Beyond the time of nesting In my life, I have no borders. I just follow my needs - Stella

At the time when Stella felt the need to settle and nest, she moved from Athens to the north part of Chios island, to the village of Volissos. She choose it “for the quality of life”, which she actually achieved since she moved and raised children there. It suited her needs at the time, and the need was "to move out of Athens to a place where I can create something and at the same time learn my living from it. Also, it was very cheap to buy a house here at the time. When I came to live here, I was hoping to contribute with the spirit of cooperation. But now I accept the facts as they are, and if it can not happen here, and I miss the people that I can cooperate with, I can go other places to find such people, I don't need to insist on pressing people into believing that it is nice to cooperate. This is why I'v been living in Thessaloniki for 6 months. Here, I go with the flow – if they feel it is a good idea for them, they will come together.” Stella a healer and artist, but locally, she is most known for her beautifully restored houses, which she also rents out. When I met her, she just had an opening of the exhibition that she managed to organize. It was about craft tools and pieces from the collection of an extraordinary man, Thomas. Out of respect for craft-work and because he is also a craftsman, he has been collecting discarded pieces all his life. The day I wanted to spend with her, I ended up touring around to see other people with whom she shares common grounds.

“I went to Volissos because I thought it was a place where I could create something and have a job so that I could stay, because I’m not a rich person who could afford to go somewhere just for holidays. And this place could also be ideal for children, because I also wanted to become a mother at that time. So Volissos was a combination of these three facts. Also, nobody wanted to come and get a job in Volissos, because it was far away from the city of Chios, and that means that the places I could buy at that time were very cheap. It was not yet a tourist village. So with the money with which you could buy a small bike at the time, you could buy a ruin. And that made it possible for me, because I’m not a millionaire.”

“Volissos could be paradise if people would cooperate. I hoped that things would develop gradually, I can’t persuade people; it’s a loss of energy to persuade people with words. It’s better to go on on a practical basis, and if that makes people feel or believe, or become attracted to some idea, maybe the group grows. But for the moment, the group we engaged for the project of Tomas' collection is big enough to support practically the restoration of the items, the care for the items – every item has a story. So there are of us to do that. We hope we will have enough people to give a little bit of money, so they can support us …”

All items are from Tomas, collected throughout the years by saving tools from deceased artisans, in order not to get thrown away and forgotten, Stella, together with with coworkers, organised them into exhibition at the village community place, as a preparation for the museum that the village is planning to open.
“The needs will take care of the cooperation. If there is need and a good profit in order to survive, that will make it. It's not logic, nor the ideals of ecologists and blah blah, you know – the needs will do it … But we must be able to enforce this kind of life with our own needs and beliefs, it' the only way to do it. Not only because of your needs: if you don’t enjoy life here, it will be difficult.”
Thomas' collection is big, so he keeps the most of it in a container.

In my life, I have no borders. I just follow my needs, and if my needs are here, I stay here. And if my needs are in Thessaloniki, I go to Thessaloniki, if they are in India, I go to India. I have no topical frames. Because I’m not at the age where I would have to settle and nest. At the time, I had to settle and nest, I choose this place, now I’m at the age when I don’t have to choose a nest. I’m beyond the time of nesting.”

Morning ritual – Stella's courtyard is also an amphitheater for events.

“My going to India had to do with the fact that I’m very interested in alternative therapies. So I wanted to try out Ayurveda and I thought that the best way to try Ayurveda is to go to India, and to a clinic that takes mostly local people and not Europeans. I to such a clinic twice, and I stayed there for two months. They worked with me and I worked with them, and we were like family ... They were treating me nice and I was doing Reiki to children, because the clinic was specialized for children. They have a huge garden, they make their own medicines. They are four generation of Ayurveda doctors. it’s a magic place, it’s like home. It’s in Kerala, CNS Ayurvedic Clinic for Children.”

Stella's favorite place where she and her children have been spending time in a tent during the summer for many years.

“Surprisingly, I got a book about hundred recipes with basil. Here, you can see basil everywhere. OK, we love it, we use it for cooking, for smelling and all that, but we don’t know its medical value any more. I read in the Indian book that the Indian medicine is two pepper seeds every morning, for the circulation, but in Junan medicine - Junan is the name that Ottomans used for the modern day Greece, the main medicine is basil. And I said, what is Junan medicine, because I haven’t heard of it before. And I realized that at the time the Ottomans were in India, which was for three centuries, they came there with all the knowledge of the Hippocrates medicines, and there were universities for the medicines of Hippocrates in India. And it’s called Junan. At that time, Junan medicine was only taught to Muslim doctors, and later, with the English occupation of India, the English closed down all the universities of Junan medicine and Ayurveda. Because they wanted to show that they came to a place without civilization, without knowledge, without anything. And after the English occupation, the Junan medicine universities opened again, but now they are open for all kind of religions, so you don’t have to be a Muslim doctor to be taught Junan medicine … And now I have the book from the Junan medicine university in India about how to use the herbs in Greece, hahaha. It’s so funny and incredible!

North Chios

“In Junan, medicine is not only about making teas and oils from herbs, it is about the comprehensive analysis of the plant, the root and the leaves, and what you can do with each part. Sometimes you burn it, sometimes you mix it with other things. It’s very analytic, much more so than information in herbal books, for example … So finding back your roots, your supposed roots, through a country which is on the other side of the planet.”

"And I tried to work with children and Reiki here in Greece, and is almost impossible in hospitals. In the Ayurveda clinic in India, when I told them that I practice Reiki, they said: 'OK, you can talk to your neighbors – because the clinic was full of families with children and some adults that were there like me – and if they wish, you can practice with their children. And I was there with families, and one family invited me, I went to their house after that. They were like family from the very first moment. I stayed there twice for two months. It’s a good time when you travel so far, then you’re really there. I haven’t been in big cities, I haven’t seen any monuments, but I was very close to the daily life of people and simple people, not aristocracy or Europeans.”

One of the destinations she took me to was a successful model of cooperative of winemakers – Ariousios

Ariousios Winery (www.ariousios.gr) was started by Dimitris Kefalas. The cooperative is successfully connecting 30 farms. They are replanting land with endemic vine sorts and the can be sure that the winery will buy their grapes. Only 5 farms and 30 other members have shares of the winery. Since the place was uninhabited, they could not make the winery by themselves. The idea was to ask people from Chios, also those living abroad or in Athens, if they are interested to get the shares of the winery. Of course, the connection was also sentimental – the investors also wanted to help this region of the island to live from the land once again. The village is prospering in many ways: because of the well-known quality of Arosios vines, the village is becoming a "brand", attracting others to develop new projects or just visit.
“I don’t think whatever is happening now is much worse then what has been happening throughout history. It’s that we are very close to information now and we know the damages. Because there have been wars all the way through, there have been damages all the way through. Now, we have mostly environmental damage, which we have to be more careful about. But wars and disasters, one population against the other and all that, that has been there for a long time. So the only thing I can concentrate on is what I can do. Personally, either in the family or in the community, or wherever I am. And, symbolically, we have a phrase in Greek that if somebody asks you what are you doing, you say: whatever passes through my hands. And, it’s funny because Reiki is passing through your hands as well, building passes through your hands, collecting herbs passes through your hands … So I can use this phrase: I’m doing whatever passes through my hands." our hands, collecting herbs passes through your hands…so I can use this phrase: I’m doing whatever passes through my hands.”
Stella has great respect for Tomas, and when I was with her, focused on her story, she actually pointed me to other people who she shares common grounds with.

Tomas' story: “I’m watering my plants and explain things, it’s the way I'm living my life.”

Tomas’ mother was very keen on having flowers. And when he was a child, people from other villages were coming and teaching them how to prune, inoculate and cultivate plants. Due to his curiosity he became very close with them. And when he was 13 or 14, he started to take care of trees and he realized that, as the Greek say, he has a "green finger" for it, meaning he’s good at it. This has been his main occupation since then.

Tomas now in his eighties, and still likes to teach. It’s the way how he explains them, with lots of information. He was a craftsman, making saddles. He admires other craftsmen, so he collected their tools, he doesn’t like them to be thrown away (when a craftsman died, the relatives would throw away all his tools).

Tomas was the oldest son of the family. His mother was a widow since she was 29. So his role at that time was to protect the family; to bring food on the table, to be patient, and to be occupied. Sometimes, he didn’t even have enough food for himself, since he had to provide it for his family, so he got used to eat little, not to overdo it. He started his life as a very weak child. When he was three years old, he had malaria. Later, at 13, he got much stronger; his father died and he had to work. And at that time, the neighbor advised her mother to take Tomas to the Church of St. John’s, because he’s believed to be a healer, and to put a cotton thread in the church, so that as the cotton thread is disappearing, so would malaria from his body … And he never had fever since.

For Tomas, the most important thing for people is not to be occupied just with themselves, but rather to be open to the world, to communicate and take part in whatever happens, and learn from that.
Tomas during his lunch break with friends in the pub, where even children come to get some heartfelt wisdom from him.

The village life has always been about helping each other, cooperating with each other; living together in all the villages and also from village to village. As Tomas says, that’s the only way to live in these places: “I help you to build your house today, you help me to build my house tomorrow or you come to the field with me tomorrow.”

Tomas is very much influenced by fasting that is an important part of Greek religion. He’s abides by all these fasts, which means cutting all oil and meat from the menu 40 days before Christmas and 50 days before Easter. He kept this habit also when he worked as a cook on the boats. He's been taking care of his diet for all his life. This keeps him very healthy now, at 88 years of age. In his own words, now his value is health.

Besides plants, he also liked to take care of animals. Apart from making saddles for mules, horses and donkeys, he was also a horseshoe maker. That’s how he learned to take care of the animals, and he knows various methods of treating and taking care of ill animals. He took lesson for first aid help, and is educated as beekeeper as well.

He has a very small piece of land outside here, with a small church for the families that came from Minor Asia, as a memorial place. And the rest doesn’t belong to him, but he’s taking care of every tree. 30 years ago, when people begin to build new houses, they also planted some 50 trees by the road. And for years, Stella says she could see that somebody was taking care of new trees, cutting the branches that were low, so the trees could grow stronger. She thought it was somebody from the mayor taking care of this, but one day, after years, she saw Mr. Tomas. He’s working all around the village, with his small knife, and takes care of the trees.

Besides planting trees on common ground in the village, he also makes and installs marking boards around the village for tourists to orientate.
Tomas just takes care. Perhaps today it’s hard to understand Tomas’ way of living: having very small property and taking care of common problems and for people he doesn’t know … He prunes the trees along the streets down to the beach, so if a child passes by, he can pick up the fresh fruit. Tomas “is a specialist in taking care of inoculation, in growing small trees. He keeps on doing this, without having a garden of his own, and he gives trees to everybody to grow them on. This is also how Stella met him: he was pruning the trees along the street.”

20 years ago, there were two 19-year-olds who came here to find the job, both from Serbia. They weren’t speaking Greek, one of them spoke English. Since they didn’t have a place to stay, at the beginning, Mr. Tomas gave them his little room for a year; he could understand them with a little bit of English and few Greek words. So they both stayed there until they found a job and could pay for the rent and everything. Mr. Tomas is open to help all the way through.

Thomas' storage space for his collection is a container.
And for the future generations, for him, the most important thing is to take care of the elders and not to fight with each other. If disagreement comes up, we should’t insist on disagreeing, and also not forget our intentions. We should combine the patience and clear mind of what we want to do. Then, there’s no need to fight to impose the position and opinion, and we will succeed in everything.

Stella also conected me with Elena and Hariklia. They are an example of people that ....LINK


Released by MED Land project / photography, audio conversations, editing: BB / cover photo: self-portrait by Stella / transcription: Ivana Petan / text editing: Ivana Petan / proof reading: Tadej Turnšek, godfather of the stroy Violeta Bulc

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Created By
Bojan Brecelj