Monday, 29 December 2008

Post-weekend story: A lifetime

My father was born in the hills behind the seaside village of Platanias, near the village of Agia Marina on the west coast of Hania, in a neighbourhood called Drakiana. All that remains of it are the ruins of his first home, a 14th-century church dedicated to St George and a zillion fields full of orange and olive trees.

(the house Dad was born in - Drakiana, Hania)

He lived there as a young boy, until his brothers and sisters started moving away due to marriage. He always remembered his early years in the village as the best he had ever lived; his brother would play klarino at night, while during the day, he would take his dog hunting. The house began showing sign of ruin, and so, the family moved to the main village behind the hills, Platanias, now known as the boogie capital of Hania, with its trendy clubs and bars. He was involved in mainly agricultural and building work.

keratas taverna
(Dad - left - as a teenager at Keratas taverna)

In the mid-50s, as a young raunchy lad, he was talked into going to Athens and working at the docks in Pireas harbour. The work he found instead was as a drudge, carrying heavy loads on and off ships, while the pay was extremely low. He hated every single minute of his working life in Athens. All he liked about his time in the big Greek smoke was the yard of the house where he lived with his family, when neighbours and friends would come to spend the evening together in Agia Sofia, a working class neighbourhood of Pireaus.

One of his acqauintances, also from Crete, informed him that he was migrating to New Zealand with his young family. Emigration was nothing new in hard times; my father told his friend not to forget him and his family. He carried on working in slave-like conditions in the Greek capital, until one day, he received a letter from his friend who had settled in New Zealand, informing him of the chance to marry a 'good Greek girl' who had also recently emigrated.

(all the letters my Dad wrote to my Mum)

He decided to take up this offer to marry this lady (he had never seen her before in his life). They had been corresponding for a year before his departure from Greece; my mother wrote the first letter, then he replied, then she wrote back, and so on, until the 13th letter, when he didn’t write back. My mother never wrote another letter, thinking that maybe he had ditched her. He turned up on her doorstep instead, on a beautiful summer’s day in Wellington on the 31st of January, 1965:

(Dad's first few months in New Zealand, with Mum - left - and Mum's sister)

and married her a week later, on Waitangi Day, the 6th of February, 1965, as he had promised he would do in his last letter. There was no doubt about what was to be done when they met for the first time: they would marry, as had been planned. A trial period, what-if questions, divorce, none of these entered their heads at the time. No one made demands of a personal nature. Both sides wanted to improve their lives, which they did to the best of their ability, forfeiting their own interests and looking only to serve each other.


They spent nearly three decades together, until the death of my mother in Wellington, after which Dad came back to Crete and lived the last decade of his life in his beloved hometown.


Sometimes the romance in a marriage starts well after the wedding.

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story of your parents! Many younger couples can learn a lot from it. Nowadays, people seem to separate or divorce for the least bit reason.

    And, while I can, I would like to apologize for not visiting or commenting lately. There is something in your blog that makes my computer run so very slowly or, worse, makes it hang altogether. :( I don't know what it is. But yours isn't the only blog where this happens.

  2. Touching, very touching. I think the love story started with that first letter.

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Your story is really moving. I am also a Med.Kiwi, living in Israel. This Thursday I am going to make Afgans because of your blog. I loved them as a child (and as an adult). Keep writing! Suzanne.

  4. i love afghans too suzanne! - look at this photo from my latest batch:

  5. the afghans look great!!!
    I cant wait to make them.

  6. Hi Maria! Hope you had a great holiday season and wish you a 2009 much better than we can anticipate and at least as better as if your dreams come true!
    Health, Peace, and… some money to spend… ;)
    This is a great story! Lovely post!
    As for Blogtrotter, it’s visiting the Red Fort in Delhi. Hope you enjoy and have a great week!

  7. Such a beautiful & moving story! Very interesting learning about your family history and also about life in the olden days. I loved this post :-)