In 1937 I was a young child of twelve. My mother, older sister Stella and younger brother Apollo and I were on an ocean liner headed for Greece. I remember my mother talking about Greece during that voyage. She talked about the night sky and the stars in Greece, and said that the sky was so clear that you got the feeling that you could reach up and catch the stars. Greece, as told by my mother, became paradise to us as children. It made us all excited to be on this trip even though the purpose of the trip was for our sister Stella to heal from a serious health issue. 

The days on board the ship went by swiftly. The weather was beautiful and while my mother and my sister Stella spent most of their time lounging on the deck enjoying the fresh air, my brother Apollo and I went about exploring the ship. Mother worried about us and was constantly cautioning us to stay within calling distance. One day we were playing hide and seek and we were running back and forth on the deck of the ship. Apollo tripped and fell on top of one of the lounge chairs which was occupied by an older man. My mom and sister came over, apologized, and then struck up a conversation with the gentleman. As it turned out, he was also heading to Greece and introduced himself as Nicholas Petrou. Mr Petrou explained that he’d been forced to retire because of being totally disabled. He had fallen down an elevator shaft and it was a miracle that he survived. He explained that he felt being crippled made him of no use to anyone.

So to enjoy life he was heading to his home village in Greece, Kalavryta, to bask in the sunshine and be as lazy as possible. As the days went by Mr. Petrou sought us out. He clearly was looking for companionship. We enjoyed listening to his stories and Apollo loved to play checkers with him because Apollo almost always won. We welcomed him as a friend, and he made the cruise across the Atlantic Ocean much more enjoyable for us all for the entire trip.

* Adapted from Six Years to Freedom ©, unpublished manuscript by Angeline Spillias, 1992; ©Kenneth Spillias, 2017, 2019, 2022.