...But I Promised God
by Malamateniah Koutsada

"God speaks to humans, not religions. If our spiritual ears are open – if we are tuned in, as it were – we will hear Him."

A young woman lives out her dreams—but slowly, with many setbacks. Author Koutsada was born in Greece as World War II was heating up, a war soon followed by the Greek Civil War. Her childhood was a dizzying mix: wartime deprivations, schooling (at which she excelled), religion that raised many questions, and family joys sometimes overshadowed by conflict and abuse. Her mother often “belted” her for infractions that seemed minor. Her parents had a stormy relationship, and poverty was both a threat and reality. There were traumatic changes in house and homeland as the family was moved as part of a compulsory resettlement. At age 21, Koutsada immigrated to Australia, married, had children, divorced, remarried, and studied nursing. In later life, divorced and impoverished, she returned to nursing school and finally fulfilled her long-held dream to help others as a way of thanking God for His blessings.

Koutsada, who writes frankly of her initial struggles with the finer points of English grammar, now seems thoroughly comfortable with her second language. She ably conveys her memoir in stark, vivid memories. The physical abuse she experienced as a child darkened her adulthood until religious insights helped her out of that emotional morass. Vignettes of early life in rural Greece and Turkey are layered with her mature, professional perceptions of such details as probable causes of disease and death unknown in the older times and places. Prayer and a genuine sense of communication with God consistently underpin her emotive narrative. Her lessons in compassion are revealed in multi-dimensional portraits of conflicted souls like her parents, whom she was gradually able to understand and forgive. Koutsada’s ability to overcome major challenges can be motivational to those who, like her, have left a chaotic background to create a new, more secure life.

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