Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Humans of Downey - Kostas


"It was the summer of 1974, July. I was 6 and would turn 7 next year. The Greek government was falling apart. It was a military dictatorship and it wasn't bad that it was falling apart. However, while it was falling apart it was taking with it a lot. One of the things that happened was the invasion by the Turkish military of the island, Cyprus. This put the Greek armed forces on alert. Unfortunately, they weren't much to speak of, at that time.

"I remember a picture, a picture of my mother and grandmother crying about my father who was going to turn 41 in just a few days. This happened on July 20th, which is a very big day for Greece. It is the day we celebrate Elijah and it's a big celebration. My father was going to turn 41 on August 1st. The government was calling every male of 40 or below to the military conscription units. War was going to break out and I thought the world was coming to an end. And at this time that this whole thing was happening, we lived a mile from the Bulgarian border.

"I'll never forget that day. I'll never forget the crying. I'll never forget the insecurity. The possibility of destruction, for the second time in my grandmother's life and for the third time in my great grandmother's life. It was a defining moment in my young life. It's a moment when you realize that security is a very relative thing, relative to your location, of course. Or to your parent's age, i.e., are you going to lose your dad to a war. And relative to your economic/social background. It was difficult.

"It was the first time I ever saw television. We lived in such a remote area that there was no... We actually had a television that was gifted to my family by someone that was visiting from abroad. But it didn't work because there were no transponders to send the signals except for the Bulgarian channels. At the time, during the Cold War, the Eastern Bloc television stations would transmit the picture and the sound on different frequencies than the Western television sets would pick up. So, on one channel we would get the picture and on another channel we would get the sound for that same picture.

"But on that day, the 20th of July, 1974, I saw, for the first time, television. It was news and the national anthem and nationalistic propaganda of the impending war. Thank God, the United States 6th fleet inserted itself predominately between Greece and Turkey. This averted an all-out war between the two countries. It would have been catastrophic for Greece. I don't know about Turkey, but for Greece it would have been catastrophic. And for my family. It was the second time in my life when I pondered the thought, 'Why would some other people that I do not know spend money to keep me safe, when my own government wasn't interested in doing so?' The first was when I found a old oil can in the basement. It had two hands grasping each other with an American flag in the background. I asked my grandmother what this was. She replied, 'It was aid from the Americans in 1947."
~ Kostas

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