Michelle: Greek Connections

Michelle. Faces of the Festival 2019. Steven Meckler photo

My ancestry is Greek, Swedish, and Irish. I feel most connected to my Greek heritage. A decade ago I took a trip to the island my grandfather is from, called Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea. In the town of Sami, everything was “Stefanatos”: the pharmacy, the hardware store. I don’t speak much Greek but I tried talking to the pharmacist, the person at the hardware store. I was just so excited to say, “I’m Stefanatos, too!” Everyone was skeptical and wasn’t as excited as I was. Eventually I talked to the gentleman who sells tobacco, newspapers, and chocolate on the harbor. I told him who I am. He looked at his watch and said, “You know what? You need to talk to Vaso.” He showed me where she lived. I went upstairs to her apartment, and she was watering her plants on her terrace. She looked at me and said, “Your eyes, your skin, your hair” and started crying and hugged me. She’s an older woman who married into the Stafanatos family, but she knew my grandfather and was his first cousin. I felt, for the first time ever, that I belong somewhere on the planet, which was a really, really profound feeling.

-Michelle

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