On Sunday, May 26, I did something I had never done before in my life: I voted in the Greek elections. When I first left Greece, the junta was in power.
And I did not vote only once – but four times: for the European Parliament, for president of the village and the municipality, and for the regional governor.
And I voted in my village: Thanos, Limnos.
From this column, and in other parts of this historic newspaper, we have been shouting for years that it is ridiculous in our time to force expatriate Greeks to go back to Greece to vote.
And in most cases, we immigrants are not registered to vote in Athens, but in the provinces – so the cost in time and money is even greater.
That this is still the case is yet more proof of how much work our homeland needs: first, to move into the modern era, and second, to strengthen its relations with the Hellenic Diaspora.
Nevertheless, for me, it was a special trip.
It was an amazing, summer-like morning. The glittering sun had already dispersed the morning mists, and we were greeted by the sounding of the bell – “the bell of our village, do you hear it boys, how sweetly it rings…,” – do you remember it? – the bell that called believers to Church was enchanting. There are still such moments, such symbols, that unite the past with the present.
The school, the voting venue, was located in the center of the village, in its square.
Generations and generations of children learned the letters of the alphabet there.
Sometimes, there were many children, but the times were difficult, so there was one teacher. Later, in my day, there were two teachers (one of them was Cleomenes Simeon, may God grant his soul rest).
Today there are three, even though there are fewer kids.
It is a school that looks like an old mansion. After the Church, it is the most dominating building in the village. Both of these structures have benefited – the Church most of all – from donations from emigrants, my fellow villagers in the Diaspora.
Earlier they told me there was a line to vote, but when I went there were few voters.
They led me to the room on the right, in my old school. A kind young lady asked for my identification card and after finding my name on the electoral roll I began to collect the 40 ballots – that was for the number of parties – from which I would choose the people I wanted to vote for.
Next to the tables with the piles of ballots two little booths had been made, each with a curtain and a nice bench, on which I placed the ballot papers as I searched for what I was interested in. I hesitated – was I supposed to select 4 names on each ballot? Yes, that was correct. I marked the names on the ballot with “x’s” – in Greece they call them “crosses” – and I placed it in the envelope I had been given, which I tossed into the ballot box.
Then they gave me more ballots for the Regional election.
Everything was done with order, efficiency, and courtesy. I was really impressed.
After that, they told me to go into a room opposite to the one I was in – so many memories came back to mind – where I voted for the village and municipality presidents.
The same procedure, the same efficiency, the same courtesy.
I walked out of the school, stopping short on the stairs. There I was, in one of the photos of students, dressed as a Tsolia and holding a gun that was bigger than I was, for the 25th of March holiday, and in another I was wearing white shorts and shoes on graduation day.
It felt like a dream. Like the closure of a great circle.
Some men were sitting in the cafe on the square and drinking the day’s first ouzo. The timeless ritual…
“Sit down,” they said. “Our treat.”
I could not say no, could I?