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Idyllic Times and Spaces? Memories of Childhood Visits to the Parental Homeland by Second-Generation Greeks and Cypriots

posted on 2023-06-07, 16:49 authored by Russell King, Anastasia Christou, Janine Teerling
This paper focuses on one aspect of a wider comparative study of second-generation Greek-Americans, Greek-Germans and British-born Greek Cypriots who have `returned to Greece and Cyprus. We analyse those parts of their life-narratives which refer to childhood visits to their ancestral homes in Greece and Cyprus. In nearly all cases these are memories of idyllic times and spaces of beaches and the sea, of villages and the countryside, and of fine weather and happy times spent with extended families. The key trope running through these memories of childhood visits is freedom: how children were allowed to `roam free until late at night, in contrast to the strict parenting and limited spatial and temporal freedom they experienced in the host country. However, different and sometimes less pleasant memories emerge when the visits took on a different character: for instance, when longer-term stays resulted from children being `sent back to be cared for by relatives, or when the children were older teenagers. In the second part of the paper, connections are made between these childhood times in the `homeland and subsequent decisions, later in life, to return to Greece or Cyprus for a longer term settlement. In general the hypothesis that childhood visits were instrumental in fostering a sense of belonging in the homeland, preparing the way for the adult return, is only partially supported. Returns take place for a whole set of individualised reasons. Returnees find that their semi-permanent settlement in the homeland in early-mid adulthood poses a new set of challenges which contrast markedly with their childhood experiences and memories. Finally, reflecting on their relocation, second-generation returnees frequently remark on the loss of the `authentic nature of the homeland. They highlight the materialism of Greek and Cypriot society nowadays and the impact of recent mass immigration. However, they see the `homeland as a safer locale to raise their own children.


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  • Published


University of Sussex, Brighton



Department affiliated with

  • Geography Publications


Sussex Centre for Migration Research, Working Paper No. 56

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