Son of refugees
At home we had an old buffet with a showcase and some photos on it. One of these photos showed my parents with my two sisters in front of a big ship with three suitcases around them. A typical souvenir of a typical family.
I had to grow up a bit in order to understand why I wasn't part of the picture; simply because I wasn't born yet. And I had to grow up even more to understand its "sacredness". I realised why my parents talked so much about that photo, a photo which was the most important thing for them. It depicted the most shocking time of their life: their arrival at Piraeus port after they were forced to leave Istanbul. The beginning of a new life in Greece, at an unknown place, with no friends and no job for our father who, as I heard later, "was well-off back in Istanbul"… Growing up I would stare at that picture, trying to read my parents' thoughts and feelings at that moment through their eyes and posture. They felt abandoned; as if someone threw them out of the ship and told them to go. Where? To whom? With what?
I am the son of refugees. I grew up with all the rules, fears, responsibilities and restrictions that are imposed onto refugees or that refugees impose on themselves, being strangers in a new land. I am the sequel of a tragedy that has been on for centuries – and will continue for many more. A tragedy witnessed by people who can, but do not wish to put an end to this sad performance. Whether I want it or not, I am one of you and I do not forget it.
I hadn't seen this photograph for over sixty years, since it was lost. Now that I found it again, I wondered why I had placed the three suitcases next to the family in my memories. Nothing is ever random: it seems I wanted to see them having taken something more with them, except for Lizos, a cat that was killed in 1942 by a German soldier's boot.
Thanassis Papageorgiou is a Greek actor, director and writer.