Read by Anna Savva
I was born in Athens. We were two girls and two boys. My father died when I was four years old so my oldest brother became the father figure and the bread winner. He was very strict and, to avoid being hit by him, I learnt to be quiet and not answer back. But my youngest brother was fearless and I would often stand between him and my older brother to try and stop him getting beaten.
I never had any toys, not even one doll. I remember someone giving me a balloon. It made me so happy. As my father was Catholic I was sent away to a convent on Samos far away from home. I was nine years old very unhappy and very lonely there and I begged to come back and work instead. Back in Athens I would do errands for people in my neighbourhood to earn a few coins for my family. I carried on learning to read and write by myself.
When I was sixteen a wealthy man from Mykonos wanted to marry me. He was thirty years old but seemed so old to me. I refused to marry him. I wasn’t interested. I was never materialistic. I then went to Germany to look after my sister’s baby while she worked. I returned to Athens but, soon after, the dictatorship started in 1967 so I went back to Germany and found work there.
In 1971 I came to London and, through the Greek community, I met my husband, a Greek Cypriot. We were very happy together but he died over twenty years ago. We adopted a baby who had a difficult childhood because his ADHD had not been diagnosed then. He became even more difficult as a teenager and started getting involved in drugs. My neighbours found syringes in the garden.
His mental health deteriorated and now he’s on long term medication. I don’t have an easy relationship with him. I had to go to court to put a restraining order on him. I want him to be on a good path. I used to tell his girlfriends to leave him if he wasn’t treating them well. You mustn’t accept that kind of behaviour.
My son has a child but he has never lived with the mother. When my grandson was a baby he lived with me for two and a half years then the mother took him. I had to accept that but I’ve continued in his upbringing. She’s from a different culture and is very strict. She doesn’t allow me to buy him toys. What’s the role of a grandmother if you can’t spoil your grandchild! I once bought him a blue coat. It was beautiful, on special offer, and she cut it up. We can’t have a nice conversation together. But my grandson, who is now ten, still stays with me three days a week because she works in a home. He’s a very good boy. I love him and I tell him to listen to his mother because she works hard and loves him too. She’s helped me fill in the forms as I would like to get a part-time job as a carer after Covid.
I’ve always worked hard. Sometimes I’ve sent money to my relatives in Athens when they’ve needed support. I’d been working in a dress factory for five years until Covid started, sewing on labels and ironing.
I like to cook. I make lots of different dishes for my friends. I make biscuits and give them to others. I don’t need them. I have a small garden I look after. The people upstairs are too old to do it.
Last Christmas was the first one in my life on my own and it was the best ever! It didn’t bother me. I cooked whatever I wanted, watched television and played games on my phone. I don’t want to go backwards because backwards there is nothing good. I am now starting to feel a weight coming off my shoulders. At this moment I am ok. I feel content. I have never been a miserable person.
My wish would be to go to Greece and go in the sea. It’s been ten years.