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Healthy Greek Living

- by Andy Cornish

A heart warming story extolling the virtues of the Greek lifestyle has been making it's way around the internet. We doubt whether there will ever be a better advert for the health benefits this region can bring. For those wishing to learn more, there's a splendid in-depth article on the New York Times website.

The story begins back in the early 1940s. A Greek war veteran by the name of Stamis Moraitis had managed to clamber his way back to the USA for some essential medical treatment for a gunshot found. This battle-hardened soldier had managed to escape into Turkey and finally onto the Queen Elizabeth steaming his way across the atlantic.

On his arrival in New York, Stamis found a small community of Greeks living in New York at Port Jefferson. From there he moved to Boynton Beach Florida, and like so many immigrants before him was soon on the road to the American Dream. He'd soon married an American woman, produced three children, and was living in a delightful three bedroom house with this treasured 1951 Chevrolet.

Early in 1976, Moraitis started getting short of breath. Climbing the stairs became a struggle and eventually he had to stop work at lunchtime. After several X-rays, and numerous hospital visits, doctors concluded that Stamis had advanced lung cancer. An understandable disbelief, lead Stamatis to request a second opinion. A total of nine doctors eventually confirmed the diagnosis and he was given between six and nine months to live. He was in his mid-60s.

Initially the plan was to stay in America, at the time a world leader in cancer care. The aggressive treatments being suggested might increase his life slightly. However, once his fate began to dawn on him, he told his wife that he wanted the pair of them to move back to his native Ikaria. That way he could buried with his ancestors in a tranquil cemetery shaded by oak trees and overlooking the Aegean Sea.

A funeral in the US could cost thousands of dollars and a little research set the equivalent bill in Ikaria at a little over $200. This would leave more of his savings for his wife and children. The move took place, and Stamatis and his wife Elpiniki moved into a small whitewashed house with a couple of acres of vineyards near Eydilos. To begin with most of his days were spent in bed, only rising to hobble up the street to the Greek Orthodox chapel where his grandfather had served as a priest.

After a few months a strange thing happened, Stamatis started to feel stronger. One day, feeling ambitious he clambered out of bed and planted a few vegetables in the garden. At this point he didn't expect to ever harvest them, but enjoyed being out in the sun breathing in the fresh Aegean air.

His 9 month date with the grim reaper came and went, and with each month Stamatis felt better. Spurred on by his improving health, he worked long hours in the garden, turned his vineyard into a 400 gallon a year wine producer, and today three and a half decades later he's 102 and cancer free. He never went through chemotherapy, took and drugs or sought out any therapy of any sort.

If anyone ever needed proof of the health benefits living on a Greek island, they need to speak to Stamatis Moraitis. 102 and still going strong.