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We are not always who we think we are

By Diane HelentjarisPublished 2 years ago 1 min read
Photo by author.

Ourania, the daughter of the banker and Cleo,

spoke English.

Ourania, my cousin, the princess of the backstory.

Great aunt Katherine’s husband had been from up north -

Macedonia, Thrace, Thessaloniki, some place like that.

“A Turk,” some claimed.

Others said he drank too much.

Whatever the facts,

he left her with very little when he died.

Katherine asked to have me visit and I went alone.

Her whitewashed cottage,

no bigger than a Kentucky pioneer’s first log cabin,

had an open hearth at one end

and a shelf along a sidewall

for sleeping and eating

like the Romans did a thousand or two or three thousand years ago.

To meet the requirements of hospitality,

a boy about six or seven, his back straight with responsibility,

ceremoniously carried in

a single glass of water on a platter

and offered it to me.

I took it with a smile and thanked her and him.

We shared some time together,

all we could share

as we had no common language,

only common blood.

When it was time to go,

she gave me a photograph

wrapped in a white paper napkin,

her wedding picture.

She stands in her ornate dress,

wearing her dowry of coins on her breast and across her forehead

with the clean features she passed on to her son, Niko.

The photograph confirms

our Albanian heritage.

For her wedding dress is classic Arvanite from Attica.

Katherine in her wedding dress. Photo provided by author.

Even in Greece, half my family were immigrants,

Albanians who came to Attica

and gave us our hybridized name — half Albanian and half Greek.

The people of the world never stop moving,

never stop reconfiguring.


We are all wanderers.

social commentary

About the Creator

Diane Helentjaris

Diane Helentjaris uncovers the overlooked. Her latest book Diaspora is a poetry chapbook of the aftermath of immigration. www.dianehelentjaris.com

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