NEWS

Teenage girl reappears just over two months after she had vanished

The mental state of parents who have just lost their child is very different from those whose children have been missing some time. Their hopes are stronger, their anger more intense and their questions more tortured. And they are more suspicious of a grim world of people who might be hiding their child. The eyes of Vera Psallida reflect all of that when we meet her two months after the disappearance. The family, which is from Trikala, moved to Athens three years ago. Surrounded by cartons, she receives us one Saturday morning as she and her younger daughter pack up for another move. «We’re moving to a new house we bought, and instead of being happy about it we’re searching for Angeliki.» It was October 8, 2006, when Angeliki, 16, one of three children, set out for the Aghios Nikolaos train station to visit her godmother in Petralona. «She had got mixed up with an Albanian gang and was acting tough, you see. We never denied her anything or stopped her from going out with boys. And she got mixed up with the underworld. She had disappeared once before, a year ago, for four days. She used to go out every night with the Albanians and they would do robberies. They had her keeping watch. Eventually they handcuffed her and locked her up in a room in a filthy hotel where the police found her. We were horrified when we found out. Since then I’ve been roaming the streets. I’ve discovered all the dives in Kypseli and a stack of names and addresses of people who were connected with my daughter. The day she disappeared, I had a feeling she wouldn’t come back. ‘Mom, I’m going to see my godmother. What’s worrying you?’ she said as she went out the door, but something was still eating at me. The three sisters’ room has not yet been moved to the new house. The youngest sister showed me Angeliki’s favorite dresses and jewelry, and the photo album. A blond girl with a smile. Yet her mother insists that everything comes down to her daughter’s lack of self esteem. «She is incredibly insecure. She kept asking us if she was pretty. She is also very naive; she trusts everyone.» In the summer Angeliki worked at a children’s camp, and her dream was to become a business-woman like her godmother. «A few days after she disappeared, the Albanian who was holding her telephoned my son and told him he had her. On the feast day of Aghios Dimitris [October 26] Angeliki phoned her brother to wish him a happy name day and he shouted at her. It isn’t easy to treat her gently as they advise us to do at the Smile of the Child. In late November, Angeliki went to her sister’s school and asked her what kind of state I was in, and if she could come back. I know she’s afraid of me because she was always arguing with me. Now her photograph is everywhere and we are ashamed, but what can we do? Meanwhile, the police do nothing. I’ve taken them loads of information and names, and you know what they said? ‘Find her yourself!’» This sad reportage was to end on a happy note, one that all families of vanished children need to hear so as to buoy up their hopes. After two-and-a-half months away from her family, Angeliki decided of her own accord to come home. This article first appeared in Kathimerini’s color supplement K on January 6-7, 2007.