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!
December 11, 2012

Our family history traces back to Askifou

Our family history has been traced back to the late 1600s, thanks to my first cousin Manoli Rokakis in Montreal. I posted a YouTube video of Manoli explaining that the Rokakis clan has roots in the Askifou plateau. The video is in Greek, but I will do my best to explain Manoli’s description of our history here.

In 1680 there was a family called Flefle. I know that it sounds weird, and very un-Cretan. The soft  “e” is pronounced in both cases, like fled without the “d”, accent on the second e. There were seven (or nine?) siblings who divided up the Askifou region, and in 1680, without a clear explanation as to how, one of the families left Askifou with the name Rokakis.

From Askifou, the Rokakis family settled in Madaro. Madaro sits about 10 km south of Kampi, where Thea Eleni Fanouriaki lived, and these two villages, along with Geroprinos and Tsakistra, make up the municipal unit of Keramia. Madaro is a very small village, and today only has around 30 residents. The Rokakis family remained in Madaro for 200 years. Then my grandfather went to Therisso as a shepherd, where he was married to our grandmother, Sophia Kournidakis.

The last of the Flefles died in 1770, according to Manoli, during a clash with the Turks over the killing of a Turkish Greek in Apokoronas. These facts were heard from the elders of the family and from records that exist. As I recall, the Ottomans kept very detailed records during the centuries of occupation, so it would not surprise me to find that we can trace our family history as far back as 1680, and maybe even further. The question is where will we find this information? Will it be in Greek or Turkish?

Other family names derived from the Flefles were the Bouklides and Tsitsirides. Manoli used them in the colloquial, plural version, and I can’t say what the proper name is. Manoli cannot recall other family names, but he knows they can be found with some research. I came across a YouTube video, posted by someone with a grandfather from Madaro. A resident told her of a publication that was printed just recently explaining the families and history of the Keramia region. That could be an invaluable tool in our research. My aunt and uncle in Kampi must be in that book.

The next step is to go to Crete and take a journey with Manoli, from Askifou to Madaro to Therisso, and learn what we can from the people of the region, and from official records. It is a journey I plan to take with my nephew Alex Sofianos in 2013. Anyone want to join us? I’ll keep you posted on our plans as they develop.

Comments

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Sophia Rokakis on December 12, 2012 8:30 PM
 Hi,I will be there and I would love to join u guys.When I was told the name ROKAKIS came from an female relative that worked with the 'roka' (spinning wheel) and was a extremly nice person. And the nick name came about.
Reply

Andy Rokakis on December 12, 2012 9:19 PM
Sophia,
That is funny because I had a paragraph suggesting that maybe it was because someone in the family used the roka, and that our family name might be the Greek version of the English name Weaver. Think about it.
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