I’m doing Meredith Lewis December Advent Creative Calendar challenge. Today’s creative prompt is:
“Well, I would put a question to you. What’s the difference between you and your great-great-great-grandfather? What makes you different?
I think the answer is this: what you take for granted.”
So what do you take for granted that your forbears didn’t, and vice versa?
When I saw this challenge in my inbox this morning, my mind immediately jumped to an old black and white photo that my aunt had showed me when I was last in Greece in 2005.
She took the photo off her mantlepiece which showed a fierce man with a big moustache and armed with a rifle and knife in his belt.
“That’s your great-great-grandfather Helen,” she said.
She explained how he lived at a time in Crete that was occupied by the Turks.
If anyone knows the history of Crete, you’ll know how independent they were and how they fought continually against their invaders of this Mediterranean island whose soil holds the blood of all that fought for its independence from invading armies of Arabs, Venetians, Turks and Nazis.
To be Greek, and to have grown up with stories of independence is simply in your being. Despite Greece achieving its independence in 1821, it was still many years later that parts of its islands struggled to be liberated such as Crete.
Crete wasn’t liberated from the Ottomans until 1898 and let me add that the Cretans fought in every way to get rid of their oppressors. Many of the battles were violent and bloody – entire villages wiped out. Some of the stories were sickening to hear or read about.
So with this challenge, I thought of my ancestors who were living in extreme poverty, second class citizens in their own land, having to watch the invaders take their homes, their lands, their children (to have them learn the Turkish language and be raised as Muslims) and be banned from practicing their christian orthodox religion.
My ancestors lived in violent times, ones where there was constant insurgency and revolutions from the Cretan occupation against the Ottomans. It’s no wonder that the tension between Greeks and Turks is still felt to this day – after over 400 years of being occupied by a foreign power is still considered recent history for us.
As I looked at the photo of my ancestor, I was proud.
I had hoped he was one of the insurgents who fought for the independence of Crete and took part in the clashes against the foreign armies.
In an instant, I connected to the man in the photo.
To be independent is to be free from oppression.
I don’t take my independence for granted. I see it in the photos and stories of my ancestors, I grew up listening to my parents talk about it. I hear the songs being sung about it; I see the artworks like this on the left in our homes.
Unless your country has been invaded by a foreign power, we will never truly understand what it means to be independent.
I’d fight for independence in a heart beat too.