Marianna Stathaki: from Greece to Ravenna, with love

There are many different types of migration, each with its own set of motivations and challenges. Some types, such as forced migration, can be very difficult and dangerous. But always there is a reason when people move their lives from one location to another.

The reason that I moved to Italy is for love and is something that I admit that it was not at all in my previous plans. The only possible reason that I thought in the past to move is for better working chances and salary. Greece is not famous for the good working conditions and the remarkable salaries. 

I was born, grew up and studied in Greece. Until  17 years old I was living in Athens and then I went to study in a Greek island, called Syros. I spent some beautiful years surrounded by the Aegean Sea. Then I moved to Portugal. I spent seven months in the city of Porto, where I worked in a social and sustainable architecture office, with an international team, using almost only English to communicate. I made some good Portuguese friends with which we shared valuable thoughts and moments even if not all of them were able to speak good English. Then, I moved back to Greece where I continued my studies in the city of Thessaloniki in the north. 

The only reason that I’m glad that my country is a EU member  is the fact that I can move freely, but more like a visitor or a traveler. It is a bit of illusion to believe that if you are EU citizen you can live in whichever country you want. Of course, this is not comparable with situations in which people need to have a visa or permissions of any kinds. Although it requires patience with bureaucracy and unfortunately, as almost everything nowadays, a good budget in the pocket. 

My family is not rich, but my parents always did their best so that I could study and live a healthy life. I have combined master’s in design engineering and master’s in environmental architecture and urban planning.  I was never a career seeker, and I always wanted to experience different kinds of job and knowledge, trying to understand what I wish and what is useful for the world. 

So, I passed from a lot of different jobs, from being waitress and cleaning lady to dancer and performer. 

Now I am in Italy mostly because I want to learn Italian and share a common life with my companion. I perceive this choice as an opportunity to gain new experiences and maybe, in the future, a better salary.

We live in Ravenna, that is not a big international city, which is something that I like in the sense of city size. On the other hand, most of the people don’t speak English, and I don’t speak Italian. During the first period that I was here I was feeling uncomfortable and hesitant to move alone, because of this. 

Now I start my Italian classes. It was not obvious where I could find them, and it took me some time. I was lucky to meet some generous people that helped me in that. I thank them and I also thank all my classmates that come from all over the world, and they bring huge amounts of courage and strength. 

I wish soon to be able to express myself at least partially using Italian. Words can give you a sense of freedom and I hope to have it soon. 

I don’t know where the future will find me, here, in Greece, somewhere else in the world…

P.S. I share this poem from a Greek poet I love, anyone can read it as she/he wishes.

THESSALONIKI, DAYS OF 1969 A.D. , by Manolis Anagnostakis 

In Egyptou Street -first turning right-
There now stands the Transaction Bank Building
Tourist agencies and emigration bureaus
And kids can no longer play with all the traffic
In any case the kids have grown, the times you knew have
They now no longer laugh, whisper secrets, share trust,
Those that survived, that is, as grave illnesses have
appeared since then
Floods, deluges, earthquakes, armoured soldiers;
They remember their father’s words: you'll experience
better days
It's of no importance in the end if they didn't experience
them, they repeat the lesson to their own children
Always hoping that the chain will one day break
Perhaps with their children’s children or the children of their
children's children.
For the time being, in the old street as was said, there stands
the Transactions Bank
-I transact, you transact, he transacts-
Tourist agencies and emigration bureaus
-we emigrate, you emigrate, they emigrate-
Wherever I travel Greece wounds me, as the Poet said
Greece with its lovely islands, lovely offices, lovely
Greece of the Greeks.
[translated by David Conolly] 

Marianna Stathaki
[marzo 2024]

Foto credits: Marianna Stathaki