Surviving the difficult years


Dimitri was a gentle man who would rarely speak about his early years. He had grown up in north western Greece, in a mountain village near the Albanian border in the 1920s. His father had died when he was a young teenager and being the oldest of four boys, he became the main breadwinner of the family. His mother, Maria, was a generous and compassionate woman, but the harsh conditions of the village life and the absence of a strong male presence took its toll on her. She was often short tempered and took out her frustration on her oldest son.

Dimitri worked very hard in the fields but he was just a young boy. On one occasion the harvester fell apart as he was tilling the field, and Maria lost her temper and blamed him for not being careful with this tool. Dimitri swallowed the unjust verbal abuse he had received from his mother and stayed up all night to repair it. He left the repaired harvester in front of the shed so that his mother would see it in the morning when she went to milk the goats, and he left a note on the kitchen table in which he stated he had left to find work in the township about ten kilometres away.

After going from shop to shop, he found a baker who was willing to take him on and teach him the trade of bread-making at the local fourno (oven). He would have a roof over his head and he would learn a trade that would serve him well, especially as the baker saw potential in Dimitri. He was a boy that did not cringe at hard work and an early 3.00 a.m. start every day. When Maria realised what she had done by taking out her frustration on her son, she became distraught. Not only had she accused Dimitri of something he had not been responsible for, but she had also lost her leading farm hand and her household helper. He was the one who had supported her after she had lost her husband.

After trying to carry on without him for a few weeks, she went and found him, and her tears and pleading won Dimitri over. He abandoned an excellent opportunity to gain a stable trade and returned to the village to help her. It was not long however before she too passed away due to a flu epidemic, and Dimitri was left to be the protector and guardian of his brothers. Later on, with a family of his own, he had to make the difficult decision to migrate to Germany first as a migrant worker, and then to Australia. Wherever he went, his employers loved him because he remained a man of few words but of deep commitment who never put himself forward. It was always the needs of others he served.


Source: Lychnos August/September 2018