ID

Dear readers,

The Turtle bridges the personal and the political. Therefore in order to understand this project, I need to tell you a little bit more about myself. I am the fourth child of Greeks, who fled the military occupation in Greece in the late sixties and started a new life Australia, joining the long line of Greek “exiles”. Both of them were born in Lesvos, a beautiful island in the northeast of the Aegean Sea, birth place of the ancient Greek poet Sappho. My family has Turkish heritage and carries the trauma of the Asia Minor Catastrophe that took place on the coasts of Turkey, in the early 20th century.

I was born in the beginning of the 70s in Port Lincoln, South Australia. A year later my family relocated to Adelaide, where I went to school and spend memorising times with my other siblings and Greek relatives. The name that appears on my birth certificate is Helen Vrontis, but my original Greek name is Ελένη Βροντή. If my name would be pronounced properly in English it should be written like this: Helēne Brontē (brontē derives from the Greek word βροντή which means “thunder”).

In 1981, my parents, Athena and Achilles (named after Homer’s protagonists), having lived their own personal trojan war, decided to return Greece with their four children. Was this a result of homesickness or was it a desperate move in order to save their marriage? I will never know. But their decision coincided with a significant times for their own country: That year a strong earthquake hit the capital of Greece, but metaphorically speaking the political scene was also shaken. Greece entered the European Union under the liberal government of Konstandinos Karamanlis and few months later the socialist leader Andreas Papandreou came to power- I still remember the flags of the political party PASOK waving victoriously out of the windows of the small athenian city cars.

Coming to live in Athens was quite a cultural shock: apart from the different mentality and the bizarre political behaviour of the Greek people, I felt sad being surrounded by so much cement; there isn’t much free space and green parks in comparison to Australia. Only, until this point, I realise the true meanings of the words displacement and dislocation. Nobody had prepared me at such a young age for the heartbreak of losing a country and the sentimental difficulties of getting a new one. So, it was then I was authored the Greek citizenship and became Christian Orthodox in papers. 

I went to the Polycladic Lyceum of Athens, a high school that looked like a prison from the outside, but was quite a cool, a progressive educational system  – one of its students was Alexis Tsipras, the ex-Primeminister of Greece, the politician who nearly led the country to its exodus from the European Union. But instead of the ‘Grexit’, the ‘Brexit’ happened in February 2020. It seems though that the whole idea of the E.U. seems is falling apart.

In 1990 I passed the exams and entered a higher education establishment of Athens. I studied “Mass Media, Communications  & Culture” (with a major in Cultural Management) at the Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences. Under the exchange student programme Erasmus I enrolled for one semester at the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium, where I studied French, cinema and communication of music. Later on, I obtained a Master of Arts in Documentary Research at the London College of Communication (formerly the London College of Printing), University of the Arts London. I was able to study abroad thanks to the scholarship “Lychnos” I was awarded from the Journalist Union ESIEA (I am a member from 20-12-1999 until today). 

I started my journalistic career at the well-established newspaper Kathimerini as a cultural writer. Over time, I collaborated with various Greek and foreign media (DW, ITN London, Channel 5 UK, ORF, ARTE, etc), always using the pen name Selana. In 2018, during the Greek financial crisis, I lost my job. Then I decided to return to Academia: I completed a Master Degree on Digital Arts at the Athens School of Fine Arts. Here, is my full art resume.

Journalist, documentarist and digital artist. I’ll add another title: I am a single mother, which I consider one of the hardest jobs on earth, especially if that woman lives in Greece. In order to take care of my kids, I founded this newsroom named “Chelona” 1. If you ask me what are my strong points, I would definitely say my intuition, my different views on things, my outspokenness (well, all Aussies are considered outspoken) and that I am a fighter. I fight for what I believe in and I try making all my creative ideas come true.

Nowadays, – with the climate crisis, the huge immigration problems, the new technologies invading every sector of life, the globalisation side effects and the rise of authoritarian and alt-right regimes in the Western world-, we need to have our eyes wide open. Bold journalism and radical art is needed. So, as a professional in the field of media, communications and culture, but also as a parent, I feel the urge more than ever to protect the future of our children. At these critical times we need to slow down and think what is important to us. 

Sincerely yours,

Helen Vrontis
Foundress & Director of The Turtle

Portrait by Andreas Simopoulos ©2014


 

  1. Τhe epistemological name of ‘turtle’ derives from the greek word ‘χελώνα’