By Drossoulla Mavromatis
If it isn’t unique enough serving as an Evzone, one of Greece's elite Presidential Guard, imagine being one who was born in the U.S., raised in England, and then becoming an Evzone who serves at Syntagma Square in Athens!
Evangelos Marathos Rainey did just that from April 16, 2018, through to December 13, 2018. The 27-year-old was born in the United States and moved to England when he was seven years old. His mother is Greek, and his father is American. Although Evangelos was not born in Greece, it was his dream to serve his motherland and show his Greek pride.
GCT had the chance to sit down with Evangelos and chat to him about serving as an Evzone, plus his plans for the future.
You were born in the U.S and raised in England. Can you tell us how you came to serve in the Greek army?
Well, I’m a Greek citizen. My mother’s Greek and I had Greek citizenship. Brexit happened and I wanted the passport because I didn’t need it before and then I just went through the process. The truth of the matter is actually I didn’t have to serve in the army at all but I wanted to. I wanted to do that in particular; I wanted to be a part of the Presidential Guard. I wanted to find some kind of way to give back to Greece because all of my childhood Easters and summers were spent in Greece, and I had very fond memories and it meant a lot to me. Growing up with parents from two different countries and growing up in a third country, you end up trying to find your identity.
How did you become an Evzone?
I basically just went to the conscription in Athens and told them I wanted to serve and asked them to allow me to stay on for nine months.
You are half Greek and born abroad, do you think that makes a difference serving as an Evzone?
No. And that just says a lot about Greek people. That’s still something that I’m so grateful for. At times they called me ‘the Englishman’ but that was in a polite way. They never treated me differently to the other guys there. I was just like the rest and that meant a lot to me. I think the whole process made me feel at home more than anything else. There were 30 of us training hard together, and they saw that I was trying so hard and I wanted to put in just as much as anybody else, and I wasn’t trying to dodge or do anything differently and they knew that I came voluntarily as such. I don’t know if that won respect or not, but I don’t think it would change anything either way. We all bonded.
What was your favorite aspect of serving as an Evzone?
Ultimately at the end of the day, it was being on duty. That is the best part. That is what you go there to do. Even the other elements of it, being a part of something so unique and so special. All of that came together when I was on duty.
What was the most difficult part?
The lack of sleep.
What was the most unforgettable moment during your service?
Being on duty for the first time. Just because you’re finally wearing the uniform and you’re walking down there and it’s not a drill; it’s not practice. You stand there and you are shaking and trembling, and you’re so scared, and you don’t know what to feel or what to think. And then suddenly, the change is over and you’re in your spot and the supervisor comes over and puts you in your spot and makes sure you’re in the right place and you are standing perfectly still. Just as you’ve done for hours and hours during training, but now you’re up there and you’re up three steps. You’re not down on the ground, you’re up there and people are watching you.
A very special moment that stands out was the "Macedonia is Greece" march in Athens. We were coming around the corner and heard all this noise. You just look at Syntagma Square and it’s absolutely packed with people. You’re marching extra slow to give them time to move and you turn the corner and it’s just a sea of blue and white flags. Suddenly you’re facing the tomb, you’re facing the memorial, and you’re walking straight behind a 30-meter march, and the crowd’s opening up slowly and everyone just started chanting and cheering, and they’re screaming at the top of their lungs. Just as we started approaching, they all started to sing the national anthem at top volume.
What do you miss the most about being an Evzone?
I think for me personally at least, it was the purpose and meaning behind what I was doing. Every part of your day had a purpose. And that purpose had a meaning that was greater than yourself.
If there is any piece of advice you can give to future aspiring Evzones, what would it be?
Everything that you’re about to go through, is worth it and stick it out. There may be moments where you’re going to want to quit but it will be worth it. You will never know exactly what it means to be an Evzone unless you go through with it.
What are your future plans?
I want my long term career to be like when I was a Guard. Even though I had no sleep, no free time, and spent every waking minute living that life, I was happy. I was doing what I loved. I want to find that, whatever that is.