Nowreen Monir spent five years of her childhood in Greece. Her heart sank when she had to return to Bangladesh with her parents, leaving her friends behind in Greece. It has been a long nineteen years since then. And then last month this girl from Chittagong, at the final stages of her university studies, had the chance to meet four of her childhood friends at the ‘Third Imagine Youth Peace Camp’ in Greece. She has shared those memories with Prothom Alo readers which came up in the daily’s print edition. Following is her write up.
It was 1994, when my parents went to Greece on a scholarship, right after I was born. I spent my early childhood in Greece and learned the Greek language as well. The only people I knew then were my neighbours from Greece.
My father, professor Monir Uddin and my mother, Prof. Nusrat Jahan, teachers of Chittagong University, were studying at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for their PhD degrees.
I have a vague memory of my childhood, but my memories with Maria, Hrisavgi, Andreas, or Anthoula Muratidu, are unforgettable. They are the ones who filled my childhood in Greece with fun.
Anthoula Muratidu was the oldest among us. Their place was at a walking distance from ours, and that’s where I used to spend most of my time.
When I was five, my parents completed their studies in Greece and returned home to Bangladesh. I used to miss my friends from Greece and it was hard for me to adjust with a new environment in my own country.
Anthoula was always in touch
Anthoula took my father’s address and wrote to me on regularly. I didn’t reply at first as I didn’t appreciate the value of those letters, but I did realise they were missing me as much as I was missing them. Anthoula has been sending me gifts and cards on my birthday for the past 19 years.
Gradually as I grew older, I started to write to them as well, eager to see them again. It seemed like a wait for eternity.
Finding them on Facebook
After I joined Facebook in 2012, I found them there. We talked over phone. We have all grown so much! I was overwhelmed to see their profiles and became all the more eager to see them again.
In Greece again
I got the chance to meet them again through British Council’s ‘Imagine Youth Camp’. This is a camp for young people eager to help make a change in other people’s lives and who believe in the importance of the Olympic values. A total of 50 youngsters from 50 different countries around the globe represented their respective countries in the camp.
The camp was from 27 August to 2 September, but I had already reached Greece six days before that. While packing for the journey, I was more excited about meeting my old friends, than the camp.
When they met me at the Thessaloniki International Airport, we all broke down in tears of joy. The feeling was inexpressible.
After finding an old picture of ours in an album at Anthoula’s sister’s place, we took a picture again, posing in the same way, after 10 years.
Flying my flag
The camp’s venue was at the International Olympic Academy in Athens. We were supposed to take part in a series of educational workshops and sports activities aimed at promoting equality and peace, and explore the role of sports in the peaceful resolution of conflict.
I was proud to see the flag of Bangladesh at the Olympic Academy compound. It was a delightful time at the camp, but I kept thinking about Thessaloniki, because time spent with your dear ones is never enough.