(Mr. Leousis, addressing his current class continues. The students are very attentive and anxiously waiting to hear "The Gypsy.", story. Most students have had the pleasure of listening to Mr. Leousis, tell them the original story, "In the beginning, there was, The Light.", while others have read the story online.)
I notice that you have a double period, so we will have time to cover the Gypsy story. Shall we begin?
(Expected smiles pervade the class.)
Dr. Mandemis was able to take hold of himself once Dr. Papadopoulos confirmed his observations. They both assured my mother that for the time being, I was alright. They advised her to gain her composure so as not frighten the child, "Liako" further. She should go about her business as if nothing had happened. Maria, the nurse, glass of water in hand for my mother, assured her that all would be alright. She would come by the house the following day, after the noon nap, (απογευματινός ύπνος) to see how I was doing. My mother and I left the clinic and headed for the "Ζαχαροπλαστείο" (Confectionery): The "Zaharoplastio," was the place where my mother would take me most days for my treat of yogurt and honey.
You see, at that time, my mother had brought me to the clinic numerous times, out of concern that I was not gaining weight. I was a real slim and bony young boy: Well, I was hardly ever home to eat. (Mr. Leousis, chuckles.) The wonderful world outside was too enticing for me to be home at any time of day and to think of food.
By sunrise, we would wake up to the sound of our rooster Kokoras, "Koukou, rou, koukourooo!" I would get up from bed, call my cousin, Hristos, to open up the basement door. It was his job to set the poultry free from the basement, where they were housed during the night. We would quickly consume our hearty breakfast: It consisted of warm goat's milk that my Giagia had milked from our "Katsika," to which she had added "mboukis." (Bread chunks.)
Early each morning, we would race down the hill from where our home stood. As we descended the hilltop, we would stop to salute the soldiers going in the opposite direction; with smiles, they would salute back. They were marching to the "ena dio, ena dio" (one-two, one-twos); while calling out all types of military marching songs.
They were off to their morning Calisthenics and field drills, and we were off to the adventures that awaited us at their barracks with our gang; this before the soldiers would return to base.
My mother and I, left the clinic, passing by the Platia of Agios Vasilios: Surrounding the church property, were all types of interesting characters of commerce; merchants, beggars, gypsies, and others. If you were to read my story online, there is a link to "The story of Jesus cleansing the Temple." This is an excellent visual description of the Platia of Agios Vasilios at the time. As my mother and I, moved through the crowd, on our way to the "zaharoplastio,"
a gypsy woman suddenly grabs my hand and cries out, "Αυτός είναι, αυτός είναι!" (He is the one, he is the one!) She was sitting down on the ground; her face seasoned by the hardships of life, baked by the daily sun. She was holding a young boy of about seven to eight years of age on her lap. The child simply lay there; a rag doll with arms dangling about as his mother moved and gestured, without any control of his neck. His head bobbed there as she pushed his small body about. He was a paraplegic. The sudden pull of my hand by a total stranger shocked my mother. Enraged she called out in desperation:.. "αφήστε το παιδί μου, βρώμικη γυναίκα" (Let my child go, filthy woman!). "Παρακαλώ κυρία μου, το παιδί σας είναι ευλογημένο, μπορεί να σώσει το παιδί μου.." (Please my lady, your child is blessed. He can save my child.)
I was fixated on the child, curious why he was not alert to his environment? I felt sad for him. My mother suddenly covered my eyes and turned my head away, calling out, "Πάμε να φήσουμε παιδί μου Liako, από αυτήν την τρελή Τσιγγάνa ." (Let's go my Liako. Let's leave from this crazy Gypsy). I could feel my mother clenching even tighter on my hand as she continued to talk to herself about what she had witnessed this day. She would repeat to herself each time.., "An t'akousi o parera sou the frixi." (If your father hears all this, he will freak out).
We arrived at the "Zaharoplastio," where Mr. Antonopoulos, the baker, greeted us as he always had done, by referring to me as Liako, "to palikari." (Liako, the daring one). He and my mother proceeded to gossip, whatever was on "the town menu," that day, of who did what to whom. My mother kept on making reference, time and time again, to these Gypsies and how they should be supervised by the police and things. By mid-day, we returned home.
My grandmother was distraught at what she heard from my mother regarding "my fever." She constantly kept on feeling my forehead and brought several wet towels to cool me down. That annoyed me to no end. She kept on insisting that I lie down and rest, when all I wanted to do, was to get out of that suffocating environment and run free. By late noon, I was sent to bed for the noon siesta. I heard my father come into the house, followed by another volley of loud conversations. Soon after, "the briefing," my father came to my bedside.
I tried to sleep, but I could not: A "video" of sorts, kept on creeping in my mind of the events at the firing range; "The Light," and a myriad of things both imagined and real.
I hung around the house until late afternoon. Despite the call of many of my friends who came to my home, urging me to go out and play, I was "held, hostage." My mother repeatedly appeared at the door informing each child that I had gone to the doctor that day and that he had advised that I not leave the house. I kept on protesting to no avail. By early evening, my mother brought me some "good clothes" and ordered me to get dressed. We were to join my father at "Platia Aeros." Finally, I was to get out to freedom.
We arrived outside the courthouse, which overlooked right out to the "Plateia." We strolled about until my father came to join us. He still carried his camera and sash of pictures, film and other paraphernalia: He was the "official" photographer for the army. periptero," where he would often leave his stuff, until our return. My father would also take his daily refill of a pack "Karelli," cigarettes. After this stop, we were now to join the parade of walkers on the central "Plateia." Now let me describe the principal, "Plateia" to you. (Mr. Leousis begins to draw a large circle and to explain to the class the pattern of walk that people would follow within the "Plateia.")
The walk was performed in such a way, so that no matter when or where you entered; you would be able to crisscross and meet most persons on this path. It was a sort of ritualistic performance of the "Tribe of Tripolis." (Mr. Leousis quotes this with his fingers as he has done in the past.)
One of the things I loved about going to the "Plateia" was the opportunity and thrill to ride a bicycle. I would ask and beg until my parents would take me to the cycle shop, located by the side of the "Plateia." In those days, most kids my age did not have their own bikes as a matter of fact. Owning a bicycle, was a luxury of the rich kids and many of the adults who used bicycles as the primary form of transportation. And so we went, rented a bike and off I went into the garden trails, which surrounded the "Plateia." (Mr. Leousis, again turns to the board and shows the pattern of paths upon which he traveled around the park.)
The garden trails were a labyrinth of zig-ins and outs. It was a beautiful place to be with lush tropical plants, densely populating the grounds. Many long branches of these plants extending out into the pathways of the trails. Such extended branches would often creep up on you as you managed around a bend. Very often, you would be entangled in their grips, landing on the ground before them. (Mr. Leousis, laughs.) Small gas-fired lanterns lighted all trails. The subtle, red graveled trails, themselves glittering as they reflected the man-made lantern light or the light of the moon. With your bicycle tires softly crunching along the path, you sped along these paths to paradise. Here and there, you could hear the serpents (the water sprayers) "sizzling," against the giant tropical leaves. Here and there, the fine refreshing spray of mist would shower your face, while the wetting of the red gravel path, emitted exotic vapors whose scent impacted all of your senses.
At the entrance to the trails, my parents greeted, Mr. and Mrs. Antonopoulos, who also had brought their son, Lefteris (Eleftherios) to ride a bike. Lefteris as his name meant freedom... freedom he was not! He was the chubbiest kid in school at least three times my size for the same age. He was not part of my gang! I knew, I knew, as it had happened many times before, his parents would insist that I babysit this "balloon" while they all went about to enjoy their friendly conversations with my parents at the Platia Café. After repeated patronizing warnings from the adults to be careful of this and that and not to speed, we were free of them. To escape and liberate myself of this babysitting task, I challenged Lefteris to a game of hide-and-seek. I would go up ahead with my bike, and he would seek me out. He would have to count to ten and then take off to look for me.
Elated at the thrill of my ride, I whisked through the trail. Taking risks around the garden bends and encroaching under huge, hung leaves, not caring of what may lay ahead, I- WAS - FREE! Just my bike and me and the road! (Mr. Leousis, chuckles). I knew Lefteris would never catch up with me. The thrill that I had left this load behind, exhilarated my feet to press even harder on the pedals so I could fly! But the unknown was waiting around the bend.
Not anticipating that there would be someone lurking in the grounds, I turned around a bend to approach a fork on the trail. Out of the lush shrub, this man jumps out and yells out, "Stamata!" (Stop!) He was an awful looking person. His dark socket eyes, protruded from his face in the low-lit night, like a masked character out to scare. His long shoulder hair, hiding his golden earring, which protruded now and then from his right ear, told me that he was a "Gifto" (a Gypsy):
As he moved in front of me, he saddled over my front wheel, grabbing my hands as they rested on the handlebars and squeezed them real hard, calling out: "Esi ise dikosmou." (You are mine!) My heart pounded; I tried to pull away, without much success. He then grabbed me by my wrist and began to lift me up like a feather from the seat of my bike. Simultaneously, I felt a jolt and a sudden crash on my bike from behind. My bike is now wheeling forward into the abductor's crutch: He dropped me, his hands now nursing his "tender agony," Aoocch! (Mr. Leousis now drops his hands low on his crutch demonstrating the abductor's agony and smiles.)
When I looked around to see what had hit me, I realized it was Lefteris; he had crashed into us like a massive Rhino on a charge. What an unusual sight from a "real friend" (Mr. Leousis, chuckles. ). As Lefteris, fell to the ground dazed, I got up to my feet and grabbed his hand. I tried to lift him to no avail, crying "pame, pame, grigora" (Let's go quickly.) Again, I called out to him, "trexe ine kakos" (Run he is bad.) The abductor was dazed from the blow. Fearing that he may be discovered, he slowly held on to the side metal railing, which followed the sides of the trail and struggled away in a limp. I was not about to chance his recovery, and so I ran! My "good friend and I" ( Mr. Leousis, chuckles.), both ran as fast as we could, heading for the exit to the park.
When we got to the "Plateia," grounds, and people saw Lefteris crying, a small crowd gathered around us. Within minutes, his father arrived and scolded both us for not being careful on the trails. He headed back into the trail paths with Lefteris in hand, to collect the rented bike. Given all the commotion, the small crowd of six or seven people now focused on the small cut in my lower lip, a small amount of blood seeping out. A woman stepped forth to ask... "ise cala pedi mou?" (Are you alright my child?) ...as she reached to feel my forehead: After realizing my "pireto," she turned to the others to note that, I must be hurt real bad since she thought I had a fever. They all began to huddle around me, one calling out, "Ene tou Leousi o gios" (He is Leousis' son). I tried to explain to people what had just happened, but they were all talking over me. They had reasoned their own conclusions, and so it was, "I had simply just fallen off the bike." When my parents arrived, they were anxious to see me but agitated at me that I had not been careful. I deserved talking to. I tried to explain what really happened, but my father shut me up, saying that he had had enough of me for one day. He after that waded into the cycle path, to emerge moments later, carrying the rented bike, which we returned.
I could not forget that "Ugly-face man," nor forget his stinky breath but I dared say more. My parents were in the "photography mode" and talked about how they should prepare for the "parelassi" (parade) the following day. My mother was working in the darkroom and the demands on her to produce quality photo prints, was an agonizing argument between them forever.
I dared not interrupt their feud for fear I would divert their anger of each other to me. I knew my position in the nature of things. When we arrived home, we had a light supper, which my grandmother had waited on for us and off to bed, I went.
That night, was the most riveting experience, a dream within a dream. (Come float with me in wonder, this is our first Journey through the Elysium's gaze.)
There I was, floating above my body, leaving my home, my city, and beyond. I could feel the cool air of the night, but at each moment, I could switch from one image to the next like a flickering T.V. set, changing the channel. I could be at two places at the same time, my body at sleep, and the young traveler seeking new worlds. I traveled North East to strange lands of endless proportions. Because it was night, I saw a few habitable places but mostly treetops and glimmering lakes, all of which sang to the night sky. Before long, I was over this majestic city beyond which I arrived at familiar grounds.
I began to see armaments hidden in the deep forest. I floated down "into the ground," itself, it was hollow. I soon found myself in this underground complex where soldiers stood guard in front of these massive metal doors. In a large room, I could see this huge box-like machines that had these wheels churning these tapes. It was all strange to me: boxed city." (закрытые административно-территориальные образования, zakrytye administrativno-territorial'nye obrazovaniya): A nuclear facility in the Soviet Union. It was a time of the cold war when the world was on the brink of nuclear war and the end of mankind!
I floated into this other room, where three men wearing white coats sat around, a round table, looking at some scrolled up papers, they were technical drawings. As they spoke in this strange language, I could hear them arguing about something until one of them soon got up and left; I followed him. He went to what seemed to be a metal locker, unlocked it, took out a bottle containing a white, transparent liquid, like water. He drank some of its contents, put the bottle back, and sat down on the bench behind him. He buried his head in his hands, covering his face: It seemed he was struggling with some serious thoughts. Soon after, I began to sense this Light appear on the surface of my right hand which made everything glow: It was a pure bright Light, precisely as I had witnessed at the firing range, the day earlier, during my accident. I sensed my body now moving close to him, my hand reaching out and touching him on the back of his right shoulder.
Immediately, he lifted his head from his cocoon position and began to shiver and shake slightly. He then stood up. He reached again into his locker, took out, a small plate of something that seemed like electronics. He used a small screwdriver to make some adjustment. He then walked down some distance in this long tunnel. It led to another connecting, vertical tube and began to climb. Up and up, he went. His shoes anchoring each and every steel rod of steps. I followed behind him; following the dangling of his white coat and rear end, climbing and climbing, it was an endless ascent. Finally, he reached the summit of his climb where he opened up this metal door by pulling down on this metal latch.
As he walked over this long plank, I could see that he had entered a silo. Looking down I could see this large rocket, something I had never seen before, but which looked very much like and gigantic bullet standing upright. He opened the side of a metal covering, exposing some electronics. Next, he reached out and removed this wafer that looked very much like the one he had brought with him from his locker and exchanged it for the one he had in his coat pocket. Closing the shield cover, he tapped the metal cover plate as if one gives a "good boy" pat on their dog. After that, he brought his right hand to his lips, kissed his fingertips and touched the head of the missile, saying something like, "My gift to mankind." (Мой подарок человечеству): Although he spoke in another language, I could understand what he was saying. (Mr. Leousis breaks out of character and jokes.), "Of course this was all Greek to me." (Laughter breaks out in class.)
This man's name was Lev Sergeyevich Termen as I was to discover later on in my adult life. He is responsible for saving our world from nuclear catastrophe, along with another American, which I will present to you later on. You see..., (Mr. Leousis, continues.) ... as I discovered later, the Soviets were at least three years more advanced in what is called ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Technology.) In other words, they could send a nuclear missile over Canada and strike any part of the USA or Canada with high accuracy; our side was more of a hit and miss. More importantly, the Soviets could take out an incoming missile, fired upon them more accurately because of their advanced technology. Knowing this, they wanted to strike our side first before we could catch up.
I remember being in Canada, in fact, Bancroft School here in Montreal and having what was called nuclear drills. When the siren called out, we had to hide under our desks! ("Huh," Mr. Leousis, laughs.) Now, how silly was that? If a nuclear bomb were to fall, that would be the most stupid thing to do, hide under the desks, that is. We would be barbecued by the intense heat and radiation, when in fact we could have a chance of survival by running and hiding in the school's basement. It had walls meters thick, but at that time, the public knew little about how dangerous and devastated a nuclear war would be. Thank God for Mr. Termen! ( At this point student hands go up with multiple curious questions. ) "But sir...! (A student calls out!) ...it was you, who made this man do what he did!" Well, in a way, yes, but the question remains, which me? ( Mr. Leousis, chuckles as he winks at this boy? )
(More calls and hands go up. Mr. Leousis remarks.) All in good time my friends, all in time. I will deal with these thoughts when I discuss further my growing up in Montreal, in my next write-up. Be sure to visit my blog at, and I will give you all the details.
For now, time is of the essence, and I should continue the Gypsy story. (Hands go down, and the class is ready to continue on this fascinating journey of Mr. Leousis's life during his childhood.)
After, "saving the world" (Mr.Leousis quotes in the air with his fingers as he speaks.) I began to feel that I was suffocating and gasped for air. I needed to escape "the dream," I was in and struggled to wake up! (Mr. Leousis, begins to hyperventilate demonstrating a choking sensation.) But it wasn't a dream, it was real! When I opened my eyes, I was horrified. Sensing a piece of cloth over my mouth, someone holding my legs in bondage and another carrying me away from my bed; a "dream within a dream," I thought. It was when I felt the crisp cold air of the Tripolis night on my naked body and face that I realized what was happening. I struggled to scream and get loose, but my feeble body's struggle against these two abductors only made them more determined to squeeze harder around my ankles and armpits. They buried their claws deeper into my flesh as they carried me by lifting my young body from under my skeleton underarms. They hurried to the field next to my home. There laid me down on what seemed to be a carpet and rolled me into it like a sausage. The lack of air made me suffocate, and I passed out.
Soon, I drifted into another realm. A wondrous world, one that I have no reference points to explain to human forms. A place some of you might call heaven, nirvana or place of rest but even this description would diminish its wonder. So for now, until you get to hear and listen to a number of my stories, we will just call this place, the Elysium. (Mr. Leousis, smiles to his audience as if he has just started a riddle within a riddle of which the class has no clue.) I know someday, when you look back at my series of writings, it will all blossom in your minds. You will be blown away, but what you will realize has been revealed to you. For now, let's just treat what I tell you as only, "fictional" stories of my imagination. A substitute teacher's imagination, Mr. Leousis chuckles, with a glowing smile. (At this point a student puts up his hand and asks.) "Sir, are you on drugs?" Everyone breaks out in laughter? (Mr. Leousis, himself smiles and responds.)"Good question and I am glad you asked."
First, let me give you a direct answer, so there is no ambiguity in my response, "NO, I AM NOT!" In fact, I am totally against drugs of any sort. Second, as I said earlier, I am glad that you are open-minded and trusting of me, to ask a direct question. I encourage you all to listen and read whatever is put in front of you by teachers, television, the Internet, or other information sources, with an inquisitive and curious mind; a grain of salt. Having said this, I want to add my point of view as it relates to "drugs."
As a student of biology, I have come to appreciate that our bodies are nothing more than a soup of hundreds of complex chemicals. All such chemicals in balance, working in harmony to support and maintain our bodies. Whenever you insert any outside chemicals, as "drugs," you directly affect this delicate balance. This balance has evolved over millions of years of human evolution. To tinker with such a complex system is very dangerous to our health. It may sound complicated, but what I am trying to say is, DO NOT add any foreign chemical substance into your body. The only exception to this, when it is a matter of life or death as in my case. I am a diabetic, and if I do not take my daily medicine, I will undoubtedly end my life. I will not want that... ( Mr. Leousis, chuckles.)... I have so much to teach you, and more importantly, I have not finished telling you my stories. (Loud laughter breaks out in class.). So let's continue with the Gypsy story.
I remember waking up to the call of a rooster nearby, thinking it was our rooster "Kokoras." For a moment, I thought I should get up and call my cousin Hristos, to get to the basement and open up: My grandmother (Giagia) kept Kokoras, along with a dozen or so chickens. My cousin Hristos and I, would round up the poultry each night, and house them in the basement. In the morning, all we had to do was open the door, and they would wander about the grounds. But when I opened my eyes to this call, I realized that I was not home; the call was not that of our Kokoras. As reality set in, my eyes became wide open; I began to see that I was housed in some canvas structure, with a round ceiling.
The structure was moving as I could feel the bumps of the rough trail and the entire roof of the structure swaying from left to right and back again; it was a wagon. From the metal structure rods, forming the roof were hung all types of house wear; pots and pans, clothes and beads. All of which banging against each other, made a monotonous rhythmic noise as they swayed to the rhythm of the terrain: Such, Gypsy wagons, commonly seen during the harvest every year as Gypsy families came to the "aloni", to help out: I had never been inside such a wagon, but I knew what the interior looked like, by glimpsing from the open canvas from the outside.
My wrists were numb from the tightrope tied around them. My legs and mouth were bound with some cloth. I tried to scream, but all I could get out was a murmur. I was under extreme pressure "to go" have a leak and needed to communicate this to my captors before I soiled myself. Sometime later, I heard the gallop of running horses that approached; some men called out, "Astinomia, Astinomia, kripse to pedi!" (Police, police, hide the child!) Peering through the curtain that separated the cab from the driver, "Ugly-face." appeared!
He climbed into the back and pulled out this long knife from its harness, brought it to my face while moving his left finger to his lips to signal to me to be quiet. I murmured that I understood, my eyes expanded in horrifying fear. He cut the rope tying me to the wagon and the cloth holding my legs and lifted me up. "Na, pare kai forese afto.",(Take and wear this.), he ordered; handing me a pair of shorts, too large for me. He used a part of a rope which lay beside the cot, to fashion a type of belt and tied it around my waist to hold up the bulky shorts. He then quickly brought me to the back of the wagon, jumped outside and signaled to me out, then grabbed me and threw me over his shoulders, like a sack of potatoes. He rushed towards a small gorge. At the same time, placing his fingers in his mouth, he sounded out a sharp whistle, that all was clear. The wagon began to move away. Some meters into the gorge, I could hear his breath increasing as his load was tiring him; he soon dropped me to my feet, took out his knife again and pointed it at my face. That is when I wet myself. "Skasmos!" (Shut up!) He instructed me as he signaled me to go to the side and pie; there was more water running down my cheeks in tears than that of urination.
I was totally petrified and shocked by what was happening to me. Ugly-face came over to me and said,... "An tha voithisis to pedi mou, tha se giriso pali sto spiti sou. Alios tha se sfaxo san arni!" (If you help my son, I will return you to your home else, I will slaughter you like a lamb!),... as he again pointed his long blade to my face. I had no clue what he meant. We waited there until late noon. A whistle in a sharp tone summoned us back. Ugly-face got up and whistled back. It must have been an all-clear because he lifted me up, saying, "Pame!" (Let's go!). We returned to the wagon, and we continued on our journey. By nightfall, we broke into the camp, and now all was revealed to me:
(By now, the school bell sounds, and Mr. Leousis calls out.) Alright, time for the 10 min break, so I can drink some water, and you can rest your minds... back in, after the bell. (Ten minutes later, after the class has assembled, Mr. Leousis continues.)
Sitting around this massive bond fire, I could now see all the players: There were four wagons in the caravan, and what seems to be three families, parents, and children; one was an infant. I had not seen them before except for Ugly-face, and then surprise! He reached into one of the wagons, grabbed hold of a child that was handed to him and a Gypsy woman got out; it was the Gypsy woman who pulled at me at the platia of Agios Vasilios! He gave her the paraplegic child, and she walked over to me.
"Ah, mikre afendi, pos pas. Mi fovase, den that sou kanoume kako. Mono na voithisis ton Petrako mou, tha to evlogisis, ne? ( Ah, small master, don’t be afraid, we will not harm you. Only you should help my young Petrako, yes? You can bless him, yes.) Although I had no clue what she was talking about, "blessing," her tone was somewhat reassuring and when she brought me a bowl of trahana to eat; especially when she offered me a second serving, I became more relaxed: I hadn't eaten anything all day. She again approached me, bearing her young Petrako in her arms:
"That to voithis ne, to agapimeno mou Petrako, nai?" (You will help my beloved Petrako, yes?) She again questioned me as she stroked the little boys head. All the reaction she could get from the child, was a roll of his eyes as if he understood. She repeated the phrase, "My beloved, Petrako," time and time again as she spoke. "My beloved Petro, who was so much alive." She would repeat as she rocked the young raggedy boy, back and forth, back and forth on her hips. "My beloved Petrako, who was as alive as you." Then she paused and asked me: "Pos se lene mikre afendi?" (What is your name, young master?) "Me lene Elia," I responded. (They call me, Elia.) "Ah, evlogimeno onoma, Elia mou. Etsi fonazoume ton adelfo mou, afton eki, ton theo tou Petrakou mou." ( Ah, blessed name my, Elias. This is what we call my brother, that one there; the uncle to my Petrako.)
On the other side of the bonfire, three men sat talking and arguing about something, sometimes their voices reaching a high pitch and sometimes, subdued to a low whisper. When the "Ugly-one," came about, their tone diminished; they spoke favorably to each other as if the dominant king lion had stepped in among his pride. When the woman saw him, she called him over; "Yiako, ela apo edo." Ugly-face, now Yiako, walked over addressing her: "Ti lei, tha kani kala to pedi mas? (What does he say, he will make our child well?). I now realized that they were husband and wife. The boy, Petrako, was their son. "Min to fovizis to pedaki, nai," (Don't frighten the child, yes.), she turned to me and stroked my head as a mother would her child. "O Liakos, ene evlogimeno pedi, kai tha kani oti prepi, nai." (Liako is a blessed child, and he will do whatever it takes, yes.)
She strokes my head again, as she stares into my frightened eyes. "An den kani afto pou prepi, that ton sfaxo." (If he does not do what is required, I will slay him!) Yiako now calls out, while he reaches for his long blade. "Ohi, ohi," (no, no), ... she calls out. Don't be afraid of my husband."... She calls out as she gives a dirty look at her husband and turns to me again. "Yiako," does not mean that. He loves his son so much, and he is heartbroken since the accident. That terrible accident, which has hurt our boy." She breaks into a wailing cry as she buries her face in the body of the ragged child below. Immediately, Yiako, for a moment, is caught ready to weep. He lowers his head when finding himself suddenly; he changes his posture, to one of anger, that he should entertain such weak emotional care. He raises his head proud again and moves away to hide his true feelings; he cannot afford to show "feminine emotions." He is the leader of his pack, after all.
Fearful and curious, I am beginning to understand their concern for their child, and so I turn to the Gypsy woman to ask: "Ti, ti, epathe to pedi sou?" (What, what happened to your child?) Still, with her head buried in the child's tummy, she cries out, "To meli, to katarameno meli, to skotose to pedimas!" (The honey, the honey. The cursed honey killed our child!) I could not understand what she was saying. She eventually regained her composure, sat up correctly and while wiping her tears with her "mandili," begun to explain to me what had happened to her son:
One of the ways, Gypsies use to make a living, was to collect wild honey by climbing trees in the woods, where beehives were sometimes found. One day, Petrako and his father were out collecting such honey when Petrako, spotted a hive way up on a tall pine tree. When he signaled his father that he would climb, his father pulled him back and told him not to attempt it; it was too high and dangerous. After returning to camp to deposit their honey collection, Yiako lost sight of his son. He assumed he had gone to play with his nephew, "Spirto." When he later saw Spirto, sitting all alone, he called out to him if he had seen his cousin, Petrako. Spirto responded that he had not seen him since that morning when they left camp.
Immediately, Petrako's father started fighting bad thoughts, chanting the evil spirits away; the Gypsy woman continues while pretending to spit both sides of her armpits as a gesture to chase evil spirits away. She again breaks down into wailing tears and sobs. Her tears are dripping on the child bellow her. Once again, she pauses, looks up, and stares out. Fully transformed into a cold-blooded, catatonic personality, she stairs away into the dark forest and with an angry ambivalence says, "Kai eki sto dasos ton vrikan me spasmeni mesi. To katarameno dendro tu espase tin spondiliki stili." (And there in the forest, they found him with a broken back. The cursed tree had broken his spine!). During this sad affair, another Gypsy woman comes over, bends down over the mother and says. "Ela, Talitha mou, min stenohorise alo, to evlogimeno that sosi ton Petrako sou, to isthano me kai ego." (Come, my Talitha, don't worry any more, the 'blessed one,' will save your Pretrako, I can feel it also.") This long dressed woman was a young and gentle one, with a kind face. She gently held out her hand to me and said, "Ela mikre, pame na se etimaso." (Come young one; let us go so I can prepare you.) I had no idea what she was talking about, but her gentle demeanor made me feel safe, and so I held out my hand and followed her.
We passed closer to the bond fire, and I could see the men making some preparations. They were anchoring what seemed to be a wooden cross, in front of the blazing fire. On the ground, near this blazing fire, was placed a carpet. Which looked much like the carpet they had used to kidnap me from my home. On top of this carpet, were three baskets, each of which was covered with an embroidered white napkin. The entire blanket was laden with colorful wildflowers. I could see and smell the incense of smoke coming out of the incense burner, just like the one the priest had in church. Holding an oil lantern, the nice Gypsy woman, let me to the side of a wagon, where there, lay a small metal bathing pan.
She kneeled down and began to try to undo the rope around my waist that held up my shorts. When she proceeds to take off my shorts, I resisted. "Min drepese," (Don't be embarrassed.)... She asserted. "Eho kai ego ena agoraki san kai esena."(I have a young boy like you.) She called out, "Marko, ela edo pedi mou." (Marko, come here, my child.) Looking from under the wagon, I could now see four young children my age. They had been there all along with watching, hidden by the darkness of the night. A young boy emerged, smirking nervously, that he had been discovered, wiping his running nose of snots. "Ne mana" (Yes, mother?), he called out. "Kathise edo agori mou na kanis parea ston…) (Stay here to make company to..), she then turned to me and asked. "Pedi mou, pos se lene?" (My child, what do they call you?). Looking down at the ground with some embarrassment, I responded... "Elia." "Ah, "Liako," ehis to onoma to profity." (Ah, "Liako," you bear the name of the profit.) Then, she continued to undress me. First, she removed my over-sized shorts and then my wetted underwear. She asked me to step into the bathing pan, at which point she started to bath me. When I was clean, she reached for a jug of water, which she had on the side, it was covered over with a white cloth. She took a bunch of "Vasilikos," and began slowly to dip the herb in the jug. She gently tapped me on the head with the herb spraying my body as she began to chant some strange words as if at church. I gathered it was "agiasmos," holy water: My Giagia would bring this from the church and do something similar to me; my cousin Hristo and sister Xanthe. After which, she would proceed to spray the entire house, to chase the evil spirits away. As the nice Gypsy, continued her chants, she interrupted herself, long enough to call out to her son Marko, to fetch the "livanistiri" (Incense burner). By the time Marko returned with the "livanistiri," she had gotten me out of the bath and put a type of nightgown over me. I looked like a girl in a robe! After placing a wreath of flowers on my head, she called out, "Ese etimos, na sosis to Petrako mas." (You are ready to save our Petrako.) I had no clue what she meant, but I was getting very nervous about what to expect. She then instructed her son, Marko, to walk in front of us, scenting our path with the incense; he obeyed, religiously.
As we entered the circle of the fire, I could now hear the play of a "Cimbalom" accompanied by a small accordion; it was some Gypsy ritual and dance. She had me sit on the carpet, and then she joined the two other women as they began to dance. Soon the three women came over to me, rested their hands on my head and began to say, "Kirie eleison, kyrie Eleison." (God bless, God bless). The gypsy-women then proceeded to pick up the three baskets that were laid in front of me. From these baskets, they began to throw a handful of the contents into the fire. These items ignited the fire blaze causing small sparks. From what I could tell, one basket had rose petals, the other seeds of some sort; the third basket looked like it contained a brown substance, which looked like black soil. They continued to dance around the fire, in each turn, re\volving around themselves, like planets around the sun.
Suddenly, the music stopped, and there was silence. Out of the dark, dressed in vivid bright colors, came Telitha, holding her husband by the arm while he carried their paralyzed son. They moved closer to me and knelt down before me, placing the young child on the blanket before me. Then Telitha, called out to me, "Evlogimeno pedi Liako, vale ta heria sou epano sto pedimas kai kaneto kala." (Blessed child Liako, place your hands upon our child and make him well.) Petrified, I did not know what to do. I did as instructed and put my two hands on the child's head and told myself, please, please, little God (Theouli) make him well. I closed my eyes and repeated my prayer many times again and again. We sat there and waited and waited, but nothing seemed to stir.
Everyone was staring at me. The little boy in front of me, held his eyes closed. The silence was horrible. My back could not hold being leaned over for so long, and I removed my hands from the little boy's head. Immediately, Yiako, the child's father, calls out, "Vale ta heria sou piso, tora. Me akous." (Put your hands back, do you hear me!) In fright, I returned my hands back to their position on the child and waited. Soon after, his wife, Telitha, started weeping and crying calling out, "Then sozete to pediamaaaaas, o yioka masaaas, Yiako mou, den sozete. (He cannot be saved our child, our son, Yiako dear, he cannot be saved!) At which point Yiako, cries out! "Dagose tin glosa sou, gineka, dangoseti!" (Bite your tongue woman, bite it!) During which time he moves towards me, pulling out his long knife, calling out to me. "Kane to gio mou kala, me akous." (Make my son well, you hear me!) He places his sharp blade to my throat. I could now feel this blade cutting deep into my flesh, hurting, but more like being burnt by a candle flame. Tears flowed as I wept and shivered in fear. The Gentle Gypsy woman, Marko's mother, moves forward and grabs Yiako's, arm and says... "Den ine sosto, Yiako, den ine etsi pou tha kanis kala ton gio sou. To pedi o Liakos, mbori na min ftei. To fengari den ine lambro, mbori avrio na ine kalitera.". (This is not right, Yiako, it is not this way that you are going to make your son well. The moon is not bright; perhaps tomorrow will be better.) Slowly, she disarms Yiako and has him lower his knife. The Gypsy woman, asks me to stand up and takes me to her wagon to spend the night; she has me sleep on the floor next, to her other two children. Fearful, petrified, and exhausted, I fell asleep.
I seem to have drifted this time in a world within a world, in a place of pure white Light, with freedoms from all earthly thought. I could not explain all this to myself, nor was I conscious that I was "Liako" at all. Safety, fear, or any such human feelings, were not part of that reality. For me to even try to explain such, in human terms, would fail me: It was as if I could will new chemistry of thought and be part of any scene of any cause of any place. I felt that I was void of any fear and enriched innumerable times to experience the best of whatever appeared before me. I was in a way, part of God: Later, through my research, I discovered that according to my ancestors of Hellas, I had entered the "Ἠλύσιον πεδίον." (Elysium Fields).
The next morning, I woke up to strange looks from the other children, in a way refusing to have anything to do with me. I sat in the driver's seat of the wagon, pondering how and when I would see my family. The "Good Gypsy," came over to give me some bread and milk; I later heard another Gypsy woman, refer to her as Florica. Florica, stayed close to me, fearing for my safety. When speaking to her husband, Florica explained... "Ine poli anastatomenos of Yaikos, kai fovame ti mbori na kani sto pedi. Tha prepi na ton prsexoume. " (Yiako, is very upset and I fear for the child, we must watch over him.) Her husband, raising his voice slightly, responded, "Prosexe tin thesi sou gineka, den thelo fasaries! (Watch your place woman, I don't want trouble.) I stayed close to Florika, helping her with her chores, fearful of the possible appearance of Yiako. By late afternoon, one of the men, having returned from some distance, started calling out to the other men, that they must all move on; police were sighted, just a few kilometers away. That is when Yiako appeared once more and ordered Florica to give me to him:
I could hear them arguing, and as I peeked out of the wagon, I watched him lash at her with a slap in the face, throwing her to the ground. As he headed towards the wagon, I ran to the front and got out the other end and started to run. Yiako took sight of me and started running after me, yelling, "Stamata kolopedo, pou that pas." (Stop ass child, where will you go?) I ran for my life, but he soon caught up with me; tripping me with a kick, he knocked me down to the ground. I feared the end was near. He took out his long blade, grabbed me by the neck, and called all types of swear words - the knife was cutting deeper and deeper into my flesh. He lifted me up from my feet as he continued to move away from the camp, all along talking to me in a threatening tone. We arrived by the side of a cliff, with the valley expanding below us. He set me down near a huge bolder, which lay by the side, bringing his blade closer to my face along with his smelly face.
"Edo teleionis, diavole an then orkistis pos that sosis to pedi mou." (Here you are finished, devil if you don't swear to save my child.") A calm came over me, assuring me that I would be safe. Although, my body was shaking from fear, a warm feeling inside my chest assured me of safety. I just starred at Yiako in the eyes. From the woods, I could now hear one of the men, calling to Yiako," Kripsto, I astimoni erhonde kata edo." (Hide him, police are coming this way.). As he hurried to find a place for us to hide, I yanked at him to get away. He sidestepped to catch his balance, and his left foot fell into this large indentation on the ground. He tripped over and fell to the ground. I ran as fast as I could towards the cliff.
When I arrived at the edge of the cliff, I soon realized how foolish I was to have run that way. There was now nowhere to go, except by jumping to my death. I bore right, running parallel to the top of the cliff. About a hundred meters away, I noticed a lot of round, marble-like, animal feces, just like our "katsika" would produce. I followed this trail of droppings. Sure enough, there was a small path, zig-zagging down the side of the cliff. Carefully and slowly, I walked on this trail downward, facing inward and grabbing any vegetation I could find to prevent me from falling to certain death. I soon passed a large cavern where the soil had fallen off the side of the wall of the cliff and decided to sit down awhile and rest. Soon enough, I heard Ugly-face call out from above, "Pou tha pas kolopedo, pou that pas?". (Where will you go little shit, where will you go?) I held my breath and hid closer to the wall of the cliff, so he does not notice me from above. I stayed there most of the night until early morning.
I could see in the distance of the valley, a herd of sheep and goats guided by several active dogs. I began my descent of the trail. When I finally reached the end of the decline, they had all gone. Like a young Indian scout, I followed the fresh path of goat and sheep droppings, running in haste to get as far from the hill as I could in the direction of possible safety. Soon enough, I could hear the dog barks and the goat and sheep bells clanking; I began to speed up, here and there, gasping for air. Within minutes, I could see the sheepherder with his cape draped over him as he walked carrying his "glitsa" (Cane). I ran up to him and called "kirie, kirie, soseme." (Sir, sir, save me.)
When I described to him who I was, his eyes opened wide, and he told me that the police had been asking about me for two days. He told me to wear this cape he had in his sack and to stay close to him while he maneuvered the flock back to his "Stani" (Barn). It was past late noon when we arrived at the Stani. Mr. Tsopanis gave me some brown bread and some Feta cheese to satisfy my hunger. I drank and drank from the "kanata," ( jug) he offered me, the sweetest water, I had ever drunk. Bloated like a drunken old man, I rested under the canopy of a canvas he had set out. Mr. Tsopanis told me that it was too far for me to walk to the village. We would have to sleep the night until the morning when the milk carriage would come by, to pick up his store of milk. Exhausted but finally feeling safe, I passed out and fell asleep.
Sure enough, early that morning, a horse-driven carriage pulled by two massive workhorses, "clip-clopped," along with and with a "wooow," stopped in front of the Stani. Two men got down and greeted, Mr. Tsopani. When he explained to them who I was, their cigarettes dropped from their lips. In a total surprise, they kept on repeating themselves, "Ti les, ti les." (You don't say, you don't say). They informed Mr. Tsopani that the police had set up a presence all over the countryside. They were checking everywhere and everybody, looking for this boy. When they found out that it was the Gypsies who had taken me, they became furious. Each time they spoke, they ended their sentence, "Tha tous thapsou me." (We will bury them!) They continued their threats, swearing to the God in the sky, that if the Gypsies were to cross their path… this was repeated countless times all along the journey to the village.
When we arrived at the village, a police officer dressed in blue came over, asked me if I was alright and hurried to take me to a Jeep he had nearby. We took the bumpy road down to the city and soon enough, my parents arrived to meet me at the police station: I was drowning in hugs and kisses and millions of questions too! The police advised my parents to take me home and that they might call on them again to have me identify the Gypsies. They assured my parents that they would have the kidnappers in jail in a very short time. Sure enough, the following day, following my afternoon siesta, I could hear a Jeep stop by my home, and within minutes, my father instructed me to get dressed.
We drove back to the police station, picked up another officer who was armed with a rifle and drove away to the "filakies" (Jails), which were just on the outskirts of the city. We entered this labyrinth of corridors and waited in a room which had a table and some chairs. As we waited, I could hear yells, screams, and cries coming from the place next door, I recognized the voices! The chief police officer instructed my father to hold me by the hand and for him not to try to speak; the officer would do all the talking. When we entered the room next door, behind these bars, which were up to the ceiling, I could see, Ugly-face, and Talitha holding Petrako in her arms. The chief officer asked me, "Pesmou pedi mou, afti ine I gifti pou se pirane apo to spiti sou."(Tell me my child, are these the Gypsies who took you from your home?) Fear gripped me, and I could not respond, all I could do is move behind my father to shield myself from their stair. "Ela, Liakou mou, pess ston astino mo, min fovase, den mboroune na sou kanoune kako!" (Come, my Liako, tell the police officer, don't be afraid, they cannot harm you!) My father advised. In unison, as my father spoke, his voice became angrier, and he began to move towards the jail bars, I clinging to his legs, I moved forward with him.
To everyone's surprise, my father moved so fast that he had reached inside the bars. Had grabbed Ugly-face by the throat, and was squeezing the life out of him. The pandemonium of screams and shouts filled the jail cell. Talitha would beg my father to stop. Equally loud, the police officer ordering my father to retreat. I could see young Petrako's hand dangling near the bars as Talitha now next to her husband was trying to pull him away from my father's grip and to safety. By now, my father had managed to pull Ugly-face, flat against the bars, and was strangling him. The Light, on the surface of my little hand, without my control, just like in my first dream in the Soviet Silo, moved forward, barely touching the young Petrako; immediately the child broke into a type of convulsion. He began to shiver and shake. Talitha broke down and started to scream even louder as she dropped to her knees. She cried and wept over the young body, it, shaking like a fish out of water. Noticing this, Ugly-face, called out to my father... "Ande telioseme den thelo na ziso alo, o gios mou petheni." (Go ahead finish me, I don't want to live, my son is dying. )
My father, empathizing with Yiako's predicament, released him and pulled me away. The officer directed both of us to leave. We returned home with the police escort. Upon hearing what had gone on at the jailhouse, my mother broke down and cried uncontrollably, hugging and kissing me. She would not let go. After supper, she came over to my bed and slept with me, holding me in her arms, kissing my forehead, again and again, cursing all Gypsies. That night, I once again visited, "The Elysium," for my just reward:
In the shadows of the Elysium and upon my entrance to it, I came across three glows of light, of men covered in shawls. Three judges to the entrance of the Great River of The Light, which shines in the spirit of all. One "Judge," communicated with me directly; without words but whose message was clear:
"Σταγονιδίων του οφείλεται, κατά τα φύλλα της αιωνιότητας, το πνεύμα σας θα είναι πλέον άμεση δημιουργία και την προετοιμασία τους άλλους για το ταξίδι τους πέρα από το σκοτάδι του ενός. Το φως είναι, αλλά ένα? τα χρώματα που είναι ατελείωτες, ενωμένη με σοφία. Επιστροφή ταξίδι τους προς εμάς και την τελική ολοκλήρωση της φυσικής ύπαρξης. Εμείς θα προστατεύσει τη σωματική ύπαρξη σας, μέχρι τη στιγμή που έχετε έσπειραν τους σπόρους του Φωτός ανάμεσα στους πολλούς, και εμείς θα μιλήσει στις καρδιές των νεαρών τους. Πήγαινε τώρα και να ξεκουραστούν στην Elysium, ο οποίος πήρε το όνομά του από εμάς Ελευσίνα."
"Droplet of due, upon the leaves of eternity, your spirit will now direct creation and prepare others for their journey beyond the darkness of one. The Light is but one; its colors are endless, unified by wisdom. Their journey's return to us and final completion of physical existence. We will protect your corporal existence, until such time as you have sown the seeds of The Light amongst the many; through you, we will speak to the hearts of their young. Go now and rest in the Elysium, he who is named by us Eleusis."
In the morning, my mother mentioned to my grandmother that I must have been in shock; she could feel me shivering all night long. By early afternoon, people started coming outside my house. Many of which had handicaps of all sorts each hoping I could cure them. The neighbors alerted my mother and grandmother, and before long, my father was seen rushing back home from his work. The radio was ablaze about the Gypsy's child which had been cured at the jailhouse by the Leousis' child. Soon enough, a Jeep with two officers on board arrived and stationed themselves outside our home: They advised my family that they had instructions for us to pack our bags for Athens; that they would escort us to the train for the five hour trip to the capital.
I want you to understand that all my stories have one goal. To get you thinking about the plight of other people. More importantly, through my stories, you come to appreciate that there is always someone there looking after you and caring for you, no matter how different you or your situation may be. That all of us as diverse or as strange, which we may seem to others, are precious colors of the fabric of life. I know that in this school, most of you are doing very well academically, yet I also know in speaking to some of you privately, you are not immune to life's tragedies and consequences. That is why it is essential for you to "trust" your teachers, social workers, friends, and family and speak out when "it hurts." Take it from me and "The Light," you are all children of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. And whether or not it is clear to you, the universe is unfolding as it should! I want to share with you a "gift," which I have given all my students since I started teaching: I call it "my Bible," yet it is not a religious thing.
It is a piece of prose which I use in my time of need that gets me up, to battle another day in life's trial and tribulations. It was revealed to me by my English teacher, Ms. Katz, ages ago, when I attended Baron Byng High School in Montreal. It has complemented my life very well in my quest to gain wisdom, and gaining wisdom, is what life is all about. Hopefully, one day, you will appreciate the importance of the statement I have just made. This piece of prose is called Desiderate, I will post the link on my blog, including the music version. Please visit, listen, and learn. "Be gentle with yourself!"
By Elias Leousis,
(Η αγάπη είναι το μελάνι, η σοφία είναι το μήνυμα.)
Love is the ink; wisdom is the message!
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