Talking about Thassian Souls there is one soul who is closer to mine than others. I´ve already introduced her to you but I have never told her story. So here I am. Trying to find words for someone who – in my eyes – could only be described with a feeling. Love.
Maria was 30 years old when she left Greece and moved to Germany. She has already been married for a few years and her first child was about four years old. A daughter. Penelope, called Popi. Jiannis, her Husband, and Maria found work at a factory. The factory was a leading one in producing telephone coils. The work was hard but it was harder being seperated for 15 months as Jiannis was working in Frankfurt, Maria 50 kilometers away in a small village. Maria and Popi had been the first greeks that village had ever seen. Everybody payed attention to them and Maria is not getting tired to mention that the germans have been friendly. Always. She felt welcomed there. Far away from home, apart from her husband, in a country with a foreign language which umlaute caused some difficulties. But she loved it. Even today she says, that she had a good time in Germany.
The first months she stayed in a house, that her employer rented for a few of his employees. She liked the place but even more she liked the fact that the german women she was living with admired her linen. They were exited and curious to know how Maria managed to have the whitest sheets in the village.
Maria didn´t liked the work at the factory. It was a hard and drab work at the machines. Day in, day out. She was the only greek in her factory. Some others were working with her husband, but that was in Frankfurt. One day there was a man at her factory, following her around, asking questions. She thought her employer wasn´t satisfied with her work and that he send someone over to eye up on her. But she was wrong. That guy was a greek. Working at the factory in Frankfurt as a team leader, her employer send him over to make Maria feel comfortable. To make her speek greek at work and use her mother language. What a good soul! Honestly. She felt thankful and was working even harder after that gesture. She knew, she was wanted. And that felt good.
After almost one and a half years, the family moved back together and Jiannis and Maria were able to work at the some factory. Maria gave birth to her second child. A son. Dimitris, called Dimis. Popi went to Kindergarden and later to school. Dimis followed her. The family learned to speek german, which Maria now describes as a gift.
In 1970 they bought a piece of land on Thassos and planed to live there once but to use it as a holiday house first. The man who was assigned with the building work belonged to the family and obviously understood something wrong and so the house looked a bit different than they wanted it to be. It was more like a guesthouse, which wasn´t planed but turned out to be perfect. The bay of Skala Potamia was wild nature at that time. No houses, no hotels, no restaurants. But a beautiful beach, dunes, a swamp with turtles, olive groves – it was a paradies. While still being in Germany Marias mother in law started renting the rooms and the business started well.
Jiannis, Maria, Popi & Dimis came back to Greece on April 5th in 1975. After 11 years of living and working in Germany. Maria never missed a day of working at the factory. She has never been ill. That´s just the way she runs. And she says, she owed it to her employer. To give her best, because she was treated well. They started to run the guesthouse on their own and soon had their first regular guests, who continue to spend their holiday at Marias Guesthouse till today. In 1977 the had to rename the guesthouse and it became “Hotel Maria”.
I remember the Hotel as a part of my childhood. Almost 30 years ago, my mother & I found the Hotel and with it a family. It was easy to connect and fall in love with the place and the people as Maria and Jiannis were heart-warming. They made us and everybody else feel welcome from the very first moment. I can still hear Marias laughter in the air, see her running around, making Frappè, cleaning the rooms, surprising her guest with little deliciousness out of her kitchen. She did the laundry, put fresh flowers on the bedside table and woke up in the middle of the night to bid farewell her guest – in her nightdress. She was always interested in hearing other peoples stories and she was never tired to tell hers. I hear her speaking german with funny word-creations and with a lovely accent. And I see her eyes shining when she was with people she loved. She still raises her eyebrows in a special way, her eyes get wide and her lips somehow crinkle when she hears good news or is happy to have you by her side. There where nights with a bunch of friends around the table – full of good food, wine and ouzo – and there was Jiannis, playing the Bouzouki and singing greek songs. The times were good.
Then Jiannis got sick. So sick that Maria had to take care of him – first in the Hospital, then at home at the Hotel. There was no Bouzouki anymore but still a lot of positivity. All the money the two of them have been working for the last 20 years was used for his care and treatment. In the end all hopes and prayers haven´t been heard and Maria was left alone. And without any savings. Nothing was like before. Jiannis was gone and with him a part of Maria and the place´s soul. The times were hard.
Maria, this restless woman with the golden heart and the soul of a teenager, she was broken. But like she always did, she kept on working. She knew she had to. For herself, the children and grand children and for Jiannis. If you ask her today why she never sits still, she would answer, that she would die without having something to do. Maybe that kept her alive that time. In quiet moments there were tears, she was wearing black which has never been her color. The years passed slowly, but the Hotel was going well and Maria started to look forward again. There were some new colors in her wardrobe, she slept better, the grief wasn´t as breathtaking as a few years before. Times were getting better.
This is almost 20 years ago. Her life didn´t work out like she had planned it. But she made the best out of it. She has been through a lot but somehow recovered. She managed the Hotel on her own for 18 more years after Jiannis died. Always on the run, with open arms, a smile on her face and that sparkle in her eyes. It was like it has always been. Only Jiannis was missing. Two years ago she handed the Hotel to her son, who is now running the business. Maria is still there, taking care of everyone and her linen. She will never leave this place. It´s home. She is home.
I have nothing but respect for her. For what she achieved and has been through. And there is love. For what she has given me: her golden teenage heart.