By Audrey Nguyen
One year after an interview with Diplomat Magazine, Stanza Bookshop opens a new Greek section in collaboration with the Embassy of Greece in the Netherlands. The inauguration ceremony took place on-site on November 10th, 2022.
The event hosted local members of the Greek community, Stanza’s staff members, and the Embassy. In our conversations with guests, we learned about how this project came to be.
In recent years, Stanza has received personal requests for Greek books. Although a Greek collection was not previously available, the store would still provide for individual orders. The need for Greek books was also present in the Embassy, but H.E. Ambassador Caterina Ghini said, “We could not find them anywhere!” Thus, when they stumbled upon this international bookstore at the heart of The Hague, an idea immediately came to mind.
The Embassy reached out to Stanza’s owner, Karina Romay, intending to establish a new provider of Greek books. Considering the requests she had gotten from her customers, Karina was thrilled by the concept. Since August 2022, the Embassy worked closely with Stanza to connect the store with Greek publishers. It was a new experience for everyone.
Karina does not speak Greek and was initially not very familiar with Greek literature, while the Embassy had never worked with books. With their combined efforts, their plan materialized and a new Greek section was added to Stanza.
The store currently houses almost 300 Greek titles of a wide variety for all ages. Aside from literature of different genres, the books cover cooking, travel, and political science, among other topics. There are children’s books, in addition to early reader and language books. The latter two are not only suitable for young kids but also learners of the Greek language. Many available titles are also translated from Greek into numerous languages, including English, French, and German. Indeed, this diversity suggests a section catered to readers of all interests and backgrounds, including non-Greek-speaking customers.
This attribute was echoed in our talks with Ambassador Ghini and Attache Eleni Godevenou. The project is catered toward Greek people in the Netherlands who had difficulty finding books in their mother tongue. There are approximately 40,000 Greek people residing in the Netherlands, including those working at international organizations and students. The Embassy wishes to bring a sense of home to this Greek community living abroad. However, they hope the project can serve non-Greek people as well.
Considering the number of travelers in Greece and people’s general fascination for Greek culture, especially its history and cuisine, the new section definitely achieves this purpose. Ambassador Ghini believes that the love for reading truly “brings everyone together.”
Since the new addition, Karina has seen a clear uptick in Greek book sales. The news had clearly spread among the local community even before this official inauguration.
In other regards, Stanza Bookshop has also expanded. A second location has opened across the street from the first branch that hosts the Greek section. The store is still receiving some final touch-ups, but it has already come into shape and is open for business. The team is exhilarated by the extra space, especially because it helps with hosting events, such as readings for children. Stanza’s collection has broadened as well, as we see a more extensive stock of Eastern European books. They cover languages like Albanian, Hungarian, and more recently, Ukrainian.
It is without a doubt that Stanza Bookshop continues to keep the joy of reading alive for people from all different backgrounds. This has not changed since we last met with Karina. Greek is another language that Stanza has opened its doors to, but is unlikely to be the last.
About the author:
Thuc Anh “Audrey” Nguyen – Vietnamese student studying BSc International Relations and Organizations at Leiden University.
Her mother’s career in foreign affairs allowed her to experience diplomatic life growing up. The unique international setting of her childhood sparked her interest in global affairs. After moving to The Hague a few years ago for her mother’s assignment, she has stayed behind to begin her own path in International Relations.