This photograph was taken in 2003 at a family friend’s wedding somewhere outside of Thessaloniki and it’s probably the only photo where we’re together [with my son].
Maria narrates that she was born and raised in Bulgaria, near Plovdiv. She came to Greece when she was married and worked in a clothing repair shop. Later, she got divorced and when the economic crisis came she went bankrupt. She didn’t have time to go to school as she had to raise her son, and when she was given the opportunity to take Greek classes, she had to go back to Bulgaria. She would read books in Greek, even if she didn’t understand all the words. Her son kept going to school in Bulgaria and, when he graduated, she decided to come back to Greece.
When I came back I was homeless […] My son was an adult then, he took his life into his own hands and started working and I left him to make decisions freely. When I came here I signed him up to a second chance school and I also started taking lessons, almost in private classes. I took exams for two years at AUTh and I got a certificate for the Greek language. Afterwards, I really wanted to do translations, I really liked the Greek language. I opened a translation office, where I work now and am trying my best.
Maria explains that her son stayed in Bulgaria longer, then came to Thessaloniki for some time and, afterwards, went to Cyprus and Germany. Now he is back in Bulgaria and lives in Plovdiv.
Maria shares with us a text she wrote, in view of our discussion, about her son:
This child is the epicentre of my own world, he is my family and the most important individual I have in my life. His appearance taught me what unconditional love means – absolute and selfless.
He is the cause of my happiness and my sadness, he is part of my phobias and my anxieties. He is my main concern. When he is doing okay, I’m also doing okay, when he suffers – I’m also sad.
My son is the main reason I am alive today – I had to raise and nurture him. No matter how many difficulties I would go through, I didn’t have the time and luxury to fall into oblivion and depression. I had to find the courage to continue living and to take care of him.
When in 2013 I reached the point of losing everything, being in danger of staying in the streets, my son gave me the motivation to take the difficult decision to go back to my parents’ house and have a fresh start. He was considerate and strong enough to get a job and gain some money in order to be able to go to school and complete his education. We lived below the poverty line for many years.
Now he’s older, he’s independent and he’s free. Above all, he’s himself. He makes mistakes and learns from them. He has taken his life into his own hands and directs it in the way he judges best. And I stand next to him to support him.
When I came back to Greece in 2017 among the most necessary items I took with me was this photograph, like a piece from our inseparable life, which would support me in difficult moments, when I would feel his absence.
This child is my pride and my hope, he’s the continuation of my life, the dark past, the bright future and the present life. He is my point of reference – where I stand – and many times he plays the part of my teacher.”