06 Aug Keep Family Memories Alive
Greece had been under grief for the last 12 days after wildfires in East Attiki. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the breaking news, was my family. And my friends… and their families. And all the family memories we shared. There is nothing worse than having this agony if everyone is ok and if you’ll be able to see them again…
Driving to my home village near Kineta, was like going through the fires of hell. My mother and sister were there, trying to keep themselves safe as well our dogs and of course the house. Although we were not in the same community that the wildfire hit, we were quite near, on the other part of the mountain, and uncertain of where the wind will push the fire.
The traffic and the smoke were so heavy that it was impossible to see beyond a few meters. All I could think of was our family gatherings and their smile under the sun… Vivid family memories filled my heart with hope that they would be alive and healthy. Thankfully, when I finally reached the family house and hold both of them in my arms, then I heard my heart beat again.
For two days we could see the fire on the top of Gerania mountain, just a few hundred meters away from us and ready to evacuate if we had too. After that, we throw ourselves to help the communities in need because we had escaped the immediate danger of the fire. I didn’t pay attention to the few items my mother had packed in case of evacuation, how could I? The priorities were different… Only late in the night just before the breaking down of the next day, I took a peek, just because of curiosity.
In between essential items, I could see old and more recent photographs of my family. Black and white and coloured ones that were washed out because of time. I did not open the album… I just stayed there feeling the warmth in my heart and the tears that were gathering in my eyes.
Never before had I felt that being a photographer can be something more than document the great events of life. Going through all these family memories in the digital photo albums on my computer made me burst into tears. Then it hit me… taking pictures is a way to preserve not only the memories but also to evidence our own existence in this life.
I heard on the radio a man that lost his house in Mati, telling to the journalist, that he is grateful for being alive and that it’s ok that his house is burnt to the ground. The only thing he could not stand is that all the family photos were burnt as well and no memories were preserved.
Photographs are the only way we have to connect with our past, our history, our life story and it is also part of the process of clarify our own identity. Moments fade out, but pictures keep them alive and permit us to stay connected even with people that are no longer with us.
Our Family Photo Album
I couldn’t bear the pain in my heart and without a second thought, I opened our family photo album. Firstly, I saw my grandparents in black & white, smiling and a smooth breeze of hope came over me. Then I saw my mother when she was a baby and her mother was holding her with tenderness.
Then I looked at her next to me and I remember her life journey up today. A warm energy of an inner power made me feel strong again. Then I looked at my father’s picture who is no longer with us since 2016, and I felt him next to me.
I closed my eyes for a second and then the feeling of belonging to a loving family gave me the strength to put my pieces together and keep my feet on the ground. I was ready to fight with all fires out there…
Three days after that I was packing my stuff and heading back to Athens. The news was killing us. Friends were lost. Other families were still looking for their people. Chaos and disaster were everywhere around us. In my bag, I had the family photo album. For some reason it made me feel safe. If these photos are safe then our family can save our story for the generations to come.
A friend of mine, Maria once told me that she doesn’t have any recollection of her past. She had lost any connection with her past after their family photo album was destroyed in a fire years before this week. She shared with me how sad it is not to have a single photo of her childhood or from her christening.
She is suffering from a disease where it affects her memory and gradually she is losing all the strings with what she had made her personality the person she is today. The sentimental bonds are been deleted under the mechanism of oblivion. And that scared me to the bone. I put my hand on the top of the bag and felt the shape of my family photo album, under the fabric, and a voice inside my head told me: “Everything is going to be Ok…”
I am grateful that my family is all well and secure. And I feel blessed that so many people had trusted me to be the medium of keeping their family memories alive. Photographers are carrying the responsibility of protecting the truth and the history of families.
Photographers have a sacred mission to keep family memories alive for the generations to come in order to nurture hope and origins.
I case you wish to support the survivors from the wildfires in Greece here is a useful link www.gofundme.com/greecewildfirerelief