Friday, December 9, 2016
This true account was taken from the diary of New Zealander, Tom Barnes, whose daughter-in-law turned those pages into a book called The Sabotage Diaries. He and his men, part of a team that was parachuted into Greece, witnessed the account but were not able to stop it. For several reasons, this book is more than just an interesting read. The narrative of that one unfortunate Italian captive, is but a few lines in the tale and yet, I cannot let it go. I see those family members of mine who were players on that field. My father-in-law, Tomas was a young andarte (partisan-guerilla) among those the British allies came to help. My mother-in-law, Chevi, was a young woman who suffered the consequences of the war and was one who carried the munitions for the soldiers as Barnes was aghast to learn--women in Greece were the pack mules.
But it's the words of my father, Carl Fagioli, that ring in my ears. An Italian-American, born of immigrant parents, he suffered throughout his life from bouts of anxiety that in later life he attributed to his time in World War II. His mother, a widow and he an only son could have deferred the deployment but they didn't know. She was a barely-literate immigrant trying to make a living in the Bronx. When dad was sent to the front, he was grateful it was in Asia, for now the relatives back in the old country were deemed enemies and he wasn't sure how he'd be able to survive if he had to fight against them. Was that young prisoner in the Greek mountains a relative? A friend of one whom dad would visit in Italy forty years later? Would the family members of that young soldier have ascendants who'd come as tourists after a few generations to swim on the Greek shores? It only takes one generation to forget the atrocities of the past. . . That's why it's so easy to repeat them.
My father-in-law, Tomas had told a few war stories in his time and of course these colored my reading of Barnes' book. Another quick mention of a seemingly insignificant character in The Sabotage Diaries was a young twenty-year-old woman who the Greek guerrillas deemed a poutana (whore) for collaborating with the Italians. The Greek rebels that the allies came to help were actually split into two factions, leftists and right-wingers. It would be the only time they'd work together and even before the world war had ended, they would battle for control of Greece until the people were left in destitute tatters with broken hearts, broken homes and widespread starvation.
This is my father-in-law's story:
Cousin Theodore was an andarte fighting against the Germans with the leftists. Tomas joined him with the thought that it would be better at least to have family within the ranks of whichever group he followed.
Saturday, December 3, 2016
I hadn't had any intension of taking that diner job. I'd just given up on a failed hairdressing career. Actually I was a shampoo girl. My fate had been sealed several years prior when I'd gotten caught ditching my high school Spanish class. That was my solution to some nasty bullying. All I knew was that I couldn't go back to that class and when one hapless guidance counselor got the unpleasant duty of reprimanding me, he'd tried to scare me with some line about needing Spanish coursework for when I applied for a university. Silly fool. College? Me? I'm one of six children and a girl. Didn't he know anything?
"Well, what are you going to do with your life?" he'd asked me.
"Be a mother and a wife, of course." I thought, "what else?" But he seemed to want an answer. I knew I liked to write and to read books. But you can't make a living out of that, can you? Hmmm, well, I also knew a girl who was in a program to become a hair stylist. I liked blow drying my hair. I was pretty good at styling it. I really couldn't think of any other profession at that moment and I figured he needed an answer. It was his job after all. Guidance counselor. So, I gave him something mostly so I could get out of his office.
"I want to be a hairdresser," I said.
Oh that sweet man! From then on, he worked with a vengeance to get me into the 2-year cosmetology program and my hairdressing career was off and running. The first thing I learned was that I didn't really like to touch other people's hair. But the commitment was made. So, I'd give it all I had, which turned out to be very little. I never made it past shampoo girl and I was tired of living in my parents' house. Remember the six kids?
Friday, December 2, 2016
I've just reread the hilariously entertaining book, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durell. As Durell, a young boy living on the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s, recounted his intimate relationship with the creeping crawling creatures of the area, I could not help but think of my own, not-so-romantic experience on Corfu in 1987. I'd missed the last ferry to the mainland and had to spend the night in a hotel that boasted a closeness to nature like none I wanted to experience. I'd thought my stint on the mainland in the village of Margariti, a few years prior, had desensitized me to those creatures. But I was wrong.
Rewind to that first experience of the Greek countryside in Epirus, 1983. Within the altered state of mind-numbing culture shock, I'd become hypersensitive to sounds--not only to the lilt of approaching Greek-speakers but also to the barely audible sounds of small creatures that only I seemed to hear until they made their presence blatantly known. Take the Greek termites, for example. A small scratching sound, almost imperceptible, unless you happened to be lying wide-eyed in the middle of the night, a thin sheet sticking to the sweat on your body. In that case, as was the case for me on those sweltering, pre-air-conditioned nights, I implored my husband, Nick, to identify from where the sound was coming but he couldn't hear it. I, on the other hand, could localize the vicinity somewhere near the floor by the door but when I turned on the light, there'd be nothing there. It wasn't until we'd needed that one wooden chair for a dinner guest, that the scratching sound was accurately identified. I retrieved the chair from the bedroom and brought it to the guest beneath the grape arbor where the family had gathered for a meal. The guest sat on it, and with a small creak, the chair disintegrated under his bottom and he fell to the ground.