Digest>Archives> June 2008

A Child Of The Light

By Dolores Reyes-Pergioudakis


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Kakokefali Lighthouse, Greece, from a distance in ...

My husband Nikolaos, whose is supervisor of the Greek Lighthouse Service Control Center, encouraged me one day to accompany him on an inspection visit to the Kakokefali Lighthouse. He wanted me to meet the daughter of the lighthouse keeper who was fond of English and knew, as an ESL instructor, I would find the youngster engaging and bright and thought I might enjoy taking her some English study books.

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At age four, Sotiria is shown here with her pet ...

Sotiria, who is the only child in all of Greece who currently resides in a Greek Lighthouse, and I became instant friends. I learned that she arrived there, at age four, with her parents and her pet duck, Lulu.

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New Year's eve at the lighthouse. (l-r) Greek ...

Years before she was born, Sotiria's parents, Dimitris and Eleni, unbeknownst to them at the time, spied their future home from a seaside tavern while on a holiday excursion to the island of Euboea (Evia). At the time, they admired a distant stand of trees and the top of a building peeking out from them. They thought it might be a church. Little did they know then that it was the lighthouse where destiny would eventually take them.

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Snow covered Kakokefali Lighthouse.

Sotiria's father, Dimitris Karagiannis and Sotiria's uncle and namesake, Sotiris Panou, were involved in a terrible car accident in one of the extreme traffic conditions that so often occur in the cities. Sadly, that accident claimed the life of her uncle and nearly took her fathers. Sotiria means "Salvation" in English and in many ways the young girl plays that role in the family. Not only was she her parent's salvation as she was born shortly after her father's near-fatal accident, but the Kakokefali Lighthouse became the family's salvation as they escaped from the hustle and bustle of city life.

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Sotiria, the child of the light, now 13 years ...

When Dimitris led his family to the stand of trees and saw the lighthouse he was assigned to keep, the young parents recognized, to their surprise and delight, that they were bringing Sotiria to the very spot they had seen some years earlier.

Over the years the Karagianni family have become celebrities in their own right. Daytime TV commentators and print journalists often feature them because of their unique family occupancy of a lighthouse. At present, a nighttime series called the "Faros" or "Lighthouse" is broadcast on a local TV station. These actors have researched the Karagianni family in order to portray some real-life aspects of living in a lighthouse.

Sotiria has been sought out by previous residents of the Kakokefali Lighthouse such as Mary and Katerina Papadopoulou, who resided in the same walls as Sotiria between 1929-1950.

Almost from the time school was out for the summer, after her second grade, Sotiria began writing poetry. Creativity runs in the family. Sotiria's mother, Eleni Panou, is a designer of mirrors, lampshades, clocks, end-tables and ships that are all made from driftwood from found on the beach of the lighthouse where she resides.

My husband and I are honored to call this lighthouse family our friends. Recently we celebrated the New Year with them. We popped a bottle of champagne and watched fireworks from the top of the tower next to the beacon. We also had the unique experience of waking up in a snow-covered Greek lighthouse. Snow in itself is a very unique experience in Greece!

As Sotiria, now thirteen, grows to womanhood, attains her proficiency in English, and fulfills her dreams, I know our friendship will endure. In my opinion, this particular Lighthouse has two beacons, the one on top of the tower, and one who lives there, Sotiria, a child of the light!

This story appeared in the June 2008 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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