From Mauritius to Greece: Scarlett Bauwens finds home and faith

Embracing the Greek Orthodox faith, Scarlett, now Athanasia, discovers a profound sense of belonging and purpose amidst Greece's rich cultural tapestry.

Scarlett Bauwens has several places in the world she calls home, but Greece is her anchor, she has even embraced the Greek Orthodox faith by getting baptised Athanasia in Sparta, earlier this year.

“As soon as I landed in Greece for the first time, I felt a familiarity which was difficult to explain at first. It felt like home, even though I never lived there,” Scarlett told Neos Kosmos. She will celebrate in Melbourne as a Greek Orthodox for the first time.

Born in Mauritius where she spent her first ten years before moving to Bali to finish her schooling, and then to Melbourne, Scarlett has visited many places, and lived among many cultures.

“I believe that embracing Orthodoxy will infuse my life with purpose, meaning, and a profound sense of belonging to a timeless and sacred tradition”.

What drew her to Greece was the way of life, where family is important. She adds that despite their different cultures, Mauritius and Indonesia, share striking similarities with Greece specially in the way family holds a central role in their cultures.

“It took me eight years before I made the decision to join the Greek Orthodox Church. I never felt pressured but I wanted to learn as much possible before I did.”

She finds that she is calmer with herself and life since she started reading about Orthodoxy and attending church.

Scarlett felt like she arrived home, from the moment she set foot in Greece.

“To me, a life without faith may lack the sense of belonging and purpose that comes from being part of a religious community. Without spiritual beliefs, there may be a greater emphasis on individualism and material pursuits, which may lead to a feeling of emptiness or existential questioning in times of adversity”

Understanding more about the rituals and ceremonies of the Greek Church she discovered a strong spiritual sense that she had not experienced in the other religions she had encountered.

Growing up among Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, and Protestants, the Greek Orthodox religion stood out as the one that suited her most.

“I am quite conservative and traditional in my thinking, in my way of life. And I believe being an Orthodox reconnects me to my values, my true self.”

“Without spiritual beliefs, there may be a greater emphasis on individualism and material pursuits, which may lead to a feeling of emptiness or existential questioning in times of adversity”.

Christened as a Catholic when she was a baby, Scarlett had to jump through a few bureaucratic loops to convert to another religion.

“They don’t take it lightly at all,” she says describing the long process but also the respect and support she received once it became clear how much research and thought she had put into her decision.

Scarlett had already moved from Melbourne to live and work for an global consulting company in Greece, she shared her time between Athens and the small village close to Sparta, where Kostas, her Greek Australian partner is from.

In Bali where Scarlett finished her school days among other third culture kids, an experience that has shaped her into a person with broad perspective, open-mindedness, and a deep appreciation for the beauty of cultural diversity.

Three priests were involved in her christening in January. With only her nouno, (godfather) and her partner in attendance, the private ceremony allowed her to fully immerse herself in the ritual and connect to God.

“Coming out of the ceremony I was speechless and had tears in my eyes.”

The convert felt appreciated as the priest held her hand and walked her all-around Sparta, proudly telling everyone ‘Look at this woman. She’s from Mauritius and she is now a Greek Orthodox’.

Athanasia is a name with a lot of meaning in her family. “My partner’s grandfather, his pappou, was called Athanasios and he was the one who built the patriko, the family home in the village, which Kostas renovated ten years ago.”

“We love sailing, boating, anything to do with the water, so we spent a lot of our free time navigating the seas around Mauritius, visiting other islands and boating with friends”.

“One of the things the family noticed over the years is that I share a similar personality with Kostas’s grandpa. From the stories I’ve heard, we’re both very family-orientated. I joke a lot and I love life and nature, as did he. And it just made sense for me to be named after him.”

But there seems to be a deeper sense of belonging in her decision to embrace this faith and make Greece her home.

Scarlett remembers distinctly during that first trip with Kostas eight years ago, hearing ‘Rosa’ by Mitropanos play on the radio and how it sparked something in her, compelling her to learn and understand the lyrics. Something similar happened again years later when she heard Marinela sing ‘Anoixe Petra’ in an intimate venue in Galatsi.

“At that moment, I started crying. And I thought ‘this is it I need to live here.’ I feel connected to the music, to the culture, to the history. At that moment, I understood that I just had to pack up my bags and move to Greece.”

It is the small villages, and a way of life where family is at the centre, that drew Scarlett to Greece.

She adds that she can be thrown anywhere in the world and she will adapt. “But now things are different because I decided to spend more time in Greece. I got a job there, I became a Greek Orthodox, and I do feel that I belong. I feel at home now, like I don’t need to look anymore for a home.”

Scarlett, Athanasia now, is learning Greek, making it the eighth language she will be able to communicate in.

“I have so much love and respect for the Greek people and our Ellada,” she concludes adding how beautiful it feels to share her journey with Greeks.

” I know a lot of Greeks here in Melbourne, who have never been to Greece. And I want them to understand that Greece is not only respected by the Greeks, but by other people too who love Greece.”

Hopefully her experience can inspire others to start a similar love story with Greece, she says.