Interview: Maro Voulgari | Photos: Ioanna Fysilani
Frequently, I feel that Antiparos is my home
Life on a small island like Antiparos has an unrivalled allure. Who can deny, however, that it also hides difficulties, restrictions or loneliness as well? The general practitioner of Antiparos for the past 14 years, Sotiris Skourtis answers our questions and analyses his relationship with this irresistible island.
Was it your choice to practice at Antiparos? How was the first winter?
Coming to live at the island was a personal choice running counter to the route followed by most of my fellow students. It was a conscious life choice taken eight years after I had been accidentally here as a rural doctor. I’ll never forget the first winter, in 1996, now that few things have stayed unchanged. Then we didn’t know mp3 and digital photography, we didn’t “download” music and films, we had no social media. In the absence of many pastimes -so common today- personal relationships and friendships were built and they still hold. At that time, I wandered the island from one end to the other, with unique impressions for someone coming from Athens. I noted them down in diaries and photos. I also started to learn how to play the guitar and I devised lyrics and melodies, having discovered a talent I was ignorant of…
Which are the difficulties a scientist faces at a small provincial practice?
As a rural doctor at an island with not even a pharmacy then -perhaps things today are worse in some sectors- the difficulties a doctor faces have to do with the handling and the referrals of emergencies. In recent years we’ve had an improvement in the quality of medical care facilities available to the doctors at the Antiparos multivalent medical centre -notwithstanding the small and old building you have seen in the film- while other Aegean islands have to manage with piecemeal and stopgap solutions. A medical problem may exceed your resources and become a problem with a capital P. Even when this is not the case the inability of finding a consistently reliable and safe solution for a fast patient transport is a long-standing problem and not only for Antiparos.
You know the publicity given to the birth that took place at the Paros Health Centre while I was on duty there, an incident with a happy outcome and this made heroes of all of us who were there because otherwise it would have given food for comments about the tragic system at the islands.
Have you made friendships with the locals?
As I’ve told you lifelong relations and brotherly friendships have been created not only with the locals but also with regular visitors, relations which otherwise would not have existed. On the other hand, other relations, out of the island, faded and died.
How do you like to spend your time in the winter which is admittedly difficult?
The winter is the other end of a dipole. Nevertheless, you can spend time on things you like, your friends and your family; do everything you have no time to do in the heat of the summer. There are also opportunities to get involved in social activities. We have several associations engaged in considerable activities and I also participate in the public life as chairman of the Municipal Council.
Have you ever had a feeling of suffocation in this small society of one thousand people?
Many times, either at moments when I wished for anonymity amidst a crowd which by definition is a limited one or when I was looking for an escape from its narrow limits. On the other hand, this small island in its singularity makes you feel elliptically fortunate. Frequently, I feel that Antiparos is my home.
What would make life on the island easier? If you had a request which could be granted what would that be?
I believe that a multipurpose centre, a cultural and sports centre would be a point of reference, a hive for motivated associations and the youth and it might assuage the feeling that we are second-class citizens.
Have you seen the film Suntan of Argyris Papadimitropoulos? Have you recognized something of your life in it?
Of course, I’ve seen the film of my friend Argyris and I still try to understand his original inspiration for the doctor he created… From the morning sleepy key in the door, to the ride back from La Luna on a moped I recognize things I’ve lived in this crazy summer pace which is really dazing.
Describe Antiparos in a few adjectives…
Centripetal, energy generating, gratuitously familiar and unbearably famous.