81 old Greek cultivates his land in California’s desert
Greek-American author and professor Evangelos Vallianatos living and working permanently in the United States revealed a special immigrant story revealed with an article in Huffington Post. His emotionally charged article including the touching story of a 81 years old Greek immigrant that lives cultivating his land in the California desert.
«This happened on Saturday, December 28, 2013. I visited a small Greek farmer in Newberry Springs in western Mojave Desert in southern California. Vaggelis Pylavrianos, 81, cultivates about 20 acres of land, sowing it with a tremendous variety of fruit trees and vegetables. He uses his own seeds and does most of the work. He also has a couple of dozen chickens.
He purchased his farm in Newberry Springs recently because the groundwater of his other small farm in Hinkle, California was poisoned by a utility company.
«I dream of Greece every day of my life,» Vaggelis said to me in front of his home decorated with a Greek flag. «I grew up in Athens and lived through the horrors and hunger of Nazi German occupation. I remember my older brother with a bloated stomach. I had to search for scraps of food to survive.»
Vaggelis has been in America since 1951. «I never received welfare in this country,» he continued. «I have worked hard all my life — and I love it. There’s no way I will retire. These fruit trees and vegetables are my life. They keep me healthy and alive.»
Vaggelis” Odyssey in America became my Odyssey. He kept talking, telling me one story after another, but my eyes and mind were rereading Homer, seeing Alkinoos” garden in Vaggelis” farm.
The most pleasurable experience from my journeys to Kephalonia took place in the summer of 2006. For several days I walked to a vineyard that used to be mine. It now belongs to the son of my late cousin Aggelos.
This was late in August when the heat is often intense and oppressive. I would walk in the afternoon the short distance from my village home to the garden: full of fig, walnut, pear and olive trees next to a huge vineyard loaded with golden grapes of the «robola» variety. I would eat figs and then grapes.
Each bunch of «robola» is the material manifestation of natural perfection and pleasure. The individual spherical grape is soft and aromatic and sweet, melting in the mouth, triggering an entire history in my mind’s eye: how as a youngster I would help in the harvesting of this fruit of god Dionysos, stepping on it in my father’s, «linos,» a small enclosure like a swimming pool, for gathering the grape liquid that became our fabulous wine.
But like Vaggelis I did not return to my garden of Alkinoos. Time had intervened to break my nostos to a tolerable level.
But listening to Vaggelis, and understanding his tragic passion, left me in secret tears and near speechless. Here is a Greek hero living in almost total isolation in the wilds of the Mojave Desert. He raises organic food. That journey of seeing healthy food come out of the white watered desert is all that he hopes for, his gift to his adopted land.»