The sense of belonging
Dear friend of Ikaria One of the interesting things you will experience in Ikaria is the sense of belonging. Ikarians from all over the world, from the very past years until today have a unique sense of belonging to their island. It doesn't matter if they are thousands miles away, not even if they can't visit every year. It doesn’t matter if they are 2nd or even 3rd generation of Ikarians that live abroad; they might not even talk the Greek language, but they know, they feel that they belong in Ikaria. Their roots are unbelievably strong and deep. It is every Ikarian’s dream to return to Ikaria. I had this dream as well, and it became true (I wasn't even so far from home). This sense of belonging is really a phenomenon. You won’t see it this much in the rest of Greece. Look closely at the wall whenever you stroll through the streets of Athens and you will see that the word “Ikaria” is written in the most extraordinary places, together with Ikarian expressions and sayings. I was recently explained by an 86 year old man WHY Ikarians feel such an attachment to their homeland. “Eleni”, he said, “in Ikaria we never had classes or standards that separated poor from rich or educated from non-educated. People were not different because of their economic or social status, everybody had and still has the same value, even the dress code for the wealthy ones was the same as for the poor ones, the food in the family table was the same for everybody, the entertainment was the same for everybody, all children had the same toys, so nobody was feeling inferior. Marriages between wealthy and poor were very common. Ikarians only left Ikaria out of need: for a better future or to get a job abroad. They always left with a sense of nostalgia: they had to go because of poverty, but never because they were considered ‘poor’ by others.” But this wasn't happening in the rest of Greece, where status and differences between classes prevailed.Poor people,those that had to leave Greece to start a better future abroad, would often take a sense of bitterness and sorrow with them and that sense does destroys the roots. On Syros island, for example, which is quite close to Ikaria, the high class would refuse to walk the same roads as ‘the rest’. Or there’s the story of Mrs. Katerina, who’s mother grew up on the island Zakinthos, as the only daughter of a wealthy family man. As a young girl Katerina’s mother fell in love with a worker, a poor man. Because the family refused to accept the marriage, the couple left Zakinthos, hoping that distance and time would solve the problem. But the family coldly passed their heritage to their other relatives and ‘forgot’ about the lovers. Mrs. Katerina now never talks about Zakinthos, she never knew her grandparents, and never related to her roots.
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Mazari G. Eleni