This post is written in honor of my grandparents and all of the Greeks who gave their lives and survived during WWII. OXI Day is October 28th and it commemorates the day the Greeks said, no, and took Greece back.
While we usually think about the Nazis terrorizing the Jewish people, we also have to remember that they went after other races and even other Christian denominations. Since Greece is next to Italy, Germany’s enemy, the Germans occupied Greece during WWII.
Both of my grandparents experienced family members being killed during the war. My yiayia, grandmother, and her siblings were orphaned because the Nazis killed her father along with several other men from the village. Then her mother died of a broken heart. My papou, grandfather, had a brother killed during the war as well.
My grandmother had to move to another village with her aunt and uncle, who also experienced loss at the hands of the soldiers. Their home was burned down and they had hardly anything. The uncle was sent to a Nazi prison and no one knew if he was dead or alive. By the grace of God he was saved, because the war ended and he came home. Can you imagine all of this tragedy and uncertainty?
Whenever I didn’t want to eat my vegetables, my grandparents would remind me that I didn’t know what it was like to be hungry, because they had nothing in Greece and that I should be grateful to God for all that I have. As a child I didn’t quite understand what this meant, but as I grew up I came to appreciate their words of wisdom. It’s helped me have an appreciation for all that I have.
What Helped Them Survive?
Their faith in God carried them through the troubled waters. I never understood why my grandmother was so religious. Everything she talked about came back to being grateful to God. If I got up early when I spent the night, I’d find her quietly praying at her icon corner with candles lit. When she saw us awake, she’d make us wash our face and then we had to go to the icon corner and thank God that we were alive. Whenever we got in the car, she’d do her cross and whisper a short prayer in Greek. We prayed before a meal and after she’d do her cross and say, “Thanks to God.” Every evening, she prayed and read her bible. I’m not sure how many times she read her bible through, but I’m sure it was a lot because the binding was worn out. Oftentimes at our sleepovers she’d cense the house with incense and said many prayers in Greek as we followed her around. She said she was asking God to bless the house and keep us safe.
She had a stroke 4 years ago and is unable to speak and cannot move much. Even though this has happened, I know she is still praying. Sometimes I play the Paraklesis for her and I can feel her prayers. An overwhelming sense of peace and comfort falls across the room. My kids have a lot of love for her too even though they don’t remember her before the stroke. She doesn’t need to speak, because they feel her love. There are therapy dogs that visit the nursing home and the lady told me that the dogs always have to see her. They think it is cute that the dogs do this and they said, “I just don’t know what it is about her, but they will search until they find her.” I know what it is. They can feel the love of God through her. If you have a moment, please prayer for her healing.
My yiayia is one of the most beautiful people that I know. Her love and faith in God has carried her through some experiences that none of us could imagine. The example she has laid before me has carried me through difficult times. I try to emulate her loving and faithful spirit and want to instill this in the lives of my children. As you go about your day, I hope that you remember my sweet, little Yiayia and how her faith has always carried her through. If you are experiencing troubled times, think of my yiayia and let your prayers carry you through.
“Lord of the Powers be with us. For in times of distress, we have no other help but you, Lord of the Powers have mercy on us.” – Great Compline