Mother's Day is a time for all of us to reflect on the importance of mother's in the lives of their children. It seems that motherhood is not exactly looked upon, these days, as the kind of role that young women should aspire to. The message that modern Western society gives young women is that motherhood and everything it entails is not glamorous or fulfilling. After all, who wants to change diapers, wipe runny noses and perform the myriad menial tasks that it takes to raise a child. Despite this not too subtle subliminal message in movies, books and magazines, the mothering instinct is still a powerful force and no amount of feminist brainwashing can eliminate the intrinsic woman's need to raise, nurture and protect children.
One of my favorite books was written by a fellow Greek -American named Nicholas Gage. Gage is a former investigative journalist for The New York Times and his book is the true story of his own mother, Eleni. Eleni Gatzoyiannis was executed by Greek Communist guerrillas during the Civil War in Greece. She lived her entire life in a remote mountain village named Lia, located on the Greek-Albanian border with her three daughters and young son, Nicholas. Eleni's husband, like many Greek men from rural Greece, was working in the United States when World War II broke out and Eleni was thrust into the role of singlehandedly providing for and safeguarding her family during the difficult tumultuous decade of the 1940s.
The Greek Civil War is a subject that is still difficult to discuss in Greece without engendering deep seated emotions. Its history suffers today from substantial Leftist revisionism and those years inflicted psychological scars on the Greek psyche that have yet to heal. From 1939 to 1949, one out of every ten Greeks was killed, 450,000 in World War II and 150,000 in the civil war. Over 100,000 Greeks were exiled to the Soviet Bloc, some willingly, others forcibly. One of the most heinous crimes during the war, and there were many, was the wholesale kidnapping and forcible relocation of 28,000 Greek children behind the iron curtain. Eleni refused to give up her children to the "paidomazema" which means literally, gathering of children, and for her efforts to save them she was tortured, tried and eventually executed.
Nicholas Gage spent years researching the events that led to his mother's death and the details of her execution in order to find the men that killed her. In the end, although he finally succeeds in confronting the man who ordered his mother's execution, he is unable to carry out his plan to kill him and exact revenge.
He writes the following at the end of his book:
Her final cry, before the bullets of the firing squad tore into her, was not a curse on her killers but an invocation of what she died for, a declaration of love: "My children!"
Unlike Hecuba, my mother did not spend the last of her strength cursing her tormentors but like Antigone she found the courage to face death because she had done her duty to those she loved. Sophocles' Antigone tells the man who has condemned her to death, her uncle and King "It 's not my nature to join in hating, but in loving."
That was Eleni's nature as well and Katis had not been able to destroy it by killing her. Like the mulberry tree in our yard which still stands after the house has fallen to ruins that love has taken root in us, her children, and spread to her grandchildren as well.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there and thank you for all you do on behalf of your children