MARIJO GILLIS – FOUNDER OF WAG
I was ultra sensitive to the emotions and physicality of animals from a tiny child. My parents and Italian grandparents utterly adored all animals and they were permanent fixtures in our homes and hearts. A combination of my “genes”, experience and learning by parental example, created a whirling dervish of activity in the realm of animal rights and advocacy before I even reached puberty.
Oh, I followed protocol like a good girl; graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing; went on for my post grad and worked in just about every major medical center in New York City and thrived in the frenzied ambiance of critical care – burn units, trauma emergency wards and open heart recovery rooms.
I possessed a mad passion for my work in medicine and surgery but an even madder passion for animals. I made my first trip to Greece as a student in early 1972 during the “quiet turbulence” of the military junta/dictatorship and there were no tourists.
She was immaculate, pristine and I was hooked. Her breathtaking beauty was intoxicating. The thousands of years of history and culture of this tiny gem floating in the Aegean was mesmerizing, mysterious and therefore for me, quite enticing. The ghosts and glory of her amazing past and her shimmering present beckoned to me and I followed.
I was still considered a “kid” at the time of my first visit to Greece. Shortly after my arrival in Athens, it came to pass that the animals became the target of my emotions and attention; not the scores of exotic Greek men quietly wandering the streets, fingering their ever present koboloi (worry beads) or the ancient ruins. The heavily armed military was an omnipresent feature at every turn and huge tanks growled and grumbled as they patrolled endlessly on the look out for God knows what. Never one to give fear a fleeting glance, the smoldering atmosphere was intriguing.What was motivating were the hundreds upon hundreds of emaciated, starving, dying cats and dogs and tethered skeletal like donkeys that found their way to my line of vision and stumbled one by one into my heart. Each and every one to this day is a prisoner of my memory. Needless to say, this sojourn in this harsh vacation Mecca of the Mediterranean became the catalyst for my devotion, dedication and addiction to animal rights.
Thus began my 30 year plus journey and relationship with Greece; her land, her astonishing seas and astounding beaches, her hospitality, her mouth watering cuisine, her language, her culture, her mores and her cruelty. I speak her language, read and write her alphabet and understand every nuance of her spoken and unspoken word.
Over the years, my Greek saga took many twists and turns. Drama and excitement accompanied my every moment and movement on Greek soil. After my initiation to the “Cradle of Civilization”, I vowed to return and make a difference in the lives of her animals, domestic, farmed, captive and wild. I did, and will continue to do so.
Please join us!