“What was interesting, and this probably goes for most Greek families that were here - that although many of the families remain here to this day, so they’ve been here over sixty years, then many of them see all of this as a temporary thing. Always on New Year’s Eve, this I remember, we wished: ‘Good fortune into the new year, and next year in the homeland.’ There was hardly a New Year’s Eve where the toast was not given with this footnote. I can say that all, or most Greeks who lived and still live here, like Bohemia, like the local people, but they always saw it as their temporary second home. Now, as time has moved on, for the third, fourth generation of course, this is now their home number one. But the first, and I can say also the second generation still see their home, their heart, as Greece. Even though the first or the second generation had left the country as children, or we who were even born here, I can’t explain why, why it’s like that, but quite simply it is. At least in my case. I was born here, I grew up here, I’ve been living here for thirty-eight years, but no one’s taking that from me.”
“Well, I’d say that it has changed. I’d classify it completely differently. I’d say that the mythical land has found its image, that we’ve made the image to fit the myth. I still see it as a mythical land. It might seem dumb, but every time I’m in Athens, if time allows, I’ll stop by the Acropolis, although I’ve seen it four hundred and fifty times. I’ll go there the four hundred and fifty-first time. What’s important to me, is that no matter the circumstances, no matter what happens, I’m proud of Greece.”
“I refused to give up Greek citizenship, and thus I couldn’t receive Czech citizenship. I wouldn’t have accepted it even. Once I’m a Greek, that’s it for me. Of course it has, or it had it’ reasons. The main one is of the heart - once I was born Greek, I’d always be Greek. Of course, it had its advantages, I didn’t have to do military service. I have a duty towards the Greek army of course, but seeing as I have a permanent abode abroad, I have a so-called life-long deferment of military service. So it’s no big deal for me. But of course, the reason why I kept only Greek citizenship, is my heart. I mean, they wouldn’t even believe I was Czech.”
“It was very emotional for me, when we first went to Greece, when I first saw the country I had only ever heard of. It was a very emotional experience, because I was seven years old. So we went on holiday to Greece, we went by train. The journey took almost two days. The interesting thing was that everything happened with no stress right until the point when we reached the borders. Like, even when I talk about it now, it’s quite intense. I saw my father cry for the first time. It must have been crazy for them. Basically speaking, they were coming back home after thirty years. Basically, from the borders onwards, father stood by the window just looking out. I couldn’t understand it back then of course, and I didn’t feel it, but as I’m older, with hindsight, I can understand what it must have been like for them, to see their homeland after thirty years.”
“We Greeks are schizophrenic. Mainly those who live abroad, and that’s one whole half of them. Spiritually, we belong there. Yeah, our bodies belong here, but spiritually, we belong there. We are schizophrenic, and we have been for a long time. I’ll give you an example, why we feel schizofrenic. We have two capital cities. The one capital is Athens of course, which is tied to Antiquity. The second capital city, which we call the city with a capital C, is Constantinople, which was the centre of the Byzantine Empire. So in the situation that Constantinople, that is Istanbul now, would belong to Greece, I don’t know which would be the capital. So on the one hand it’s a good thing, not that it’s good, it isn’t. It’s fortunate for current-day Greece that we only have Athens, that we know which is the capital. Otherwise it could be quite interesting. There’d probably be a referendum, and the referendum would end up fifty to fifty. So yes, I said I belong here, that is just the schizophrenny.”
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We Greeks are schizophrenic, spiritually, we belong there, our bodies belong here.
Antonis Epikaridis was born in 1972 in Třinec. His father came to Czechoslovakia from Greece, his mother arrived through Poland, they spoke Greek at home. He visited Greece for the first time in 1979. He considered living in Greece in the Nineties, but they did not acknowledge his education. Nonetheless, he sees Greece as his home. He is single and lives in Třinec.