About the Author
Kathryn Gauci was born in Leicestershire, England, and studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design where she specialised in carpet design and technology. After graduating, Kathryn spent a year in Vienna, Austria before moving to Greece where she worked as a carpet designer in Athens for six years. There followed another brief period in New Zealand before eventually settling in Melbourne, Australia.
Before turning to writing full-time, Kathryn ran her own textile design studio in Melbourne for over fifteen years, work which she enjoyed tremendously as it allowed her the luxury of travelling worldwide, often taking her off the beaten track and exploring other cultures. The Embroiderer is her first novel; a culmination of those wonderful years of design and travel, and especially of those glorious years in her youth living and working in Greece – a place that she is proud to call her spiritual home.
The seeds of The Embroiderer were sown during my years working as a carpet designer in Greece, 1972-78. The company was situated in a suburb of Athens populated by refugees from The Asia Minor Catastrophe, 1922-23. Working amongst these people, many of the older generation of whom still conversed in Turkish, I grew to understand the impact of the disaster and the intense yearning these people still held for Turkey, the land of their forefathers and a land in which they are still unable to reside. Significantly they shared a separate sense of identity, so much so that fifty years after the Catastrophe, many of them still referred to themselves as Mikrasiates (Asia Minor people) and still chose to intermarry.
The Asia Minor Catastrophe was a pivotal turning point in Greek/ Turkish relations which began a century earlier with the Greek War of Independence. The Ottoman Empire was at a turning point and for both Greeks and Turks, ultimately resulting in a war of attrition on both sides. Millions lost their lives and out of the ashes emerged two new nations – the Turkish Republic under the soldier statesman, Ataturk, and the Hellenic Republic – modern Greece.
Today, most of the white-washed prefabricated homes in the refugee neighborhoods in Athens have been replaced by apartment blocks but the street names still bear testament to their origins: Byzantium Street, Pergamum St, Anatolia St, Bouboulina St, and Misolonghi St. to name just a few. And whilst women no longer spill out of their doorways sitting on rush-bottomed chairs chatting to their neighbours whilst embroidering cloth for their daughter’s dowry, and basement shops selling bric-a-brac and musical instruments from the ‘old world’ are few and far between, if we look closer, the history and the spirit of these people still resonates in their everyday lives; in their music, their food, the plethora of Turkish words and phrases that punctuate the Greek language, and the ancient belief in the evil eye. Most important of all, it is through the time-honoured tradition of storytelling that their memories are kept alive.
The Embroiderer is as much their story as it is mine.