A special thank you to everyone!

It’s been two months since our families assembled in Perivolia, Crete for an amazing week-long reunion. It was an amazing and fulfilling experience for all of us. I am so thankful for my entire family. If not for the commitment and involvement of so many relatives, this reunion would have never been such a success.

I have to take a few minutes to thank some of us who played a vital role, and whose support and assistance made this all possible.

First and foremost I thank my partner in this adventure, my nephew Alex Sofianos. Every day over the past two years, Alex gave me the motivation and confirmation that what we were doing was worth all the time and effort. His deep love of Cretan tradition, music and dance, is unmatched. His fluency in the Greek language was invaluable as we worked out details of the reunion with restaurant owners,  tour bus companies, and others. Alex expresses his love of family and Crete on a daily basis.

Thanks as well to Manoli and Anna Maria Kastrinakis. Whenever Alex and I needed firsthand information on a hotel or restaurant, they would respond immediately and send us photos and messages within a few hours. Their photos of Keramos in Malaxa, the Oasis Hotel Perivolia and venues in Stavro helped us tremendously. Thanks for your  unending support and love.  

When it comes to support and assistance, Stellios and Katerina Fountoulakis were amazing. They sponsored our walking tour of the the old town on the first day or our reunion, and organized the farewell dinner in Theriso on our last day.  In between, they were always there with smiles, hugs, a meze, and some tsikoudia for anyone who stopped by Kreta Gold. Katerina also made burlap bags embroidered with “Rokakis Family” to commemorate our week together. Thank you for all your love and support.

Thanks to my cousin Manoli Rokakis for being the family historian, and helping to organize several important events. Manoli researched our family’s roots in Askifou and organized the church services in Askifou, Theriso and Madaro. His reminder that we needed to honor our ancestors and traditions was invaluable. Efharisto, Manoli!

A special thanks to our welcome night musician, Andreas Lilikakis, for connecting us with the bus company and for helping us find a venue for the welcome night dinner.

Thank you to our many relatives in Crete who opened their homes and hearts to us. My first cousins and brothers, Spiro, Stavro and Fani Petrakis in Agia were wonderful hosts, along with their wives, Soula, Jenny and Maria. Giorgo Petrakis joined us on our Thursday cave adventure in Varipetro. Thanks for the pick-up truck rides Giorgo!

Even though this family reunion can be a complete novel in and of itself, this cannot be the end of the story. We must continue to build on this experience and write the next chapter in the Rokakis Family book.

We talked bout another reunion in five years. That would be amazing. It gives all of us time to prepare. In the meantime, if you have any other ideas, please share them with everyone on the message board. Alex and I have a few ideas of our own.

We're Back!
 
We had an amazing trip to Crete to prepare for next year's reunion and have so much to share with everyone. We gathered information on hotels, our family tree, travel destinations, local family suggestions and much more. We are working to organize and share all of this information with everyone and will need your feedback on our Message Board. Look for more information soon!
 
Excitement for the reunion is building in Crete as well as here un the U.S. The offers of support in Crete have been incredible. Seeing the response from our relatives in Crete and the U.S. only confirms that this reunion will be an incredible experience.
 
Check back soon for more information!
 
The Family Tree
 
We are blessed with a large extended family tree, with branches that extend out across continents and generations. Those wonderful benefits come with responsibilities.  Like the tree of nature, a family tree needs to be tended with love and care, its growth nurtured, and its blessings acknowledged.  And like the tree, we as a family will wither and die without a strong root system.  While the comparison of the family to a tree is perhaps a simple, often repeated one, the parallels are there nevertheless. Perhaps it’s because we are all part of the natural order of things.  

For the Rokakis Family, those roots lie in the fertile soil of Crete. Is it not fitting that we all meet where that Tree took root, and to look as far down into the root system to see where we came from, and to understand why this tree is so strong? The very thought that we will all come together very soon to do just that, to acknowledge that Family Tree, to invigorate its growth and to rejoice in its existence, is absolutely astounding. We are truly blessed. Thank God!

To every one who has sent an RSVP, or who plans on coming to the reunion, THANK YOU! For those of us who are still unsure, please consider making whatever sacrifices are needed to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event. You will not regret the decision.

Presently, we have over 70 people committed in North America. If you include the family in Crete and other parts of Europe, you can imagine the scale of this reunion and the planning needed to make it run smoothly. In a couple weeks we will make the first efforts to work out as many details as possible, and to come back to you with information and our thoughts. 

There is a Message Board page on this website for people to start discussions, and to share ideas. Please start using it. We need your ideas and feedback to make this reunion successful. We are rookies at this, the same as you. Let's work together to make it work. If you have ideas or suggestions, please post them and let's start the discussion.
I sincerely hope to see everyone next year!
August 17, 2012

A night in Therisso

I didn’t have the good fortune of vacationing in Greece on a regular basis, nor did I grow up spending summers in Crete. While I’ve been there seven times, it was over a 30 year period. So I only spent one night in Therisso, and that was in the summer of 1981.That year I travelled through Europe with a friend of mine, Mike Woos, on a Eurail Pass. We spent 10 weeks visiting Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Greece. Mike guided us through the German-speaking countries, I handled Greece. We were on our own in Italy.

Mike liked to hike, a lot! We hiked up the Alps many times, until my thighs burned and I was gasping for breath.  I thought those days were behind me when we got to Crete. But Crete has its own mountains and Mike wanted to explore them as well. So the one full day we had in Therisso was spent climbing the mountain towards Lefka Ori. But Mike’s plans for a healthy hike were interrupted though, as even in the wild mountains above Therisso, the gracious hospitality of the Cretan people endures.

We started our trip passing through a grove of Maples, fed by a mountain spring. We met a shepherd who invited us to join him in a small meal. Food was the last thing on Mike’s mind, but I stressed that to refuse would be bad manners. It was a simple meal of bread, Greek salad and some soft mizithra cheese, kept cool in the mountain spring. After our meal we were directed to the next leg of our journey where another shepherd continued us up the hidden mountain path. He walked ahead of us at a clip that was hard, even for us, to maintain. All the while, a cigarette dangled from his mouth. No filtered cigarettes for this guy.

Shortly after he left us on our way, we got lost and were trekking through some pretty rough undergrowth. This was not tennis shoe and shorts territory. After 10 minutes or so, we saw a small structure, looking like an igloo made of stone, on a level clearing about 20 feet above us. At that same moment, a shepherd, seeing our miserable situation, called down to us and asked if we were xeni (foreigners) or Greeks. I said we were Greeks and he invited us up.

When we reached the hut, called a “mitato,” there was no one in sight. We looked into the mitato’s small doorway and saw three men and a boy of about twelve sitting on a circular arrangement of benches and chairs, peering out of the darkness. The only light coming into the hut was from the doorway and a small hole in the roof.  It was an intimidating scene. With eyes gazing at us as if we were Martians, we entered the hut and sat ourselves down.

One of the shepherds broke the uncomfortable silence and asked who we were and how we came to be there. I said I was a “Therissiano,” someone from Therisso. Now they were even more curious and I would suspect a bit suspicious. How could some strange person in tennis shoes and shorts, lost and wandering through the mountainside, say he was from their village? They asked again, who I was. I simply said four words, which to this day Mike can still repeat in perfect Greek dialect,” Eime tou Roka Manouso,” meaning I am the son of Manouso Rokakis.  The reaction was instantaneous and in unison to the man. They jumped up from their benches in excitement, gave a yell and started hugging and shaking hands. We were overwhelmed. Such a response for the son of a man that was gone from the village for 30 years! It spoke volumes about the bonds between fellow villagers, and more importantly about the respect given my father. What a blessing to be Cretan, to be from Therisso, to be the son of Manouso Rokakis!

We celebrated the moment by eating again!  For Mike, this was now the second meal in an hour, on what was to be a healthy a hike through the mountains. This was a hard lesson for him to learn. When you make plans to do anything in Crete, always make time for celebration, companionship, and food.

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Barbara Kitamorn on September 3, 2012 3:42 PM
Wonderful story. May I copy and share with my kids?
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Andy Rokakis on September 8, 2012 8:42 AM
Hi Barb. Thanks for your kind words. Yes you may copy and share my stories. I hope this inspires more people to come to the reunion. Could our parents and grandparents have ever imagined it?
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