As a young kid in the eighties, a memorable moment of my first trip to Greece, was standing in front of the crumbling Parthenon. I had a white marble rock in my hand, one I’d picked up from within the roped barriers.
I whispered to my mum in Greek: “Θέλω να το πάρw”. I want to take it.
‘You can’t’, she whispered back, firmly, a polite look on her face but clearly thinking, ‘Drop the rock, kid!’
What happened next was this. A nearby security guard, overheard my desire to take the rock. He raised his hands above his head and without reserve yelled, ‘Take it home, my girl!
I thanked the man and quickly shoved my newly acquired piece of Hellenic history into mum’s drawstring handbag.
I will never know why the guard yelled that out.
I believe though, that he felt an immense sense of pride.
Pride, in that the pinnacle of his country was equally revered by a cute little ‘xeni’ girl, who spoke broken Greek.
That memory of Greece is important to me. It signifies the essence of being Greek.
Greeks are proud, generous, passionate people. Yes, anyone who knows a Greek well, will say that they are not without their eccentricities but generally speaking, a Greek will quite happily oblige, just to please you.
I was born here in Australia and I identify as Australian.
No question. Proud of it.
I also consider myself Greek.
My heritage is Greek.
And cultural heritage becomes lost, if not fiercely preserved.
My parents are first generation Australians, Assisted Passage immigrants.
They arrived aged 17 and 19, looking for a new life.
And a new life they received.
Australia delivered in leaps and bounds.
My Grand Parents, Great Grand Parents and as far back as my family history can be traced – they were all Greek. I can speak, read and write the Greek language, though not too well. I eat Greek food, uphold Greek Orthodoxy, and I have Greek friends. I watch the Greek news, I have Greek relatives and I participate in Greek traditions.
When times get tough, I dream about escaping, to Greece.
I think that kid in the 1980s understood more than her Mum expected, in wanting to nick that little piece of Ancient Greece.
As much as we are products of our environments, I believe culture is also innate and it shouldn’t be denied.
I love both. I am both.
What’s your story? You from elsewhere or are you dinky di?
NB. I have since learnt that taking rocks from the Acropolis is illegal. It is termed Elginism, after the British Lord who removed the Parthenon Marbles and transported them to England. I plan to return my rock, as soon as I can.
It belongs there.