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LLL Greece Meets Edwina Froehlich

Patty Dulligan-Varelas
Athens Greece
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 4, October-November 2005, p. 110.

When I attended the 2005 LLLI Conference in Washington DC, USA, I was inspired by Rita Emmett's session, "Mastering the Art of Doing It Now." She offered a humorous approach along with clear guidelines to take the "sting" out of feeling overwhelmed when faced with life's daily challenges. One task that I've been procrastinating about is writing for LLLI publications. One particular item that I've been putting off is to write about a memorable visit that LLL Greece had with Founder Edwina Froehlich. "Better late than never," as Rita would say, so here it is.

In September of 2003, Edwina Froehlich, one of the seven women who saw her dreams turn into reality through the founding of La Leche League, fulfilled another dream. That dream was to visit Greece. She let us know that she would be on a personal vacation and available to meet members of LLL Greece. Anticipating her arrival brought excitement and a little anxiety. Would she want to meet with Leaders only or Leader Applicants and members, too? Would she want to present a formal lecture in a conference center or in a home? Then a simple solution came to me. Why not ask Edwina directly? Her response: "Just a simple meeting with La Leche League mothers, babies, and friends."

After our meeting style was settled, we were able to focus on the logistics. Where should we host the meeting? Downtown Athens would have been very convenient for Edwina since it was where her hotel was located, but it wouldn't be very accessible for the majority of our members with babies and toddlers. We decided to meet in a Leader's home in the suburbs. We arranged for a Leader Applicant who lived near downtown Athens to accompany Edwina on the 25-minute ride by taxicab.

I made invitations to notify women of the interactive discussion with Edwina. We would present LLL life in Greece and Edwina would share her wisdom and passion for helping mothers and staying connected through LLL. I also included a short biography and photo of Edwina to capture our audience.

When the meeting day arrived, we were faced with our first obstacle: a taxi and fuel strike in Athens. That meant we needed to find someone with a car (and enough fuel!) to pick up Edwina and the Leader Applicant and drive them to the meeting. After we found transportation, we encountered obstacle number two. Edwina's itinerary had been changed by her tour guide and due to a misunderstanding, she was already on a bus heading out of Athens for a day trip. Not wanting to disappoint members who had been patiently waiting -- Edwina was our first "official" LLL visitor -- we pumped the hotel operator for details about the route of the tour bus. Lo and behold, we were able to find the bus. Using our "Greek persuasion," we "kidnapped" Edwina. The bus driver mentioned something about "lawsuit," but we assured him that she would be in very loving hands. Edwina was a very willing "hostage" as she was looking forward to meeting with LLL Greece.

Edwina arrived safe and sound to our meeting. Although some mothers had to leave before her arrival, there was still enough of a crowd to give her a warm Greek welcome. We shared homemade Greek dishes brought by members, who are an international mix including Americans, Germans, Swiss, Italians, and Greeks. We all shared the strong bond of breastfeeding.

Edwina answered our questions and shared her life story. Her enthusiasm was evident in her soft blue eyes. We all sat comfortably around her, mesmerized by each word and empowered by the strength in the room. For many of us, meeting Edwina gave us a renewed sense of commitment to La Leche League. Before she left, she invited everyone to the 19th LLLI Conference in Washington DC. (Three Leaders were able to attend.) But then she added, "If you can't make it to Washington, try for Chicago, Illinois in 2007 because that will be a big one -- the 50th Anniversary!"

What was so remarkable about our visit with Edwina was the fact that there was no language barrier and no generation gap. It could have been 1957 in Franklin Park, IL, USA or 2003 in Greece. A mother's needs remain the same -- it's all about "one mother helping another mother."

Edwina still has dreams and they are contagious. We hope to be able to meet her again in Chicago, Illinois, USA to share a dream or two.

Patty Dulligan-Varelas has been a Leader in Athens, Greece since 2003. She is co-leading the English speaking Group in Athens North. She and her husband, Yianni, have four children: Marina (13), Christina (11), Katerina (9), and Themi (7). Patty is also ACLA for FAiE.

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