I have written a lot about finding home - the two words that, in my mind, sum up the essence of nomadic life. But until today, I had not felt the need to write about losing home. For the past few weeks, I have been watching my vision of home slip away, little by little. I have been watching the people I love lose their home. I have been witnessing a whole nation becoming homeless, slowly but steadily, for a long time.
Even though I chose to leave my home country - Greece - and become a perpetual foreigner 20 years ago, that home has always been in the back of my mind. I could always return if I wanted to, even though I probably would not. If I did return, though, I knew that I would be welcome; free to be myself; surrounded by people who share the same values as me - my people - because that's what home feels like.
I have been a silent observer of developments in my home country for the past few years. I have watched the country struggle and tear under the weight of the economic crisis and its people battle hardship and poverty - without losing their beautiful spirit. I have felt heartbroken but proud to be Greek, not least because, in times like these more than ever, Greeks stick together. We help each other. We share. We stay true to our values. We endure.
I have watched the most recent developments in Greece, feeling tormented and powerless. I am not a person who talks politics, yet I have found myself actively engaged in discussions about my country's future, its politicians, the merits of different views. I have read and debated scenario after catastrophic scenario. I have watched in disbelief as my people, led to the edge of a cliff, willingly, passionately, fanatically embrace self-destruction. I have heard the terror in the voices of friends and family who feel trapped in a country without a future, about to be forced off that cliff in the name of democracy.
As the crisis deepens and living conditions in my unraveling country resemble less those of a developed country and more those of a country at war, the spirit of unity that I was so proud of has all but vanished. In the place of solidarity with those less fortunate, I see polarization, aggression and intolerance. I see difference of opinion being regarded as treason. I see people viciously attacking and insulting each other on every occasion and through every available medium: in front of overcrowded ATMs, while waiting in line for their daily ration of cash; while queuing at the gas station; on social media. I see threats, bullying, intimidation. Friends tell me that, for the first time, they are afraid to express their views openly or post on social media, for fear of being labeled as taking one side or the other - by people whose help they might need in the near future. The air is thick; it smells of fear and despair.
I fail to understand how all this is happening. Like many others who live away from our home country, I feel like I have lost touch. I no longer get my own people - how they think and why they act the way they do; what their values are; what they believe in. It feels like the home that was is no longer there. This is not the country I grew up in. These are not the values with which I was raised. These are not the people I was proud to be part of.
We are all losing our home.
There was an eerie silence on social media the day after the Greek referendum. There's an eerie awkwardness at the other end of the line when I call to check on my loved ones. A sort of numbness. As a good friend wrote to me recently, these are uncharted waters. Very dark uncharted waters. I hope that we can cross them and still find our lost home on the other side.
A version of this post originally appeared on Diary of a Move.
Katia Vlachos is a writer, a blogger and a willing foreigner. She writes on cross-cultural transitions and expatriate life on her blog Diary of a Move.
Follow Katia Vlachos on Twitter: https://twitter.com/vlachosk