This is a discovery story of a familiar face becoming family within a second, thousands of miles away from home. The world is not as big as it may seem and every person has a connection even in unusual places.
It was refreshing getting a break from the salty wind and scalding sun.
My family and I traveled to Greece for the first time a couple summers ago. It was important for my sisters and I to travel there, being that we have a lot of relatives living in Greece and our parents wanted to immerse us in our culture. We did the touristy attractions and activities earlier that week. We saw the Acropolis, the Parthenon and ate a lot of gyros. But there is so much more that the country had to offer us. We traveled out of Athens, stopping at different spots along the way. One of them was the Isthmus of Corinth.
The bridge that spanned over the isthmus generated gusts that whipped in every direction. And the sun was so bright I could not bare to look up at the sky. But the water… I’d never seen a blue deeper in my whole life. Light brown rock faded up the sides of the isthmus and huge cargo boats managed to squeeze through the pin straight waterway.
My family and I walked into the small pastry shop that was right next to the bridge. Instantly I was hit by the smell of baked sweets and the bold scent of the coffee that was freshly brewing.
The shop did very well for itself. People flooded into the shop and were speeding through to get a closer spot in the already long line. So as my parents and little sisters tried to figure out what they wanted to snack on, I already knew so I stood in the line.
Different languages and accents poured into my ears. A family was speaking rapid-fire German, a couple spoke in a different dialect of Spanish I was not used to and many other languages I couldn't defer from one another. The majority of the people, though, were Greek and fortunately I could understand bits and pieces.
My town back at home was nowhere near as diverse as where my family and I traveled to. Part of me felt belonging because my roots are from Greece. The other part of me felt out of place, in a completely different world; vulnerable. Besides the people I have traveled with, I did not know a single soul.
“Πως σε λένε?” Who are you? Pulled quickly away from my thoughts, I looked down at a gray-haired woman who was examining me. Her bright green eyes filled with water and we stood their in complete absence of sound; not even the other people’s conversations could penetrate the silence between the two of us.
I responded (with a pour accent), “Είμαι` Εβδοκία Κυριαζόπυλος.” I am Eva Kirie. The woman starts welling up even more and holds my hand gingerly in hers. My breath became short. Because I could barely speak any greek, I asked the woman, “Do I know you?”
From behind, my dad walked up next to me and his hand drew up over his mouth and muffled, “Oh my god.” Immediately afterwards, he gives the old woman a hug that lasted for many seconds.
“Who is this woman?” I whispered to him as soon as he let go of her.
He turned around with one arm still wrapped around the small woman. Wrinkles appeared at the corners of his eyes and mouth. “This is my mom’s sister, Bessy.” He answered. “I haven't seen her in twenty years.” Looking down at her, she smiled and she placed her frail hand gently into his.
We were forty miles away from her home village and I was over five thousand miles away from home.
Surprise swept over my whole body. Bessy looked up at my dad and told him, “Μοιάζει ακριβώς με τη μαμά σου.” She looks exactly like your mom. Never until that moment did I ever see my dad tear up like that. Instantaneously his eyes filled up with water and he wiped away his tears.
Almost right after she said that I was welling up. But I could not figure out why, in that moment. Maybe because I never met my grandma. Maybe because my dad was crying and that triggered my tears. Feeling overwhelmed. I did not know then.
A few days later my family and I drove forty miles into a small town called Magoula. According to my dad, four generations of “Kirie’s” lived in that same little χωριό (village) and that same little house. Right next to the village there was a cemetery for all of the fallen that had lived in Magoula. The cemetery was located right next to the biggest vineyard I had ever seen. The freshness of the grapes filled the air with a sweet scent. My family and two aunts walked over to the graves my grandma and grandpa were resting in. Their graves covered in a beautiful white marble. In greek writing were their names, birthdays, days they passed and pictures of them.
Both of my sisters began hugging my parents and I could not stop looking at the photo of my grandma. Sure enough, great aunt Bessy was exactly right… I was a carbon copy of my grandma. Eyes, hair color, freckles, everything lined up perfectly. Nothing in me could hold back the emotion that I felt.
To this day I still cannot believe the luck, the miracle, or whatever I should call that event having met my great aunt Bessy. I am still confused how I could have met her. From some instinct she came up to me in the middle of a pastry shop next to the Isthmus of Corinth. A pastry shop where I thought I knew no one besides my family.