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!
September 8, 2012

May 20, 1941, and my sister Spiridoula

On this day in history, everyone of Cretan descent knows that German paratroopers invaded Crete in the first airborne-only invasion of an island. It was also their last. Over a ten day period, the Germany's paratroopers' losses were so great that Hitler forbade further airborne invasions of such a scale for the rest of the war.

Prior to the actual paratrooper invasion, the Geman airforce "softened" Cretan defenses by bombing the island extensively. In villages throughout Crete, as in Varipetro, Cretans fled to the mountains where caves offered natural protection against the onslaught.

In Varipetro, a woman, pregnant with her second child, was among those heading to the hills. She had already lost her firstborn son, Anastasi, less than two years before to illness, and now her life and the life of her second child were in great danger. I can't even imagine the terror and anguish she went through. I do know that the stress is probably the reason that on that day, in a cave above Varipetro, her daughter Spiridoula was born.

My children loved the story I told of a young couple in Crete who lost their firstborn son, then fled to a cave during the war, where their daughter was born. Without naming names, I told of how they came to a the United States to start a new life, and how the father came first to get a job and save money to bring his family, that now included four daughters. In a year after the family was reunited, a son was born, and 14 months later, twin boys. Then as I brought the story to present day, and put names to the characters in my story, my children were amazed to find that they were part of that story, children of the one twin, Andy. They asked me many times again to tell the story of their family, and their Cretan roots.

If you have stories to share, please go to our Message Board or email it to me and I can include it in this blog. See you in "14.

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