20. Hodel, part one

It was the foggiest morning I’d ever seen. Unliftable mist distorting street signs into predators; the ducks were as omnipresent as God, even in that time of day. My head hurt from the sleeplessness. I didn’t feel so cold – I had four layers on. My bags were heavy and my suitcase was impossible. I was late.

06:03 –  Good, good. I arrive at the bus stop, unsure whether or not it’s right. It was.

Alone, so early. But I was not afraid in the slightest. And it all made me think of Al Silber’s perfectly worded thoughts: “No one could have blamed me for capitulating…”. She lost a father and moved to Scotland from America. A bussom friend died, my heart broke, and my friends left. So I moved to England, about two years older than Hodel, weeks shy of twenty. Hodel’s life is turned upside down, so she moves from Anatevka to Siberia, a distance that’s as impossible as heading from England to China today.

By train. All alone. With nothing.

And I thought of those kindred spirits: Alexandra, myself, and Hodel.

I’m the one who could’ve stayed home after all that happened in my life.

I could have led a regular, Greek life, perhaps a conventional early marriage to someone I’d grow to dislike more and more every day. That’s what happens to many many young Greeks who live in this traditional, Orthodox Christian world, where the patriarchy is a real and frightening thing. It’s not as strict as you’d think, and many break free. I could. Right? A stick in the mud.

I could stay here and fight for my country, become a brave pioneer for feminism and social justice in my country, where millions are struggling to put food on the table. I could fight and be political, as I always dreamt of being, to oppose everything I was raised into to fight for those less fortunate. To do charity work, to help others, to bring change.

Or – I could follow my truest dream, of plunging deep into the unknown, without connections or experience. I could be a musical firebrand, and give myself my best chance. Irresponsible, sure. Over-enthusiastic, always. But always, always, myself. A world where everything’s allowed, where I don’t need to fear judgement or pain, a world where I can learn to cope with all the struggles that life can offer.

A friend told me it was brave, going there. But, just like Al Silber said, “It didn’t feel brave. It felt necessary”.

She followed it with,  “It never occurred to me that there was a parallel between the 18-year-old girl who got on a plane to Scotland and the 18-year-old girl who got on a train to Siberia…”

Or the 19-year-old who boarded a plane to England, for as long as they’d let her be there, without any prospects of returning.

Many Brits actually asked me “Why did you come to England?“. Well, why did you wake up this morning? I didn’t let myself have any other choice. I went to an English school and I’m bilingual, I want to give myself my best chance to become a singer/actress, I have to honour Ellinor and our mutual dreams of studying in England (dreams she never got to actualize) and I have to sing my way out. I am not throwing away my shot.

Home is comfortable. My bed is amazing, my room is big and full of books that made me who I am today, my dogs and cats are angels, and the weather is nice. But England, cold and mouldy, damp and unventilated, is my chance to prove myself, to rise up and test my bravery, just like Hodel.

Everyone expects girls like me to be weak and silly but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Girls who believe in love, girls who dream, girls who wear makeup, girls who laugh a lot, girls who cry a lot, girls who give their hearts, girls who move to Siberia for love, we are all made of steel. No matter how much society underestimates us. We defy expectations and we rise up.

I know Hodel will stay with me for a very, very long time, despite the ridiculous mist of North Yorkshire. She will stay with me and I will tell her story wholeheartedly. I love her, and she inspires me more than words could possibly express: but I feel it, and I know she does.

The sky was finally peach, and I got on the bus.


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