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Yiayia (Grandmother)

My Grandmother

grew up between two wars in Greece

lost her brother Christo to the Germans

and named my mother Christina after him

Rare for a Greek woman

she had a divorce at fifty

and has lived for thirty years by herself

with his photos still in the spare room

she is a green thumb

She makes cordial from her own mandarins

drinks tea from her own chamomile bush

and picks tomatoes from her garden

whenever I say I feel like a σαλάτα

she hardly went to school

But one day

when talking of my time at University

and admiring all three different types of basil she has

growing in her garden

She says to me:‘Luka, eat two leaves basil every day

good for the blood

good for the brain

they don’t teach that University’

And when my brother

Eliah says to her:

‘You know Yiayia– you know a lot; you’re really smart ...’

She always replies:

‘Yees Eliah, I’m a very education.’

So recently I decided to ask my Yiayia

what she thought about racism

and whether it was okay for Greeks to still hate the Turks

for what they did to us in the past

and she said:

‘Racism? No.

Just because some people naughty,

doesn’t mean you throw

the rest in the rubbish.’

Her name is Katerina Batounas

but her maiden name is Sarandavga.

And Sarandavga

literally means ‘forty eggs’

and as the story goes

one of her great-grandfathers

was challenged by another villager

to see if he could eat an omelette made entirely with forty eggs

without getting sick

And anyone that knows my appetite

will know that I’m proud to say

he won that bet

and so his nickname ‘Forty Eggs’

then turned into the family name

and was passed down the generations

to my Yiayia


And today

it’s her birthday

so I tell her what we always do:

'Να εκατοστήσεις: May you live to one hundred’

but she is 83

so instead of thanking me she says:


‘Oh God me!!

A hundred??!!

No thank you, I have enough

maybe couple more years – then I go to sleep’


'Where will you go to sleep Yiayia?'


‘In the cemetery – I already buy a “lili” house there ...I don’t afraid!!'


Until then

she will keep calling me to see if I am too cold

when I’m visiting Melbourne

keep stopping me from doing the dishes

after she cooks us a meal

keep trying to slip me a fifty dollar note

every time I visit

and keep telling me:


‘Eat two leaves basil everyday

good for the blood

good for the brain’


They don’t teach you that

at University.


-Luka Lesson