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Aegina and Literature

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"I think about Aegina, the house in the sun, the dark sea, and I say to myself, what a monster man must be, what kind of greedy beast his soul, to leave such priceless goods behind and wander so far, in the rain and the fog." When Nikos Kazantzakis wrote these words from London in a letter (2 July 1939) to my father, Yannis Angelakis, I was just five months old. It seems that the oil he rubbed on me as my godfather at my baptism on 15 August 1940 - the day the cruiser Elli was sunk - engendered in me a love for Aegina as well as a love for poetry.

I have always said that I owe my paradise to a catastrophe, as my father bought our land and house in Aegina after the Asia Minor Disaster of 1922, when his entire family, parents and sisters, came over from the Dardanelles during the population exchange. He found Aegina by chance and settled them there. He, himself, had been living in Athens for some time.

I remember when I was still young and at school, looking out the window at the sunlight and thinking to myself: the day is approaching, time for the summer holidays, and I'll soon be in Aegina. Naturally, Easter was different from summer. On Good Friday, with my mother at the church of Panagitsa, I was swept away by the mournful charm of the candles as they transformed people's faces. I was never religious, but on the night of the Ascension, my soul soared.

And then summer would come: the sea, swimming at Faros or Avra beach, and when I got older, a bite to eat with some wine at the tavernas on the sand. Friends would visit, some returning year after year. And that's how September would finally arrive. "Saintly like September," I wrote somewhere. Harvest time, pistachios. Contentment, but also worry in case it rained while the nuts lay out to dry in the sun.

I wonder what the secret to Aegina's charm is. Is it the light, or the unique atmosphere that combines the special traits of Attica with those of the island? "There is a taste of a storm on your lips," while you feel the marble of the Temple of Aphaia and the Parthenon crowning your horizon.

Karerina Rouk

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