside. It was very well built and protected from the elements. As it was closed from above with the plate that broke, only by chance could one discover it. And it seems that for a hundred years, this random moment has been waiting for Zena. He felt a shiver from the coincidences that led them so far.

He searched the crypt well but found nothing. The sunlight was so bright that it stripped everything naked. If there was something he would see it. He got up and returned to the car.

-There is nothing, he told Zena who was waiting anxiously. We’ll have to go to the locksmith. And it’s natural. Zenovia would keep the box in one place and the key elsewhere. Don’t forget that her house would be filled with women engaged in weaving and trade. She wouldn’t risk her secret.

-You’re right. Zenovia was a very proactive, intelligent, and organized woman. She left nothing to chance.

-And yet it is in luck that she trusted her secret and it is luck that handed it to you now!

-If you put it that way, you’re right. Who can interpret the coincidences that led us here?

-That’s what I thought too. Let’s go straight to the hospital now!

The doctor who examined Zena in the First Aid department was young and pleasant. He found that, even though Alexis had washed the wound, some impurities had remained inside, and they did well to visit the hospital. He cleaned the wound again and put a strong antiseptic that stung her a lot. He even gave her antibiotics so as not to cause infection.

Zena lame out where Alexis was waiting for her. She got into the car, and they set off for the locksmith. They had no difficulty in finding him and explaining to him the reason of their visit.

The locksmith was impressed by the construction of the box.

-I’ve never seen a more masterful build, he told them. The old craftsmen were real masters. Do you see the sides how they fit perfectly, with almost no gaps created? It’s unbelievable.

And turning to Alexis, who had asked him a few questions earlier, he added:

-It is not made of olive wood, but of wild olive wood. The hardest there is. As for the lock, it is indeed silver. We are talking about a masterpiece. I will try to open it without doing any damage.

-Please, Zena told him. Could you make another key so it can be locked again?

-I’ll try it. It’s hard of course to be silver because I’m not a goldsmith, but I’ll see what can be done.

Then he fell silent for a while, took a tool, and put it in the keyhole. It did not take long for him to open the lock, and the first who looked inside, perhaps expecting to see precious jewelry, was him. When he realized that all it contained was a velvet cloth wrapping a pile of written pages, he lost interest.

But for Zena, it was so touching that tears came out from her eyes. She took in her hands the velvet cloth, which besides being dusty was relatively in good condition, and opened it with care. Inside were several written pages, with the handwriting of Zenovia, as she remembered it from the letters to her son. The ink had faded but you could read comfortably what it was written.

-It’s because the box was so tightly closed, the locksmith explained to her. That is why neither the fabric nor the paper ware destroyed.

-It’s like a miracle, Zena whispered. This box has not been opened for a hundred years. I can’t imagine how it wasn’t destroyed.

-It’s the wood, said the locksmith. It is the strongest wood there is. And the construction! Excellent build!

-We will leave you the box to make another key, Zena told him, because she wanted to leave to read the writings of Zenovia.

-Come in a couple of days, said the locksmith. I’ll see what I can do with the key. Maybe I’ll work with a goldsmith, and I’ll make it silver for you.

Leaving the locksmith, Alexis warned Zena not to open the pages in sunlight.

-They may be destroyed he told her. When we go to the hotel I will photograph them, and we will have them in an electronic archive. In this way you will be able to read at your leisure the secret of Zenovia. These should be stored, perhaps back in the box that protected them for so many years. It would even be good to ask a specialist about the ways of their maintenance.

-Alexis, what has happened is magical. It’s like in a fairy tale.

-And what is a fairy tale Zena? Life condensed into puzzles. To enchant young children and prepare them to understand the mysteries of life.

-You’ve said your wisdom again! What a nice interpretation Alexis!

By the time they arrived at the hotel it was noon. They ordered lunch in their room and Zena lay down. As time passed her leg hurt more.

Alexis closed the curtains to darken the room and began to photograph the pages. He then created an electronic file that he sent to Zena’s e-mail address. He wrapped the pages back in the velvet cloth, which he dusted off as best he could and locked them in the safe of their room.

-People keep jewels here; we keep the writings of Zenovia! Zena commented cheerfully.

They hurriedly took their meal and Zena settled as best she could on the bed, placing pillows on her back. She turned on the laptop, put it at her legs and began reading. The text was written in the form of a letter and was addressed to Evangelos, Zenovia’s son.

So, Zenovia wrote, a hundred years earlier:

My dear child Evangelos,

I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again and you know how much I care and worry about you. Your father and I raised you like a prince, but I sometimes I think that real life is not made for princes, but for hard-pressed people. And whether I like it or not, the time will come when you too will be tested hard to find your way.

But my son, there is a story you should know about and no matter how your life will evolve and what you will meet, I must tell you. Whether you will call it a fairy tale or harsh reality, it has stigmatized you, without you knowing it. In my own soul, however, it works between dream and reality. Most of the time I don’t know which of the two is.

You remember me telling you that I was poor and orphaned by a father, at a cruel time, when life was merciless for the underprivileged, who made up most of the people. No one had the slightest surplus to give to his neighbor.

My mother, through the insecurity caused by the condition of her widowhood, was harsh to me and forced me to wear black clothes and a headscarf on my head that I lowered, so that no one could see my face.

Until I was fifteen years old, I had not left my village. The only time she let me go to Ktima at Uncle Onoufrios’ house, Aunt Elpiniki sewed for me a nice dress and for the first time I showed myself like a girl.  Your father, who was an associate of Uncle Onoufrios, was in Cyprus at the time and happened to see me. I don’t know if it was intentional by the uncle, but in this meeting your father fell in love with me.

I, then at the age of fifteen, like any girl of my age, dreamed of marrying a young man from my village or even from our region. I could not imagine this gentleman with the gray hair and mustache as a future groom, even if he was very presentable, with his upright body and expensive clothes. I saw him as a grandfather and with the age difference we had, he could have been my grandfather!

So, not only did I not accept when the uncle suggested it to me, but I also was also crying all the time. My mother then came, took me back to the village and made me to wear my black clothes again. I think it would be mid-April.

This incident caused me great insecurity because then I realized that my fate, due to poverty, would have the same or even a similar course. So, I fell into depression. My mother, despite her strictness, withered to see me like this.

At the end of April, beginning of May, a group from our village, every year, started on foot and went to the plain of Messaria for the reaping. You see, we in Paphos were the poorest. We lived in mountainous areas that did not have fertile fields. So it was for many an extra income, to go to the plain, to reap and get paid. The same did people from other villages in the area, up to Tylliria, the most remote area of Paphos.

On the other hand, the villages of Messaria had many fertile fields to sow and at the time of harvesting they wanted help. So, this habit continued for dozens of years, serving both categories of farmers. Men and women participated in these excursions. Men to reap and women to help.

From our village, that year, ten men and six women would go. Among them was my friend Eurydice with her mother, Vassilia, who was my mother’s cousin. I don’t know how, but Aunt Vassilia convinced my mother to let me go with them too. She assured her that there was no danger, that she would watch over me, and in the end I would have a sure amount for my dowry. Our leader would be Mr. Kostas, a mature man from our village, who had gone many times and knew both the route and the masters for whom we would work.

The route would take several days because we would do it on foot. We would climb the Troodos mountains and descend towards the plain of Messaria. We had with us a cart pulled by a horse and a donkey. On them we loaded the few things we carried, food, olives, halloumi and bread and a few clothes to lie down at night. The day we left my mother urged me to be careful and not to approach the men. She was telling me that I might be spoiled and unable to get married. My son, I must confess to you that I did not understand exactly what my mother meant by this threat, but I was determined to obey.

Here Zena stopped and asked Alexis:

-Do you read it too?

-Of course not, he replied. It’s a secret of your family. Read it yourself first and we’ll see if you want me to read it.

-We are also now a family. Read it too because that’s how I could comment on it with you. Grandma Zenovia had the gift of writing. She transports me to her time, a time not at all flattering for women. I understand why she wanted to help the women of her country. She herself lived in misery in her youth.

-All right. Give me some time and I’ll reach you. How is your leg?

-It has gone numb. I’ll get up to walk a little bit, until you progress reading to the point where I did.

So, Zena got up and walked limping towards the balcony. The sun was still high, and she could see in the distance the sea shimmering from its rays. She sat down for a while, enjoying the brightness of the light, and then returned to the room.

Alexis had gone on to read and they agreed that he would read the sequel aloud so that she could lie down and rest better. So, Alexis continued reading:

This trip was a great experience for me. Initially we walked in the forest of Paphos heading towards the monastery of Kykkos. I can’t describe to you, my son, how beautiful this forest is. Dense, with tall trees that hid sunlight. In the evening we lay in the open air under the stars. Everyone slept deeply from fatigue, but I lay awake for a long time, admiring the beauty of the sky that was endless, full of flickering lights. 

During the day, the girls who were with us would sing and the men would tell stories, especially from other trips they had made to Messaria. In some parts of the road, one could see from afar the sea, the bay of Chrysochous and the bay of Morphou. It was shown to us, but I couldn’t tell it apart from the blueof the sky. I could only see the coastline forming in the hazy landscape. But all this was magical for me. An unknown world where people seemed more carefree and happier.

When we arrived at the monastery of Kykkos we met people from other villages who went to Messaria to harvest. So, we became a great team and moved forward together. Among them was an older man who was called teacher. He was telling stories about some ancient gods that I was hearing for the first time. So, I walked behind him to listen. He was talking about the twelve gods of Olympus, about Zeus who slept with the wives of men and had children, about Aphrodite who was born in Paphos, about Athena who was wise and about everyone else. But the god that impressed me the most was Apollo, the god of light and music. I imagined him shining golden and beautiful.

Aunt Vassilia was calling at me to come back to her, but I could not resist the magic of the teacher’s words and I disobeyed. I, the so obedient and submissive until that moment, girl! That trip taught me that the world is much bigger than the pastures of my village and can hide magic and secrets that every person deserves to learn.

Little by little we turned over the Troodos mountains and started heading towards Nicosia, “Chora” as it was called. The road was now downhill, and the pine trees had begun to thin out. It did not take long for us to see the vast plain that stretched out before us. For the first time in my life, I had seen so much vastness. A flat place, yellow from the crops that had now matured and in the background a mountain range, Pentadactylos was called, I was told.

-The world has many facets, I thought. Here it doesn’t look like my village at all. It’s a completely different landscape.

Little by little, the teams of each village stood out and began to move forward with a different step. Most of them would go to Chora and wait for the masters from Messaria to come and take them to their work. Our own team led by Mr. Kostas would go directly to our own master. Every year people from our village would go to the same village and work with the same family.

However, we also passed through Chora. It struck me so that it was surrounded by the walls and around it a large ditch grazing sheep. To get inside you had to go through the Doors, as they called the entrances to the city. In the evening they were closed, and no one could get in or out. The houses were different from those in my village. They were not built with the stone of the mountain but with mudbricks and whitewashed with plaster. Some, the richest, were built with squared. yellow stones. These were very impressive. It also had a big bazaar, the biggest I had seen up to that point in my life.

All the women and girls went to the bazaar. I also went with them even though I had no money to buy anything. There were so many things there! Embroidery, kilims, clay pots, women’s clothes, breeches, and anything you can imagine. Aunt Vassilia bought Eurydice a white shawl with black fringes and colorful flowers to wear to the church.

-When we get paid from the work we’re going to do you’ll be able to buy one too, she told me.

-What to do with it auntie? I answered her. Since my mother won’t let me wear it.

In Chora we went as a group to a shoemaker, and he put soles on our boots that had melted from walking. Mr. Kostas paid for me, with the promise to pay him back when I get paid.

When we finished from Chora, Mr. Kostas gave the command:

-Let’s start now for Marathovounos, he said. Tomorrow we start work.

Here Alexis stopped. He was amazed by the name of the village. He turned to Zena surprised:

-How many coincidences Zena! This is the name of my parents’ village. What is finally happening here?

But Zena had fallen asleep. The fact that she had not slept the night before, the constant emotions of the day and the relief that she finally held the secret of Zenovia in her hands, relaxed her and she surrendered to sleep.

Alexis covered her and went out on the balcony. The time of sunset was approaching. The sun had begun to descent and soon it would redden the sea and the sky.

-It’s getting more interesting, he whispered.



(Chapter 25)

Cyprus – Summer 2021 (Paphos)

The next morning, when Alexis woke up, he saw Zena sitting in front of the computer and reading.

-Good morning, he told her. How are you today?

-I would have slept more than ten hours last night. My leg still hurts, but luckily it didn’t break. It’s just a wound that will take its days to heal. Yesterday, it seems that while you were reading, I was sleeping because I don’t remember anything from where I had stopped on my own.

-Yes, you had fallen asleep. I ‘ve read to where they set off for Marathovounos. I am amazed at the coincidences that this story has in store.

-I noticed it too. Life cycles seem to repeat themselves and intersect. If I didn’t try to find the secret of Zenovia we would never discover this connection with the past. How many such things happen in our lives, and we never learn of them?

-As I get ready to go down to breakfast, read on. Or maybe you don’t want us to go down and ask for something to be brought here.

-We’d better go. I don’t want to feel disabled. I’m fine! So, I read below:

We walked all day to get to the village. We passed through Kaimakli, Mia Milia and other villages that I don’t remember now. On our left was the Pentadactylos, a mountain range lower than the Troodos mountain range, which we had left behind. The sun was hot and there were no trees. Just a few olive trees now and then, but they were not enough to give us a little coolness. Everywhere was sown grain, dancing at the slightest gust of wind. On the edges of the fields were red poppies, yellow daisies, and colorful wildflowers. Flocks grazed everywhere, much larger in number than the few goats that we had in our village.

 For us, however, the mountainous, the vastness of the plain gave an impression of monotony but also of vastness. The people here were certainly better off than us, in the poor villages of Paphos, but there the scenery was more beautiful. At least I thought so.

In the afternoon we arrived at Marathovounos. Mr. Kostas asked us to wait a little outside the village and went to find the master. The houses here were built with plinths (mudbricks), as in Nicosia. Many of them were two-story. I thought the people here would be rich. The church seemed to dominate a hill in the center of the village. And while I was trying to understand how different this landscape was from what I knew, Mr. Kostas returned with the master. What I saw I had never expected in my life!

The master was young, very handsome and sitting on a white horse. His body was unusually tall compared to the people I knew. His hair was blonde, and his eyes were blue. Immediately the teacher who was talking about the gods of Olympus came to mind.

-He must  be Apollo, I thought. Surely he is a god. It cannot be otherwise. I have never seen such a man in my life!

The women who were with us, and especially the young ones, were left with their mouths open. Eroticism was playing on their gaze, but he didn’t even turn to look at us.

He started riding in front, imperious, and we followed him on foot. We arrived outside the village, in an area that was only fields with crops. Next to it was a field with a few olive trees and that’s it. There was also a hut beyond, but this was for the master. We couldn’t stay there. He showed us a place under the olive trees that we could sleep in. There was also a makeshift construction of reeds and grasses that in case of rain we could hide underneath. A little further on there was a pit-well from where we could draw water. He left us enough loaves of bread, olives, halloumi, and tomatoes to dine, spurred his horse and left.

-Tomorrow morning, we will start work from four o’clock, Mr. Kostas told us. Before the sun comes out and the crops dry out. They are cut more easily when they are damp. Wash, eat and sleep.

We pulled water from the well and washed ourselves as much as possible, especially us, women. There wasn’t much we could do. A little bit our face, a little bit our hands, a little bit our legs. How to wash yourself while wearing all your clothes? But even that, was also something. Someone lit a small fire. We sat around and ate the food left to us by the master. Then we spread our clothes and slept under the olive trees. Separately men, separately women. Like all evenings.

I thought I had just closed my eyes when I heard Mr. Kostas voice, calling us to get up.

-Quickly, quickly you lazy he cried. The sun will come out in soon.

The master with the white horse was already there. We got up in a hurry, poured some water on our faces and started from the adjacent field. When the master gave the signal, the harvest began.

The men took their scythes and Mr. Kostas, who was the master worker, grabbed his own and started first, drawing a line between the grain. The others followed, reaping in parallel lines. The last in line was called “raaris” (which mean the last one). We women, followed, we were called “angalarkies” which mean the ones who gathered the harvested grain and tied it in bales.  Each reaper had to have an “angalarka” behind him. Boys would come and go carrying water for us to drink and help, picking up the bales and transporting them to a point to be moved later to the threshing floor.

The men sang and teased the one who stayed behind or left unharvested punches of grain. When they stopped singing, the women started. It was a hard job, but it seemed like a celebration. There was fun and teamwork. Everything was determined how it would happen, and no one wondered what to do. At noon the master’s mother and his sisters would come and would bring food for everyone.  It was usually pilaf bulgur with pieces of animal fat, bread, halloumi, and olives. The workers had to eat well, to work well.

As we progressed I listened to the other girls who commented on how handsome the master was and joy to her who would marry him. They consumed him with their own eyes, but he didn’t give them a single look. He was seemingly accustomed to being the center of attention. I didn’t say anything, nor did I look at him, because the way I was dressed in black, I looked like an old woman and there was no chance of him noticing me.

We began work before the sun rose, until sunset. When the first day passed, I was exhausted from fatigue. But what bothered me the most was that I smelled like manure and had itchy all over my body. It seems I had been teased by the straw of the wheat which, as it dissolved into small pieces, had penetrated my clothes, and irritated my skin. I said it to Aunt Vassilia, but she didn’t pay any attention to me.

-Let it, it will pass, she told me. You’ll get used to it.

But the itching was getting more and more. Then an idea came to me. While everyone was eating, I went to the well and took out a bucket of water. I hid it behind an olive tree and continued eating with the others. The master ate with us and then rode his horse and left. It didn’t take long for everyone to fall asleep. They were, after all, exhausted by fatigue.

I made sure no one was awake from their snoring and got up slowly – slowly. I went behind the olive tree that I had left the bucket of water and started trying to wash myself, lest the itching stop. But it was very difficult without taking off my clothes. I did not dare though to undress, even if everyone was asleep, because I was afraid that someone would wake up. But the itching did not stop. I wanted to scratch myself all the time.

Then an idea came to me. I looked at the empty hut and thought:

-Since the master has left why not go and wash me in the hut? No one will see me there and I will be able to take off all my clothes.

So, I took the bucket and slowly reached the hut. I initially looked inside carefully, made sure there was no one, turned back and counted those who were sleeping, and only then entered. At first it was very dark but little by little my eyes got used to it.

 I first took off my “sayia”(outer dress) and shook it so that the haystacks would fall. Then, trembling with fear, I took off the “sarka” (a cotton inner shirt that reached down to the feet) and began to wash myself. The relief was immediate.  I was about to take off my “vradji” (long cotton underwear like pants) when I heard a horse squealing. I turned in terror and saw the master standing at the entrance. I was there, in the middle of the hut, half-naked, with my hair unbraided and he was looking at me without speaking. I immediately fainted out of shame.

When I recovered I was lying on the floor of the hut, half covered with my clothes, and he was sitting and looking at me. I was about to scream in fear, but he closed my mouth with his hand.

-Don’t, he told me. They will listen to you, and it will be worse. Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you. Why did you come here?

With a trembling voice and stuttering I explained to him that I wanted to wash myself and it was the only place I could hide, without anyone seeing me. Tears were coming out of my eyes incessantly, constantly asking him to forgive me.

He didn’t say anything. Only he got up and went to his horse. When he returned, he brought a small bottle with him. He lifted the clothes over me and began to anoint me with oil. My body was shaking, terrified.

-Don’t be afraid. That will relieve you, he told me.

I had stopped talking. What was happening was beyond all reality that my poor mind could imagine. When he finished he said to me:

-Get dressed now and go to sleep. Will you come tomorrow? I’ll wait for you. If you don’t want to come, don’t come, I won’t get angry. But if you come, I will make you mine.

Continuing to tremble, I put on my clothes and ran away. I found it difficult to fall asleep, and my sleep was restless. I could see the god Apollo coming down from Mount Olympus to take me with him. I let out a scream and woke up.

-What has happened to you? Eurydice asked me. Why are you screaming?

-A bad dream, I answered.

All day I acted like a ghost. Two phrases were constantly buzzing in my mind. My mother telling me:

-Don’t go near men. They will spoil you!

And the master saying:

-I’ll wait for you. If you don’t want to come, don’t come, I won’t get angry. But if you come, I will make you mine.

Without being entirely sure what exactly these two meant, I knew they meant the same thing.

In the evening the master brought plenty of wine to the workers. He also encouraged the women to drink. I understood his purpose. He wanted to make them sleep heavily. Then he left on his horse.

I wasn’t sleeping. Without deciding what to do, when the time came, I got up and went to the hut as if something unknown was pulling me by the hand.

It didn’t take long for him to arrive too.

-Come on, take off your clothes, he told me. I brought water for you to wash and a better oil that will ease your pain from the haystacks.

I took off my clothes as if hypnotized and began to wash. He looked at me and then started smearing me with oil and kissing me at the same time. All resistance was lost.

He was telling me that I am beautiful, that my skin shines under the moonlight, that I am like a fairy. I had no sense of what was going on around me. I let myself in his hands and became his, ignoring all the voices buzzing in my head and struggling to stop me. In the end they all fell silent. Another world was born for me.

In Marathovounos we stayed over a month, until we reaped all the fields of the master and transported all the bales to the threshing floor with the cattle wagons.  All the nights that followed, I slept in the master’s arms, in the small hut. No one had understood of what was going on. The wine they drank every night, and the fatigue of the day plunged them into a deep sleep, like lethargy. I would wake up before dawn and run and lie down next to Eurydice and her mother.

Constantly the master was telling me how beautiful I am, something that I did not know until that moment, since I had never seen myself in a mirror. The black clothes that my mother made me wear, prevented everyone else from expressing any admiration. So, I listened to his words in amazement. I told him about my mother and my fear that she would kill me when she was going to find out what had happened at the harvest. But I didn’t care because I had known love and happiness. Let me die!

But he would look me in the eye, caress my hair and promise me that he would come to my village to ask my mother to marry me.

-I can’t talk to my parents now, he said. I will wait for you to leave, and I will talk to my father first. He is more open-minded. His name is Nicolas. Then I have a commitment with a girl from the village that I must end. Don’t worry I’ll be coming soon. Until you go on foot, I will come on horseback and reach you.

When I asked him about this girl in the village, he said:

-It was a big mistake. I never wanted to. She is the one who insisted that we mingle. But now it will end.

His eyes darkened as he spoke about her. In the black night I could always see his gaze glow under the light of the stars. But with her in his mind, the glow was lost. He seemed to have been very tormented by this story.

Despite the fatigue and exhaustion, the euphoria I felt made this month the happiest month of my life. I did not know that a person could experience so much happiness!

At that moment, a knock was heard on the door. Zena seemed as if she was awakened from another world. Surprised, they both realized that the time had passed, and they had missed breakfast. At the door was the maid who came to clean the room. So, they gathered their things and went down to the pool.

They ordered coffee and a snack and started commenting on what they had read.

-Today, when eroticism and sex monopolize the media and even the books, the little, ignorant Zenovia comes to captivate us, without even describing a single erotic scene!

-Because Alexis, love is not a show, it is a feeling. Somewhere we have confused them in our own time.

-Do you think grandfather Evangelos is the son of the master and not of Demetrios?

-Who knows? These guys were having sex for one month! On the other hand, Demetrios adored Evangelos. He had more weakness for him than Zenovia, so at least I understood from the letters. At that time, it was not easy for someone to accept a child of someone else as his own. Unless of course he didn’t know it! There is also this possibility. Zenobia fooled him. But I think that wasn’t her character.

-What is certain, however, is that she did not marry the master. He probably forgot about her when she left.

-There is another possibility: that Zenobia had a child with the master and gave it up for adoption. But again, in such wretched poverty, who would adopt a child?

-You know, my grandmother used to tell me that the fate of the illegitimate children, the bastards as they called them, was miserable. People despised and mocked them. Their mothers suffered a worse fate. Everyone avoided them as if they had a miasma. Many women, who were not married and became pregnant, killed their children as soon as they were born to escape the outcry and contempt of society.

-Stop Alexis! I’m going to get sick. What are you telling me?

-Do you think today these things do not happen? In closed communities, in Muslim societies, same and worse are happening.

-You’re right. Now I understand more about Zenovia’s effort to support women! She wanted to help others not to experience what she had suffered, although we’re not sure yet exactly how the story unfolded.

-We’ll find out soon. To keep it for so many years and hide it from everyone, it was something that marked her deeply.

-In the end, however, she was lucky. She seemed to have been happy with Demetrios, even though he was older than her forty years. I am very glad that it was my fate to learn the secret of Zenovia first. As a woman, I understand better her psyche and the feelings that led her steps.

-And now something irrelevant: Will you marry me?

-I’m going to marry you, silly! Now that I see what happened to poor women who didn’t have a husband, I want you to make an honest woman of me!

They both laughed happily.



(Chapter 26)

Cyprus – Summer 2021 (Paphos)

At noon Zena and Alexis went to lunch at the seaside restaurant, where Mr. Neophytou had taken her the first day she came and had that traumatic meeting with Mr. Nikolaou. Zena hoped they would not meet either of them. Alexis on the other hand was ready to start a fight with Mr. Nicholas if they saw him in front of them. Luckily they did not see anyone.

The food was excellent and at the same time the view of the sea and the carefreeness of the tourists who ate at the nearby tables, somehow relaxed them from reading the secret of Zenovia.

-You know, deep down this secret carries with it a weight of emotions and one must leave some space and some time to cope with it.

-You’re right, Alexis replied. We will continue reading in the afternoon. I think now we know the main body of the secret. It remains to be learned how Zenovia ended up marrying Demetrios.

-What has happened with Mr. Nicolaou and the compensation he will pay for the encroachment he made?

-The lawyer we assigned it to is a tough negotiator. It seems that he has savagely cornered him and will force him to pay a rather large sum. I have told him that his fee will be 10% of the money that Mr. Nicolaou will pay, and he has taken it very warmly. At the same time, I am thinking of leaving a power of attorney to your father to undertake the sale of the part of the estate that I will not use, because with this money I will pay for the rebuilding of the house of Zenovia.

-Very good idea! My father will take it over as if it were his own. With the connections he has he will find the most suitable buyer.

-As long as it’s not Mr. Nicolaou!

-Definitely not! He has got enough by himself!

-What about the wedding? Did you take any action?

-Yes, I have asked my father to contact Nicosia Municipality to find out the procedural part. We will of course have to contact the Australian Embassy in Nicosia to secure the necessary documents and once we return to proceed with the marriage application.

-It seems like a fairy tale to me! Me getting married!

-Don’t get caught up in doubts again!

-No, no, don’t worry. Now that I’ve accepted it, I’m increasingly liking the idea. Now I am concentrated in the house that I commissioned Eleni to design. As far as I know it is in the final stage and when we go to Nicosia we will give our concluding remarks.

-It seems that everything has begun to fall in its place, and now it remains to decide where we are going to live. In Cyprus or in Australia?

-I have something on mind on this subject but let it for now. We will study it later, when all the previous issues are cleared up. Where do you prefer?

-I think I prefer to live here. But you’re right. Better to wait for a while. We still haven’t completed the secret of Zenovia! How unique this trip has been for us! It seems that it will be an important turning point in our lives, in which all previous decisions are overturned, and new perspectives are opened that we have never considered before.

-You’re right. My own previous beliefs have been shattered and for the first time I have found that there are no fixed opinions. Everything changes depending on the data presented.

-The ancient pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus said about this: “everything flows, and nothing remains.” That is, everything moves and changes. He is also the one who said, “no one can enter the same river twice”, that is, the water in the river is never the same because it is constantly fed by a new flow. Life works the same way.

-Very interesting all this and at some point I will study it. But now let’s go back because I want to read the sequel to the secret.

-You’re right. Let me pay and we leave.

When they returned to their hotel, they sat comfortably in the armchairs of their balcony, and Alexis began to read the sequel to Zenovia’s secret:

When the last day came, it all seemed like a celebration. We, the workers, were happy because our work was over and we would be paid, the masters were satisfied that at last their fields were harvested again this year and they would have enough to be supported all year round.  The last act of the harvest included the following event:

The reapers left the last piece in the center of the field unscathed, and after lifting the master in their arms, they had him sit at this point, telling him various songs until he promised them a lavish dinner, something like a farewell meal. The master promised it of course since this was the established tradition.

So, in the evening we all went to the master’s house and ate with his family. The meal was lavish, with boiled hens, baked meat in the oven and everything one can imagine. They also brought a violinist who played music, and everyone danced. The master danced the dance of the sickle.. He held a scythe in his hand and imitated the movements of reaping, while at the same time twirling it over his head to the beat of the music. He was so bright and so handsome. I admired him in silence, proud of the man I loved. Women were looking at him with desire. But he was mine, this god Apollo, who has visited the earth.

Late at night we returned to the olive field, and I slipped again secretly into the small hut that had become the nest of our love for a month. He also came later. All night we did not sleep. We were talking about our future and looking into his eyes, I could see his sincerity and love for me. There was no doubt that he would come and ask my mother to marry me. I felt safe and secure that night.

The next day, before we set off for the return, the master came and paid us. Women got half of what men got. But for the first time I had so much money! I was proud of myself. With the feeling of euphoria that filled my heart the night before, I felt light and happy. Eurydice looked at me in bewilderment.

-I can’t understand, she told me, how all of us smell like manure and you have a clean shining face!

-I washed myself often, I answered her vaguely. And as I’m wrapped in black I don’t get caught up in the sun to tan.

When we arrived in Chora we passed again by the shoemaker to put soles on our boots so that they could withstand the long route back to the village. I also gave back to Mr. Kostas the dues he had paid for me.

Then we visited the bazaar, and I bought a shawl, the same as Eurydice’s.

-When I get engaged and go to my in-laws, I thought, to have something to wear, not to look like an old woman.

Now the road back seemed long to me, and I was looking forward to returning to my village and waiting for the master to come and ask for me. As we walked one day with Eurydice and chatted, I don’t know how, I confided to her what had happened with the master.

Her eyes filled with terror.

-What did you do you stupid! She told me, trying not to speak loud for others to hear. Of course, he won’t come to ask for you. He has already forgotten you. Your mother will kill you and kill us who didn’t pay attention to you.

-No, no he will come. Master truly loves me. Believe me Eurydice, near him I met love, tenderness, and affection. All this was not a lie. It was true!

But Eurydice was not convinced and where everything inside me was dreamy and the world around me seemed angelically created, cracks slowly began to form, and my happiness withered and decayed. I saw for the first time in my life how fragile the world of joy is and how easily it is to change a person’s feelings, when a vicious phrase rings in ones ears and shakes the harmony of one’s soul. It was a hard lesson for me that its aftermath has accompanied me throughout my life.

So little by little I lost my momentum and was filled with doubts whether my mother would accept the love story I would tell her. By the time we reached the village the joy had vanished from my face, and I only reflected melancholy and worry.

Upon arrival at home, I gave my mother all the money I had earned. I also showed her the handkerchief I had bought and received the remark that I spent my money recklessly.

One night when we were both sitting alone, I took the liberty of talking to her about the fact that the master loved me, and he would come to ask for me in marriage. I did not go into any detail because woe betide me. Her reaction was full of disbelief and disdain. But she did not say much.

I waited anxiously. Two weeks had already passed since our return, and the master was not seen. Could it be that he lost the way, I was thinking, did he get sick? It never crossed my mind that he abandoned me, regardless of the comments of those around me. I had seen the truth in his eyes. The others did not know.

It was not enough that the situation was quite complicated already, I understood that I was pregnant. My mother also understood it from the dizziness and vomiting I made. For an incomprehensible reason to me, she did not say much once again. She only got up in the morning and told me to wear the dress that Aunt Elpiniki had sewn for me and the shawl I had bought from Chora. We would go to Ktima.

On the way she made clear to me that I would marry Uncle Onoufrios’ friend, Demetrios, and if he would not take me we would find an old woman who knew how, and she would abort the child out of me. Clean talk. I could not give birth to any bastard.

From that moment I began to cry and could not stop. I assured her that the master would come, that he was not a liar, and that I would rather be killed than do what she had decided. But she grabbed me by the hair and pulled me to move on. I felt doomed to death. I cannot describe to you the pain of my heart!

When we arrived at Uncle Onoufrios’ house, luckily for me, Aunt Elpiniki was away in her village. I could not stand any more humiliation! They left me alone for a while and the two of them talked. When they were finished, Uncle Onoufrios announced to me:

-Luckily for you, Demetrios is still in Paphos. I’ll talk to him tonight and tell him that you decided to marry him. If he still wants you, that is. And you shouldn’t tell him you’re pregnant. No way. With a quick marriage we can fool him.

I began to cry with tantrums. I could not even talk. But no one paid attention to me.

Uncle left and an hour later he returned with Demetrios this time. Despite his upright body and his European clothes, nothing about him could compare to the man I loved. As soon as he saw me, however, I noticed in his eyes that he understood that something was wrong. My eyes were red from crying, and I’m sure despair was shown on my face. Demetrios then asked to be left alone with me. My mother did not agree, but Demetrios was adamant and so Uncle Onoufrios took her out of the room.

-Tell me please, why are you crying? I won’t take you by force, he told me. Only by your own will you ‘ll become my wife.

I did not answer, and I continue to cry. But his voice was calm and that made me feel some security. He then took my hand to his and asked me again:

-Tell me what’s happening to you. Don’t be afraid. I’ll help you do whatever you want.

Then between crying and trembling I told him the whole story with the master, as well as the fact that I was pregnant. Deep down I was hoping that he would not want him to marry me if he knew.

-Do you think he will come to ask you to marry him? He asked me.

-Yes, since he loves me, I answered him. I know he loves me.

-I believe you; he told me. But he may not have come for a thousand other reasons that you will never know. As you tell me, they want to make you abort the child. How are you going to deal with that? I don’t mind you’re pregnant. I would always like to have a child and I don’t know at my age if I will be able to have one. I have a huge fortune and I want to have an offspring to leave it. If we shall have children together, my fortune is enough for everyone.

I stopped crying and stayed looking at him. I did not expect that. Demetrios continued:

-Trust me. I don’t want you to forcibly marry me. If I knew that your beloved would come I would protect you until that moment. But how long has it been since you last saw him?

-It’s been a month since, I replied. We did almost a week to come on foot and it has been almost three weeks that we are in Paphos.

-It’s been a long time, my dear Zenovia. With his horse he could come in three days at most. But even if you don’t marry me, and even if he comes, you will have lost the child. They won’t let you keep it. And this will be very bad for you and your health. You may die!

-I don’t care if I die, I replied stubbornly.

-If you die, you won’t see him again. But what you may have never thought about is that the only living proof of the love you experienced is this child. Why not give him a chance to live?

Here I was completely confused. I had never thought of it that way. Demetrios was giving me a way out of my problem. But this way out was conditional on me renouncing my love.

-What is master’s name? He asked me.

-His name is Vangelis I replied.

-Then this child you have in your womb we will call him Evangelos if he is a boy and Evangelia if she is a girl. Of course, if you want to marry me.

-And if he comes? I asked him. Will I not be the one who renounced him?

He continued to speak to me tenderly, holding my hand, and with arguments, he opened a window for me to face the harsh reality. Until that moment I only knew what I wanted, I had not calculated at all the horrible data of my fate. In the end he said to me:

-I’ll leave you until tomorrow to decide. If you will marry me I want it to be of your own free will. Unfortunately, I can’t wait any longer because I’m long overdue and must go back to Alexandria. Besides, your belly will soon be visible. We must not give society a chance to shed its medicine. You are too innocent to allow them to poison you.

On leaving he said to my mother and uncle:

-She will decide for herself if she wants to marry me. Please do not force her. She should not cry in her condition.

As soon as he left my mother looked at me wildly and asked me:

-Did you tell him you are pregnant?

-Yes, I told him, and he doesn’t mind. He just wants me to decide what I want to do.

-If he wants you the way you are, you’ll get him! She told me urgently.

I did not speak anymore. I sat in a corner alone and all night I was thinking. I could not decide. The dilemma I had in front of me was tearing my heart in two. I did not want to renounce Vangelis at all, but on the other hand Demetrios was giving me a way out. And he looked like a very good man. Every now and then I would touch my belly. I knew that no matter what would happen, the child I had inside me was the proof of the great love I had experienced. And the only way for the child to live, was to marry Demetrios.

The next day I answered “yes” to Demetrios and in a couple of days we got married in Ktima. We immediately left for Alexandria. And I was crying incessantly. Of the thousand reasons I had to cry, one was the most important: if I was the one who finally betrayed our love. If Vangelis would have come in the end and I would have left.

You know the rest, my son. The only thing you do not know is that this story did not end here.

At this point Alexis stopped reading and turned to look at Zena. Tears were coming out from her eyes incessantly.

-Are you well? He asked her.

-How to be well Alexis? This fate of women paying such a horrible price for love, while men remain immune, drives me crazy. And especially at that time, Zenovia’s dilemma was a double condemnation. Whatever she decided, he had to sacrifice herself. Regardless of whether Demetrios was a very good man and lived happily with him. He wasn’t her true choice. It was the least harsh condemnation she had before her.

-Deep down, this is how people’s lives are. Regardless of whether in this case and especially at that time, fate victimized women more. But we all too often must choose between two unwanted options and choose the least painful one. Isn’t that so?

-Let it be. Let’s stop here for today. Zenovia can continue her narrative tomorrow. I can’t stand any more pain. You cannot imagine how much I’ve identified myself with her! And remember: She was only fifteen years old!

-Yes, she was a little girl who had to choose the course of her whole life overnight and under unbearable pressure. But let’s wait and see what happened next. Fate plays strange games.




(Chapter 27)

Cyprus – Summer 2021 (Paphos)

The next morning, they decided to go first for breakfast and then start reading. They hoped that during this day they would finish the text because there were not many pages left. So, when they returned from the dining room they sat on the balcony gazing at the sea and Alexis started reading:

Arriving in Alexandria, in my new home, I was left with my mouth open with the luxury and beauty I saw. My new life was something so strange to me. I immediately realized that I had to struggle to reach the level of the society that surrounded me. I asked Demetrios to bring me teachers and began to learn to read, write and behave. I was learning fast, and my teachers were very happy with me.

On the other hand, according to the time Demetrios was absent from Alexandria and not knowing exactly when our marriage took place, no one could have thought that the child was not Demetrios’ own. So, there was never any risk of questioning your paternity.

I slowly began to love Demetrios, not for his youth and beauty but for the firmness of his character, his love, and his kindness. Near him I felt safe and happy. On the other hand, I tried in every way to thank him and share everything with him. We were a very happy couple. I’ve never regretted marrying him, even if my motivation was initially different. I think my love for Demetrios was the most complete relationship I had in my life.

But I had never forgot Vangelis. As soon as you were born and looked so much like him, every day I saw you, it was as if I was seeing him sitting on the white horse, proud, and riding in the plain of Messaoria. My concern that he might one day have come to ask me for marriage, and I may have already left, never abandoned me in my life. And I kept this thought hidden inside me. It was the only thing I had never shared with Demetrios.

If it were not for you, my son, I might have thought, as the years went by, that what I had lived in the small hut in the plain of Messaoria was a dream of my teenage years and that it never happened. That Vangelis was a prince who came out of the fairy tale to deceive me and then returned to the realm of nothingness, just to be accompanied by his memory and to confirm that the line between the real world and fantasy is imperceptible. But you were there, beautiful, and alive: Vangelis’ child.

For this reason, my child, I fully understood Penelope who loved two men. I understood the tearing of her soul and at the same time the power of love that could not abandon her and has accompanied her painfully in her life ever since. I was lucky enough not to love them at the same time. She was unluckier than I was.

But to return to our own story, I spent the following years in Alexandria on the side of Demetrios, as you know. You, in his face, found the best father in the world and I the best husband. I have no complaints about the course of my life as it followed.

But that thorn, that wonder why Vangelis did not come, never abandoned me. At some stage in my life, I believed that I would never know. But that was not the case.

When your father died and I returned to Cyprus to take care of my mother, I sometimes thought of asking her if Vangelis came, albeit late, to ask for me. But I knew she would not reply, so I did not dare. However, the information came from elsewhere.

After the death of my mother and her burial in her village of Statos, I stayed there for a few days and reunited with my old friend, Eurydice. When I saw the poverty and misery that plagued them, I gave to one of her daughters my mother’s house, as a dowry, so that she could marry. So, on one of our walks, in the pastures where we used to go as young girls, Eurydice confided to me the following story. I will try to narrate it to you, my child, as she recounted it to me, in her own words, as far as I can recall:

-I remember that one day you suddenly left the village with your mother, without telling anyone anything. When she returned, she told us that you had married Demetrios and went to Alexandria with him. I was very surprised then. I knew you loved the master, but I realized that he hadn’t come to ask for you, and because you were not a virgin anymore, your mother got you married as quickly as possible. I was sorry that I did not say goodbye to you and that I had lost my best friend, but there was nothing I could do.

The following year we went back to Marathovounos for the harvest, to the same master. I was anxiously waiting to see him, so that I might understand why he had not come to ask for you, but to my great surprise, he was not there. Instead, his sister came with her husband, and I noticed that she was dressed in black. I tried to approach her and chat with her. At first she was skeptical, and she didn’t want to talk about it. Then, little by little as the days went by, we started to become friends and she confided in me what had happened:

-After you left last year, she told me, Vangelis said to our father that he wanted to marry one a girl from your village, Zenovia was her name, if I’m not mistaken. To tell the truth, our mother was very angry that her beloved son wanted to marry a poor worker, but Vangelis was adamant. My father, who is more open-minded – and had a great weakness for his son – slowly softened and accepted. But my brother had a relationship with one of our village girls and had first, to end with her. To tell the truth, he had been trying to separate from her beforehand, but she wanted him so much that she wouldn’t accept. So, he told her that he could not continue with her any longer, because he loved another girl, and he would marry her. But she wasn’t a person who gave up easily. She asked him to go, for the last time, to see her.

-Meanwhile, she visited an old witch and asked her to give her something to tie him up so that he would stay forever hers. She paid her with a silver coin that she secretly took from her mother. The witch gave her a magic liquid and told her to put it in his drink, and when he drinks it, he would have no eyes for any other woman. So that’s how it happened. Vangelis went to see her for the last time, and she suggested that they drink their last wine together and then separate.

-I don’t know what magic liquid, the witch gave her, but from the next day my brother became seriously ill. He was never able to get out of bed again. In a few days he died. My mother and father grew old from their withering. It is a tragic story for all of us. He was the most handsome of our village and the whole area. It is as if God did not want him to live many years.

-What has happened to Zenovia? She didn’t come this year. The poor girl would have thought that my brother deceived her.

-I replied that Zenovia got married and left for Alexandria. She rejoiced because, as she said, “she wasn’t wasted at least, like my brother.”

I cannot describe to you, my son, how shocked I was hearing this story. I was trembling, I was crying, I could not stop myself. Vangelis’ love for me killed him. It took a long time before I could find my composure and return to the village. Eurydice had not spoken to anyone about the incident, in all these years and I begged her never to mention it again.

Despite the tragedy of the story and the unbearable pain I felt, there was a vindication in the background for the fact that Vangelis had not betrayed me. What I had seen in his eyes in the hut, in the plain of Messaoria, was true!

I cannot imagine, my son, what feelings this story evokes in your heart. I know how much you loved your father, Demetrios, but you owe your existence to Vangelis. I could never tell you the truth, it would be easier for me too, but I think you should know. Perhaps one day you will be able to visit the village of Marathovounos and light a candle in the tomb of your first father, who left in this tragic way. I did not dare to go. I could not stand the pain…

Sometimes, I am thinking that I have loved two men in my life. The first was the most handsome and the second the most kind-hearted, of all the people I have met. Both were tender, but the most important thing is that they both gave me the right to choose. This is rare. Usually, the fate of women is to obey the dictates of their family. They are never asked what they want. But they asked me. And I was a little girl only fifteen years old. I do not regret, son, my choices, no matter how much I may be criticized for this.

Your father, Demetrios, had always encouraged me to marry after his death. But that was something I did not want. I had met love, a great love, like that of Penelope’s, at the age of fifteen, in that hut. I enjoyed it for a month, only a month of my life, but this month made the ground shake and the sky open from its intensity.

After I loved Demetrios. This love was calm, full of security and fullness. It expanded my spirit, enabled me to discover the strength of my soul and become another person. A useful, creative person, it made me realize that my abilities are limitless, regardless that I am a woman. Maybe this, it is because I’m a woman.

In this respect, my son, I am not asking for anything else for life to offer me. It gave me everything and more than that. All I wish and pray for, is for you to let go of the fickle life, get married and start a family. In this way, you will perpetuate Vangelis’ genes and through your actions you will cultivate in your children the kindness of Demetrios. You have a lot to convey, my son, from the one who gave birth to you and from the one who raised you. Blessed be your life!

With all my love

Your mother


When Alexis finished reading and turned to Zena, he saw her crying again. He was not surprised because his eyes were buzzing too.

-Unexpected end, he told her.

-You know Alexis, I think it’s no coincidence that no one previously found the secret of Zenovia. I don’t think her son, and perhaps my father, could understand, especially in the society they grew up in, this double love of Zenovia. I, as I have already told you, have identified myself with her. I really admire her for her courage and the clarity of her mind. We must consider the environment in which she grew up, which not only did not understand such behaviors, classified them among deadly sins. She, however, had left the guilt on the side and gave the two men she loved the place they deserved in her life and heart.

-Yes, she must have been a very brave and intelligent woman. You look like her, even though you never had to overcome the obstacles she faced in her life. I am amazed at her decisions at the age of just fifteen. It’s not just that she chose to marry Demetrios, after all this choice was a one-way road, it’s the way she dealt with her life in Alexandria. This city was one of the most cosmopolitan in the world, at that time, and Zenovia, who immediately realized her weaknesses, managed to overcome them.

-Of course, she also had the support of Demetrios, who was as well a great personality. Somewhere we read, I think, that he was self-made himself. A child, orphaned, thrown out of life and society who managed to become one of the richest men of Alexandria, not losing at the same time the quality of his character and his kindness. This is not something out of the ordinary.

-On the other hand, is Vangelis. We don’t know much about his personality, but the way he reacted when he found Zenovia naked in his hut was impressive. A different master in his place, in the sense that the master had at that time, would rape the little worker who violated his space. But he took care of her and gave her the choice if she would like her to be with him or not. Very impressive!

-All this, Alexis, leads me to some existential questions. Is all this defined? Is it fatal which people will we meet in our lives and what role they will play? Is it a coincidence? What are our choices as humans? Do we have options?

-As you can imagine, I don’t know how to answer to you. These questions are universal and timeless. The various religions, philosophies, etc. have opinions on the subject. Recently I was also watching some scientific documentaries that tried to give answers, studying the concept of time and whether there is time or is a creation of us to determine our life, as I think Einstein says. I can’t tell you that I understood them, but for the “unfaithful” science to study the subject means that this question does not go unnoticed or is naïve.

-You know, it irritates me that I may not have options in my life. That everything is fixed. I find that unacceptable.

-I don’t think it’s exactly like that. Let’s take Zenovia and Vangelis. It may have been fatal for them to meet, the way they met. But their personal behaviors were their choice. That’s pretty much what the documentary I saw said. But let’s take the myth of the beautiful Eleni and Paris and then the Trojan War. Priam, the king of Troy and father of Paris, had received an oracle that his child, born to his wife Hecuba, would bring the destruction of Troy. So, to save his country, he gave him to a servant to kill him. The servant took pity on the child and left him in the forest. He was found by a shepherd and raised up. Then he returned to his father’s palace, went to Sparta, and stole the beautiful Eleni, the wife of Menelaus. It was because of this that the Trojan War was triggered, which destroyed Troy. These stories – and there are many others like them – teach us that the basic course of our lives is fatal.

-Unfortunately, I am not aware of these myths, and I am very sorry for that. I am so glad Alexis, that I will share my life with you. You have a lot to teach me. Is it accidental or fatal that I met you?

-Whether accidental or fatal, you got involved with me and I will never let you leave me, he told her tenderly and hugged her.

-How do you comment on the other thing? That Vangelis came from your parents’ village? Accidental or fatal?

-Who knows? Let’s go, we’ll solve our existential questions at another time. Now we must get ready to go back to Nicosia. We have learned the secret; we also have a wedding to organize.

-You’re right. Leave Zenovia to rest where she is and start organizing our own lives!



(Chapter 28)

Cyprus – End of September 2021 – Larnaca Airport

It had just been announced by the loudspeakers, but it was also obvious from the departures board, that Zena’s flight would be delayed for two hours. This irritated her somewhat, but she proceeded towards the airport cafeteria and found a table to sit. She ordered a cup of coffee and she began to reflect on this unique summer she had experienced in her life.

It all began, of course, with the death of her father and her own promise to read the letters that her grandfather Evangelos had exchanged with her great-grandmother Zenovia. This promise had led her to Alexis, initially of course to give them to him to translate them, although later she was forced to learn Greek herself to read them. To her great surprise today she could speak and comfortably understand this language, which a few years ago she considered impossible to learn.

-How strange life is! She thought. Two years have passed since my father’s death and the changes that have been made are so many times greater than what has happened to me since the day I was born until today. They are not, in any case, unpleasant changes, on the contrary they are interesting and promise another course, other joys and most likely other sorrows.

Then she remembered her marriage to Alexis. Leaving Paphos and coming to Nicosia, they had run all the necessary procedures. Thus, on Friday, September 3, 2021, in the wedding hall of the new Nicosia City Hall, in the presence of only the parents of Alexis and Eleni, who was the witness, the ceremony took place. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, more people were not allowed to be present and these few wore their masks.

Alexis had asked her to wear the blue dress she had put on that Christmas Day 2019, when they went to Mr. Jacob Papadopoulos’ party in Melbourne. This dress really flattered her and although her eyes were not blue but black it made them shine more than they shone every day. At least that’s what Alexis was telling her.

The ceremony could not have been plainer. Something that satisfied her, since she has never believed in established situations, nor in traditional events. She wanted to be unbound by all this. But their marriage ceremony with Alexis was simple and spoke to her heart.

The day after their wedding, Alexis left for Australia, because his obligations towards his job did not allow him to stay in Cyprus any longer. She remained three more weeks to settle the last outstanding issues and say goodbye to the people she met, this special summer of her life.

She initially returned to Paphos and visited the friend she had met on the plane arriving in Cyprus, Mrs. Maria Stylianou. A lady who she really liked for her love of learning and friendly character. Zena felt great with her company and would maintain a friendship with her.

She also went through the locksmith and took the box they had left him to fix the lock. Really the man took the job very seriously. Apart from the fact that he repaired the lock, he constructed with the help of a goldsmith a silver key, cleaned the wood of the wild olive tree, and passed it with a special oil that highlighted its wonderful colors and rich lines. It became gorgeous. The price he charged Zena was high, but it did not matter. The result was excellent.

Then he passed through Limassol and visited Vicky, who was the closest she had to Zenovia. Not because Vicky was a relative of Zenovia or knew anything about this extraordinary woman, but because once their great-grandmothers were friends and shared secrets. And when the hearts of two people are united in this way, a spiritual kinship is created that Zena wanted to maintain. Vicky even promised her that on a subsequent visit she would invite her sister and cousins to get to know each other and share memories.

Feeling satisfied that she created channels of communication with the people she met in Cyprus and particularly liked, she returned to Nicosia. There lived some other people she would like to meet. They were Manthos Mavrommatis and Katia Taoushiani. The people who helped her communicate with Mr. Mustafa Akinci. Even though she would like to meet them together with Alexis, since this had not been possible, they made an appointment and the three of them met. She immediately felt that they had a lot in common with each other and would maintain a friendship.

At the same time, she started working with Eleni to close all the pending issues related to the reconstruction of Zenovia’s house and now their own house with Alexis. After agreeing the last details in relation to the design, they chose the sanitary ware, floors, tiles and whatever else the house would need to be completed. Even for the garden Zena approved a general design.

From the financial point of view, the payments were initially settled with the compensation paid by Mr. Nicolaou for the encroachment he made on her property, which amounted to almost half a million. The fear of taking the case to court and the possibility that he would not be able to sell the villas he built, because he could not issue title deeds, forced him to capitulate and pay.

Meanwhile, Zena had given a power of attorney to Alexis’ father, Mr. Nikos, and now her father-in-law, to manage her finances while she was away and at the same time to proceed with the procedures for the sale of the part of her property that she herself would not use. So, in that respect she felt safe. Her father-in-law, anyway, now a retired man, was thrilled with the idea that he would have something useful and interesting to deal with.

The relationship with Alexis’ parents brought a warmth to her heart. Ever since she had lost her father, who took care of her in one way or another, she thought she had lost parental affection forever. And yet, Alexis’ parents opened their arms and accepted her as their child.

-My daughter, you make my son happy and for me this is everything, his mother, Mrs. Androulla, told her one day. We thought he would stay in Australia and never get married. Now we hope to get grandchildren and enjoy them while we still can. Naturally we have grandchildren from our other children, but we would also like to see our Alexis happy.

Some time ago she would have considered this comment banal and would not have been interested, but now so much had changed within her that the words of Mrs. Androulla made her emotional. The phrase “My daughter, you make my son happy…” often sounded in her mind. Great words, with great expectations and many obligations on her part!

Her thoughts led her again to this important event of her life: her marriage. Now she saw it as a commitment to Alexis and their love. A promise that they would face the problems of life together and if they had children, they would try to implant in them the principles of life in which they themselves believed, but also bequeathed from their ancestors, so that they would be useful people on this planet.

Of course, she was sure that not everything would be rosy. Her own unruly temperament and Alexis’ traditional principles would certainly collide, but she was determined to find a way to manage it. After all, life had given her a wonderful companion. There was no need to waste this happiness with stubbornness. Alexis was very patient, and she could easily understand a sensible argument. It was up to them to find the best way to compromise and come to an understanding.

They had discussed it thoroughly with Alexis and had decided to live the next years of their lives in Cyprus. Zena, since she was married, would very much like to have children. Now that she has known what “family” meant, she would like life to continue to be perpetuated through her own offspring.

All these associations brought to her memory another decision she had recently made. Her life until now had been devoted mainly to actions to protect the planet from ecological destruction. She felt it was a sacred course and all people who love our earth should do it. In her home country, Australia, this is a priority and she herself had served it passionately. Something that she will continue to do in the future.

But coming to Cyprus and knowing firsthand the suffering that wars accumulate, how they divide people and how they uproot the experiences of a lifetime, in the most violent way, she decided to work for peace.

With the new decisions she had made about her life there was no room for combat journalism in the way she had practiced in the past. She could no longer travel and report. Having children would like to be close to them and experience their growth, something she herself did not have. On the other hand, her age did not allow her to delay the creation of her family. She had to do it immediately. And she wanted to do it well.

After her meeting with Mr. Mustafa Akinci and what she read about Lellos Demetriades, she realized that the recorded history speaks very little about the servants of peace. It refers much more to the supporters of the war, and even if it criticizes their actions, it mentions them and maintains their names through the centuries: Attila, Jenkins Khan, Hitler, Mussolini, and many others either glorious or reprehensible generals. Peace workers are either not mentioned at all, or their deeds are written in small print.

During her various trips, in the past, in war zones, she had met other people with similar actions. People who put aside the differences of their peoples and fought for their welfare. She had done several interviews at the time and had kept this material. Now it is time to write a book about all of them: about the workers of peace.

On the other hand, she had a lot of information to write a book about her family and especially about Zenovia. She considered her great-grandmother’s story to be tender, romantic, dynamic, revolutionary but above all it outlined a time that it was lost. And Zena wanted to project through her book this era with its difficulties and problems.

If the first book she wanted to write was to honor and showcase the people who have  promoted and still promote peace, this second book was about everyday life. This everyday life that shapes existence and evolves humanity, with the struggles of anonymous people like Zenovia and Demetrios. Which teaches that people with dazzling beauty like Vangelis can be fireworks in this world, shining brightly and lasting for a short time. And if today we live in a time when the “stars” are covered by the spotlight, we must remember that they are all shooting stars. Quality and durability are within the humble anonymous existences.

She felt a warmth in the heart with this prospect. She dreamed of sitting at her desk, at her home in Paphos gazing at the sea, as she gazed at the Yarra River in Melbourne. There was a bustling city that matched the dynamic life she led at the time. Here the landscape is calm, perfect for taking her to the deepest layers of her being and tracing the words and meanings that would help her to express what she wanted to say. She smiled at that prospect.

She looked at her watch. It still had thirty minutes until it was time to leave. She paid and began to head slowly to the boarding gate. She noticed that a few others were also sitting there, reading, and waiting.

She settled into a lonely position and continued to think. She felt good with her contemplation. They were not scattered anxious thoughts. They were full of reflections on her future. She unconsciously touched her belly. She thought she was pregnant. She had not gone to the doctor yet and had not told anyone. She wanted the first to know about it to be Alexis and she would tell him as soon as she saw him. Thinking about his joy, she smiled happily.

This possibility would also determine the time of their return to Cyprus. She would like to give birth to her child in Australia, where she thought the medical services were more organized and after coming to Cyprus. So, their return would take at least 10-12 months, enough time for the construction of their home to be completed.  She was sure that Eleni and her father-in-law would do everything in their power for their house to be perfect. In this respect she felt very secure.

As much as it seemed great to her that she would become a mother, it seemed also strange. Apart from the fact that never in her life she had such a desire, she herself had never known maternal affection. One day when they were talking with Alexis and she told him of her fears, he encouraged her by telling her:

-Don’t worry maternal, as well as paternal love is innate. It is a property that nature gives to its living beings to perpetuate species. See how your father raised you, alone, without knowing anything about that. And he made you a fine person. A little spoiled of course, but strong and free!

Although, he called spoiled to tease her, she knew that deep down he was right. She felt a thrill in her heart at the thought of her father, the most beloved man in her life until she met Alexis. Now she had both in the same pantheon. Where in the future she would like to put the children, she would have.

At that time, the announcement of the start of boarding was heard. Passengers wearing their masks and keeping their distance from each other began to move forward holding passports and boarding passes.

-It is time she thought, to leave Cyprus and meet Alexis in Melbourne. My feelings are mixed. On the one hand I am happy, on the other hand I am sorry to leave this place, which has given me so many surprises and opened so many horizons for me. I’ll come back though!

Getting on the plane, she quickly found her place. Luckily she was by the window and would see the take-off and the journey to Dubai, where they would make a stop. In the seat next to her was an elderly gentleman with a very kind appearance. She immediately introduced herself:

-My name is Zena Vassilopoulos, and I am traveling to Melbourne, she told him.

-Oh, I am so glad,” replied the kind gentleman. My name is Stylianos Neophytou. I am a retired university professor, and I am also travelling to Melbourne. My son and his wife stay there, and I am going to visit them, although difficult times for traveling.

-You are right, but life goes on. We should take care and strive for the best.

-That’s what I thought too. I don’t know how much longer I will live, and I would like to enjoy them now that I can.

By the time the plane took off, they had caught up in conversation, and Zena felt that her trip would be enjoyable.

-I’m lucky to travel with you, she said. Your company seems very interesting to me.

-I will say the same about you, my charming lady, Neophytou replied.

And while the plane ascended into the skies and passed over the clouds the two fellow travelers, expanded the scope of their acquaintance, enjoying each other’s company.



(Chapter 29)

Air Travel to Melbourne Australia

As soon as Zena felt comfortable with Mr. Neophytou, she told him that he is the person named second Neophytou she meets in Cyprus. Thus, he gave her some explanations about the origin of the name:

-Neophytos is a local saint of Paphos with great appreciation from the inhabitants. Usually those who are called Neophytos come from the district of Paphos. It is worth visiting his monastery just outside the city of Paphos. It is very ancient. Saint Neophytos, who lived and sanctified there, during the 12th century AD, wrote extensive texts concerning the history of Cyprus and other important events of his time.

-Unfortunately, during my stay in Cyprus, very little I knew from the treasures that exist here. I had to run a family affair, a secret from the past, in fact.

-Sounds very interesting!

Zena for a very strange reason felt very comfortable with Mr. Neophytou and without understanding how, she told him the whole story of her family. And she concluded by telling him her intention to write two books: one about the workers of peace and one about her great-grandmother and the life she lived.

-You know, Mr. Neophytou, she added, at this time these two issues are of particular concern to me. I am angry at the way society has treated and still treats women and any pregnancy that takes place outside of marriage, that is, outside the acceptable framework that society defines. And unfortunately, this rejection is basically experienced by women as if they are only these participants in practice and in the result.

-My dear Zena, I have been a sociology professor for years, but I have been interested in and studied other fields, such as archaeology and history. I would like to inform you that the issues that concern you are linked, even if they seem different. And I mean war and the position of women in society. Everything in life is communicating vessels, and this fragmentation into specialties in our time, many times limits the view, as it focuses on points and not on wholeness.

-Very interesting! Could you explain it to me more.

-Of course. Recent archaeological discoveries, in Europe but also in China, i.e., in two very remote parts of the planet, have brought to light information about the position of women in the Stone Age and later in the Bronze Age, during which people had organized themselves into societies and settled in a specific place.

-In the Stone Age, people were basically hunter-gatherers, dwelling in caves and moving to hunt the animals they were fed with. At this time, therefore, there was equality between women and men, because they hunted together and fed together. This is evidenced by the rock paintings found in various areas showing men and women hunting side by side. Also, from tombs of this era it is evident that the same burial customs prevailed for men and for women. Both genders were buried with their weapons and with the same honors. Tests carried out on bones found, have shown that they were fed in the same way. In other words, they shared the resources. And for the time we are talking about, food was the supreme good. Also, modern anthropologists have found from the same examinations that women physically were just as strong as a male Olympic athlete of our time.

-Later, when people organized themselves into societies and the conquest and preservation of their land and property became of great importance for their survival, things changed completely. Women stayed in the community, cultivating the fields, giving birth, and caring for their children, while men were involved in wars to protect their property or conquer more. So that’s how the wars began. When the possession of land became the important good for the survival of humans.

-What you are saying is very interesting, Mr. Neophytou. Please, continue. So, what happened to women then? How was their position formed?

-It seems that the position of women then decreased significantly, because it was men who protected the community from enemies. Their role was now decisive. Women were engaged in tasks that did not particularly develop their muscular strength, and physically they became much weaker. Also, from the examination of the bones, found in tombs of this time, it is obvious that they were fed much less than men, basically it seems they lived with what was left over from the men’s meal. Life in communities created the conditions for women to become pregnant more often and unfortunately there were many deaths in childbirths. All this relegated the woman to an inferior being, with all the consequences that followed.

-No matter how you look at it, however you interpret it, all these developments you describe are grossly unfair to women. Nevertheless, listening to you I made a very paradoxical, I might even say heretical connotation, in relation to the existing beliefs.

-Tell me, I’m all ears. And believe me, I really like unorthodox thoughts!

-I, Mr. Neophytou, could not describe myself as a religious person. Still, I remember some religious stories from school. And one of them is the story of Adam and Eve and the original sin in general. I am sure that there are many interpretations of what this myth means, but just now, listening to you, I also came up with one:

-As the story goes, paradise was given to these first two people to enjoy it with all the goods it contained. Later – and again here they blame the woman – under Eve’s responsibility, they ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge and fall from paradise. The Stone Age, as you describe it, may be paradise, that is, everything was for everyone and later when people acquired the desire to own, that is, to possess for their own benefit a piece of paradise, they lost it. And here I will make a feminist comment. Since again the woman is blamed for the loss of paradise, let’s not forget that it was when we lost paradise that we evolved as a species.

-Very interesting interpretation, my dear Zena. I don’t know if the theologists agree with you, but I like it! You know many myths of antiquity deal with issues that have to do with the evolution of the humans through the centuries. It seems that some memories are preserved in the collective memory of humanity and with myths, which are sometimes sensational, an attempt is made to interpret this development Do you have in mind the Greek myth of Prometheus?

-Perhaps Alexis mentioned it to me. I don’t remember. Please tell me. I’m all ears.

-Prometheus was a Titan who helped Zeus, the supreme god of the ancient Greeks to seize power, unlike the other Titans who fought against him But then he gave people the fire and taught them many sciences, disobeying Zeus, who did not want people to progress Here I would say that the fire symbolizes knowledge, as in the myth you mentioned, where the firstborn were not allowed to eat from the tree of knowledge For this act, however, Prometheus was severely punished by Zeus. People, on the other hand, with the gifts of Prometheus evolved as a species, but also became prey to war. In a way, in both myths, the progress of humans, with the introduction of knowledge, brought about disputes and wars. It is what we call it, no evil without good or vice versa.

-Very interesting all this. It is a big issue to interpret the myths of antiquity. But you have given another dimension to the issue of peace that I intend to write about. As a journalist I have learned to limit myself to the facts and simply describe them. It is very interesting, however, to refer to myths and other themes, which through the centuries have defined and determined human behavior. A field of expansion is created in scope and depth of the situations caused by the events, which makes it easier for one to have a more holistic view. Perhaps in this way I will better understand the world around me and have suggestions to make, rather than just criticizing.

-You are excellent Zena. Well done. For everything there is the cause and effect. Oh, here we are, we have arrived in Dubai. We will change planes here.

-Yes we will have to get off. I hope we are on the other flight together.

-Certainly! Let’s pursue it. So, the journey will not seem so long.

After waiting for a few hours, they boarded the plane for the trip to Australia. It was already evening. After receiving the meal, they were offered, they put on their masks and tried to sleep. If you can sleep in an airplane chair, wearing your mask! Some others, with headphones in their ears, watched movies, from the hundreds of options offered by the airline, on the small screen opposite them.

Zena noticed her fellow travelers for a moment. An anonymous crowd of people of different origins, different genders, different races, and ages, stacked next to each other, really like sardines, crossing the skies from one point on the planet to another.

-I’m lucky she thought to have Mr. Neophytou by my side. Such a long journey through loneliness is difficult.

The plane was traveling east, so it was not long before dawn shown. Zena lifted the sunshade of her window a little so as not to disturb those around her and looked out. They flew over the clouds, spreading from below sparkling and soft. Many times, since she was a child, when she traveled by plane and looked at the clouds, she wanted to lie and sink on them.

-Will they hold me, she thought, or will I fall to earth! If they can hold me though, it will be the most wonderful feeling!

A sweet light spread around. The sunlight caressed the clouds and sent hopes and life-giving power towards the earth.

-Under the clouds it will be dark, she pondered. People will be immersed in everyday life and their problems and forget that above the clouds the sun shines and as soon as they move a little it will illuminate them with its glow. It is important to remember the light, even if we do not see it. It’s always there.

At that time the lights of the plane came on and the flight attendants began to share the breakfast. Mr. Neophytou opened his eyes and said good morning to Zena. She lifted the sunshade completely from the window and enjoyed the magnificent spectacle of the sunrise above the clouds.

After they finished breakfast and put on their masks, they started chatting again. Zena told Mr. Neophytou about the associations she made about light and clouds.

-You know, she told him, I don’t particularly like air travel for the crowds you see around you and the confinement in such a small space. But the magic of traveling above the clouds and crossing such long distances in such a short period of time is magical. We defeat gravity and enjoy the sun and light.

-Very poetic description! First time I hear it. Usually, people are immersed in their thoughts or fears.. But you observe the world around you. That’s why I think you’re a good journalist.

-Really, how do you see the times we live in today? That frenzy that became our daily routine in the constellation of coronavirus.

-Humanity has experienced pandemics many times, in fact it is said that we live one, of such magnitude, every hundred years. And judging by the previous one, which was the Spanish flu, about a hundred years have passed. Of course, it is the first time that there is such globalization, that people travel so much and transmit the virus so widely and with great speed. It is, surely, the first time that so many vaccines have been released and governments – at least western ones – are making so many efforts to contain it. But it is terribly difficult. Because no matter how many restrictions are put in place, it is always up to the individual whether one will consent to protect themselves and others.

-We always return to personal responsibility and individual morality.

-What you are saying is absolutely right. People usually obey out of fear or do not obey out of reaction. Rarely does morality towards society determine their behavior and decisions. And yet if we would like to be a happy society we should have empathy and sensitivity for the well-being of those around us.

-You are opening big issues, Mr. Neophytou. The general view is that the morality around us is eroded and evil and corruption prevail. I do not disagree in general terms. But for the world to be preserved and to have survived as a species to this day, it means that even in the slightest, good defeats evil. Otherwise, we would have disappeared.

-You are right about that. Regardless of whether we are bombarded with bad news every day, there is a lot of positives going on in this world and we would do well to focus on them as well. You as a journalist could contribute to this.

-This is my goal in writing a book about the workers of peace. I always remember and have in mind a documentary I have watched about the creation of the universe. It said that after the big bang, energy began to be converted into particles of matter and antimatter. The particles of matter as soon as they meet the antimatter particles are neutralized. And although approximately the same number was created by both kinds of particles, for the world to exist today, it means that in a huge number of antimatter particles, there was one more particle of matter. And thanks to this one extra particle of matter, we two exist and sit here and chat about them.

-You impress me Zena, with the associations and correlation you make with everything around you.

-But the world is a whole. It does not consist of scattered units. That is why if we destroy the nature around us we will also destroy ourselves. Those of us who can, should shout this out. No matter how little we sound, it will be enough to defeat the negative energy that wants to destroy life.

-It really is a blessing to have met you. Never in my life have I made a more interesting trip. I didn’t even understand how so many hours have passed.

-A few days ago, we were discussing with Alexis whether the people and events we encounter in our lives are the result of luck or are fatal. We could not reach to a conclusion. We may never know, but it is enough to make the best use of them. In our case, anyway, I think we have done our best.

-You are right. From our discussions on this journey, I emerge more profitable and more optimistic about the future of the world and our planet.

-I, too, Mr. Neophytou, have broadened my knowledge. You have given another dimension to the world around me and its relationship to the myths of our ancestors. We should delve into these stories!

-You won’t have a hard time doing it. I’m sure!

At that time the captain of the aircraft announced their arrival in Melbourne. Zena looked out the window and saw the outskirts of her city, with its uniform detached houses and lush gardens. Where the airport was located, outside the city center, there were no skyscrapers and apartment buildings. She felt a thrill in her heart. She was returning home. She would meet Alexis and tell him about her pregnancy.

-I left, another person, she thought, and I came back wiser and stronger. It was a blessed journey that changed my life. I met with my ancestors and learned from them. I have a lot of work ahead of me to do. And no matter what happens, I will fight. For happiness and for a better world. As much as I can. Like Zenovia.

The plane began the descent for landing. This journey was over. Another one begins.



Saint Neophytos


Prometheus the myth


(Chapter 30) Epilogue

All these months, through a kaleidoscope we followed the lives of Zenovia and Zena. Perhaps at times, we identified ourselves with them, perhaps we were concerned, perhaps we were moved. It does not matter. These two women, who accompanied our daily lives, taught us some things that emerged from the universe of human knowledge, where everything that has been done and everything that will be done is kept. That is where they returned. They will always exist in the world of ideas because by reading their history and pronouncing their names we have made them exist.

I feel that I must give you some explanations about how this story began and regardless of the development it took, which many times worked automatically and voluntarily on behalf of the protagonists, it was triggered by the memories of my own life.

My mother’s name was Vassilia, and my father’s name was Kostas. My mother came from the village of Statos in Paphos and my father from the village of Marathovounos in Messaoria. They were both poor people, especially my mother, but very studious and progressive. My mother had just gone all the way to the third grade of elementary school and even intermittently because she had to take care of her younger brothers and sisters, when her parents went to farm work. My father, on the other hand, had finished primary school with honors. Because he was the best student at the school, he had been awarded the Queen Victoria Medal on behalf of the colonial government. Unfortunately, he was did not attend high school, although normally his family could have done so from a financial point of view. He had a big complaint all his life.

When my sister and I were little, my mother used to tell us about many stories from her life and from those she had heard from her own mother. I was fascinated by these stories, and I sat and listened to them with great interest. I often asking her to repeat them, thinking that I would always remember them in all the details. Unfortunately, life taught me later, that the funnel of time erases memories. That wealth of experiences we all gained from our childhood is slowly leveled off and remains a hazy memory.

During the hours, when my mother was ironing, we would sit on the floor, and she would recite to us the poems of Vasilis Michaelides: “Chiotissa” and “The 9th of July”. Even though we had heard them dozens of times, we always asked her to repeat them. Then, she, who knew them by heart, recited them loud and clear for our sake, with the ferocious style that characterized the traditional poets of the time.

My father on the other hand was a very sweet low-key man who used to work until late. But at night, when he returned home, after we had gone to bed, he would come to our room and read us stories from a book that had many myths from ancient Greece. I liked more the myth of Atalante and so I asked him to read it to us often.

Among the stories my mother used to tell us, one event that had made a great impression on me, was the story she had heard from her own mother and was about the journey of her villagers, men, and women, to Messaoria to help to the reap, in order to get paid. By the standards of the time, late 19th century and early 20th, it seemed to me a very difficult journey, as it must have been of course.

Some other stories she used to tell us frightened me and I kept them in my memory as heinous acts, but they were the result of the social conditions of the time. I am referring to forcing women who became pregnant out of wedlock to destroy the children they gave birth to either by killing them or letting them die of starvation. My childish soul was always trying to find a way out, so things would not seem so horrible, but unfortunately there was not one. Demetrios, through the pages of ” Zenovia’s secret”, came to provide the solution I was desperately looking for in my childhood.

On the other hand, Vangelis was a real person. He was my grandmother’s Lazarou brother, of my father’s side from Marathovounos. I have been hearing about him since I was very young because it seems that his family never came to terms with his untimely death. The version that he had been killed by a beloved, in her attempt to keep him close to her, I recently learned from some of my cousins. I do not know if it is true, but certainly out of ignorance that’s how many people of the time operated in their quest to get what they wished.

I wanted, by writing ” Zenovia’s secret”, to bring all these family stories together and at the same time honor my parents. Here I will confide in you a very personal story from my childhood, which in a way imposed on me the duty to do something for my family. Many years have passed since then, but it remained in my memory as an imperative that I should carry out.

I was around six. I had just gone to elementary school. Before I went to elementary school, I lived in a very sheltered environment and the only experiences I had were in the backyard of my house, playing with my sister. The mass media we had back then was a radio that basically, apart from the news, maybe a few songs and a broadcast for children, did not say much. In other words, nothing to do with today’s children who are bombarded by thousands of news and information. My soul was an unwritten book. The school has been a momentous change for me. I began to understand that the world was much bigger than our backyard and there were so many things to learn and think about.

So, one day, this existential question arose in me:

-Why was I born, why was I born in this family and in this place? What did I come to do on this earth?

I thought that the only one who would know how to answer these questions would be God. I knew of course that God dwells in heaven, and heaven is high, above our heads.

In the yard of our school, we had many olive trees. At one of the breaks, I went and stood under an olive tree. I looked up at the sky and submitted my question to God, just as I mention it above.

I waited patiently, and God answered in my head by telling me the following:

-This is not the first time you were born. You have been reborn. You came to this family to help them (or make them happy).

Perhaps there were more words and details that I do not remember. But the main meaning was this. Happy that I got a clear answer from God, I went home and told my mother everything. She was rather negative.

-You shouldn’t say things like that, she told me. Our religion does not accept them.

But I knew for sure that this was the answer God had given to my questions I did not repeat it to anyone else then, but I did not forget it either. Then, when I grew up, I learned that there is such a theory about repeating the birth of souls, in different bodies, in other religions. But back then I was not aware of such theories. This answer came identical and authentic to my childish, pure mind.

But I have always been troubled by that: “You came to this family to help them (or make them happy).” I did not think I had ever done anything special to help my parents. On the contrary, with the independence of my character, I felt that many times I made it difficult for them.

The years passed, and although I cannot say that I often thought about this childhood experience of mine, somewhere in the background there was that I did not offer something particularly positive to my parents, as God had told me.

So, in writing these stories today, I feel that I honor their memory and bring their spirits to life, where they are, in any place they might be.

So, I dedicate ” Zenovia’s secret”, to my parents Kostas and Vassilia, who in their anonymity and obscurity in their passage from this life, were two special people. Through this journey and this deepening in the world of ancestors, I understood that the hereditary line of life is not unrelated to who we are and in this context I want to honor all those who already existed.

The ancient Egyptians, who gave a very important culture, one of the most important of humanity on earth, believed that for a dead person to exist after death his name should be pronounced. I believe that our religion advocates the same, mentioning the name of the deceased on the crosses on the graves and repeating it at the memorial services. So, I repeat the names of my ancestors in my writings to give substance to their memory and existence on this earth and perhaps beyond.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for following me on this journey and ask you to take some time to write down your impressions and comments, as they will spontaneously come out of you. These words will certainly be the most important help for me for the future.


Vassilis Michaelides


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