Image of art installation of human figure countours made of wire, greenery and city stretching behind them. Photo by Eleanna Castroianni, 2021
My father-in-law is dear to me. He has collected the most interesting bits of trivia about local history throughout his lifetime. We often enjoy talking about how places once were and what things were like, and he always has something to share that no search engine could provide me with.
One New Year’s Day I was shocked to hear from him that in the 1950’s boats full of Greek orphans left for the US. He also mentioned that this happened with the support of the then queen of Greece.
I soon learned that one way this occured was through illegal adoptions. For years, newborns went missing in hospitals. Nurses told mothers their children died at birth, so they could be then fed to a lucrative adoption industry (a bit more info here).
All this, and a lot more, I discovered after this prompt by my FIL. It led me to a deep and thoughtful study of an event that is little understood in my culture and highly divisive among Greek people to this day: the situation of children in the Greek Civil War and the years that followed. Much like in the Spanish Civil War, children suffered as they were caught between the guerrillas, the government, and the general horror that is war. Danforth’s and Van Boeschoten’s excellent book Children of the Greek Civil War: Refugees and the Politics of Memory contains moving accounts of oral history from adults who, as children of the civil war, were sent to Eastern Bloc countries as refugees or lived in the queen’s orphanages (called “child cities”) - both practices dubbed “child-grabbing” by either side. The Danforth and Van Boeschoten book contains a thought-provoking chapter on how memory is a political beast.
This study led me to write the short Our Heartstrings Howl the Moon, which I am delighted to finally share with you in a beautiful, wolf-themed, midwinter Strange Horizons issue. It is the imagined story of some of these children, inspired by the different routes the difficult years of the war (and early post-war) took them; about growing up in a time a place where brother kills brother, and, potentially, what this does to you; about childhoods that spiral outwards, in several directions, but all are pulled back to the same place: to the imperfect, bittersweet bonds we build with each other.
This is one of my favourite shorts (and also an homage to my favorite book, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves) simply because the emotional landscape that emerged is one very vivid to me—one that, whenever I go back to it, I can feel something in me awaken. And so I hope it awakens something in you too.
Till next time,
P.S. This is, by the way, my first newsletter! Many thanks to everyone who already signed up. I switched to Buttondown from Substack because I wasn't happy with some of the latter's attitudes towards marginalised folks, but turns out I am not entirely happy either and still looking for the ideal platform! Meanwhile, I thought I should just start writing. I will be introducing a little bit more of myself and what I would like to do with this newsletter next time. Till then, have a wonderful end-of-year!