This bowl is stainless. Even if you gave me two thousand, even five thousand euros, I wouldn’t give it away. My aunt gifted it to my mum and because I’ve lost all of them – they’ve passed away – I keep it as a memento. I don’t even use it; I clean it, I wash it, but I keep it somewhere I can see it, I don’t have it hidden.
Stella, who is now 65 years old, narrated that when she was young she lived in a village near Serres, in Ampeloi. Her aunt used to travel to Germany and Stella would be sad about it, but her aunt would promise that she would send money, chocolates and fabrics to make into dresses. And she did. The bowl was sent as a gift to her mother, from Tübingen, Germany, when Stella was 20 years old.
When she was 13 years old, because of her mum’s mental illness and her father’s alcoholism, Stella, along with her sister, brother and their parents, left the village, taking only a few prized possessions. They went to live in Thessaloniki and there she was the one taking care of her family, working in pubs. When she was 25, she lost her mother and, later, her aunt and father. She decided to go back with her brother to Ampeloi, but she couldn’t live in her old house, as her relatives pushed her away.
Now I live with my brother, who is disabled. Even in my ’60s, I still suffer, but I have this item, which is something from my family. My aunt had brought it so that we could make pies, knead flour and leave the bread to rest. I hold it dear, it reminds me of many things. I take it with me everywhere I go, I’m not losing it.
She explains that this bowl carries happy memories, but also disappointment, since, as she says, she learned a lesson in her life, never to trust the promises they make to her. She continues by saying that her aunt would promise to leave her at least two rooms to live in when she was old and, keeping this in mind, Stella would always hand out money to those who needed it, ending up with no savings and no house to own, as the home she had in Ampeloi is no longer open for her.
She talks to us about her work as a cleaner in the municipality, about the guilt she carries and about her regrets for never going to school. She talks about how when she was still young, she was sent to a juvenile detention centre, being told that it was a school.
They told me it was a school, not a prison, but I didn’t have any other family to care for me. When they allowed me to work outside, I ran away and went to my mum […] My life was full of adventure, but I never left my parents, I took them with me when I came to Thessaloniki and I also took my brother with me.
She explains that in recent years, she carries a lot of sadness, but at the same time she looks for the beauty as well – outside in the streets, seeing the little kids laughing, and talking to people who come back to her to buy magazines.