History is written by the victors, they say. It also happens to be largely written by the men. I won’t narrate all the random (and abundant) thoughts that come to mind when recalling the history of Greece (and the world); a history undeniably glorious, but also undeniably glorifying one gender disproportionately more than the other. I will just say how honoured I feel that, today, September 13th 2017, I was the first female ever to pass on the ‘wreath of honour’ to the Mayor of Kastellorizo, on the commemoration day of the island’s liberation from Italian forces, during World War II.
It traditionally holds truth that only men are chosen to give the wreath to the official figures before depositing it to the relevant monument, to pay their respect. At least that’s what I’ve been told by locals. If it holds true and it’s not an urban (rather rural) legend, I happen to be the first lady to take this largely ceremonial position, the first one to make these few, small steps towards one of Greece’s numerous history reminders.
Something within me tells me that I should probably emphasise the mere fact that I had the chance to participate in a historical commemoration day that marks the island’s path towards liberation from a long history of foreign occupation. A great day, indeed. But at the same time, I cannot disregard the ‘woman factor’, this feeling I had, surrounded by a crowd of imposing male, either thanks to uniform, title or authority. Male who often tend to over-emphasise their absurd accumulation of power, male who often make it too explicit how peculiar they consider a young lady vacationing alone, walking alone, dining alone, ‘living’ and enjoying life alone…male who often articulate peculiar, borderline sexist insinuations. In most occasions, I respond to these with my indifference. While today I responded with my mere existence among them. I mean, really, I was the only female presence among a massive bunch of men. And something tells me that this is a quite accurate depiction of the wider female presence in our history books.
Dear Mayor of Kastellorizo, my grandad’s good friend and probably the island’s most unconventional (semi-political) figure,
Thank you for asking me to do this! It was a great honour giving this wreath to you, in particular.
Thank you for choosing me to represent thousands of under-represented souls who might have fallen on the background of history, the mothers, the grandmothers, the daughters, those who were always depicted as vulnerable, those first to enter the refugee ships to flee war, those who kept within them the hope of our nation’s (re)birth, miles away from home. I am sure when you asked me if I would like to participate in the ceremony, you would not think it would take this symbolic meaning to me. It just happened, and I cannot but embrace and celebrate this feeling: Greek women have always been there, it’s just that they have been less visible, or less celebrated.
The (lady) Principal of the Santrapian Urban College finished off her speech today, saying that Greeks should rightly celebrate their freedom from foreign occupation, but we still have a lot of ‘freedoms’ to fight for, including moral, social and economical. Well, that certainly holds truth for the female fight for recognition, a fight that has a long way to be won…even in 2017.
Happy Liberation Day little Kastellorizo with your gloriously, but sadly, silently strong, women.