A Greece of a turbulent past comes to life in this story about friendship, courage, love and sacrifice set in a tiny Greek fishing village days after Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas rejects Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s ultimatum in 1940, which today we commemorate as “Ohi Day” on October 28.
Two 18-year-old friends, barely men, set off for battle and in the midst of war discover the strength of the human spirit, of love and friendship that will set into motion events that will transcend generations.
This is a book by Christopher Cosmos, a Greek-American writer. Christopher’s story is inspired by his summer holidays to Greece and by the “Greek part” of his upbringing, which he says is one of “family connection, strong and vibrant community”.
Born and raised in Michigan, as many children of diaspora Greeks, he would hear the gripping tales during his summer holidays to Greece. At the same time, the Greek Orthodox church, which has always been at the center of life in Greek communities abroad keeping Greek culture and memories alive, also influenced his writing and it was there as an altar boy in Grand Rapids that he heard the stories that make up a large part of the plot in “Once We Were Here”.
Christopher lives in Michigan, but he tries to visit Greece as often as he can. He was planning on traveling to his homeland last summer when Covid-19 thwarted his plans. Hopefully, he says, this year he can make it back to retrace the journey of his characters.
Touched by Greece!
Guests and friends tell us how they’ve been ‘Touched by Greece’
1) In what way(s) is your work ‘touched by Greece’?
My debut novel is based on stories I heard growing up as a Greek-American, especially in the Greek Orthodox church that I attended in Grand Rapids, and so in so many ways it’s both a tribute to the forgotten Greek men and women who helped the Allies to win WWII and keep the world free, and also a combination of all our immigrant stories, and how we began in one beautiful peninsula, surrounded by water and history, and then ended in another, half a world away. It’s a great physical distance between the two places, but when we tell these stories, that distance can seem less far.
2) What does Greece mean to you?
Greece means history, democracy, science, literature. Greece means family and home. But since I’m a writer, I’ll say that Greece especially means language; we all speak Greek every day, whether we realize it or not and live lives shaped by the accomplishments and contributions of those who came before us and laid the basis for civilization.
3) Your favorite place in Greece?
There are so many, but as a writer of history, there’s no place where one can feel as if they’re stepping back into time – and actually into history itself – like the small island of Delos, which is off the coast of Mykonos; you can only get there by small fishing boat, you can walk the entire island in half a day, and it’s completely magical.