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* A PROFILE OF COURAGE – by Tina Chippas

We love heroes. They are people who demonstrate gallant, selfless and audacious behaviors to help others and we’re as proud of them as if we knew them personally.

A first-generation Greek-American, I was schooled in the great heroes of Grecian myths and history:  Homer, Plato, Socrates, Zeus and his family of amazing, often-mischievous children, to name but a few. I took it for granted that heroes existed, fictional and real. I knew I had heroes in my family: a father who, at age nine and parentless, came to America to work. He demonstrated a work ethic and code of honor for his children to follow; a brother, an Air Force belly gunner, who died in the Pacific. Surely, he was my hero. And a mother who epitomized all that was good and pure in helping others. Yes, I knew people I considered heroic.

But I had never known my heroic grandfather, a Greek-Orthodox priest, until forty years after his death. Call it kismet: I was in Berchtesgaden, Germany touring the salt mine where Hitler manufactured fighter planes deep underground. Hitler’s summer home, “Eagle’s Nest,” was visible from where I stood. I wandered into a tiny cemetery and stopped short. On each large tombstone was a portrait of a German soldier in uniform. The swastikas leaped out at me. With three brothers in that war, one lost and another wounded, it was still too real and painful. Hitler was a crazed demon to the little girl who saw her mother dressed in mourning black, weeping for the oldest son she would never see again, for the two she might never see again. I stared at the grim faces of Nazi soldiers and officers, chilled to the bone though a hot July sun beat down on me.

“Incredible,” I said to an American tourist from my bus, “that we can see this so many years later and still be affected by it.” He nodded silently. We exchanged names: his was Jacob. He asked the nationality of my last name and I told him it was Greek.

Jacob smiled.  “I’m Jewish. If it weren’t for a Greek Orthodox priest in Athens who sheltered my parents from German soldiers, I wouldn’t be here!” I had the strangest feeling that I knew the answer to my question when I asked if he knew the priest’s name.“Father Nicholas,” he replied.

Grandfather

It was my grandfather!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tina Chippas is a founder of the North Palm Beach Writers’ Consortium to support advanced writers to seek publication. She has been published in educational texts and professional periodicals and journals. Tina currently resides in South Florida, where she is working on her next novel and writing a column for a southern Florida newspaper, Condo News. You can read her essays and views on various topics as well as flights of fancy tales about her dogs on condonewsonline.com/  Tina’s new book, Affair in Athens, will be published by Oaklight Publishing under the name “Matina Nicholas,” within a few months.

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