Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

In last week’s blog, I wrote about how information and people have come into my life to confirm what I’ve been writing. This week I want to acknowledge those who made this journey possible. Without their help, I would not have had the experiences you’ve read about in my blogs over the last several weeks.

It all started when I made a phone call to the Greek Consulate General’s office in Vancouver. My thought was to talk to someone about my novel’s themes and to get some advice about how I might proceed to meet officials in Greece who could confirm some of the things I had been thinking and writing about. I met with Ilias Kremmydas, the Consulate General shortly afterwards. He listened to what I was trying to do, spent a great deal of time with me giving me advice and helping me focus my research plan. He asked me to put together a proposal.

He in turn forwarded my proposal to the Greek Embassy in Ottawa. The contacts I made in Greece and the research I completed could have never taken place without his support. It was his initiative and desire to see my project succeed that made everything else happen.

Shortly after Ilias forwarded my proposal I received a call from Athanasia Papatriantafyllou (Sia), the Press Office Director for the Greek Embassy. We chatted at length about my project. Like Ilias, she understood my goals and what I had hoped to accomplish.

Sia connected me with Elena Soupiana of the Public Relations Directorate for the Secretariat General of Information and Communications in Athens. Elena set up the meetings I had requested including those with, Maria Stavropoulou and Eleni Petraki of the Asylum Service for the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection, Commander Evangelos Triantis and Sergeant Anthoola Siouti of the Amygdelesa Detention Centre, Daniel Esdras, head of the International Organization for Migration (Greece), as well as an interview with author, Nikos Hasapopoulos who has written extensively about the Nazi party, Golden Dawn, a group that plays a minor role (as well it should) in my novel.

Elena also sent me information about the Roma community, answered all my questions and my many, many emails and phone calls. She was my go-to-person during my time in Greece and she never wavered.

It is through some of the documents she sent me that I found, Kostas Dimanatis Balaskas, Anastasia Belesca, and Maria Panayiotopoulos of Action Synergy who collectively deliver various programs to the Roma community in Athens.

I also met lots of people in cafes and on the street. I pestered them with my questions and had wonderful discussions in my bad Greek and their excellent English. Their views and impressions, challenges and struggles infused my work.

My own cousins kept me sharp with questions and discussions about my project as well as so many other topics. While we don’t agree on a number of different issues, I’ve enjoyed the discussions we’ve had and the teasing. It has kept me grounded and likely that’s a good thing. Don’t tell them I said that though.

And special mention and thanks has to go to my cousin Elias Vranopoulos, who made inquiries through his friend at the University of the Peloponnese (Corinth) on my behalf. This led to a meeting with Maria Kratz of Children’s Ark and a tour of a Roma camp.

No matter what anyone else tells you: filoxenia (hospitality) thrives in Greece. Many things may have changed here with the economic crisis of 2008, but this has not. The people I met were incredibly generous with their time and information and eager to help me in any way possible.

And on the Canadian front, I couldn’t leave my home responsibilities for a couple of months without an incredibly dedicated, passionate and reliable back up. Rebecca Wood Barrett took over my responsibilities with the Whistler Writers Festival and the Whistler Authors in School program so I could be in Greece.

Access Copyright provided me with support so I’d have the time and resources to work on my novel. And my publisher, Karen Haughian of Signature Editions, spent a great deal of time on the phone with me convincing me that I shouldn’t let this opportunity pass. My other responsibilities could wait.

I’ve questioned my sanity more than once along this journey. I mean how much reality does one need to inject into a work of fiction?

But I’ve never questioned my belief that no one succeeds by him or herself. I’ve known this my whole life and my experience in Greece has further solidified this belief. I only hope that I can now take all the information I’ve gathered and complete a novel you will all feel is worthy of your efforts on my behalf. THANK YOU!


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