Transient Ties

Michaela Nagyidaiová

2019 - Ongoing

Tree roots are vital for the functioning of trees, for their lifespan. The stronger the foundation, the stronger the tree's whole structure will be, and the harder it will be for it to get uprooted. Just like trees, human beings are made up of roots too. These are not as vital for our survival as for the survival of the trees, though they often leave a visceral mark within oneself. A mark that tends to be hard to explain, grasp and implement in one’s life.

Who would a human being be without his/her/their roots?

In the summer of 2019, for the first time, I had visited a place from which my grandmother had to flee as a child. Some of my ancestors originated from a village hidden in the deep mountains of northern Greece and lived there until they were forced to leave their homes, due to the Greek Civil War (1945-1949). They never returned back. The foundation of their house stands still in silence, empty and abandoned, surrounded by tall weeds, and fruit trees. The local cemetery is overgrown by wildflowers that hide the names of my grandmother’s family members buried there.

Lena, as we call my grandmother, has never been able to properly reunite with her homeland. The connection to her roots vanished once having to integrate and adapt to a completely different culture, in former communist Czechoslovakia, where she lives until today (Slovakia). Greece represents a mysterious land to her, which she was uprooted from. Remembering some pieces of the language and blurry recollections of her childhood, she could never feel related to the environment and culture in which she was born. This work looks at the ‘Greek-ness’ she was stripped of, the ‘Slovak-ness’ she had to embrace, and the story of her migration that has been a taboo topic in my family since my childhood.

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  • An archival image of my grandmother in combination with an old article published by a Slovak newspaper describing twelve-thousand greek children arriving in former Czechoslovakia.

  • Old map of Greece from 1948 and a screenshot of my grandmother's birthplace.

  • In Antartiko (Ανταρτικό)

  • After arriving to former Czechoslovakia as a political refugee coming from Greece, my grandmother was stripped of her nationality. For many years whilst living in former Czechoslovakia, she was considered stateless.

  • A study of an unfinished family tree.