Flag flutters for freedom over the Greek island of Oinousses.
Candles flame still for the Chios massacre and diaspora.
No chime at church but the goats assemble with their brassy bells.
Mythological calm beyond the horizon.
My cousin guards dinner plates teeming with tens of thousands of bass and bream.
End of shift. Shift. Play.
I travel with Homer and Ms. Simpson to the castle at Mytilene.
Down at the taverna, news spills out about the landing of 17 Turkish asylum seekers.
Swimming against the tide that just won't turn.
Solitude on a beach with grains of sand that you can count in one palm.
Final visit to the stone house that my grandfather built as a refugee from Asia Minor.
The boat departs from Oinousses with a memory that can never return.
Greek War of Independence, 1821-1829
Greek nation state established after 400 years of Ottoman empire rule.
Greco-Turkish War, 1919-1922
Greek invasion of Northwestern part of Anatolia is defeated with establishment of modern Turkish state.
Treaty signed in 1923 to effect a population exchange of 1.5 million Greeks and Turks.
UNESCO have just listed Rebeitko on its Cultural Heritage List. This is the music and dance that my grandparent's generation brought over to Greece in the 1920s after they were displaced from the crumbling Ottoman empire. The happenings at late night cafes and clubs articulated the feelings of refugees. They grappled with poverty and despair while searching for earthy love and spiritual consolation.
Oinousses is 1 mile from Chios and 5 miles west of Turkey. Its waters, airspace and land are contested.
At its peak in 2015, more than one million migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea. The islands of Lesbos, Chios and Oinousses, given their close proximity to the Turkish mainland, are one of easiest zones of approach into Europe for asylum seekers and economic migrants coming from Western Asia, South Asia and Africa.
I’m going to climb up to the highest mountain and sing.
When I cry and am in pain, the mountain will sigh.
To Μικρό ταξίδι
To Micro Taxithi
The small journey.
This is the name scholars gave to the 8km journey across the azure stretch of Aegean sea
From Anatolia, Asia-Minor, Turkey in-the-making
A red-blooded journey once made from that landmass to the Greek island of Oinoussa.
My family and other animals were empire builders, well versed in trading, seafaring.
Of late they had settled into tilling the Ottoman soil and and selling crops to market.
This bucolic existence prepared them not a jot for twentieth century war, famine, genocide.
Forced to flee and cast out to sea, my grandparents made that small journey from Anatolia to Oinoussa in 1922
While over a million Greeks (not to mention Greek and Turkish muslims) were displaced from their ancient homeland.
Modern refugees from Syria and other conflicted regions are making this self-same journey
Across the Aegean to Oinoussa and the nearby islands of Chios and Lesbos.
Where will their journey take them ?
I am compelled to tell of another more expansive journey in 1943.
The phoney war was dead real and my father limped on foot and by boat from Poland to England.
He joined the Polish Free Army and armed with wings of freedom parachuted back into Europe
Only to experience a bitter victory as Communism replaced Nazism.
He joined the ranks of over 200,000 Poles who settled down for a new life in England.
A small journey from Włocławek to London, boy to man, soldier to carpenter.
Return back to the future on the island of Oinoussa.
In 1959 my mother makes the painful decision to wave goodbye to her father for the last time.
Her sister has already made the move and tempts her with dresses from Shepherds Bush market.
Another journey is made by boat to the white cliffs of Dover and a sterling new world.
A small journey from Oinoussa to London, girl to woman, servant to dinner-lady.
While my father's earthly voyage has ended, the diaspora is beginning anew.
Today more desperate migrations are being made by air, land and even under the English channel.
Bodies are once again being washed ashore on the beaches of Oinoussa, Chios and Lesbos.
Where will all these journeys take you?
If one day you arrive on this fair isle of England, I will be there to welcome you.
Polish Parachute Brigade, 1945
Farewell party for Moshoula Christofis
The house my Grandfather built in 1922 on the island of Oinoussa
The transmigration of Greek souls
16x12 " oil pastels
The small journey across the Aegean
64x41 " oil pastels