work tools
‘They spent their whole life fleeing; from Pontus to Russia and from there, to Greece’.
Pinelopi Savvinidou

A sewing machine that still works

‘They spent their whole life fleeing; from Pontus to Russia and from there, to Greece; to Argos, to Katerini, to Thessaloniki and then to Nikaia, in Piraeus’. Two World Wars, one revolution and years of constant movement in search of safety and stability for themselves and their families. Pinelopi Savvinidou was born in Katachas, Katerini, the first child of two refugees who had followed entirely different trajectories to end up in the same place. Then they were on the move again, to Kalamaria, Thessaloniki, where their second daughter was born, before they finally settled in Nikaia, Piraeus, where they had their third daughter.

During this constant movement over the first half of the 20th century, Pinelopi Savvinidou’s mother, Olga Michailidou, born in 1914 in Anapa of the Krasnodar region on the coast of the Euxine Sea, had her sisters by her side, as well as her mother, Anastasia Michailidou, who had lived a life full of upheaval, hardship, but also great determination. At the end of 1938, Grandma Anastasia got on a boat in Odessa with her daughters, her widowed daughter-in-law and a baby and made it to Piraeus. A Singer sewing machine, a samovar and some black caviar were all the belongings they brought with them when they started wandering through the Greek mainland, before ending up in a makeshift refugee house in Nea Kokkinia.

Today, the sewing machine, still functional even though its current owner does not know how to use it, encapsulates the entire story of the Michailidou family’s movement from Pontus, to Russia and then to Greece. Anastasia Michailidou chose to carry this heavy and cumbersome object on this long journey, highlighting the practicalities and material choices that migrants have been faced with throughout history.