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 24, 2012

A trip in1994

 

In 1994 my sister Mary returned to Crete for her first time since her emigration in 1954. After 40 years, it was an emotional and unforgettable journey, and I am thankful I was there to enjoy it with her. The one event that I remember most was from our very first day in Crete, while our first cousin George Kastrinakis was giving us a tour of various places around Chania.

Our last stop was Varipetro, the village where my parents settled after they married. It is only a few kilometers from my mother’s village of Agia, and sits at the end of a long arrow-straight road,off of the Hania-Omalo roadway. We took a sentimental route past my parents’ old home, or rather what was left of it. The property was abandoned since my parents left. There was no ceiling, and the walls were mostly gone. Mary was moved so deeply to see what had become of the home, and how it was still there, but yet not really.

We also had the good fortune of finding my parents’ old neighbor, Kiria Hariklia. Mary remembered her well, and how she would help my family in tough times with some loaves of bread. As she was wondering aloud whether or not this woman was still living, Kiria Hariklia herself appeared on her front patio. She welcomed us into her home and a few tears were shed by Mary and even my cousin George as everyone recollected old times. It was like walking into a time machine. As unforgettable as this was, the most memorable event was yet to come.

We were getting ready to leave to village, and were standing outside the car, when I mentioned that my father had a first cousin in the village named Alatsa, and it would be wonderful if he were still living and we could meet him. Almost on cue, like Kiria Hariklia’s well-timed entrance, we saw an old man with a cane slowly approached our car from the town square. We didn’t think too much of this, even though the midday sun was beating down and people are usually enjoying a shady spot at the kafeneio, or preparing for lunch at that time, especially the elderly. Mary had already sat herself in the back seat of the car when George realized this old man was Alatsa himselfHe didn’t say a word until he shuffled over to the open back door of the car to address Mary. Right there on the spot, he recited to her a well-known poem our father wrote about his daughters Mary, Cynthia and Sophia! It was a poem over 44 years old, written before Efty was even born. We were blown away. Everyone was in tears. The love this man had for my father, and the bond between them was so strong, that he kept this poem in his heart and mind for over 44 years.

 


Marika
 mou hrisi klonia
Sophia mou metaxi
Ke ya tin Spiridoula mou
O nous mou tha petaxi

My translation is as follows.

Marika of mine, my golden bough
Sophia of mine, forever
And for my Spiridoula
My spirit will take flight

 

 

Comments

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Jim Rokakis on November 7, 2013 9:59 PM
Andy,
You are quite a wordsmith!  Our father was a poet and you a a hell of a writer!  I remember Alatsa as I met him when I was in Crete with our father in November of 1985.  He was a wonderful and loving man--one of many I met on that trip.  The meeting he had with Mary still brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.  Thank you for all this work you have undertaken on behalf of our family.
Jim Rokakis
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