“I found it difficult being a migrant in a foreign country”


“My life as a young child in Crete was beautiful. They were times of poverty, but there was an innocence too. Above all, they were great years, with lots of beautiful memories. In 1968 my father left Crete with his brother in law to go to Germany and create a better life, for a brighter future. In 1970, my mother and we three children packed our bags and joined him in Germany.

Being a child from a small village, I found it difficult being a migrant in a foreign country, with foreign people. Especially as I was carrying within me the pain of leaving my homeland. Being a family of five, it was not easy finding housing in those days. As migrants, we often felt that Germans were wary of us. I remember one snowy day, where it was so cold- it hurt. We were coming home from school and found the landlord waiting outside our place. He was yelling at my parents, he said we had to leave. We weren’t even able to go inside. I’ll never forget that day. Even now when I think of that incident, I cannot come up with any explanation as to how he could’ve behaved like that towards us.

They were difficult times for us economic migrants. We were looked upon unfavourably, and often with suspicion. The economic migrants did the most labour-intensive jobs in the most difficult conditions, jobs that no one else wanted to do, such as working in the steelworks, the factories, public toilets.

Germany did have positive aspects- it had impeccable systems in place, in all areas, such as employment, health, education.

What I missed most about Greece in the early years was my beloved little village, with its laneways and fields. But most of all, I missed my grandparents, my cousins and relatives and their warm hearts and tender humanity they showed to all, especially to us children.

In 1987, I went back to Greece and worked at a hotel in Crete. I met a girl who also worked there, named Eleni, and we fell in love and married in 1989. In 1999, I made the decision that Eleni and I, along with our two children, would move to Germany to secure a better future. We settled in Frankfurt.

After many years in Germany, I had the good fortune of meeting an elderly German woman who embraced me as if I was her own son, and showed me an abundance of love. Even with my children, she treated them like they were her grandchildren. I also became friends with a colleague at work who not only showed me friendship but he was also there for me, supporting me in some of the most difficult times of my life.

In terms of moving back to Greece, my dream is to return to my Crete when I retire and live my old age there, in my homeland.

My wish for Greece, from the bottom of my heart, is for a genuine Greek to come into the picture, who will show a genuine love and pride for our country, so that Greek people can smile again, hope again, stand solidly on their own two feet again, and not experience suffering in their daily lives- the way many are experiencing now.”

Akis Fanourakis, Frankfurt, Germany

Gina Mamouzelos

Gina is a third generation Greek Australian who grew up immersed in her Greek heritage, including the language, traditions, culture and listening to her grandparent’ mesmerising tales about life in Greece. Passionate about ensuring the Greek language is not forgotten among the younger generations, in 2002 she became a panel member on the SBS Greek radio show ‘Let’s Talk Openly.' She graduated with a Media and Communications degree from the University of Sydney and has put her lifelong passion for writing to use working in social media, public relations and advertising. Gina now joins GCT's team as a writer.

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