When I first spoke with the author, Nina Angelo, there was a calm in her voice that immediately struck me. It was the voice of someone who knew love, loss and the meaning of family.
In his new book Don’t cry, dance, Nina tells the story of her Greek Jewish parents who met in Auschwitz in the middle of World War II and not only survived, but settled in Athens before moving their growing family to Australia.
This book is the focus of its presentation at this year’s Festival of Australian Greek Writers by the Sydney Greek Festival at the Prince Henry Center in Little Bay, Sydney on Sunday June 12 from 10am-5pm.
Before the festival, Nina talks to The Greek Herald how her book was born and what she hopes for future generations.
“It is important to know the stories of who we are”:
Inspired by her parents’ love story, Nina knew her novel was the perfect opportunity to leave something for her children and grandchildren, a way for them to learn about their history and where they came from.
“It’s important to know the stories of who we are,” says Nina.
“How many people have been lost that people don’t know about? Their families don’t know their history, especially when a whole culture of people has been wiped out like the Jews were in Europe.
Nina goes on to describe how she felt more Greek than Jewish growing up because of her early childhood in Athens and how her parents assimilated so well into the Greek community after the war ended.
“My mother never spoke Greek, but always learned and cooked Greek food,” she says.
“My father used to tell us ‘edo eine i Ellada ke tha milisoume Ellinika’ translating to “We are in Greece and we will speak Greek”, so we only spoke Greek at home.
The title of the book was intriguing, so when Nina started sharing the inspiration behind the title of her self-published book, you could tell it was a story filled with love and yearning for her homeland.
In 2015 Nina returned to Greece and after failed attempts to see friends she decided to embark on a journey to find her birth certificate as in 1950s Athens documentation was not common.
“I found what was the equivalent of our births, deaths and marriages in Athens and spoke to a man who helped me. I gave him my name and date of birth and he went through a big book, skimmed a page and stopped,” says Nina.
“He said ‘there you are!’ and I immediately felt this excitement. With emotion, he shook my hand and said “Congratulations, you are an Athenian”.
“My eyes filled with emotion and I said ‘Okay, I’m going to cry now’, and in ‘typical Greek fashion’ he replied ‘Don’t cry, dance!'”
Nina takes readers on a journey through first-person narrative, speaking as her father, mother, and herself, in this deeply personal and also reflective play.
You can catch Nina at the Greek Writers Festival in Australia where she will talk about her short story reserve at Prince Henry Centre, 2 Coast Hospital Rd, Little Bay from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday June 12.
Free event, registration is required.