Funerals, who I really am and you don’t want me to be

I just realized today that I’ve never been in a funeral in my whole life. There are about 5 people that passed away and that I would definitely be at their funeral, but as it happened I am always away at these time. For the first two deaths I was in Germany, for the next two in UK and for the recent one, well, I am in USA.

If anyone is interested, the deaths occurred by:
2 died of motorcycle accidents (17 and 21 years old)
2 died of cancer (over 55 years old)
1 died of old age (my grandmother). Nobody knows how old really she was as in early 20th Century Greece children were written in municipality papers whenever the parents felt like doing so, but the consensus is that she was born in 1908 and when she was “given” to be married to my grandfather, their parents lied about her age citing as birthday the time she was written in the papers rather than when she really got born. As it turns out, my grandmother was 5 years older than my grandfather, and she was in fact *remembering* the day she went with her father to get written in the municipality office and get the birth certificate.

I think it is time to blog about something I have been holding back for a long time. It will be of little interest to non-Greeks, but Greeks who know history will recognize some importance. It’s about that grandmother’s family, the “Gousis” family (a family that I know VERY little btw). I am not happy that 1/4 of me comes from the same genepool that betrayed the Souliotes to the Turks in 1803.

Yes, my grandmother’s surname is Gousis from Vrysoula, Preveza (before the changing of village names in Greece, the village was known as “Zarmi”). Pelios Gousis was the man who revealed to the Turks a secret path to the Souli village up to the mountain, allowing the Turkish army to get up there and massacre men, women and children. After the betrayal, he ran off to Zarmi. Three small teams survived the original massacre, one fled to south Corfu (original Corfu people dislike the south Corfu people because they receive them as village people from back then) and one got to live south of Patra where they created new villages with the same names as in their previous Epirus-based home. The third team was caught up, and the well-known story to most Greeks happened: the women and children decided to suicide by falling from a mountain cliff rather than give in to the Turks (I think they could have surrender, but they decided to die).

Normally, you would think “who cares”. I mean, I am the last person that you would call chauvinist, and you all know how I disregard such stuff. And yet, a piece of me always felt ashamed (my father too). Even if — I am pretty sure — the current Gousis young people living in that area probably have no idea about their ancestor (I don’t give them enough credit of knowing their own local history). But I do, and that kind of hurts me in a way.

Thankfully, the rest 3/4 of my family are patriot Souliotes who fought against the Turks. Or so I think because my mother is dark-skinned while her siblings are not (her siblings are blondes while she is all dark), which means that she has a gene in her ancestry that might either come from south Greece or from a Middle-Eastern bloodline — but no one knows for sure as my mother’s side of family doesn’t keep up much with history as much as my grandfather’s on my father’s side. In fact, at my grandfather’s father’s side we know that the first “Lolis” arrived in Skiadas (my original village) at the end of the 18th Century from another village near Ioannina called “Elezna” (today the name only survives as a local place, not as a village anymore). He was chased away by the Turks when he killed a Turk who had raped his sister. The only way out of that mess was to move to the villages under the rule of Souli, which were free of Turks. Until Pelio-Gousis betrayed them all that is, a few years later.

In a nutshell: I am happy of my father’s father side. I am ok with my mother’s both side which seem to… check out at least ok. I am not happy on my father’s mother side, even if after 200 years no one gives a rat’s ass about it.

This blog post took quite some courage to write it, but I wrote it for all the wrong reasons. It wasn’t because I wanted to come out clean, but because currently I am under a personal drama that involves decisions taken by the Greek government that affect me in a huge way, and so I just feel extremely angry at them. I will blog about these adventures when the right time comes. Let’s hope that they haven’t woken up that 1/4 of me that was lying dormant for 200 years.

1 Comment »

Adam wrote on July 18th, 2007 at 1:33 AM PST:

Who you are is who you decide you want to be. Remember that.

You can be ashamed of parts of your family history, certainly, but never let yourself feel as though there is part of you responsible for any of that. We are complex beings with with a complex consciousness. Ultimately, to be at peace, you must only make amends for your own actions and forgive yourself your own faults.

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