Taxi to America Chronicles a Journey of Resilience


Stella Nahatis’ recently published memoir, Taxi to America, A Greek Orphan’s Adoption Journey opens abruptly.  It’s the middle of the night, and 10-year-old Stella and her younger sister, Nitsa, are nudged awake in the boarding house room they share with their young parents who had gone out earlier that evening.  The family’s kind landlady firmly tells the girls they must get up and get ready.  Their uncle is coming for them.

Obedient, the girls do just as they’re told.  Outside, a taxicab arrives with their normally gregarious uncle, who this time is muted and careful.  The girls notice but don’t think anything.  In the back of the cab, they hold hands while their uncle rides in the front with the driver. 

Never mind that it was pre-dawn hours in Thessaloniki, Greece when no children belong out.  Never mind that for these girls, a ride in a taxicab was a rare and utter luxury.  Never mind that the cab stopped at a cemetery, and their uncle silently exited and spoke with others in muffled voices before Stella and her sister heard a hard thud hitting the trunk.  Never mind that throughout the long ride to their family’s rural village, strangers walking the roads would stop and stare at the moving cab.  Or that passengers in busses and cars traveling in the opposite direction would look at these little girls in the cab in a specific, peculiar way.

With heartbreaking innocence, young Stella takes it all in.  She looks out the window and she assume all these people must have been staring because they were envious that she and Nitsa got to ride in a taxicab.

“Several men sitting at a café stood up.  I locked eyes with one of them.  I believed they, too, were envious of us.  But my imagination did not come close to what had happened.  How could I have known their behavior was out of respect to the partially exposed cargo in the trunk?  … Unbeknownst to us, the cargo in the taxi’s trunk was a coffin.”

Thus begins the memoir that Stella Nahatis, a first-time author, and longtime resident of Manchester, wrote while isolating during COVID, after decades of encouragement from friends and family (“Oh, write your story!  You should write a book!” they would say). 

Many people are tempted to write a memoir.  Few do it.  Even fewer do it with the discipline and tenacity and study that Nahatis embarked on during the more than two years it took to complete.  The result is an intimate story that ports readers to another time, another country, and to an unthinkable injury to a little girl and her sister—both their parents dead, and the girls orphaned—that sparked a surprising life’s journey.

And so, write a book she did, and a good one at that. 

After deciding to take on the daunting prospect of writing her memoir, Nahatis dove into research, both online and through writing and editing groups.  She treated writing like a job, and made it a daily discipline until, just three months later, she had produced more than 10,000 words and a completed manuscript. 

That’s when the real work began, Nahatis said, smiling.  Getting it all down may have taken a few months.  But editing and reworking her manuscript, first with her writing group and then with a dedicated editor, took more than another year.

Taxi to America is written in a vivid, beautiful, and clear fashion; the story itself is both heartbreaking and inspiring.  That pre-dawn journey marked the beginning of another journey, one that has spanned a lifetime.  Orphaned and separated from her younger sister “for her own good,” as her culture dictated at the time, Stella ends up being adopted by a Greek couple that had emigrated to Boston.  Stella builds a life of her own.  With time, she climbs out of the hole created by that early, unthinkable injury and build a life that is worthy, and fulfilling.  And yes, in time, she reunites with her baby sister, Nitsa.  They rediscover each other after eight years of separation and build a loving relationship.  They even retrace their steps, years later recreating that fateful cab ride in Greece to connect with their parents and to heal.

In the end, for Nahatis, the most satisfying part of writing Taxi to America just might be the lessons it offers young girls, which excites her.  After all, Nahatis’ story is about perseverance and resilience.  It’s about following your instinct, your gut, even as an impossibly young orphan.  It’s about knowing that even if you find yourself in the deepest hole, there is always hope, always a way out and a way through.  And these lessons, says Nahatis, are universal ones that connect us all.

Stella Nahatis will be the featured author guest on Tuesday, March 28 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Manchester Public Library.  Books are available for purchase at The Book Shop/Beverly Farms, The Bookstore of Gloucester and, if you must, online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Taxi to America, A Greek Orphan’s Adoption Journey

By Stella Nahatis

232 pages, non-fiction


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