NEW YORK- In his first book, Kostas, My Story: The Gathering of the Children-Pethomazoma, An Unforgettable Civil War 1946-1949, A Mother’s Anguish to Save Her Children, Konstantinos N. Ganias offered an eyewitness account to the very little discussed events of the Greek Civil War and its aftermath.
The gathering of the children or pethomazoma mentioned in the subtitle may bring to mind the practice of blood tax during the Ottoman Empire when Christian boys, ages 8 to 18, were taken from their families, converted to Islam, and sent to train for service to the empire, often as Janissaries, the Sultan’s elite infantry, but in this case refers to the gathering and relocation of children from northern Greece to then-communist countries for their protection, according to the communists. Non-communists saw it as a plan to create communist Janissaries.
In Ganias’ case, his mother and siblings, as well as others, women, children and the elderly from the same village were sent to Hungary. The journey was harrowing to say the least and the moments captured in Ganias’ memoir are haunting and not for the faint of heart. The day to day hardships and struggles of the people who longed to return home and the eventual return to Greece shed a bit of light on this time period as only someone who lived through it could.
The book seemed to suggest a sequel was on the way with further details and the continuation of Ganias’ story and indeed, the author’s latest book, titled Towards a New Life, does just that.
Dedicated to his mother, Towards a New Life is written in memory of Ganias’ parents, Magdalini and Nickolas, and his brother Fotios. A message from Ganias’ children, Lena, Demetra, and Alexi, is also included in the book, highlighting their encouragement of their father and the positive life lessons he has passed down to them. The fact that the book includes a chapter titled My Greatest Achievement in Life: My Children, says a great deal about Ganias.
He shares his journey as an immigrant to the Unites States and finding the American Dream, seeking freedom, raising a family, and realizing success. The memoir highlights how he overcame hardships and loss, witnessed tragedy, and fostered relationships that taught him invaluable lessons and drive him forward.
Ganias notes in his introduction, “writing my second book, Toward a New Life, was a natural next step. It gave me much satisfaction to recall and reflect upon the events in my life after coming to America. This process reinforced the fact that life is complicated and unpredictable. You can only make the best of it…I tried not to be a great man, but a good man,” he adds.
Family photos included in the volume show key moments in Ganias’ life from his arrival in the United States in 1956 to his graduation in 1973 from Worcester State College in Massachusetts and finally with his wife Kathy and their grandchildren in 2018. The photos of family homes in Vavouri and Sparta in Greece, in Hungary and in Massachusetts recall all our immigrant backgrounds and the values we all share whether our family members came to the United States 100 years ago or just this year.
Towards a New Life by Konstantinos N. Ganias and his first book, Kostas, My Story: The Gathering of the Children- Pethomazoma, An Unforgettable Civil War 1946-1949, A Mother’s Anguish to Save Her Children, are both available online.