Mother and daughter reunite in Inuvik after being continents apart for 20 years

Ruth Wright reunited with her daughter and met her two teenage grandchildren for the first time in Inuvik on Wednesday after they travelled from Greece.

Ruth Wright met her teenage grandchildren from Greece for the first time on Wednesday

Left to right, Angela Minakis, Gorgina Svornou, Ruth Wright and Antonis Svoronos at the airport in Inuvik. It was the first time Ruth had seen her daughter Angela in 20 years and her first time meeting her grandchildren Gorgina and Antonis. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC )

Ruth Wright was full of energy as she waited at the airport in Inuvik, N.W.T., for her daughter and two teenage grandchildren to arrive on Wednesday afternoon.

She was joined by about 10 other family members and friends holding "welcome home" signs.

Wright's three family members were travelling all the way from Greece, and it would be her first time meeting her grandchildren. The reunion would also mark the first time in nearly 20 years that Wright would see her daughter, Angela Minakis, who hasn't lived in Inuvik since she was seven years old.

"Years and years ago my husband took Angela home for a short visit, and never came back with her," Wright said.

"I have hundreds of [family members] over here, and to make it 'OK' I had to say 'that's OK, they hardly have any family over there.'"

Minakis, who is now 38, grew up in Greece with her brother Harley, and only returned to Inuvik once when she was 17.

Ruth Wright waits for the arrival of her daughter and grandchildren. It's the first time they will all be together. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC )

"I rationalize it because there was nobody to help me. I talked to lawyers, to social service people, I talked to anybody in government… and nobody!" said Wright.

When Minakis walked through the airport doors with her 14-year-old daughter Gorgina Svornou and 16-year-old son Antonis Svoronos, she and Wright both embraced while laughing with tears in their eyes.

Wedding and fundraiser reunite family

The last time they saw each other, Wright was in Greece for Minakis's wedding. This time, another wedding is reuniting the big family in Canada.

Wright's youngest daughter is getting married, and originally Minakis wasn't going to be able to make it due to the high costs of travel and the poor economy in Greece.

It's going to be the first time in my life that all of my kids, and grandkids are going to be in the same room with me.- Ruth Wright

Wright first thought of fundraising to bring Minakis over, but she credits her daughter-in-law, A.J. Minakis, for coming up with the idea and putting in a lot of work to raise enough funds to bring the whole family to Inuvik.

Wright said she's thankful to friends, family, and even strangers who supported the reunion.

"Look goosebumps, just talking about it. It was so exciting … I was touching and holding them. I still couldn't believe it," exclaimed Wright.

Greek meets Northern culture

Minakis said the few days she's been back in Inuvik so far have been surreal.

"Even now we can not even believe it ... It was really a dream for so long and now it's here and you can laugh with them and hug them," she said.

Minakis said the trip is an opportunity not only for her children to meet some new family members, but also to get a glimpse of the differences in culture between the North and Greece.

They have already picked up their Gwich'in status cards, and there are plans for them to go hunting, berry picking and to drive up to Tuktoyaktuk with family.

"I really like them to know one of my parts [is] here. So for me, it's really nice and I was really excited about that," Minakis said.

Many people gathered to greet Angela Minakis and her children Gorgina Svornou and Antonis Svoronos at the Inuvik airport on Wednesday. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC )

The family is also hoping to share some Greek culture with Inuvik by selling traditional food like baklava at this weekend's Arctic market.

The family's journey is a full circle moment, Minakis said, since her sister got engaged while visiting her in Greece and now Minakis is attending her wedding in Canada.

Minakis and her two children will be in Inuvik for about two more weeks before the whole clan heads to Calgary for the wedding.

Wright, who had eight children but lost two of her sons in a fire, said the wedding will be a monumental day in her life.

"It's going to be the first time in my life that all of my kids, and grandkids are going to be in the same room with me," she said.

"How exciting, I just can't wait. I'm going to take pictures like crazy."