PROJECT AGAPANTHUS

MARIA KOUTROUBA




WILD CARD: AN INTERVIEW WITH ELLINA SOFIANOU 

Ellina Sofianou

In her writing, Sofianou explores harsh life conditions

through the lens of inner strength and social solidarity.


January 2020

A real-life project came as inspiration for Ellina Sofianou, a Greek author who kicks-off a writing career in her mid-40s.

'Until I was 40, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but there had been no room for such a pursuit up until then,' the author said in a recent interview. 'My family and teaching career pushed my literary plans for later on, a new beginning which coincides with my MLitt Creative Writing studies at the University of Glasgow.'

As part of her program there, Sofianou developed a resourceful project on how people deal with harsh life conditions, namely the loss of a beloved person, a sickness, and painful past memories.

'There has been a tragic incident in the school community I administer: a sixteen-year-old student of mine, Maria, whom I had been teaching for more than six years, passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. This came as a shock to everyone who knew her, let alone her family and friends. As a teacher of her class, I experienced incredible sadness to be looking at her empty chair, of having her freshly written assignments in my hands when she'd gone, or of dealing with questions expressed by her classmates as to why she had to go,' Sofianou says while traces of sorrow are darkening her face.

Sofianou's personal experience of the incident has triggered her research on an extended project focusing on the individuals' inner strengths to handle the loss of a beloved person, on the powers a severely ill-stricken person acquires in facing a disease, and how social networks-either these are called a family, a local community and friends, a social group or a hospital society-can be supportive.

'My students and I became part of the project ourselves: we analyzed and developed ways and dynamics of dealing with our loss, and we transformed this pain into something positive so as to keep Maria's memory alive. So this idea has been the thread of my inspiration for my project. My purpose for doing so was to prove how sharing develops dynamics that unite people and helps us cope with difficult aspects of life. The whole process was like a multi-faceted task we took, either passively or actively for a good cause and it all revolved around Maria. In this way, instead of delving into distressful mourning, we did something positive with our feelings,' highlights Sofianou, passing a message about emotional awareness and optimism.


 'It's so easy to forget or to ignore that in hospitals there are ill kids and adults fighting for their life. We ought to remember that life should not be taken for granted, that, if those people are survivors, we, the rest, should not be complaining about difficulties. We ought to be optimistic, not give up, and focus on positive aspects of life. Maria taught me this powerful lesson of appreciating life to the fullest and this is the message I want to give to my readers.'

'Writing has helped us a lot dealing with our emotions,' the author claims and, the more she talks about Maria, the more her eyes shine with excitement. 

'Above all, I just feel relieved I did something for her and I hope that the whole process of sharing this project has instilled some comfort in her family, warming thought that they are not alone,' she adds.

All in all, Sofianou suggests that we think out of the box and through the bright lens, because 'we all have more than one choice in life.'