Trip to Greece reaps its rewards
Journey from RP to Macedonia renews kinship ties for Robert and Kathy Grant
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By Jud Snyder  August 16, 2013 12:00 am

We Americans are so used to newspaper photos or TV reports of police pushing around demonstrators waving protest signs, people running from clouds of tear gas and beleaguered European citizens with blood-stained shirts, we tend to think, “Omigosh, it must be terrible over there!”

Well, that’s not the real story. We got the updated summary from Ekaterini Topouzi (“Please call me ‘Kathy’”), better known as Mrs. Robert Grant, of Rohnert Park. 

Thessalonika is big city

They’ve just come back from visiting Kathy’s aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews who all live in Macedonia, the northern part of Greece. Biggest city of the area is Thessalonika (be careful looking for it on a map – it has various spellings). Macedonia is closer to Bulgaria on the east, Albania on the west with Kosovo and Serbia, (the former Yugoslavia), on the north, than it is to Athens. It’s that far north of the Mediterranean yet still a thriving seaport on its own harbor.

“Greece gets a lot of attention from the press because they’re louder in their complaints and know how to reach the people, more so than the Italians or Spaniards. The Greeks stand up and shout their woes.” said Kathy. “Everything’s available, home appliances, food, transportation, good schools where English is taught as a second language and many tourists. If you have the money, of course, and if you have a job despite the high unemployment rate in Thessalonika and other cities. We had a military government, but we stood up and threw them out. People are hurting and the situation with the European Union hasn’t really helped us the past few years.” 

Similar to California

She likened the situation to the one she found in California. “I don’t see that much difference.”

Robert and Kathy Grant have been married for 31 years. They have three adult children living nearby in Sonoma and Marin counties. They met at a birthday party held in Frankfurt where Robert’s father was stationed with the U.S. Army. She was still a teenager when she met Robert and it was practically love at first sight. Later, his father was sent to the Presidio in San Francisco, and the young married couple went to the West Coast along with him.

They lived with his father in Marin County, and Kathy remembered bringing her children, two girls and one boy, to Sonoma County so the kids could get acquainted with the farm animals they loved. After his father retired from the Army, they moved to Rohnert Park. The kids have their own families and the Grants share their A Section home with two dogs, including one old blind and deaf diabetic and friendly dog named Roscoe they’re caring for.

Hooked by a Pentax

Robert’s a professional photographer, has had many of his photos printed in The Community Voice. “I got hooked on it when my father bought me a small Pentax camera, it used 110 millimeter film back then.

“It had all the bells and whistles, zoom, wide angle, changeable lenses and flash attachments. I still have it, but now I use a bigger camera and everything’s digital.”

Their marriage of 31 years is typical of the 21st century. Robert’s mostly African-American with several other ethnic ancestries mixed in; Kathy’s got a grand mixture of Greek, Macedonian and traces of Balkan ancestry in her heritage. They keep in close touch with their children and grandchildren.

“We go back to Macedonia about every three years to do the touristy things and visit with my relatives,” said Kathy. “The citizens do complain about the conditions but that’s just the Greek thing to do, after all, they’ve had several thousands of years of history behind them. The war between Bosnians and Serbs and their various religious allies hasn’t affected Macedonia too much, although there are still tensions in certain parts of the country.”

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