A reunion of any kind can be powerful, emotional, nostalgic. It can be simultaneously happy and sad. It can be full of elation or tinged with pangs of regret (καημο). Α beautiful phrase which the Greeks have, and regularly use for these type of occasions is “kali antamosi”, which essentially means “may we be well to meet again.”
All of the Greeks who left in the first wave of migration in the 1950s and 60s had the dream of one day reuniting with their family, of once again setting foot on the same soil they knew as home. For some, that dream died with them as, for a variety of reasons, they never made it back. For many, that dream would be fulfilled.
Growing up in the tough times of post-war Greece in the village of Oinoi, surrounded by forested mountains in the Attica region north-west of Athens, the 15 Manthopoulos siblings, lovingly raised by Vasilis and Zoe Manthopoulos, would’ve found it impossible to imagine not being together. Fate had other ideas when it sent some of the siblings to migrate for a better life to Australia and Germany. A few of them moved to other parts of Greece, and a few remained in the village.
It would be 40 long years until all 15 siblings would be together again, and what a reunion it was on the 15th of September in their family home, their ‘patriko.’ Meticulously planned, intensely anticipated, longed for with all their heart and soul, the reunion proved equally as emotional to the relatives looking on, as it did to the siblings themselves who filled the house with happy tears, love, and nostalgia.
Sitting together at the same table they had shared as a family all those years ago they reminisced about their childhood antics, the memories, and their beloved parents who they cherish in their hearts and minds. With an age gap of 25 years between the eldest, Georgia, and the baby of the family, Dionisis, being at different stages of their lives with different work and family commitments meant it was a huge feat to get the siblings who lived in Greece together for Christmas and Easter each year, let alone all 15 together at their family home.
Bill Manthopoulos, son of Konstandino (Dino) who migrated to Australia with his sister Eleni in 1968 (their brother Iraklis followed suit in the mid-1980s) could not have been happier for his father to be reunited with all his siblings. “Dad was waiting for this for a long time. They were all so excited to be together again,” he says. “With dad being one of 15, and my mum being one of 9, I officially have 22 uncles and aunties and 39 first cousins. My big fat Greek family!”
Although their love for each other strengthens their bond with each passing year, Georgia, Dino, Aggeliki, Theodoros, Eleni, Dimitra, Argyro, Apostolis, Polixeni, Chrysanthos, Athanasios, Iraklis, Sotiria, Panayiota and Dionisis hugged each other tightly and promised they would make sure another reunion would take place again soon.