Sofia, 51 years old
beneficiary of the Psychological Counseling Service,
Athens Solidarity Center
Everything started eight years ago. Every aspect of Sofia’s life changed suddenly and rapidly.
At the age of 43 – the 51-year-old Sofia – was a victim of a car accident. As a result, she lost her job and a little while later got a divorce from her second husband and father of three of her four children. Her first marriage had produced her older son, who is 29 years old and today works as psychotherapist’s assistant. Then, there is Angelo, 14, Vasiliki, 12 and the youngest one, Odysseus, 5 years old. “I have dedicated my life to my children”, Sofia tells us as soon as our conversation starts. In that way, she clarifies to herself, as well as others, that behind every decision and action she takes lies the well-being of her children.
“Gorillas in the mist”
Since she was little, Sofia always put others and their needs before her own. “I always felt that I didn’t belong in the world. In this world that always seemed too cruel for me. I was the girl that helped ants move out of the way, so people wouldn’t step on them. When I was little, I read the book “Gorillas in the mist” by the American Zoologist, Dian Fossey. The story of that woman amazed me. I always dreamed that I could be like her. That I could leave from this closed and selfish environment, and that I will make a change and offer something to a much bigger scale. That I could help the greater good”.
Unfortunately, her dreams did not become reality. As the fifth member of a poor family, Sofia had to fight from a very young age. She graduated from a night school but gave up on the possibility of higher education to become a social worker, because she needed to work as soon as possible and provide for her family and their needs. However, she later learned English and computers and graduated from a school for secretaries.
At the age of 17, Sofia came “face to face with love” as she says. She got married and had a kid. A few years later she divorced her first husband, and attempted to once again chase her dreams. “At the age of 22, I was a single mother. It was me and my son Alkis – we grew up together. I learned how to see the world through his eyes. I could never replace this feeling of understanding and seeing the world through the eyes of my kids”.
A few years later she remarried and became mother to three more children. All these years she worked in an insurance company. Her love for people, extrovert character and lovable personality was all she needed in order to succeed in her work.
The car accident, the discharge, the divorce and health issues.
Suddenly everything changed. The chain effects of a sudden and unexpected event, led Sofia and her children to poverty. It took an entire year after the accident for Sofia’s health to be completely restored. The same however did not happen with her job and she still has not managed to find a job that can provide a good life for her family. At the same time, she began to feel bad in her social life, not knowing why. Finally, she understood. “I was receiving strange behaviors from others. At first, I thought that the reason was my economic state, but it turned out to be something else, something I hadn’t even thought of. They did not accept me. A single mother with three kids, who knows what she has done or who she is in order to be alone. I felt an awful unfairness. Even my son, Angelo was faced with mockery and discrimination at school”.
15 minutes of publicity
The state of Sofia’s family became known to the general public. This happened after her son Angelo wrote an essay about the difficulties he faced as a member of a large family. His essay was awarded in a competition and he received 500 euros. After his success, Sofia was invited by television networks and radios to talk about the problems her family was facing; problems Angelo had described so aptly on his essay.
Sadly, the 500 euros were not enough and soon enough the electric power in their house was cut off and the fame they received from the essay was short lived. Sofia’s main focus was and still is to find work. That’s what she wished for during her appearance on television shows where she spoke about the hardships of her life.
One year at the Athens Solidarity Center
Sofia found herself face to face with two problems which affected both her life as well as the lives of her children: unemployment and social racism.
She could not bear by herself the burden of family obligations, her children’s needs, the endless efforts to find work, as well as social attacks. Mostly, however, she did not want her children to be seen constantly oppressed and angry.
“There comes a time in life where you start suffocating. I was drowning in my constant anger. The time came where I had to ask for help. Today, I can tell my story and I also receive serious help. I am beyond happy with the existence of SolidarityNow’s Athens Solidarity Center because its functions help everyone. I feel very wonderful in the center and have become a member of a multinational community”.
Today Sofia feels better. She talks with the psychologist of the Center and releases her anger and emotions. At the same time she learns how to deal with the social racism she faces because of her role as a single mother of three kids. Her next goal is to find a job. Until then however, she is not giving up. She has received the appropriate support that has activated her, and she can proudly present her artworks! Sofia makes wonderful things with raw materials such as stone and brick, she draws paintings and creates on clay. She has also taken part in the exhibition of Craftsmen of the Municipality of Filis!
Sofia will make it.
And then she will be able to help others beyond her own family, and this will be fulfilment for her dreams. SolidarityNow will be on her side for as long as she needs it.
*Sofia is one of the beneficiaries receiving support services provided to vulnerable population groups (Greeks, refugees and migrants) at the SolidarityNow Athens Solidarity Center. Find more about the Athens Solidarity Center: http://www.solidaritynow.org/en/kentro-allileggiis-athinas/