Fond memories, from her village of Livathohori, to the moment when Pavlos the King of Greece visited their village in 1948 and became koumbaro to her brother Paul are all captured in the book Springtime in Lemnos: Memories of a Young Migrant Girl From Alexandroupolis.
Soula Grande, who came to Australia in 1963 during a time in her adolescence where she would be faced discrimination and bullying by her peers, is all revisited. This moving and honestly told autobiography, Springtime In Lemnos is about family who eventually find happiness in the strange country of Australia. It is Soula (Athanasia) Grande’s memoir about her family, their life in Greece and Australia, and, as Soula writes, the “black dog of depression, that would strike at her family from time to time”.
However, it’s the mental illness and the hardships that the family went through, that pulled ties even tighter and stronger. This inspiring story of the Melbourne-based author is interwoven with recollections of the mental illness that provided her with rare enthusiasm and strength to fight on, and the generosity to try and help other people who suffer from the same condition. Above all, it is narrative about a mother of child who suffers mental illness. “I wanted to write a book because my daughter suffered depression.
I wanted to let people know it’s just an illness, and that sufferers shouldn’t be stigmatised; there is nothing to be ashamed about. I think it’s very important for people to talk about it and get some help, and with the help of the family and right medication, they can live a normal life. There is always a light at the end of a tunnel, and that’s what inspired me to help someone with mental illness,” Soula tells Neos Kosmos. Now in her sixties, Soula thinks writing is important. For her writing is cathartic, writing down her thoughts has made her feel liberated and relieved. However, it took Soula many decades to start talking about mental illness. And it this memoir that has helped her.
Her ethnic and cultural background made it difficult to open up as she felt ashamed. In Soula’s opinion, being Greek makes it even harder. “I found mental illness a very stigmatised topic, especially being Greek, where people are very ashamed. I would like people to know it’s just an illness – a person has to take medication, and even more important, have support of the family,” Soula says. Once, someone told her that mental illness is, after death, the second worst thing that can happen to a family. “I agree 100 per cent,” Soula responds, “sometimes even – as much as I loved my daughter and my children – I would just wish I didn’t have them. Because, the mental torture that she was going through was too much.
I think it’s even harder than death, because you have this person that you used to know, who was loving and beautiful. And now, there is this different person, that doesn’t talk, doesn’t want to do anything with you, that swears and screams and does some horrible things to herself,” Soula explains of the hardships she went through as a mother of a mental illness suffering daughter. ” [Mental illness] may be genetic. If you are a little bit worried type, it will get you – rather than someone else who is bit more free going – a lot of good people take things to heart. But, there is always a solution to a problem.”
Aiming to help others suffering from mental illness and their families too, Soula Grande is a long-time member of Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria that provides support to almost 5,000 people a year. She is passionate about helping people less fortunate than herself, those who suffer. She is visits them, talks to them and their families, tells her inspiring story: all in order to motivate and inspire them. “I would do anything to help those people. There are so many children who commit suicide, that you don’t hear about but unfortunately it happens every day.”
At the moment, Soula takes part in giving talks to the families about mental illness. She also provides company for one mental illness sufferer, taking her out once a week and does some shopping for her. “I’m really pleased that she feels that she belongs somewhere, that she is accepted and cared for by somebody. I also help with fund raising for mental illness institutions. “In my opinion, if those people don’t get any better, it’s because they don’t get any support. If they are a little bit aggressive, it’s part of their illness.”
For Soula, the important part is that even though a mental illness can’t be cured – it can be treated, enabling people to live a normal life. “There is nothing to be ashamed about! Just don’t keep it inside, talk about it. “It will inspire them; it will give them a hope that they can live a normal life, as my daughter does today. She is a grade teacher, and has her own family. She has also written a chapter in the book.
She told her story from her heart, a powerful story of a sufferer.” “I hope the book will help at least one person who is suffering from mental illness. I didn’t write this book to make money; I did it to help someone,” concludes Soula. The book Springtime in Lemnos has been written in both Greek and English. It can be purchased in bookstores, or by contacting the writer, via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.