NEWS

After 14 years, no trace of Giorgos Paraskevopoulos

The unsolved case of Alex Meshivili from Veria has made many parents fearful of the dangers that face their own children. But the case of Austrian Natascha Kampusch, who was abducted at the age of 10 and managed to escape at 18, tragic though it was, has raised the hopes of some parents whose children have been missing for years. Still, they don’t speak readily about. Most of them didn’t want to relive the nightmare of the disappearance, and certainly not to show us their child’s room. Three mothers did speak to K. «The story of Natascha Kampusch shocked me. I listened to what she said in her interview with my eyes closed and imagined my own child.» It is 14 years since 10-year-old Giorgos vanished mysteriously while spending the summer in Dimitra, Gortynia, in the Peloponnese. His mother, Chryssoula Paraskevopoulou, a hospitable, open-hearted woman despite her suffering, received us at her home in Hania. Her husband was at work. «Every day, I wait for the phone to ring and someone to tell me that my child has been found. It was on June 25, 1992, when, at my sister-in-law’s suggestion, I sent the younger of my two boys to spend the holiday with his cousins. But she sent him for two days to his grandfather, her father, who was sick, to look after him. The outcome was that the child disappeared off the face of the earth and my father-in-law and sister-in-law didn’t tell us till 24 hours later. To this day nobody has told me why they let so much precious time pass. All my husband and I have had from them, both when it happened and ever since, has been total indifference, a cynical response to our drama and ridicule. ‘The child is gone; what do you what now? Accept it.’ they told me. Their attitude arouses suspicion.» Photographs of Giorgos are dotted about the family’s warm house. Feeling slightly embarrassed, we enter his bedroom. His desk, with his school books for the fourth year of primary school, are in order, as if not a day had gone by since he last sat there to study. «Now he would be 24, if of course he is still alive,» says his mother, showing us a photograph digitally processed by the Smile of the Child, depicting her son as he might look now. She takes two large folders from the wardrobe, and opens one containing scores of articles and documents concerning the case. «There’s nothing we haven’t tried all these years; nowhere that we haven’t we searched. We’ve traveled all over Europe and asked for help from all the authorities. I even went to see some gypsies in the hope of finding out something, but without success. «There are three possibilities as I see it. Either the child fell into a ravine and they couldn’t find him; or his grandfather did him some harm and hid him somewhere, which is what the villagers say; or someone took him for adoption. But we don’t have viable evidence for any of theses scenarios.» She spreads photographs of the boy on the bed: shots of birthdays, holidays, Giorgos smiling. «He was a very sweet, sensitive child. He was very close to us. An excellent pupil. Even now his friends are still upset about it. My instinct tells me that he is somewhere and is unhappy. My fear is that he might be dead. Whatever happens, I’ll try to find out what’s happening. It’s my right. I can’t say the authorities didn’t search for him but they might not have been overly diligent in the way they went about it. «I would advise any young parents to be very careful about whom they entrust their child to. They say we shouldn’t be frightened of everyone, but look at what happened to me.»