The rapping on our apartment door woke me. I didn’t hear my parents in the next room moving to answer it so I got up and opened the door. Mr. Dthemedsis from the top floor stood in the hall in his pyjamas and said, “Get your father.” They spoke quickly in Greek and my father told me to go back to bed. The two men hurried upstairs to listen to Mr. Dthemedsis’ radio.
In the morning, only minutes into school, the Principal made an announcement beyond my new-to-Greek comprehension, but I followed the other kids out onto our buses to be driven back home. To keep me out of my mother’s hair, my father took me with him downtown for some forms we needed signed by the police. If he had known what was going to happen, we certainly wouldn’t have gone.
Police dashed everywhere in and around the headquarters. The officer behind the desk spoke to my father; I couldn’t understand the rapid foreign words, but his volume and gestures made the message clear, “Not today! Get out of here and come back some other time! Go!” Leaving, I held my father’s hand for reassurance as we weaved our way through rows and rows of towering policemen now formed up in ranks.
At the bus stop, the ground rumbled and I clutched my dad’s hand tighter. Half a dozen dinosaur-sized tanks rolled past us—I could have reached out my short six-year-old arm and touched one, but didn’t dare under the firm stare of the tanned taut face of a soldier riding on top.
At night, we watched the flickering black and white images on the Dthemedsis’ television to learn that the army and police had stormed Athena Polytechneion, where students had barricaded themselves in a strike against the Junta. My mother explained that they were students at school like me; the army and police had killed them. I felt sick and scared, and knew that this was wrong—my six-year-old sense of justice was offended. My parents could not answer “why?” in a way that I could understand.
We soon returned to Canada. The image of the soldier on the tank, and what he may have done, continued to haunt me. I never wanted something like this to happen in my country.
By: Nicholas Curcumelli-Rodostamo, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired).