Family Folklore – Part 1

“It is a common saying, and on everyone’s mouth, that life is not a sojourn.” Plato

As a child, I was told my paternal grandfather’s roots were in the agriculturally rich village of Kyparissia in the Peloponnese. Family folklore has it that my great-grandfather had a lot of land there. It was left abandoned after he died and most of his children moved away. I have been back to Kyparissia many times to find some information about my great-grandfather and grandfather. This time I came back to see if there was any way to locate this discarded land.

My aunt said she found it once. Apparently there were too many back taxes owing on the land to do anything about it. My cousin, her son, told me he was here in 1984 and found an old woman who claimed to have known our family, the name Leventoyannis. This isn’t a surprise. That surname is associated with this region.

The woman my cousin met apparently pointed to a bunch of dilapidated buildings close to the sea and told my cousin the property was ours.  But my cousin couldn’t tell me where that land was. And my aunt died without revealing an address.

I’m not sure why finding this land was important to me, but I’ve missed my culture my whole life. So perhaps finding something tangible of my history would ease that longing. I go into these ventures (any venture) blindly, figuring out my motivations later. The why overshadowed by the excitement of a new project and the part of me that likes to get things done.

Initially, I visited the municipal hall and the land registry office. Finding these places turned out to be more of an adventure than I’d expected. I wanted to find the office, but the people I spoke to: a pharmacist, another man in an official looking building, got on the phone to talk to a Leventoyannis they knew. “There is someone here from Canada. Do you think you might be related to her?”

The strangers on the phone didn’t seem to know if we were related or not, but they suggested others to talk to. Everyone wanted to help, and all I wanted was directions to the land registry office. I should have spent more time talking to these people. Sometimes, I can be such a short sighted dolt. Ok, maybe that happens more than sometimes.

When I finally found the correct office, the woman I dealt with listened with interest. Or at least that’s what I thought until the head shaking started.

“You want to do what?”

“Find out if my family still has land here.” I can’t remember, but I’m sure I tried very hard to hold the woman’s incredulous stare.

“You don’t have an address.”

“No.”

“Without an address, you can’t find the land.”

The search had ended as quickly as it had started. I felt disheartened. But there was relief too. I could stop looking.

Then of course, as I’d given up, a door clicked open. Or rather, a sign appeared in the most unlikely of places: on Kyparissia’s main street.

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