“she never had occasion to wear it”
In 1940, my grandparents bought my mother Eleni a beautiful outfit – the traditional dress of the Metsovo region of Greece – for her to wear on festive occasions.
In October that year, Italy invaded Greece; the Italians were followed by the German army, which occupied Greece until the end of World War II.
Early on, Eleni joined the resistance in the mountains, eventually marrying a fellow partisan. The political divisions of the post-war period led to the eruption of the Greek Civil War, forcing Eleni and my father to seek refuge in Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe. I was born soon after they crossed the border into Albania. They eventually found safe refuge in Romania.
My grandmother, who had remained in Greece, managed, in 1964, to send the dress to Eleni, who later gave it to me; she never had occasion to wear it.
In the 1980s, when it became possible for the families of Greek political refugees in the former socialist states to return to Greece, my husband and I made the journey back across the border.
I recently donated Eleni’s dress to a folk museum in Epirus.