Giagia’s Journey

A Photo Journal of the life of  

Penelope Benardos Conomos

The life journey of my 107 year old grandmother, Penelope Conomos. From her humble beginnings in Greece as a struggling peasant girl, to her brave emigration to the United States as an evolving woman, her story is one of great love and terrible loss. But it's also a poignantly beautiful lesson in how the act of sacrifice, the practice of endurance, and the gift of laughter can ultimately lead to personal triumph. This is the story of "Yiayia", as told by her adoring granddaughter.

By Alexa Conomos

Part 1 - November 14, 2016 


Penelope Benardos Conomos with Granddaughter Alexa Conomos

The countdown to my grandmother's 107th birthday has begun. My Giagia has never liked people making a fuss over her. But this loving granddaughter simply can't help it. Her life story ~ full of such grace, so many struggles and teachable moments ~ is truly inspiring. So with a humble heart, here goes:

Penelope Benardos born to a poor family on the southern Greek island of Kythera on March 25th, 1910.  


She's the grumpy little "koukla" with the big hat ~ displaying even then the trademark sass for which she's become known. As the photo also illustrates, her father was absent. Extrememly tough times back then left the Greek economy faltering. So like many other Greek men, Giagia's father left Greece to seek work in Australia, then send money to the family at home. 


He would be gone for 15 long years. And so Giagia's mother was left to raise four children alone. 


They lived frugally on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean in a stone structure with 2 rooms. 


In one room, they slept crammed side by side on the floor. Their goats and the family donkey (named 'Keecho') slept in the other room! And they relied on an outside latrine and a well to to meet their needs.


Giagia and her siblings would walk 3 miles along rocky terrain to attend school in a nearby village. But by the age of 9, her education came to an abrupt end. The family could not afford shoes and that rocky terrian was too hard on her feet. Plus, Giagia was needed to help at home. And so for many years, a barefoot Giagia would work at her mother's side ~ caring for their livestock and tending the olive fields and orchards. When Giagia turned 15 years old, the moment she'd been waiting for had joyfully arrived. Her father would at long last make the journey home to Greece for the family reunion of a lifetime. How excited she felt to finally meet her dear father after so many years apart! But only to learn that he had died on the ship mere hours before it finally docked in his homeland of Greece. It would be the first of many terrible losses for my Giagia. 


About Alexa Conomos

Alexa is documenting her Giagia Penelope’s story on Facebook

"Like” and Follow her Facebook Page at:

Visit Alexa’s webpage:

Notable Kytherians

Su   © KSOCA 2012