On Wed 14 September 2016 the Greek Community of Jerusalem lost one of its oldest members, Vassos Triantafyllidis.
I didn’t know Vassos well nor do I know much of his story. I met him for the first time during my July 2014 visit to the Greek Club. A gentle man with a cane who upon hearing I was Anna Kassotou’s daughter was thrilled, in his soft, understated way, and told me he was her classmate. Which, I suppose, puts him at about age 87, give or take.
Our paths kept crossing: when on my last day Marianne Bannayan took me on a tour of the Greek Patriarchate monastery and we found him sitting on a bench reading the newspaper; last summer again at a couple of events at the Greek Club; and one morning when I ran into him in the street, in the old city.
That last encounter, although the shortest, was the one that left the biggest impact on me. I had been in Jerusalem long enough and was just beginning to feel I had crossed the threshold from tourist to regular visitor with personal ties to the place. I had “done” the sights, I had become comfortable with the geography of the city, its sounds and smells, and with its ethnic mix of people, and now I could move within this space in pursuit of my own agenda: documents to chase, appointments with people who hailed from my family’s past, stories to uncover.
So one morning I’m hurrying along the street of the Patriarchate and there’s Vassos coming from the opposite direction. I was so happy to see him! And he seemed happy, too. Soft-spoken but with a sparkle in his eyes and a sweet smile that resonated louder than the few words he had to offer. For a brief moment I felt transported to a different time. It was as if I was reliving my ancestors’ life: going about my business in the old city of Jerusalem, bumping into friends from the Greek community.
It’s been about a year since my last post. Life has been putting up obstacles to my blogging, and my tendency to perfection hasn’t facilitate overcoming them. I now realise that even a short post every so often is better than a well-researched, extensive one that covers all the angles but never actually gets finished! Otherwise I won’t be able to keep this blog alive.
According to Mexican tradition, we die three deaths. The first is when our bodies cease to function. The second is when we’re put in the ground. And the third when people stop speaking our name, when no one is left to remember us.
Ultimately the goal of this blog is to keep the memory of my family’s life and times alive.
Vassos’s death was announced on the Facebook page of the Greek Community of Jerusalem and since then comments—and teary faces—have been pouring in, all amounting to one thing: a good man. “Always with a smile on his face, a positive attitude, with a helping hand, hard working, and social and likeable by all…” wrote someone. What better way to be remembered?
Rest in Peace, Vasso Triantafyllidi. Those of us left behind will keep speaking your name. Yours and those of all our other friends and family members who have been part of this Jerusalem community. We’ll move through the years together, those of us who are still here and those have transitioned into history, connected through the names and the stories…
Did you know Vassos? Do you have a memory or story to tell about him? Please share it below. ❖