«Island weddings, a touch of dream» by Paraskevi Antonopoulou

How many of us do know Telendos? Telendos is a small island, a tiny rock close to Kalymnos, an ornament on the Aegean sea. The starting point of my adventure has been this tiny rock, and in a short time I realized that I had been in a dialogue with Paraskevi Antonopoulou. Paraskevi comes from the island of Kalymnos. She said to me: “I grew up both in Kalymnos and Telendos”. She is a special person, an honest person like all the Greek islanders are.

I came in contact with Paraskevi through “islandweddings. She organizes weddings and babtisms on the islands of Kalymnos, Pserimos, Leros, Telendos. I was impressed! Her idea is fresh, and difficult to be achieved in the geographical complex of the islands. But when I realized that Paraskevi comes from that islands, I took the message. I had understand the reasons. Telendos is something magic for her which can’t be analyzed.

Paraskevi Antonopoulou lives, dreams, works, and brings up her children, in unusual and beautiful conditions that people of urban culture couldn’t imagine.

“When you visit Telendos, you close your eyes, and dreams come fluently. At Telendos you won’t be lazy. Always, there is something to do or friends to meet. The native citizens they are almost 50 individuals, but everybody is friend for everyone. Could you find another individual who has 50 friends? I don’t mean at  Facebook. I mean 50 real friends. I could speak about Telendos for many hours, anyway…” Paraskevi said in an emotional mood of nostalgia. And she added: “My parents come from Kalymnos, my parents of my parents were natives too,  and so on. My grandmother once had bought a field of wheat  to cultivate, and that became  my mother’s fortune. Me and my brothers studied at the primary school of Kalymnos…”. Although, Paraskevi had had her summertimes on Telendos. “Telendos has the primary level of public education and only one teacher for all the services of the school. I think this is wonderful.”, she said enthusiastically.

Paraskevi has a Political and Financial Sciences degree of Plymouth University. During her studies in Great Britain she had been working in the restaurant of the University, and she had been teacher of the Greek Language, and Christianism religion at that local Orthodox Church. When she had finished her studies, she took a job in another city. She moved in Manchester in an employment agency for nurses. “ I had been responsible for their salaries. One of our nurses had had a problem. Her boyfriend told her that he would marry her by a Greek ceremony in Greece, or he wouldn’t marry her at all. So, I said “the problem is solved!”. And that had been just the beginning. Paraskevi organized her first wedding: Simon and Christine at Lindos, Rhodes.

“It was nice. As we had been waiting the member of the Municipality to manage the ceremony, someone of us comments “Is he going to come down here by his scooter ? How fun!”. I was sure that he would come by his scooter. But our visitors from abroad couldn’t imagine such a custom. When he appeared on his scooter, …that was a “happening”.

“After that I moved to Bruxelles at Belgium to study  International Political Economy at the University of Kent. I wasn’t the person that would be lazy. I found a job in MCI, a company that organizes conferences. The first conference I had been attending as an organizer had been in Istanbul, for the Internationl Union of Nephrologists. My manager, Tom, was watching my activity. He came close to me and told me: “Paraskevi you are truly talented in the organization of conferences. You can discuss with many people at the same time. I haven’t seen something like that before”. I organized with him one more conference in Singapore, and then it was impossible to work hard and study at the same time. I should choose. I decided to finish my master and come back to Greece permanently. I had much of work experiences to use them for finding a job in Kalymnos and be creative. I wanted to come back to my parents and my grandmother. So, I came back. The difficult path of life had just started”.

At present, Paraskevi has brought up a happy family, and she is the leader of “island weddings” company on her island, Kalymnos. She followed the path she already knew, in other words organizing weddings and baptisms. Otherwise, she always had that talent in her heart. “Ourselves is the inner source for everything. I have been very romantic. I believe in love, and in marriage. I grew up in mythic Telendos, having parents who were in love . How couldn’t I believe in love. I had watched movies having themes of weddings and organizers having a lot of fun. I like being creative and having happy moments of life. I like giving happiness to people and having fun. People abroad use the expression “Island Hoping”. Here on the islands each one stays on his island and sometimes he doesn’t even know how the other islands around his island are. “Island Hoping” had been a fantastic idea for me. When I had to go at Leros for exams, my father told me: “Leros? Is that possible?”. But when I went there I was shocked by the beauty. I took seat on a flat table observing. i was amazed. After a long time I went back to Leros and I was working from 2011 to 2013. I made real friends, and at the time I had been ready to leave Leros, I talked to them about the idea of weddings on the complex of the islands around. I have kept the piece of paper with our ideas written on that where we finished up by naming that “island weddings, a touch of dream”.

The beautiful decoration of the island culture is something that matters to people who come from other abroad…

And the first wedding ceremony appeared soon. “At that year one couple asked me to organize its wedding. They wanted to take some pictures underwater. Immediately I started to think about that how I could achieve the goal. We did it! Eva and Christian are now married and they have a little boy”. Paraskevi chooses partners according to the needs of each couple. “When I meet a couple  I make some questions and through that I explore their needs. I always ask them about the photographer, the hairdresser or someone else they would prefer to deal with because he makes them feel comfortable. After our discussion ends we know our partners. Themelina Gerakiou is my permanent partner for the decoration. She is talented, with an awesome artistic quality”.

Island Weddings has a small number of  marriages. The firm is new, but people are already interested. “We are reliable people”, Paraskevi said. That is the advertisement.

“Until now people don’t ask for weird activities in their marriage. People want “just to be married”, Paraskevi remarks. She gave to us the following example “The photographs of that married couple, which are taken at the moment they did climbing, aren’t something weird for themselves. They do the climbing every day… The bride did the climbing just a few days before the birth of her baby girl. In that case of marriage we had organized a team to support the action. The security of the pride was the most important thing, because she was 30 weeks pregnant. I should find an insurance agent that could do climbing, and he would be the one that he would protect her. We had been lucky because Loukas Ntourtourekas lives here in Kalymnos island. Loukas comes from Leivadia, but he works, and lives  here in Kalymnos with his family. He has many excellences in climbing. He also has a school for climbing, the “Kalymnos Climbing School”, and he is member of the rescue team. When he said that he accepted our invitation I felt calm. Loukas participated along with other three guys. The photographer who dared to risk his equipment and climb was Michele Paou. He had been working for a whole week before the event. When we arrived for the photographs everything was programmed from the lights to every movement, and everything else. And now we have these wonderful pictures. The hairstylist was Popi Vazanelli, and the make-up artist was Themi Trikoili. The flower were from brothers Koukouva flower shop ”Edem”. Themelina Gerakiou had made the schedules. We also had a drone for extra photographs by Michail Mammouzelos, and the traditional barber for the bridegroom, Panteli Cheila.

One of the dreams that bridegrooms wish to have is to arrive at the wedding place by sailing…

“Island Weddings” targets people who would like somebody to support and organize them for their wedding, baptism, or because they would like to fresh their oaths of wedding, or they would like to make a wedding proposal. Although, the most problematic point is the bureaucracy.  “Our job encapsulates the communications with the couple, the bureaucracy between the two countries, the translations, the public relations with the Munincipality of the island. At present I have to solve a problem related with the rules of our Munincipality of Kalymnos. The Council of Kalymnos Munincipality has decide that every wedding has to be done inside the building of the Munincipality of Kalymnos, and between the lines of the programmed ceremonies of the Munincipality. That has been a problematic point but very important one for the whole idea of weddings in Greece, because people from abroad want to live the whole Greek environment, and the traditional one. In contrast we have to follow the rules of the Munincipality, because this is the legal way for everybody. We hope on another point of view where the Council would make the context about the marriages more flexible. For example, the Council could decide specific wedding spots on the map of the island.”.

“When everything is fulfilled for them and they are calming down, I am collapsed. At the end they are satisfied for their weddings, and they express their good feelings that I supported the wedding of their dreams  to become true. That is my satisfaction”.

Paraskevi is impressed by the Luxemburg Municipality services, because they have included Greek language. And that means no need for a translator, or a lawyer, or anything like that. “A Greek lawyer said to me: You don’t need me. All the papers are in Greek language but the Greek bureaucracy needs the lawyer’s stamp. That had been no important matter. We prepared everything in order, and the wedding is legal.”

Paraskevi is impressed by the Luxemburg Municipality services, because they have included Greek language. And that  means no need for a translator, or a lawyer, or anything like that. “A Greek lawyer said to me: You don’t need me. All the papers are in Greek language but the Greek bureaucracy needs the lawyer’s stamp. That had been no important matter. We prepared everything in order, and the wedding is legal.”

The island around Kalymnos that people from abroad prefer is Telendos. They would love to feel the spirit of the Greeks traditions, but that would not be possible, because they are not Christians.

Paraskevi, like many others on the islands, have choosen to stay on the island because they love their homeland, and because they want to be close to their families. Kalymnos is barren. The lack of jobs has been a permanent problem. In contrast people of Kalymmnos have brought up many children. In the past, Kalymnos had been demographically the first in large families all over Europe. ‘We don’t live here unwillingly, begrundingly. We want our land, we want our families. There are many times that we feel disappointment, like now with the new taxation on our islands. But what could have been done. We continue. We wouldn’t leave our land”.

Special pictures, not easily forgotten!

Paraskevi has one fear. “I have one fear; the fear of Turkey. Channels on TV don’t share their provocations with flights that happen all the time. Offices like the tax office of the Greek state, the telecommunications of Greece (OTE), the foundation of socialized insurance (IKA), do not exist on the island any more. Our hospital has many problems, our post office doesn’t have new staff. When the offices of the state close, the offices of the Municipality of the island are degraded. What are we going to do. Many people have left, families live abroad. If they don’t have contemporary jobs what else could they do. They do their best for themselves and their families. The connections with Athens, and all the transportations, are limited. I can’t think or talk about all the defaults. I try to forget and not being myself disappointed, but keep myself trying”.

Love is her powerful energy. According to the myth of Telendos. An honest heart, full of love, has such an energy that could engrave the hardest rock and create a land like Telendos. I love my husband too much, and I pray for him… Here in Kalymnos we have the expression “So what…”, and we continue. Do everybody keep on trying?”

http://www.island-weddings.gr/

https://www.facebook.com/islweddings/

ONE Offer from Paraskevi Antonopoulou to all those who wish to live their dream, 5% discount to those who mention the words HUMANSTORIES.

 * Οι φωτογραφίες γάμων, αναρρίχησης ζευγαριού, στολισμών κ.α. είναι του συνεργάτη της Παρασκευής, Μιχάλη Πάου και τις παραχώρησε η ίδια για τις ανάγκες της HumanStory της.

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