People ask, especially in the US, “Where are you originally from?”, but what does that really mean? Does it mean the place you were born, the place you grew up, the place you feel it to be home? My understanding is a combination all the afore-mentioned; it refers to the place (or places) that define you as a person and have been constantly significant throughout your life (i.e., not just a place you visited once and might have had life changing impact on you). This definition, aka my definition, does not prevent one place you understand as origing from being a superset of another place you consider as origin. My origins are in Zacharo, Corfu, and Greece.
I moved to Zacharo at the age of 7 and I have to admit that I did not like it straight away. I have always considered myself to be a city-person, and that was (yes, at the age of 6 :-D) my main concern. However, it did not take long to get used, and a bit later in love, with this small town. Most people do not understand what it means to live in a place where you have everything you want when you are a child, namely a lot of freedom, carefree life without stress due to commute or fear of strangers; Zacharo is one of these places! It is small, you are friend with everyone, because you know everyone, and it combines all the “environment elements”, i.e., sea, lake, mountain, forest, plain. The most vivid memory I have from my life there are the summers that I spent at my grandmother's (Greek: γιαγιά) beach house, where I enjoyed the best food ever and played at the sea from dawn till dusk!! Zacharo was a big school for me, for I learned to value the important things in life, such as family, friends, nature & environment, free time, stress-less life.
One could argue that Corfu is my real origin, since my roots there are because of my father, and, to be honest, this is probably the place where I would like to settle at some point in my life. In any case, Corfu is a place that has left its mark on me although I never had the chance to live there in a non-vacation mood. The past few years, especially before moving to the US, I spent more and more time there during my summer holidays, and the reason is multi-fold! As an island in the Ionian Sea it is very green and full of trees (the olive trees of Corfu are very particular due to their uncommonly great height). However, it is not just that, Corfu is an extraordinary combination of nature, city life, and culture. The old town of Corfu with its 17th is of unparalleled beauty, while the aristic element is omnipresent. This, in combination with the numerous beaches, the small and hidden fish taverns, the great contrast of nature from the northern part to the southern one make an amazing mixture. Yet again, Corfu is not just the possibility of having all those things in one place; it is the place where I mostly spend my time while being there, the small village Kato Pavliana (Greek: Κάτω Παυλιάνα) with a population less than 100 people. Kato Pavliana is located on the side of a mountain, where one can enjoy the perks of the most quiet life (except maybe for the donkeys and the roosters at times :-) ). This village is the people, the fresh air, the natural food, the mountain paths, the carefree life, the comeback to our roots as simple human beings! This is what Corfu means to me...
Although I feel and always felt a traveler of the world, being from Greece is not something you can take easily. Greece is multifaceted and is globally known for what our ancestors (saying that means we have to bear the responsibilities and duty they left behind!) did and contributed to this world. This is one side of the coin, however; the other side is the weather, the blue sky, the bright sun, the food, the sea and beaches, the islands, the beauty in general. So, what does Greece mean for me? It is all the above, and it is our history that gives us the drive to excel in whatever we do. It is our history that gives us the pride to stand out in difficult situations. There are so many things that one can say about Greece, and argue whether we are successful in continuing the great ideas of the past. Fortunately, there are many prominent examples of people who lead the way in sciences and engineering. Unfortunately, very few people (i.e., Greek people) know our history and dear to mention the ancient Greece as an example of how good we are while understanding the responsibilities at the same time. Last but not least, one thing I love about Greece is the language, and I know the saying “This is Greek to me”, but it is probably the best language to express yourself; it gives you absolute freedom, while its complication gives only the necessary elements that one needs! After all, our ancestors invented it ;-)
Zacharo's (Greek: Ζαχάρω) history begins in the middle of the 19th century. At the time of the Greek War of Independence, the area of Zacharo was sparsely populated. However, in the decades that followed, populations from the villages of the surrounding mountains started to migrate to the area. The town allegedly took its name from an inn, that belonged to a woman named Zacharoula. In late August 2007, forest fires caused over 40 deaths, as well as extensive property damage. Zacharo was one of the worst-hit areas in Greece.