My first thought upon landing
at Athens Airport was, "I left here 39 years ago and now I'm back home."
I went through the procedures of the passport check and getting my luggage. As I looked around, I felt alone: no one was there to greet me and I feared that the travel arrival times were miss-communicated.
Other people around me were greting their loved ones with hugs and kisses. I stood there alone... a few moments seemed endless, until I heard someone calling "Dena" and running towards me.
It was Rula, my brother's girlfriend.
I recognized her by her pictures and by her voice as I had spoken with
her many times over the telephone. I instantly focused on Lambros, my second
oldest brother, and upon Viyia, my youngest brother's wife.
We hugged and kissed. I was not alone. I was with family. Though they do not speak English and I speak Greek very poorly, tears of love are a universal way of expressing an emotion that is so deep. The five hour car ride from Athens to Rizvounon (the family home) was breathtaking in beauty and I gazed upon it like a child seeing Disneyland for the first time.
we turned into the stret where the family home is, I could see a lot of
people waiting in front of the home to greet me. I took a deep breath and
knew that my past and future were awaiting me with open arms.
Brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces, nephews and uncles, cousins were there. Being introduced to everyone in a split second was like being in a whirlwind.
One cousin spoke English and he was able to fill me in on the relationship. We all went inside into a room where I beheld a sight of beauty with my eyes that only a child can have of her mother. With outstretched arms I was being held in the loving arms of my mother that hadn't hold me for 39 years. I sat on her bed next to her and with trembling hands she kept stroking my hair and my face.
As a child I cannot fathom the idea of the emotion of my mother must have felt. As a mother with a daughter of my own, I know her emotion. We stayed up all night talking, crying and laughing. We called it a night and the next 12 days our family reunion allowed me to see our family in their everyday settings - only this time I was sharing it with them, not as an outsider, but as their daughter and sister, aunt, cousin, niece and God-daughter.
Greece is beautiful. I saw old ruins and new buildings, I saw cooton fields and mountains where marble is quarried. I saw monasteris, the beuatiful sea, a life that is so simple and yet such a hard life is quite a contrast to what we take for granted here in the United States.
I watched an 83 years old woman
work a weaving loom with her feet. I picked sea shells out of the sea.
I beheld the beauty of my niece and her fiancé getting married in
the Greek Orthodox Church. I danced Greek folk dances with my family.
So many times I had the feeling my adoptive mother Faye was there sharing the reunion with me in spirit. I never realized how lucky my twin and I were to have her adopt us, as she also was Greek. Because of her and her proud heritage of being Greek, she had us learn our native tongue (we chose not to be as fluent as we should have been).
She had us learn Greek folk dancing and we were raised in the Greek Orthodox Church. Everything from the food, the religion, the customs, was already a part of us, nothing was foreign to my sister or me.
I knew I was not a stranger to any of this. I ws part of all of this, I fit right in. I was comfortable with all of this. I felt like I had only been away for a little while.
As I sit here drinking my Greek coffee, I have time to reflect on all that the Blessed Lord has allowed me to be part of. I have two days left in Greece before my scheduled flight back to New York. The most impressive thing that is now bonded in my heart is the amount of love that is here in this home. The amount of love for my sister and I that never left this home. I have been told that there has never been this much happiness from the day we left at the age of 3.
Our mother used to lie in her bed with the feeling there was no tomorrow. Now that we have been reunited she lives for tomorrow. Our one brother George has never danced in his 47 years until I came to Greece and we all danced at my niece's party before the wedding.
Our mother sat in her wheelchair and cried - all our tears, this time for happiness only. To see her childrend together and happy has been her only wish for the last 39 years.
I want to thank Paytra and Chosen Children's Charities for making it possible for me to finally fulfill my dream to meet my family and live the rest of my life with my family and getting to know them all over again.
Paula (Dena) C. Yates
November 18, 2007
Dearest Paytra and Chosen Children's Charities, Inc.,:
Just a personal note to let you know I think of you often.
Almost 10 years later and I still check on the site to read the heartwarming stories, of which I am also one of.
I felt the urge to write you to give you an update of the family that you, and through the grace of God, gave myself and my twin sister.
Made two more trips to Greece, to visit the family. Once as a kind of get-away (after the death of my husband), almost 5 years ago, from cancer and the other to be with our natural brothers and families after the death of our natural mother and one of my nephews approx., 1 year ago last August.(also from cancer)
There have also been 2 births in the families in Greece and I am now a Grandmother myself of a beautiful Grandaughter.
Without Chosen Children's Charities and you Paytra, I would have never had the opportunity to meet her, our brothers and their families.
We are still in constant touch with each other.
Again, from the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime, you gave me to be part of their lives that I would never have been able to do on my own.
Wishing you the best for the upcoming Holidays, and hoping all is well with each and everyone of you.
With the deepest Love, Respect and Humility
Paula C.(Dena) Yates