Where and when were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Valtetsi, near Tripolis, in 1934. There are a lot of locals here from Valtetsi. I lived there until about 3 or 4 years old. My father had property in Kalamata but he didn’t like it because the climate was too warm [Valtetsi is up in the mountains]. We were eight children, plus my father and grandfather, 10 in total. So my father decided that we grow up on the mountain. My father bought a plot of land that was really wild, like a forest. But he fixed it up and made it a beautiful farm.
In 1955 I got married and up until 1963 I lived on Poros. In 1963 my husband fell off a lemon tree and got paralysed. He lived unable to move for 46 years, until he passed away in 2001. I spent a year in Athens and then moved right here. We built the restaurant and the rooms, and this is where we still are.
How was your childhood?
It was nice. Of course, it was difficult times. We were eight kids sleeping in the same room, there was no electricity, no running water, nothing. My father was farming and herding sheep and all the kids had to help. Back then kids had to work, it was not like it is now that they don’t. Now, it is a disgrace! It was really nice working in the farm. But of course it was different times, as different as day with the night. We had to walk from the mountain to school, but to tell you the truth, I only went to school for forty days. It was the time that the war started and we were afraid of the Nazis. After the war ended, the boys resumed school and they were the ones who taught me how to read and write. The girls were not allowed to go to school. So we would use any piece of paper we could find and this is how I learnt to write.
What was your relationship with so many siblings?
We had a good relationship, there was no fighting. We played with rocks, ran around, this is the kind of toys we had. We had a good bonding as a family. It was different back then, we were close to our parents, it was not like now. My parents were teaching us how to cook and how to bake bread.
Do you still bake?
Well, now we buy bread ready made, we don’t bake. But we know everything about growing veggies and olives, these things we know.
Did your father fight in the 2nd World War?
He was conscripted, but that was before the war. During the war it was difficult, there were Nazis everywhere, all over Greece. There was hardly any food, we had to collect greens from the land in order to eat. When wheat was ripe, we would use the animals to separate the grain from the rest. So my mother would often cook wheat for us, she would just boil it. It was really tasty, a bit like rice! Back then we did not have big needs like today, that we crave for all sorts of things. We now have a lot and we are not satisfied with anything… Back then, you would eat what you had.
How old were you when you married?
I was 17 turning 18. Well, I officially got married in 1955 when I was 21, but that is because the priest would not accept marrying me under age. I got married in Athens, in a suburb called Kolonos. But even then, the priest wanted my father to come and sign the papers.
How did you meet your husband?
It was an arranged marriage. My father used to go fishing with his father and they would bring us fish up to the mountain. So one day, my father told my mother that I am now engaged. I had no idea. We were first engaged for one year, but of course we stayed separately.
Is Fotini your only child?
Yes. Because her father got paralysed when Fotini was still a baby. I had to work to raise her. It was not like today, back then we had to work, today every job feels undesirable. It was different times my girl, different times. Now, everything is difficult. You see young women who cannot do anything. Don’t even talk about it. But I used to do everything. I am still working, even now. If you come in summer you will see me working. I am the one who cooks, I do anything I can still do.
Before your husband’s accident, what were you doing together?
We would work the land. He had this small plot, we were working, olives and the likes. He was good, he was not bad. And we never had arguments.
Was your husband older than you?
Yes, 8 years older. But he was paralysed when he was 37 and I was young, 29. But I am still young, only 18 😉