Thursday, November 1, 2012

Celebrations, Day Three

Sunday, Ochi Day
And, in Greece, the Feast of the Protection of the all-Holy Theotokos

10:00 “Draconian Measures for the Parade” is the headline on television this morning. Indeed. Police helicopters are circling. Two military jets have also flown over, staying very high today.

11:15 After church (i.e., after the parade was already well underway), we went, with what seemed a larger crowd than ever despite the rain, toward the parade. So many streets were blocked off that you couldn’t get within half a mile of the first half of the parade route. In exasperation, I asked one policeman, “How are we supposed to see the parade?” He smiled and to my delight answered, “Mystikos.” Mystically! And then he offered us directions.

Demetrios said something to him I didn’t understand, to which the cop with a shrug replied, “They have their parade without us.” Not much of an exaggeration, as half the parade route passed by nobody! Then the cop added, “We shall see who will endure longer, they or we.”

“We will!” said Demetrios. “Because we still possess our souls!”

Presumably along the entire parade route, but at least as far as we could see (which on account of the crowds wasn’t far), there were policemen standing four feet apart on both sides of the street, facing the spectators, and in between each of them, a soldier facing the other direction, rifle at the ready. (I’d be surprised if they knew how to use those rifles, but that’s beside the point, isn’t it?)

The crowd was silent this year, except whenever a passing band would play, “Macedonia!” Then they applauded. It’s a favorite martial tune around here.

One elderly man behind us in the crowd was heard to say, “If the President passes by, I won’t be able to applaud him, will I? I’m holding my umbrella!” And the people nearby all turned toward him and smiled. The President, of course, didn’t pass by. He made a speech after the parade. We didn’t stay around to hear it; we left early and went to a nearby eatery for a snack.

12:45 They’re doing it again! The parade has been over for at least half an hour, but again the bomber jets are screaming as low as possible overhead, shaking you to your bones, coming back over and over again, their thunderous sound (gross understatement!) setting off car alarms, making dogs whimper and children cry. Or it may be just one jet, continually circling and swooping down on us again.

We are both living it and simultaneously watching it on the restaurant’s television. The television people, even though they told us last night there would be no fly-by today, seem to have known about this in time enough to televise the name it as soon as it began: It’s called, appropriately enough, “Demonstration Zeus” and it appears to involve only one jet. Various aerial maneuvers are being demonstrated, says an airman narrating the event. The worst one, for us, so far, has been the demonstration of how low the jet can fly — at mach two, twice the speed of sound. It stays low even when not showing off how low it can go, on account of the thick cloud cover, says the man on TV, because otherwise we couldn’t see anything. We can’t see anything anyway, except on the television, because you could only really see it live from the waterfront, where the TV cameras are, and in this neighborhood, the waterfront is blocked to the public.

Yes, there were a few of the same flares dropped today as on Thursday.

4:00 There have been big demonstrations downtown, and from the looks of it, scuffles with the police. We have stayed home for several reasons. One is, we are Americans and it isn’t up to us to meddle in this sort of thing. Not my country, and not even Demetrios’ any more, either. Another is, people’s passions are running so high now that the chance of violence seems great. And a third reason we stayed away is, unless you know who has organized a demonstration, you may unwittingly become the pawn of some group you cannot countenance.

People were carrying signs saying, “Fascism never again!” and “NO to Fascism!” By now it is perfectly clear to perhaps most Greeks that fascism or some form of totalitarianism, on a huge scale, is indeed what they are up against. On the other hand, if the people carrying these signs are communists, well, everybody to them is a fascist apart from themselves. The numerous red flags in the crowd made me suspicious, although they bore no hammer and sickle.

The Icon “Axion Estin” is here in town through 03 November. (To read the story behind this highly revered icon, see Matushka Constantina’s blog, here. Check out her newly-published book, too, plus more from her of what is going on here in Thessaloniki today.)  Reportedly, today one elderly man, after kissing the miraculous icon, proclaimed, “From today begins Greece’s salvation!” I sure hope he is not just a wishful thinker.

Here, from the short news clips we’ve seen, it appearss that during the parade, several contingents refused to face the reviewing stand as they passed, but looked straight ahead. (Well, they were so far from the dignitaries it hardly mattered, did it?) In Athens, one or more female students marched past the reviewing stand barefoot, to show contempt. Curiously, we haven’t heard how the parades went in other places all over Greece.

7:00 pm Altogether too many sirens tonight of various sorts, but we haven’t heard anything on television, so perhaps it’s just that the hospital nearby is extra busy and we’re jittery. It appears this day has passed peaceably, for which I hope everyone is thankful.

Today the government felt forced to show its hand, and what Thessaloniki saw was a


Matushka Anna said...

Lord have mercy. I haven't read/watched the news in almost 11 months so I haven't been keeping up, but do be careful. It sounds frightening.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I wouldn't watch any news either, were it up to me. But as my husband is a newshound and watches more than an hour a day of it, I often sit in the same room, just to be in his company, and knit. For as long as I can stand it; then I move to another room and close the coor.