Period covered: 1974 to 1983
Locations: London, Japan, Bali, Bombay, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro.
Prejudice is defined as an unreasonable opinion that is formed without much thought or knowledge. It took me a lifetime to comprehend why I was a victim of this, and to understand the origin of such irrational emotions. Being from a family of Portuguese ancestry who over several centuries had grown roots in the mountains of Minas Gerais, I automatically and without question adhered to their preconceptions.
From as early as 1373 the Portuguese allied themselves with the English, generally against the French and the Spanish. Only after 1808 were foreigners openly allowed into the Brazilian colony, and especially into the gold and diamond region of Minas Gerais, which was an area particularly forbidden to strangers. It was therefore natural that the only outsiders acceptable to the old families of Mineiros were the English.
Italians arrived in the country at the very end of the 19th century, at first as manual labourers, so at first, they did not have the social stature of the families long established there. Unsurprisingly my father frowned on my relationship with an Italian family, though he never actually said anything directly against it. However, he did quote to me the infamous saying - When an Italian is born, the child is thrown up against a wall. If it sticks it is fine, and if it does not it will be a thief.
In a country such as ours, made up of people from all over the world and of myriad ethnicities, prejudice is absurd and is the consequence of opinions formed without conscious thought or logic. In time the standing of the later immigrants changed. The Italians gained stature and often made fortunes, and most of the other Europeans married into Portuguese families.
My mother was from an Anglo-Portuguese family, my sister married into a Spanish family and gained a Spanish surname, my brother into a German-Portuguese family, and I, after years of marriage to a British-Greek, finally embraced a family of French ancestry. Nonetheless, after arriving in England I became an Anglophile and consequently something of a Francophobe.
When I first met the Greeks, I had no prior knowledge of them as they had not been present in my country of origin in numbers large enough to have acquired a reputation. I therefore had to learn about them myself, and I quickly perceived their various prejudices, which I only began to understand when I studied the history of the Byzantine civilisation. People’s prejudices are invariably influenced by their history.
Though I had met a Greek-American at university, I had not had time to learn anything about them as a cultural group, but in London after meeting Edward Anglikis Malamos I was to have ample time for this as our relationship was to last for many years. The Malamos are a Greek family mostly involved in shipping, and with strong connections to the United Kingdom and Switzerland. An early notable among them, Basil Manuel Malamos, (1901-1979), was descended from a long-established shipping family. He moved to England in the early 20s, where with his cousins the Kulukun he developed the Greek merchant navy. He married an Englishwoman and they had two sons, Nicholas and Manuel Basil, generally known by his nickname Bluy.
Bluy, who was particularly known for his international social life, married four times and had four children. In the early 70s he moved to Switzerland from where he continued to run his company. One of his two sons by a Mexican-born wife, Nicholas, hit the limelight when he married to an well-known actress. His brother, Basil Carlos (1958–1998), was educated at Eton and Harvard and became a professional journalist. He later converted to Islam and in 1998 died in Pakistan while reporting for an American commercial television network.
At the end of the 19th century another branch of the Malamos family was well established in northern Egypt, then part of the Ottoman Empire. This was a strategic spot on the trade route between Europe and Asia, which in 1869 with the opening of the Suez Canal gained much exposure to Western culture. Very soon, however, the high level of expenditure led the Egyptian government to bankruptcy, resulting in the foreign control of local finances, which again caused an additional influx of European administrators. This only inflamed the already tense situation, with riots in Alexandria causing the deaths of many European residents. After the First World War Egypt finally gained independence.
Left: Old print of the Suez Canal. Right: Map of the Suez Canal.
The colour of life in that part of the world at the time is well described by Lawrence Durrell in his Alexandria Quartet, a tetralogy of novels published between 1957 and 1960. In them Durrell relates the stories of Justice, Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea through whom one glimpses a cultural mix of Greeks, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans, and other nationals then living in the region. But this was a doomed world. After another World War, Gamal Abdel Nasser led the country in a revolution that was to change life completely in that country forever.
My children’s Papu, or grandfather, Basil Malamos, was born in Port Said but by the time of the Second World War he was living in the village of Bray Upon Thames in the English county of Berkshire. During this conflict, Switzerland, a landlocked country, was forced to create a merchant fleet. Seizing this opportunity Papu founded a shipping company and purchased a vessel, renamed ‘Maroud’, which from then on flew a Swiss flag.
After the war Basil and his wife Elaina Anglikis set up home in London where both of their children, Edward and Mariel were born, but they soon chose to send their children to school in Switzerland. The lessons of war were never forgotten, and everyone who had a link with the neutral countries, such as Switzerland and Portugal, were determined to keep this important relationship alive.
Edward told me he was terrified during his first days at school in Switzerland when he could not speak a word of French. But in time he overcame this obstacle, and during his teens he enrolled at L’Institut Le Rosey. This is a boarding school in Rolle, founded in 1880 on the site of the 14th century Château du Rosey close to the shore of Lake Geneva. The school also owns a campus in Gstaad where they relocated from January to March so that the students could go skiing, the Swiss national sport.
Most students at Le Rosey are scions of wealthy families around the world, among whom in the 1950s and 1960s were many Americans, Italians, and Greeks. In 1965 the then school director Louis Johannot, in an interview with Life Magazine made a comment that aroused considerable attention: "The only reason I always try to meet and know the parents better is because it helps me to forgive their children."
One could say that my meeting with Edward Malamos was a natural consequence of frequenting the same places and knowing the same people. I think now that the reason we were attracted to each other was that we were in many ways quite similar – both strong and self-opinionated. He first came into my life as a weapon of destruction, which I used to end a previous relationship, while I was to him no more than a passing meteor.
In August 1974, not long after our meeting, I travelled with him to St Tropez, where we stayed for a month as guests of Ariadne Pandel, the sister of one of his best friends, Basil Pandel. This was from my point of view an extremely boring occasion during which we went out for lunch and dinner and then to a night-club every single day. Nothing else. No sightseeing, no beach and worst of all no time for silence and peaceful contemplation.
Back in London, for lack of something better to do I enrolled on a short course at the Inchbald School of Interior Design, founded in 1960 by Jacqueline Duncan Inchbald. The school premises were then located at 7 Eaton Gate, and the programs offered were a more professionally orientated year long course and a ten-week course for dilettantes like me.
There I briefly met Edward Malamos’s sister Mariel who was attending the year-long course, and on my own shorter course I met Minal Aswani, a beautiful and sophisticated Indian girl. Minal, who every day in class wore a different set of beautiful jewellery to match her outfit, lived with her parents in Mayfair’s elegant Grosvenor Square, where Edward’s parents also lived, and where the American Embassy was situated at the time.
At the end of that year I joined Edward, Mariel, and his friend Angelo Econom on a trip to Japan where the Economs were having a ship launched. After Tokyo we went to Hiroshima where the launching ceremony was to take place, and from Japan we flew to Bali, where we stayed in the Tanjung Sari, a pleasant Balinese style hotel in Sanur.
By then I was rather tired of Edward’s constant cynical humour and his endless bickering with his sister, so I said that I would not accompany them to Bangkok where he wanted to have various kinds of ‘special’ massages, whatever that meant. I thus announced that I was going directly from Bali to Bombay to visit my friend Minal, who had invited me to stay as a guest of her parents.
Paul Theroux, in his book ‘Dark Star Safari’, says “The best type of travel is one into the unknown. Or a leap in the dark. If the destination is familiar what is the point of going there?” My experience as the guest of an Indian family for the end of year festivities of 1974 was an extraordinary leap into an exotic world.
The Taj Mahal Hotel, in Bombay, decorated for the end of year season.
This is the season when many international Indians converge on their home country, which bursts into life with a sequence of parties, culminating for me that year in a fabulous New Year’s Eve reception at a Maharaja’s palace. At Minal’s home I met the rest of her family, and after the festivities I went with her sister Divia to an Ashram outside town for a week’s detachment from the social whirl. As the years passed, I lost touch with Minal. She first married Jack Sagrani, whose family had a business in Nigeria, and they had a daughter. Sometime after this marriage ended Minal met and eventually married Lalit Modi, the head of an important family business.
Returning to London in early 1975, I could not find any more excuses to prolong my stay in the UK so I went back to Belo Horizonte intending to join my brother and sister working in the family business. The person who arrived there, however, was not the person who had departed several years before. The city and its people were not the same either. Everything had changed. My old home was always pleasant each time I came for a holiday during my ten years abroad, probably because I knew I would soon be leaving again, but when I thought of living there encircled by those mountains among people with whom I now had little in common and who were mostly overcast by heavy depressive clouds the idea became positively harrowing. After years of living away from home I asked if I could have a flat for myself, but the request was not taken seriously.
I had many cousins in Belo Horizonte whom I loved very much, but I found that in the 70s my generation appeared to be going through traumatic times. One of my favourite childhood cousins, Helena, who was related to me on my father’s side, had changed so much that at times I even found her company unpleasant. Rubem Dario Bittencourt, a cousin in my mother’s family, was a successful artist and a companion of mine when I was in Rio. He had returned to Belo Horizonte and was going through a desperate period of decadence. Many of my other cousins had married and settled down into a life different from mine.
Though I had long dreamt of working with my father, in the last few years I had noticed changes of attitude in him that I found difficult to understand. He was frequently irritable and always critical of everything, and we no longer had anything in common. I had recently heard more stories about my father’s other life and preferred to continue distant from this strange world and of his office, which I saw as ugly, messy, and frightening, and I absolutely hated going there.
I therefore told him that I wanted to work in our small family bank. I imagined it would be a long but interesting learning experience, and that there I would be more segregated from the hustle and bustle of the main office I so disliked. My father said I did not know anything about banking, which was quite true, but I did not know anything about real estate or the sugar business either, so what difference would it make? Feeling very depressed, I retreated to the peaceful solitude of my room, where I read most of the time. This impasse lasted a few months as neither of us would budge, and one day I went off to Rio, my eternal stepping-stone, where I could rest and think about what to do next.
My family had a holiday apartment overlooking Copacabana Beach where we always spent our mid-year school breaks. As my mother had cousins living in Rio, she very much enjoyed the season there. It is the most pleasant time of year when the temperature is about perfect. I did not know many people in Rio, but my cousin Antonio Manuel Luciano Pereira lived there. When I arrived in mid 1975, he introduced me to a friend of his called Cecilia Bernardes. She was also from Minas Gerais and we became friends.
The few other people I eventually met in Rio belonged to the local English contingent, who usually converged at weekends on the Buzios beach-house of one of their families. The only one I ever saw again away from Rio was Edward Hoare. We met in London where I also met his sister Audrey and their cousin Richard Hoare. Their family owns Hoare’s bank, a private deposit bank founded by their ancestor Richard Hoare in 1672.
When my father suggested I consult a psychoanalyst in Rio who had been recommended by a friend I was happy to accept. Dr Santos saw his patients in his consulting room in his apartment in a building beside the Morro da Viuva in Flamengo from where there was a splendid view of the Sugar Loaf and the little dangling cable cars that go up to the summit and down again. In addition to this aerial scenery I liked to gaze at were the planes that took off from Santos Dumont Airport. They flew out from the left, turned, and flew towards the open sea. As the weeks passed I poured out my thoughts and my troubles to Dr Santos, telling him about my studies in Boston and my life in England, as well as the reasons why I did not want to live in Belo Horizonte.
At the beginning of 1976 my maternal grandmother Teresa, whom I saw as one of the few people in the family who was still completely sane, had a stroke and died. Even at the age of ninety-three she was my greatest support and I was devastated by her death, after which I no longer wished to remain in Brazil. My father was absolutely furious, but my mother, always unquestioning loving and supportive, soon found a way to send me money with which to buy a flat in London. Over twenty years later, long after she had died, my brother told me the money had been his and my mother had ordered him to send it to me.
When I returned to London later that year, I felt completely empty, without direction or purpose in life. I had in the past refused marriage and postponed having children because I did not want anything to interfere with my professional dreams. Now that I had decided not to work with my father what did I have left? Meanwhile, as if by magic or mischief, my relationship with Hades picked up again, but this only brought me despair because I realised that he could never be a loving person. I tried to break away from him, but in the despondency in which I found myself it was hard to achieve anything.
With the idea of becoming financially independent from my parents I decided that I had to find work. I was armed with a Business Administration degree from an American University, spoke a number of languages, but had no work experience so I enrolled in courses at the City-Lit in an effort to brush up my secretarial skills. I remember a day when walking despondently down a busy street I saw in a shop front an offer of free psychological testing for passers-by. I went in and decided to try it and it turned out to be the Church of Scientology. I attended it very briefly, but soon, with my usual stubbornness, I was at loggerheads with them.
They told me I had to give up whatever medication I was taking, and I questioned their authority in the field of medicine. I also objected to the repetitive nature of some of their activities and told them I would not participate in them because I believed such tasks were designed for the domination of the mind. It was only much later that a doctor told me that Scientology was seen by some as a dangerous sect intent on controlling the more fragile and vulnerable.
My next attempt to regain my emotional stability was by offering my voluntary services to the British Red Cross. For a time, I carried out administrative tasks at their offices in Victoria, and became interested in their First Aid course, which taught, among other things, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Not long afterwards, in the Worlds End area, an old man collapsed next to me and I instinctively tried to resuscitate him while the ambulance was on its way.
When I told Hades about this incident he exclaimed:
“How disgusting! You actually touched his mouth with yours?”
“No,” I said, “You put your hand in between.”
“That is still revolting anyway. Be careful or you will end up being rewarded for good deeds!”
“Don’t worry,” I countered, “I didn’t give my name.”
I don’t think he even heard my answer as the sound of his loud laughter reverberated around the walls of his elegant Grosvenor flat. One could not win in verbal repartee with Edward Malamos as he revelled in his own sense of humour. I had to learn simply to take no notice.
Early in 1977 a young man calling himself Jurek phoned me and introduced himself as a friend of my friend Sylvia Hruska. Jerzy Stanislaw pod Gorsky, known as Jurek, was originally from the southern part of Poland, near Krakow. He earned his living mostly as a translator, as did Sylvia, and he was a kind and gentle person of solid religious background, unlike me, as I am cynical about spiritual matters. What I think must have caused us to become attached to each other were the aimlessness and emptiness of our lives.
Meanwhile, in my struggle to find work I had realised that English companies had no interest in foreigners. Consequently, I redirected my search to Brazilian companies operating in London and was finally employed at the London office of Interbras, the Import and Export division of Petrobras, the Brazilian State Oil Company. Here my academic qualifications at least helped in justifying my hire as I had specialised in International Business and was also fluent in both the languages needed for my work. In this way I obtained my UK work permit, became an official resident of England and started to grow my local roots.
To make a work permit effective you have to leave the country and come in again as a resident. I had to go somewhere for a minimum period of five days before presenting myself at work. I chose to go to Cancun in Mexico where I rented a car and drove around, happily celebrating my new status of official resident in the UK after ten years as a resident visitor.
At Interbras I worked as assistant to the Commercial Director, Werner, who was from Rio. He was the nephew of a General, and during the Brazilian military dictatorship it was useful to be linked to those in power. All the bosses at this office were sent from the head-office in Rio regardless of their qualifications and limited knowledge of English so the local staff did all the writing required. I entered an undiscovered world as for the first time in my life I met women who supported themselves and their children through their own work, and I found this fascinating.
The first person in the office whose attention I caught was the powerful Head of Personnel, Delfina Pinto. I made the mistake of wearing a green rabbit fur coat on my first day and I saw from her expression that she had decided not to like me. I had offended her sensibilities about animals. Realising how she could make my life hell I decided to win her over. To this end I was careful not to react to any cutting remark that came my way from her and was always very agreeable in reply. It worked and we even became friends.
Delfina was a Portuguese Jew, but she spoke Brazilian Portuguese perfectly, which is uncommon. She had a young daughter by the name of Alia Sarah who was the fruit of a failed relationship with an Arab. Delfina was tormented by the fear that her daughter’s father would try to reclaim his child and take her away; or else that she would die while Alia Sarah was still young and the same father would not reclaim his daughter, leaving the little girl destitute.
There was another young woman in the office whose name I cannot remember as she transferred to another company shortly after I arrived. She absolutely amazed me. Some years before she had escaped with her three small children from a bad marriage in Brazil and come to London where they had been thriving ever since. All this was a lesson in self-reliance for me far beyond anything I had ever seen, and my own independence paled in comparison to that of these brave women.
Yet another interesting person at Interbras was Marisa, with whom I shared an office. She was from the state of Amazonas and looked as if she was of the purest Indian extraction. She had married an Englishman who had worked in that jungle state, and she had come with him to England where their two children were born, incidentally as light-complexioned as their father. She told me how she often noticed people’s disapproval when they realised that she was the children’s mother. Marisa was exceptionally intelligent and was at the time also doing graduate studies. She spoke and wrote three languages to perfection.
Like most of my work-colleagues I was often critical of most of the appointees from head office, though we kept our thoughts to ourselves. My reticence, however, did not ensure that I remained in the good graces of the next director of the branch, Joseph Tutund, who decided to cut costs by firing some of the local staff. Having perceived that this was to include me I complained to my father. He telephoned his friend Aureliano Chaves, the Vice President of Brazil, and expressed his displeasure at the way his daughter was being treated at the London office of Interbras considering that he gave employment to thousands of people in Brazil.
I waited to see what would happen, and one day Mr Tutund called me into his office and told me that he had received a call from Mr Chaves about me saying I had expressed concern about my job. He assured me there was no threat to my position and asked me if I would be interested in moving to a better position in another department.
Soon the ill-fated relationship with Jurek faltered because each time Hades contacted me to express his concern for my well-being the flame that I tried so hard to extinguish was rekindled. In early 1979 Jurek and I finally parted, and after I left Interbras I took a holiday alone in Africa to cool my head before going to Brazil to see my parents.
During this period of my life my travels were not for the purpose of tourism, but to escape. I was escaping from myself and from the reality of an empty life. On this occasion I first flew to Nairobi in Kenya, East Africa, with its coastline on the Indian ocean. The British were present in Kenya from 1895 to 1964 when the country became independent. From the capital Nairobi in the centre of the country I went on safari in the north and then spent a pleasant couple of days at the beach in Mombasa where I got sunburnt. Returning to Nairobi, I caught sight of my friend Louise Foo and her husband at the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel, but as I was not in the mood for socialising, I avoided them.
Next, I started the journey west to Brazil, but on the way, I stopped first at Kinshasa in Zaire, now known as the Congo. This is the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, with an economy based largely on oil extraction, but plagued by economic problems. The capital Kinshasa, which borders the Congo River, was previously known as Leopoldville when the country was a Belgian colony from 1908 until its independence in1960. It was foolish of me to venture into this country. As soon as I arrived at the airport late one afternoon, I could sense danger in the air and clearly saw hatred in the eyes of the locals.
Frightened of taking a taxi into town by myself, I looked at my fellow passengers, approached an English looking man, explained my fear, and asked if I could share a taxi with him. I told him I had a reservation at the Hilton hotel, and as he had not made a reservation for himself that he said he would try his luck there too. On arrival I was told that they had not received my reservation and were fully booked. My companion was also unable to get a room and tried to get in touch with his business contacts for help but was unable to reach them.
Looking at the dark outside I decided that I would not venture anywhere in search of alternative accommodation. I told the hotel receptionist that we would both spend the night sitting right there as we had nowhere else to go. As we sat surrounded by our luggage I noticed that the hotel restaurant was serving dinner, so I suggested to my chance companion that we should eat separately and take it in turn to keep watch on the luggage.
It was past ten o’clock that night when I saw a hotel employee walking by carrying some small luggage and looking angrily at me. Soon afterwards, the receptionist beckoned me and said that they suddenly had a room for me. I was very relieved, but, indicating my companion, I asked if it was a room with two single beds. The receptionist said it was so I asked my fellow in distress if he would like to share the only room available. The salacious smirks on the faces of the hotel staff were extremely embarrassing. Once in the room my companion decorously changed in the bathroom, then quickly fell into an exhausted sleep. The next morning, he managed to locate his business contacts and went off to meet them. I stayed one more night, and after a quick guided tour of the town I flew to Libreville in Gabon on the Atlantic coast.
Though this coast was once at the centre of the slave trade, the capital owes its name to the fact that from 1849 it was settled by freed slaves. From 1839 until 1960 it was first a protectorate and later part of French Equatorial Africa. I had a pleasant stay in Libreville where I made friends with a Belgian man who worked at the hotel. He told me that the hotel had recently hosted a Convention of African states, after which the guests had removed everything that would fit into their suitcases, including bathroom fittings!
Douala in Cameroon was my next stop, just a quick hop across the Gulf of Guinea. The country was a German colony from 1884 until after World War I, when it was partitioned between England and France until 1960, when French Cameroon then became independent while northern British Cameroon joined Nigeria. Oil is also Cameroon’s largest export, but economic progress is largely hampered by corruption, and consequently the country is plagued by a high poverty rate. As I could not see anything of interest in Douala, I quickly went to Lagos in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a large country with a population of over 190 million, 50% of whom are Muslim, and the official language is English. Oil provides 95% of its foreign exchange earnings, but the country is also scoured by political corruption. Lagos, with its 21 million people, is situated on the coast, and it struggles to supply basic services to the population. Its history dates back to prehistoric settlers in the area as long ago as 1100 BC, it was under British rule from 1800 to 1960, and during this period Europeans invested, settled and made fortunes in the region, Greeks and Lebanese among them.
Nowhere in the world had I witnessed as much chaos as I did in Lagos. Absolutely nothing worked. This was long before the internet, and communication was dependent almost solely on the telephone, but the telephones did not work, so travel agents and airlines could not make reservations. The traffic, considered among the worst in the world, was almost constantly at a standstill.
I had booked a five-star hotel which proved to be quite horrible, but once there I heard that the brand-new Holliday Inn was the best in town and I quickly moved there. Unable to book a flight to my next destination, Abidjan, I shared a taxi to the airport early one morning with a Lebanese man whom I had met at the hotel to see if we could get seats on a flight departing later that afternoon. At the airport everyone had to yell get a seat on a plane but I managed to get the flight I wanted, though I only became certain that nothing else would go wrong when the plane finally took off!
Abidjan, a seaport, is the economic capital and the largest city of Cote d’Ivoire. Ruled by France from 1880 to 1960 when it became independent, it was until the military coup of 1999 known as a well-developed economy based on its agricultural sector, and for its religious and ethnic harmony. Considered the Paris of Africa, it was a delightful place in the 1970s, to my great relief! I spent a few pleasant and restful days there before I went on to Senegal, from where I would fly to Brazil on the supersonic Concorde.
Writing found in archaeological excavations is mostly in Arabic and shows that Senegal must have been populated originally by migrants arriving from the northern part of the continent. Situated in a strategic location from a trading point of view, it was first governed by various African nations and later by various European powers until 1850 when the French established their rule. This lasted until 1960 and the advent of independence which freed many other African nations. Senegal earns most of its foreign exchange from fish, groundnuts, phosphates, and tourism. The capital is Dakar, a busy city, from where I soon flew down to Cap Skiring in the south, which is an idyllic holiday location with wide beaches, palm trees and many pleasant hotels. This was the last stop on my African peregrination, my escape before I again had to confront real life.
On my arrival in Belo Horizonte I found a letter from Edward Malamos expressing his concern and asking for news, and when I returned to London the inevitable happened, we got back together. I than started working for an import-export company, Canasta Ltd, owned by Pedro Alves, a Portuguese friend. This company among other lucrative contracts was supplying Portuguese ceramics to Marks and Spencer.
Was I manifestly bewitched and could I not keep myself away from the hellish Malamos? Why had I not realised how similar I had become to him? Or had I always been? Though I had hoped I would meet somebody else who would take his place, my attempts had been at best feeble, as I repeatedly found fault with everyone I met. The truth was that we were two ruthless people in the defence of our own choices, and as a result we deserved each other. It had been eight long years since our first meeting and nothing much had changed. It had always been just a social relationship, albeit unsatisfactory from my point of view, but not really devilish.
‘Through those years Anastasia kept a certain grip on her life and her choices. A separate home from his was shelter from the inferno; her separate holidays were a refusal to descend into the depths of his underworld, and yet she could not leave him. From his point of view, a monotonous sequence of days and nights lived without emotion were immensely satisfactory. As much as Malamos had no need of change and could feel no love, so the daughter of Antonio Zeus knew not how to desist. At last there came the day when Edward Malamos assumed his role as Hades, the powerful god of the underworld, and through their continuing alliance she became his Anastasia Persephone.’
Too much time had already passed in this conundrum, and I was worried that my hormones could not wait much longer, so I at last decided to take my fate into my own hands and save myself from a fruitless destiny. Mephistopheles had found his match!
Xena Olympia came into our lives, and three years later Michael Perseus made his entry into the world and both had their father’s beautiful dark blue eyes, the colour of the deepest ocean. Hades and Persephone were doomed to continue their unsatisfactory emotional life for many years.
When native soil wrenched from,
I lost my roots at home,
Until not much remained
My aching soul to sustain.
Relinquishing family bonds
Despondent above the ground,
Footloose as a rootless tree,
Bereft of leaves would be.
No anchor in exile,
No berth homely fertile,
No final port to see,
Until the progeny.
My love for them became
A link now to proclaim,
New bonds that I adore
Where none had been before.
This lonely trunk far-flung,
With love to new soil clung.
Now it breathes again,
A life no more in vain.
Babes’ right to my new home,
Made me no longer roam.
Through them I was reborn,
No more a rootless thorn.
© A.L.P. Gouthier.
Left: Perseus, Clara Demeter, Anastasia and Xena on the right.
Photo collection of A.L.P. Gouthier. Centre: Malay Proverb.
Right: Perseus and Xena in Brazil. Photo collection of A.L.P. Gouthier
The word root has many meanings. It may signify the part of a plant which conveys water and nourishment or be the embedded part of a bodily organ or structure, or again a part of something, supporting and fortifying it into a greater and more fundamental whole. It can also be the cause, source, or origin of something, the basis and foundation, the nucleus, the heart and the essence. Consequently, the root of a problem is often part of the solution to it.
Through my children who also had a European family, I developed roots in Europe. They gave me a reason to be here that nothing else could have given me. My precious children became my salvation from an empty life, beacons of light to guide my days, immersion into a form of love as yet unknown, supreme happiness within a sea of fear, an anchor in a strange world - and my new roots.
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