Nikos Garavelis was like any other living in Corfu. Born and raised in town, at the age of 10, in 1998 he signed up for rowing in NAOK, in the team where his two older brothers were, Kostas and Victoras. Almost all the kids in this town have been in the Club. Others in swimming, others in rowing and others in sailing. It’s a 100 years old tradition; the children either join NAOK or the philharmonic bands. Sometimes both. This tradition comes to life a conversation between the grandfather and grandson at the table during lunchtime: “What did you do today? Have you performed your Amleto well? Have you sailed your boat well?
In 2000 in Ioannina Nikos won a bronze medal as a coxswain on a coxed four. Two years after, the family Garaveli migrates to the US, in Florida, and they opened a restaurant and a new chapter in their lives.
But as life tends to take unexpected turns the mother of the two children, Mrs. Magda returned to Greece for a while but when she tried to go back she faced the stone face of bureaucracy. Due to some “mistake in the papers” her green card was cancelled and out of nowhere Mrs. Magda was locked up in the world’s most bizarre prison: she was free to go anywhere but the United States. She was left alone and doomed to live without her husband and children. Not only that but if any member of her family would attempt to leave America, thanks to this damned “mistake” no one would not be able to return and the investments in Florida would simply go to waste.
For twelve years the woman kept trying to find a workaround, to find that way that would lead her back to her family. 12 years a slave, like the book says. She tried to go through every possible border, she cried and begged but still…..nothing. This “mistake” has shut down every possible entrance.
In July of 2016 the “mistake” was fixed and the man who stayed behind, Nikos from NAOK, managed to travel legally and visit his home, Corfu and his mother. Sure it was a day for a feast! An afternoon coffee in Liston would turn up to be a surprise party for the young mans return. As he was sitting there and enjoying the old town, the sounds of the pigeons and a hug from his mother, suddenly he was in the spotlight of a weird concert. First a group of singers passed in front of him, then the impressive flash mob of the band of Philharmonic Society of Corfu and then the cheerleaders. He didn’t understand and thought that this was an everyday thing. We are in Corfu after all! But when he saw the two oars of NAOK he was shaken. And when these two oars that he used to slice the Ionian waters were pulled and unfolded as they had the words “Welcome Back Niko” written on them, that’s when he realised. He realised that no distance, no “paper mistake”, no bureaucracy could destroy the bond of a family. And as a hug from a mother can heal wounds so can NAOK make you strong again so you can be ready to sail the waters of your new life. And it repays you with medals that you once gave to him with your victories.
As a hug from a mother can heal wounds so can NAOK make you strong again so you can be ready to sail the waters of your new life. And it repays you with medals that you once gave to him with your victories.
© NAOK, 2015