Grandkids in distress during COVID-19 lockdown, but sticking it down for yiayia and pappou’s benefit

The Greek community of Australia has been saddened by the news of the deaths of our elders due to COVID-19.

During these increasingly stressful times, it is difficult not to think about the impact it is having on our more vulnerable members of society.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have met our grandparents in our lifetime, we know how precious it is to spend time with them, creating memories and having yiayia pile food up on our plates until we burst.

Neos Kosmos asked some young members of the Greek community to share how they are helping out their grandparents during the pandemic.

James Panas

James Panas sitting with his grandparents Photo: Supplied

It has been a very surreal few months. From arranging my grandparents weekly shopping, organising medication and bank visits, it has taken some time to get used to. My grandparents have played a vital role in my upbringing, so it has been humbling to give back.

My grandparents have been very responsive to the health guidelines and are extremely cautious by staying home without visitors. They have learnt to adapt by using FaceTime to keep in touch with family and I even taught them how to watch Easter mass on YouTube, my greatest achievement this year!

They understand these measures are only temporary, but it is an emotional time when you cannot celebrate a birthday, Greek Easter or Mother’s Day together.

These restrictions have been difficult for my entire family, but it’s a small price to pay to keep our grandparents healthy!

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George Nikolakopoulos

George Nikolakopoulos with grandparents Tsambika and George Karpathakis Photo: Supplied

As it’s important that everybody plays their part and maintains distance from those who are vulnerable, unfortunately I haven’t been able to see my yiayia or pappou for quite some time now. In saying this, however, a luxury that we have been afforded given the timing of this pandemic is the gift of technology. My siblings and I make sure that we Facetime with yiayia and pappou as often as we can in order to help them feel as though, despite the distance, we’re still there with them every step of the way.

It truly is in times like these that you not only realise how much your family means to you, but how much you mean to them. The joy that something as simple as speaking for an hour over Facetime brings to people of their generation is really something special. The sheer excitement that I am met with every video call is heart-warming, as I watch a spark of light re-enter yiayia and pappou’s weary eyes.

It’s for this reason that I feel as though whilst COVID-19 has in many ways changed things for the worst, it has helped us slow down and truly appreciate what is in front of us and what really matters. It’s so easy for my generation to get caught up in the busy commotion that our day-to-day lives bring us- but ultimately as those we surround ourselves with may come and go, the love of a grandparent is eternal.

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Georgia Petridi

Georgia Petridi’s grandparents George and Fotini Kopeli Photo: Supplied

My sisters and I are delivering groceries, taking them to their doctors appointments and also helping them with telehealth, which is a completely foreign concept to them! We’ve also organised new phones and internet sims for them, so that we can Viber call and they can see us and the great grandchildren.

It’s been so difficult for them to be completely isolated! And of course we need them to stay healthy physically and mentally.

They are definitely concerned about the situation in Victoria. I think more for us than themselves. They worry for our kids that (were) going to school, they worry for us being at work every day as essential workers.  I think mostly, they’re upset that they’re alone.

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Fokion Sapountzis

Fokion Sapountzis pictured with his grandparents Photo: Supplied

For many young Greeks, the relationship we have with our grandparents is both unique and important in our lives. For many of us, including myself, my grandparents were at the forefront of my upbringing, being a natural extension of my family. It’s hard to see how we cannot have close contact at all during the coronavirus pandemic, but through daily telephone calls, occasional Facetime calls, albeit with technical difficulties, as well as trips to the supermarket to buy them their groceries, our grandparents can continue to feel a connection with their grandchildren.

For them, this pandemic is very difficult, not only for their health, but for the psychological impact it has on them from being distant from their families. It may look as if the pandemic has not affected them, but the longer that these lock downs last for, the harder it is for them to maintain their relationship with their families.

It is important that we all keep communicating with our grandparents, especially now when they need it the most. Whether it may be the occasional call for yiayia to cook us our favourite meal, or hearing old stories from pappou, we need to ensure that our grandparents still feel involved in the everyday of our lives, not only for our sake, but for theirs too.