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Monday, January 30, 2017

Some Stories and the Women of that Chalki Summer

Let Me Tell You A Story

Over the years I've heard or read stories about other people's lives. I've also had a few experiences that have entered into my "Let me tell you about the time" category. Some of these stories have crept into my books. Others are waiting in the wings. 

Last week I told you a bit about the island of Halki/Chalki, and I promised to tell you about the war hero who's commemorated there. His statue is famous, but when I tried to find more specific history I couldn't. Fortunately, while I was on the island, I met his sister. She was visiting her home that week, so it was only by chance that we connected and that she told our women's group the story.

It was 1944 and her brother was a member of the resistance. When the Italians came hunting for him, he hid--with the help of the locals--in one of the village cisterns. When the searchers failed to locate him, they gathered all of the men, women and children into the place where we sat that night. The sister pointed at the beautiful beach in front of us, and in spite of the many years between her loss and that night, her eyes glistened with tears when she said, "Just there they stood with guns aimed at them."

The Italians sent the fugitive a message which was simple. Either he surrender before nightfall or the villagers would be shot.

Her brother saved his village that day and the woman expressed her pride as well as her sorrow with such dignity that I envied her her noble brother and her tragedy.

I didn't take a picture of the statue. There are many of those online, but I did take of picture of the sister. She had a wonderful face.




I keep mentioning the women's group, and there are so many stories about the seminars we participated in, the trips we took together, the women themselves. Many of them had written and presented papers on women's issues in the post USSR Russia, so our seminars focused on topics like: Feminism East and West, Can Russian Women Create Themselves as Citizens of a Democratic,Capitalist State?, Soviet Women at the Crossroads of Perestoika, The Role of Women in Rebuilding the Russian Economy.

These women were from Russia, UK, Greece, US and Italy. I could spend a year telling those stories. I have notes from our conversations that reveal the humanity of each person on this adventure. However, I think, instead, I'll just show you a few of the women with a quick blurb about each. 


Here we are together by the harbor. We have seminars all morning, take a break for lunch and some fun, then back to our seminar. At four we were done and it was party time.

Their fields or occupations: Farmer, Biologist, International Education, Health Care Provider (she'd worked with Mother Teresa in India with lepers) University Professors (there were 5) , Inter-Cultural Communication, Political Activist. You can see how different we all were. 
On our way across to another small island for a picnic.

The university women from Russia: Valentina, Olga, Natasha and Natalia (daughter).

Soula was a feminine activist in the Communist party in Greece. The word was you didn't mess with Soula.


Did you know that the Greek army beat back the Italian invasion in 1940 and that Germany had to step in. The occupation of Greece destroyed 80% of its industry and 90% of it's bridges, railways and ports. 


Quote of the Week: "All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal." John Steinbeck


This is it for the month of January, and I'm taking a break during February. See everyone again in March with some more stories.

77 comments:

  1. What an amazing thing to met his sister and hear a first hand account of that night.

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    1. I wish I'd asked more questions that day. She was full of stories.

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  2. A wonderful meeting that's for sure. You do have some great memories, thanks for sharing them.

    Have a great week.
    Yvone.

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    1. I'm glad to have a chance to collect these notes again and pull together all I learned on that trip.

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  3. What a wonderful experience, and such powerful interesting women! That quote from Steinbeck is so true... Enjoy your time off, Lee.

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  4. Excellent post. Heartbreaking and inspiring. I envy you the chance to interact with such interesting women.

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    1. There are a lot of interesting women out there. I find that very hope-inspiring.

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  5. Wow, that must have been a great experience indeed. If only the quote rang true in more people.

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    1. I would do it again if I had the chance.

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  6. Love the pictures. Enjoy your break!

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  7. What an amazing story. I love hearing your stories along with those of these fascinating women. Thank you for sharing. :)

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  8. What a fantastic experience, thank you for sharing it and your photographs with us.
    I don’t think I would have been remotely tempted to mess with Soula. She looks formidable.

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    1. Soula was special. That picture of her on a rock has a whole blog post story. Or maybe I'll just use it in a book one day.

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  9. Germans used to shoot whole villages and towns like that in my country, and not just adults but kids too, there was a famous event when they shot a whole high school of pupils together with their teachers in retaliation for a dozen of Nazis our Partizans killed. No wonder we've lost 1 million people in the war, which was one fourth of the population then.

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    1. We should never forget the reality of war, DEZ, and you've reminded us of yet another ugly, tragic moment that adds up to the loss of so many lives.

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  10. That's an amazing experience! Have a good time away!

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  11. That's an amazing story, and how wonderful that you got to meet his sister. Thank you for sharing this with us!

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  12. What a wonderful eclectic group. I can't imagine how much fun they were/are to learn next to.

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  13. Hi, Cheryl!

    Thank you for telling the sad tale about the woman's brother, a member of the resistance, who courageously and selflessly turned himself over to invading Italian forces to save her and the other villagers. Her face reveals strength and dignity.

    You must treasure your memories of that Greek island and the marvelous group of women from diverse backgrounds that you met and got to know there, the trips you took with them and the seminars you attended. Surely it was one of the most enlightening experiences of your life. Those women are part of the solution, Cheryl, and so are you.

    I greatly appreciated your Steinbeck quote and wholeheartedly agree with it. I will miss reading your entertaining and educational posts during the month of February and hope to see you back here in March. Until then, please take good care of yourself, dear friend Cheryl-Lee!

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    1. Thanks, Shady. I'm looking forward to a break and some time with my family. I know I'll return with more stories. My family always seems to provide those. :-)

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  14. To have the account from the man's sister had to be an emotional moment -- I think the man would rather have you take a picture of his sister than his statue, too. :-)

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    1. Absolutely. Statues are great to make us remember, but it's the story behind the statue and those who know it first-hand that are the important part.

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  15. What an amazing experience and what a story. Greece is kind of left out of most tales about WWII and how much they lost.

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    1. You're right. I'm not sure why, but they certainly suffered.

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  16. I don't understand how the human species can turn into monsters. Her brother was truly brave.

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  17. What an impressive and wonderful post. Your story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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    1. Even hearing her tell about her brother's death through an interpreter, made me tear up. Then sitting in the exact spot that the drama unfolded, made me very aware of my blessings.

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  18. Very emotional that account from the sister about her brother's heroic sacrifice.

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  19. This sounds like an amazing experience! Enjoy your break.

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  20. Tragic story. Great quote. Something to remember in our troubled times.

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  21. That's a heroic story. Very poignant and impressive. It's wonderful that you met his sister... a graceful and strong woman! That quote from Steinbeck is so true.
    Have a great time and wonderful experiences, Cheryl!

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    1. She was exactly that--graceful and strong. Thanks, Shilpa.

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  22. What a fascinating story and the strength it must have taken for that solider. Sounds like the group of ladies have some awesome stories to tell themselves.

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    1. A group of women is always filled with stories. And they like to share them.

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  23. What a wonderful opportunity for you to meet the hero's sister! I'm so glad she shared her story with you.

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    1. Meeting his sister was a chance thing and I appreciate how exceptional that was.

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  24. What an interesting story! I am sure the brother must have been scared, but he was more brave than scared and that made all the difference.

    The group you were with sounds fascinating.

    Hope you enjoy your break!
    ~Jess

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    1. I can't imagine how that all played out, but you're right about his being braver than he was scared.

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  25. Such a sad, sad story. I imagine there are many that people keep locked in their hearts.

    Looks like your group had an exciting time. Enjoy your break.

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    1. I wonder how many of these stories are out there and untold.

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  26. "All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal." John Steinbeck. Love the quote. So true. Loved your story, too. How wonderful that you travelled with this like-minded group to such a glorious place. That resistance story resonated. There are so many heart-breaking, yet inspiring, stories like this.

    Thanks so much for sharing. Enjoy your February break! :-)

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    1. Hi Denise and thanks. I'm glad you like the quote. I wish I could say things like that.

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  27. Wow, I almost felt like I was there on the beach too listening to this sad and touching story. Gave me chills.
    How fascinating to meet so many women from so many different cultures. I can't wait to read more of your snapshots. And I have no trouble believing nobody messed with Soula. What an amazing experience this must have been.

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    1. The stories about Soula are keepers. I still haven't dug them all out.

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  28. Enjoy your break. Sounds like an amazing group of women to hang around. That war story is heart breaking.

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    1. Thanks, Tamara. Glad you took time to read and comment today. I appreciate that a lot.

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  29. Wonderful post, Lee. I did know that about Greece during the war. What a moving story. You're right, she has a fabulous face.

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    1. Hi Joylene. I'm always fascinated by how beautiful the women in that region are. Their faces shine.

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  30. Stopped by to say congratulations on your new role as media relations expert for IWSG. Good luck with the new position!

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  31. Congrats on your new postion with thr IWSG.

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    1. Thanks, Toi. Just happened yesterday, News spreads fast around this place. :-)

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  32. It really is sad how much damage comes of war. We take for granted how peaceful our lives are and how that's not the case in much of the world climate. Feeling super blessed and grateful for war heroes today.

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    1. So many of us here are fortunate to have been safe from the kind of war horror others experience. We shouldn't take it for granted and I hope we're grateful to those who fought to protect us.

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  33. It's really tragic what happened to Greece (and the other countries) under Nazi occupation. Greece also lost about 77–87% of its large Jewish community. It's inspiring to read stories about people who had the courage to take a stand, even knowing the consequences of getting caught.

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    1. The Jewish museum in Rhodes tells their story. It was so tragic.

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  34. What lovely experiences and pictures. You are so fortunate to be able to travel and associate with women such as these. I do hope you use some of the stories either incorporated into fiction or otherwise. I enjoyed reading about this.

    Unfortunately, in war there are no winners only survivors, but the stories of courage, valor, and the strong in heart that those survivors have to tell helps them to live on forever.

    Congratulations on your new post with the IWSG. I'm sure you will be a valued addition.

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    1. Thanks for the visit, farawayeyes! Appreciate your wonderful comment so much.

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  35. I agree, she is a wonderful woman. What a story! Glad you shared it, and your other adventures too, with us. Thank you. :)

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    1. I hope readers are enjoying the stories. I'm enjoying remembering them.

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  36. What a wonderful tribute! Thank you, C. Lee!

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  37. Beautiful women and beautiful stories!
    There are so many good and strong people in this world - thanks for the reminder :)
    Enjoy your month

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    1. Wish we could know more of them! Thanks, Jemi.

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  38. Awesome story. Sounds like some amazing women. Congrats on your new IWSG position. Have a great break in February.

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  39. Wow, so many extraordinary stories and strong women.

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  40. What a sad story about that village and the man who gave his life to save the rest. I remember sitting in the old train station in Singapore talking with an elderly Chinese man who told about how, as a kid, the Japanese gathered the Chinese in the station and took most of the men out to the beach and shot them. It is tragic what we do to one another.

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  41. I assume a hero like her brother has some pretty big wing in heaven.

    Soula is awesome. There is a book character in real life. Love the pose!

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  42. Love these! What a cool group of women. Soula definitely looks like someone you do not mess with. Enjoy your break!

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  43. He sounds an amazing man. Awesome group of women.

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  44. Thanks for sharing about these extraordinary people.

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  45. Incredible stuff. I wish they published more books on this subject:)

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  46. This is all so interesting. Such sad times, such inspiring stories. What a wonderful experience it was for you and the other women.

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