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March 2011

 

Dear Friends of Kythera,

I've just returned from a 5 day stay on Kythera. Although I've been in Greece in the winter before, I'm always surprised by the atmosphere of the island at this time of the year. The lush verdant vegetation and flowing streams seems worlds away from the rainless blindingly sunny days which most of us have experienced in summer. Fields which are dry and dusty in summer are now teaming with knee-high "horta" and a stunning collection of wild-flowers.

It was snowing when I arrived in Athens, and I didn't even try to get on my plane to Kythera the next day as there was a forecast of "beaufort 9" winds on the island that day. In case you're not familiar with the beaufort scale, 10 is a "whole gale" and 9 is still enough to bring down trees and lift roofs. Amazingly the plane did fly. I'm glad I wasn't on it: the passengers reportedly kissed the tarmac after they landed, such had been the turbulence in the air. The next day was sunny and I enjoyed a smooth ferry trip from Piraeus to Diakofti. Despite the cool nights, the March sun was already so warm on Kythera that I returned from a two hour hike with a slight sunburn one day. And went for a short bracing swim in the "Magic Green Pool" near Limnionas.

During my stay I had the ever helpful Manoli Samios of the plant & tree shop in Potamos graft some trees on our property.

The trees were originally wild pears, which Manoli told me had always been wild (as opposed to the edible variety), having grown from wind-blown seed some 50 years ago. Now they have fresh apple and pear twigs shooting up from them - Manoli thinks we could have fruit within two years. The grafting process is a fascinating one, and I shot some small videos of it, which you can view here, but only if you ignore my rotten Greek with which I asked Manoli questions (I'm working on my Greek).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-25OeySus3E
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI_V-6ifTkI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ap3Z2nM3bSI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z4kO2Ss0ck
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyRY5-0Q89c

The villages were of course less bustling than in the summer, yet they weren't deserted at all. The outside seating in Potamos cafés was in use and when went out to eat at Maria's in Logothetianika there weren't many tables left to choose between. The food on offer – especially the salads and vegetables – was slightly different than in summer. Cabbage and carrots are abundant and the tomatoes are soft and pale and probably come from greenhouses in Poland. Otherwise the usual array of goat, octopus, fish and rooster in a variety of sauces were on offer.

Everyone on Kythera (and probably Greece) is talking about the economic crisis, and as I live in Germany many islanders I spoke to were either expressing their contempt for Germany for imposing strict austerity measures on Greece ("we beat them in the war but now they are strangling us with the economy"), or they were ashamed of the fact that Germany (with others) had to bail out Greece and were curious about Greece's reputation there. I let them know that the Germany export economy has profited from the low euro caused by the financial crises in some Euroland countries (including Greece), and so the Germans have mostly got over their irritation at the whole bail-out. (Now that Portugal and Ireland are on the ropes as well, the Germans are directing their exasperation around a bit).

As is to be expected, there isn't much work on the island. Not only due to the crisis, but also to do with the fact that the department of town planning is in a mess and hasn't approved any building permits for months. It's a long story but basically the department was supposed to move from Piraeus to Kythera as part of a decentralisation program, but the staff on the mainland don't want to be uprooted and the island council doesn't have the money – thanks to the austerity measures – to pay them anyway. So many building projects are in limbo as a result (including my own) and architects, civil engineers, building-supply companies and the builders themselves are all twiddling their thumbs and worrying about how to support their families. Apparently applications are beginning to move again thanks to some compromises, but the island's economy has suffered considerably already, as the building industry is the most important economic factor after the short two month tourist industry on Kythera.

Back to the "virtual Kythera". We have a new programmer working on Kythera-Family.net. The "old" programmers, who did a great job, were snowed-under with work and were taking months to get around to anything. The new programmer has managed to iron out most of the bugs and is setting his sights on improving our slowish search function, and to make the submission of pictures to text entries much much easier. Thanks to all of you - especially Jim Cassimatis and Melanie Scinto - for your "bug reports".

And, last but not least, I recently received this question by email from Minas Coroneos:
"Just had brunch with James Raissis and his wife Theodora - James is originally from Fratsia. He tells me that there is a Kytherian delicacy, sounds like "avria". It grows on rocks on the sea's edge - some kind of sea plant. Apparently very hard to get hold of an expensive. Any ideas on what it might be?"
I've never heard of it. Have you? If you can help please let Minas know at this email address.

So this is the year to come to Kythera if you possibly can: there will probably be less tourists around and, if you're lucky, the considerable rains this winter might keep the landscape green into the summer! And you'll be doing the locals a big favour by spending your holiday budgets on our beautiful island.

Best regards from Berlin,

James Prineas
james@kythera-family.net

P.S. Many of your who submitted to the Great Walls of Kythera project haven't sent me your high-resolution versions of the pictures. Please send them directly to my email address so we can publish them with the others!

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Visit the NEW LOOK Kytherian Association of Australia's website


www.kytherianassociation.com.au


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The Blind Musician of Karavas
story told by George M. Crethar (Giorgo Krithari)

During my growing up days in Karavas there was a blind gentleman in our village by the name of Panayiotis Souris. I remember very clearly being amazed by his ability to get around and at the way he could recognise people by their voice. He used to play the violin at social gatherings and weddings and would sing his own songs, made up on the spot, which in Greek is called “madinades”. He was so quick and skillful in the way he incorporated the names of village people, events and places into his songs.
When my father arrived back on the Island in 1933, I was 7 years old. All the relatives and friends, practically half the village, turned out with their donkeys to welcome my Dad on his return after seven years in Australia. Panayiotis Souris walked with us playing his violin and singing all the way to Agia Pelagia. I rode the distance on a donkey. I can remember very clearly how Panayiotis and my father embraced when they met.

After the men loaded the donkeys with my father's luggage, they continued slowly back to Karavas, the ladies and children on the donkeys, while many of the men walked. Panayiotis played all the way back, singing the madinades about Minas returning from Australia. They went on celebrating into the night at our home, on the 'aloni,' an ideal spot to dance. Lights were set up all around outside.

When we went back as a family in 1963, after thirty years in Australia, the first thing my Dad did was to go and see Panayiotis and he took me with him. Panayiotis had a little workshop in the village, with all his tools nicely set out, where people used to take their chairs or anything that needed to be fixed. As soon as we walked into the shop, my father said, 'yasoo Panayiotis'. He stopped what he was doing and looked in our direction and said, “Is that you Minas?” They gave one another a hug and I remember that it was a very emotional reunion. Immediately, he came around and sat us down then made us a Greek coffee. I was watching him and was surprised at how perfectly he made the coffee, without spilling a drop. We stayed for quite some time while he and my father reminisced.
We remained on the Island for a couple of months. There was always something on. Panayiotis was always there with his violin, singing. He used to play all over Kythera at weddings and gatherings.Sometimes another musician would accompany him on the 'lagouto' (like a large mandolin).

Panayiotis was an amazing man, well liked and highly respected by all of the village people. Towards the end of his life he went to live in the nursing home at Potamos with his wife, Antonia. When Maria and I went back in 1992, I went to visit Panayiotis at the nursing home. I said, “hello Uncle.” It wasn't until I mentioned our 'paratsoukli' that he remembered me, son of Maria and Minas. Tears flowed in abundance on that occasion.

I had the pleasure of meeting his son,Kosma knowing as Charlie Souris in Australia for the first time, in the 1950s and we have kept in touch ever since. Whenever we meet we always talk about Karavas and about his father. His son told me that his father lived well into his late 90s and that his mother lived a fairly long life too. I think Panayiotis lost his eyesight as a teenager and it is wonderful to think that he could be independent, marry and raise a family. He often comes into my mind.

In recent times, Kosmas "Charles" Souris built fourteen units at Agia Pelagia and to honour the memory of his parents, named them 'Pantonia.'

Gaye Hegeman
gayehegeman@hotmail.com

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Recent Entries:

Topic: Kytherian Presentations - Galore!!!

We've organised lots of talks taking place in March, April, May and June. There are three archaeology presentations at Sydney University, one each month in March, April & May. Two of these are free, but seats are limited - so book early.

A flyer with all details is available here:
http://www.krg.org.au/archaeology-talks-march-may.pdf (3.2mb)

Emanuel John Comino AM J.P is presenting a talk, outlining an “Overview and the Latest Developments” regarding a 30 year campaign (1981 - 2011) for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. This is on Wednesday, June 1st.
A flyer is here: http://www.krg.org.au/parthenon-marbles-talk.pdf (0.7mb)

Thanks!

John Fardoulis

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Messageboard Topics:

We Dig Kythira - Sydney Information Night

We're holding an information night on March 30th at Sydney University regarding archaeological digs taking place in Kythera during July this year. Learn about plans regarding excavations at three different archaeological sites in Kythera that will take place during July this year, searching for clues left behind from mysterious ancient civilisations. Looking for a special new adventure? How about connecting with Kythera on a really deep level? Positions exist for weekly volunteers to assist Greek archaeologists excavate at Paliokastro, the location of Kythera's ancient capital. Or visit for a site tour to learn more about ancient Greek history and how archaeologists work.

An entire buried citadel exists under the side of a mountain, which is thought to have accommodated more than 1,000 people and spans a period of approximately 500 years before Christ. It was a Laconian-controlled outpost, under the protection of a garrison of Spartan Hoplites.
Special Guest: Dr Stavros Paspalas, Deputy Director, Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens

Who Should Attend?
* Potential volunteers who want to participate in Kytherian excavations in July.
* History buffs or anyone with an interest in exploration, adventure, ancient
civilisations or archaeology.
* Academics, students (particularly in archaeology), members of community groups, Hellenic committees.
* People who love Kythera.
* Anyone planning on being in Kythera/Greece during July.

Where: Sydney University, Centre of Classical and Near Eastern Studies Board Room, in the Madsen Building Level 4, Room 480 (one storey up and directly behind the building's main foyer on the Eastern Avenue pedestrian mall).
Metered parking is available on campus at a reasonable rate.

When: Wednesday, March 30th, 6.45pm for a 7.15pm start
How Much: Free. Light refreshments will be served.
RSVP by March 23rd is essential. Space is strictly limited.
Please call Kathy Samios on (02) 9349 1849 or email john.fardoulis (at) gmail.com to secure your place.

More information is available in the flyer:
http://www.krg.org.au/we-dig-kythera-talk.pdf

Check out the We Dig Kythira video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS7moQK2D04&feature=player_embedded

And some media coverage from last year;
SBS radio interview:
http://www.krg.org.au/media/john-fardoulis.mp3

Neos Kosmos centre spread;
http://www.krg.org.au/media/NKENp1320Nov10.pdf

This information night is being generously supported by the Kytherian Association of Australia, in conjunction with the Sydney Friends of the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens.
Dr Wayne Mullen deserves special thanks for helping make the information night possible.
Excavations are being supported by the Nicholas Anthony Aroney Trust & Kytherian Association of Australia.
John Fardoulis

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Michael Stralek's photos, archives, black & white sketches, and landscapes

I'd like to put a posting on the message board of the Kythera-family.net looking for anyone out there who has copies of Michael Stralek's prints and his original pictures.
His works /paintings are really National Treasures for the Kytherian society and they are decorating many of our houses and shops and holiday cottages. Can you please try and find and publish them at the Kythera- family.net - any of Michael Stralek photo's, archives and those beautiful & white sketches and landscapes he used to paint of all over Kythera for years and years?
Also how & where else can we find anything from his valuable work to preserve? Is there any information about him at all?

Thank you
Theo Megalokonomos

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Topic: German Mail Ship Roon August 1914

In search of Greek passengers on GMS Roon, stranded in Batavia
at outbreak of WW1
Peter Makarthis
Inverell NSW Australia

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Update: Local Government on Kythera

Kythera, like the rest of Greece, has entered a period of considerable political and economic crisis which is likely to continue for some time. The situation, however, is much worse for small municipalities, and Kythera of course is one of the dozen or so smallest in the country. The reason is that from the first of January, a sweeping program of municipal reform known as the Kallikratis Law came into effect; the law devolves a considerable number of heavy responsibilities (such as town planning) directly onto municipalities, whilst simultaneously greatly increasing their bureaucratic obligations. The problem is that the reforms were originally formulated before the current economic and credit crisis hit, the original idea being that there would be a net transfer of both funds and personnel from central and regional authorities to the municipalities. What has in fact happened is that just as the demands on municipalities increased by a factor of almost 100%, far from receiving an increased government allocation, they were hit by a net decrease and an enforced cut in staffing of at least 15%.

Under these circumstances, there is some question as to how an island with a permanent population of under 3,800 and few resources other than tourism can possibly cope with the same level of demands that have to be met by cities of several hundred thousand inhabitants. While this would present a problem to even the most effective of municipal governments, the performance of the current council over the last month and a half has not so far given rise to much optimism.

For those interested in following current affairs on the island and who have a reasonably good grasp of Greek, it is worth consulting the internet site maintained by Kythiraiki Protovoulia (“Kytherian Initiative”), the reform group which challenged the two existing power blocks in last autumn’s municipal elections and won almost 10% of the vote and a single seat on the municipal council. The address is http://www.protovouliakythera.com, and there are frequent updates reflecting developments on the council and elsewhere on the island. The posts of course reflect Protovoulia’s general reformist stance, but are considered accurate enough for local news media, including other internet sites but also the main Kytherian newspapers, to often reprint them in their entirety.

John Stathatos

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A Kytherian Life Openly Spoken About
by Maria of Lourandianika

As the sun rises on this day, the day my mother passed, 12 months ago to the day, my feelings are deep and confused. When information arrived that, had my mother had spoken to me of the genetic defects she carried and appropriate action taken before the birth of my first child, my life could have been spared the pain and serious health issues which I face daily. But she chose not to tell me, which now overshadow my memory of the years of care she gave me. For me, the price came at too high a cost, and I swore I would not grieve one more day, nor shed one more tear, as I grieved and I shed many tears when the news arrived of her passing.

I grew up in a home where respect was demanded. Never could we say a word such as "Gee",as this stood for "Jesus", or "Gosh" as this stood for "God". My father was ever watchful of his daughters. Protective and watchful. He did not know how to express his fears, and he made many mistakes in life, but his actions were out of love, not malice or harm.

I recall the first time I saw a side of my father I did not know existed. I was walking in the crowds of peak hour towards the bus which I would take home, but my left arm ached badly, and a fellow student offered to carry my brief case. I had attended Business College for approximately 10 months, and this was the first time I had met my fellow student. A tap on my shoulder caused me to turn to see my father, his face stony, as he took my briefcase from my helpful student, and he marched me towards the bus stop, not speaking a single word, but when we arrived home, his anger boiled over, accusing me of actions I have never heard of before. I had done nothing wrong, but I went to my bedroom, to find the new expensive pen my parents had purchased for me, taking it, with tears flowing down my cheeks, saying how sorry I was for being "bad" and giving the pen back, saying I did not deserve it. My heart was breaking, as I had done nothing wrong, but, I would find no peace if I did not apologise for actions which were so pure and innocent.

The following day, I returned to my college, but shortly after I collapsed and my parents were called. They came immediately, calling our family doctor, and I spent the following 8 months lying in my bed in my small bedroom, the left arm that had been so painful the day before not moving for the next 8 months.

My father spared no expense to get me the best possible medical care, books daily, and on Fridays, every comic from the stand close to his business premises. This was my fathers way of apologising for not believing me.

One night, the pain in my body was so extreme, I was screaming, as my mother rang our family doctor, and as I heard him speaking on his quick arrival, saying how sorry he was, that he suspected a blood clot attached to the side of my stomach, which would be fatal if it became loose. But I survived, and with such extreme pain tearing my body apart, I looked at the inexpensive icon I had purchased one day. A simple icon with a wooden frame, with an image of Jesus. Not the ornate silver icon which was always above my bed, but a simple inexpensive piece, which as we looked at it, tears ran down the cheeks of this icon of Jesus. My mother contacted our family priest at once, and when he came, he said it was a miracle, such as he had never seen before, asking to take my precious icon to place it in our church Ayia Triatha. I reluctantly agreed, wanting to keep it with me, knowing I would need every bit of strength to see me through the following 8 months, and the endless hours of physical therapy to enable me to walk again. My faith was strengthened that evening, and has never wavered to this very day as I continue facing many challenges.

Later on in life, a cousin who owned a business opposite the surgery where I worked for a Greek doctor had observed my father hiding on the steps, watching me daily. I had injured my leg and was in a plaster caste. My employer paid for me to be brought to work each day, and returned home after work, as most of his patients were Greek, and it was important that I be at my desk. My young taxi driver, knowing the time of the call for a taxi each afternoon, chose to "sit" on the job. One day, he asked if he could turn off his meter, as his baby son was ill, and if I would allow him to call in and see him. I of course agreed. But my father was waiting for me when I arrived home, making terrible accusations, but I would not tolerate them anymore and stood my ground, with a terrible argument ensuring.

I understand my fathers actions were those of a man wanting to protect his child, but not knowing how. His intentions were not bad, just his judgment. He was a good man and father, and I always loved him, even through difficult times.

My father and I stood together one evening in the lounge room one evening, having been invited with my husband for a meal. My father broke down, sobbing, asking for forgiveness for his past actions. We stood together, both crying as we held each other, all the painful memories vanishing with a simple few words. "I am so sorry, please forgive me". My father had acted out of fear, not knowing how to express himself, not for any other reason. We became closer from that day, as I turned to him whenever I needed guidance. It was such a special relationship, a father and his daughter. A deep love and mutual respect.

My beloved father passed, and I was not permitted to say a final goodbye, nor attend his funeral as a member of the family, being told that I could not travel in the family car following my fathers coffin, as it was for family only. I was told to take a taxi to the funeral and cemetery. My mother warned me if I wore black clothing she would rip it from my body before everyone, telling me to wear cream colored slacks and a caramel colored top. I refused. I kept my silence that day as the Church filled, crowds spilling onto the street, as he was such a loved and respected member of the Kytherian Community. The pain was too much to bear as I collapsed when I came to the coffin which held my fathers physical body, to say my final goodbye. I collapsed, sobbing, clinging to his coffin, not wanting him to leave me. Hands helped me to stand as I sobbed, wanting my father back. The community saw and judged that day. I informed my mother I would hold my peace, on this day, out of deep respect and love for my father, but I would never see her again. Such was the depth of my pain. This pain is still as strong as it was that day in January, 29 years ago. Some pain never fades. The words spoken gently to me by family and friends offering their condolences as we stood in the Church, have stayed with me. I did not see my mother again.

Some years later, I received a letter, informing me that my beloved Uncle Nick had passed away, leaving a humble home in Louradianika to my sister and myself. I had never been told that he had returned to Kythera, to care for his parents, nor that he had passed. I was not considered family at all.

I chose to go to Louradianika, to deal with the paperwork there. When I arrived in Kythera, I went directly to my father's family home, believing I would stay there, to be greeted by my cousin by marriage, the color draining from his face, who told he had been informed I was dead. He also said me that he had the documents, stating that I had agreed to the sale of my share of the property, and had indeed accepted payment. He produced documents, and a bank receipt. I had never seen these papers, nor had I received one cent, nor had I ever authorized a Power of Attorney. It was a difficult process, requiring solicitors, to prove my identity. Legal expenses mounted as my claim had to be recognized. My cousins told me that my mother had sent several letters, as had my sister, telling people not to open their doors to me, but these people remembered me for who I was and welcomed me with love into their homes.

I recall sitting in the empty house at Louradianika, all the furnishings gone. The old wooden couch I had slept on as a girl was still there. There was only one other resident left in the village. It was an elderly lady who told me she and uncle Nick drank coffee together at her home daily. After he died she had observed a truck with my mother and aunt loading all the furniture from Uncle Nick's home and leaving it a bare and barren house. I looked at the walls where nails had been driven to hold photographs. As I sat on the wooden couch, quietly rubbing the front of the wooden arm, a spring popped, and a hidden cavity slid out and revealed quality silverware. I smiled, knowing my Uncle Nick had hidden it well, and I closed it, leaving his secret there where I knew he would have wished it to remain. I left several items of clothing within this wooden couch, wishing to return, believing I would, but it was not to be.

Before I left to return to Australia, I visited a priest in Livadi, and apologized for not being able to leave the house to the church, but alone, I could not do this. How simple his life was as I watched him feed his chickens, his robes tucked into a tie around his waist. The furniture which had been removed made the house difficult to inhabit, and I was told that when my mother returned quietly to Kythera, this priest confronted her, demanding she return the furnishings. I believe my mother never returned from that day, nor was the furniture returned.

Once I was back in Australia, my mother took to ringing me on the occasions when she wished me to do what she expected of me. Whenever I saw the word "Private" on my telephone, I knew it was my mother, and the thought of speaking to her reduced me to the frightened child again. My mother's voice was strong, and she reduced me to a state of fear which I carried from a child into adulthood. How could this be possible? I have searched deep within myself, but have no answers.

I began writing for the Kytherian Family Newsletter. My mother sent me a letter, dictated, but written by another in Greek, witnessed by her doctor, telling me, no, demanding, I stop writing immediately. She had taken to her bed with terrible pains caused by me, saying she would never recover. How dare I say my Uncle had been buried near Ayio Georgi? He had been buried in the family plot she said, only there was no family plot, as my grandparents, being priests were buried touching the side of the church, as were my great grandparents, as the church dictated this was to be. I had searched every grave yard, yet there was no sign of my beloved Uncle. She told me in her letter that I was never again to make contact with her, and that I had humiliated the family, ridiculing them. I had spoken of names as an inexperienced writer. That was my only fault. But I paid dearly for it.

My first impulse was to go to the web site of Kythera Family net and start deleting any postings I had placed there, doing so immediately, then informing my dear friend and editor James Prineas that I could not write again, as my mother had demanded I stop. I felt such guilt, thinking I had once again disappointed my mother, and was not the daughter she wished me to be. But the response from people dear to me, though and their encouragement, caused me to continue writing. I had gone against my mothers wishes. I was so careful with my wording, praising her and her many qualities, thinking she would appreciate this and soften her attitude. But to no avail.

When the call came from a close family friend that my mother had passed, I rang the family home, asking why was I not informed, and my answer was "Why should we, you didn't stop writing". I replied, "She was my mother". Yes, I was told, but you disobeyed her.

As the clock ticks away, and at midnight the first anniversary of my mother's death will finish. I look at the photo of the resting place of my parents, seeing a white wooden cross with my mothers name on it, the sandy soil not green as the rest of the cemetery, and weeds, but my only thought is that beneath this lay my parents. My pain is deep, and I believed I had shed my final tear for my mother, yet this picture, so precious, has me feeling such depth of emotion, and I ask myself why?

I expect many Kytherians will not approve of my speaking openly of my pain, but I have shown respect for my mother by waiting one year after her passing, before finally allow my emotions be put to print. I make no apology for speaking openly and honestly.

Maria (Marcellos) Whyte
4 Trinity Crescent
Sippy Downs
Queensland 4556
email: maria.whyte@bigpond.com

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Traveling to Kythera this year or next?
Here are a couple of travel agents who you can trust to organise you trip or stay. Please help the Kytherian economy by booking as much as you can through these reliable and friendly agents, who speak excellent English:


1. TOURS OF KYTHERA IN 2011 and 2012!
by Drakakis Tours
We organize tours on the island, all over Greece and Europe, car rental with special rates for long reservations, accommodation with special rates. We rent our bus or minibus with an English speaking driver for tours, transport or events. Don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like more details.
Panos Drakakis

Drakakis Tours
tel: +30. 27360 31160
fax: +30. 27360 31760
e-mail: drakakis@otenet.gr
web: www.drakakistours.gr
skype: drakakistours

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2. PORFYRA TRAVEL
Our office is IATA which means that we have domestic and International tickets of all the airlines.
We also have ferry tickets to Italy and to all the islands in Greece. We offer accommodation and rent-a-car in Kythira, in the rest of Greece (the Mainland and Islands), Europe, Turkey , etc. And organised tours in Greece, Europe, Turkey starting in Athens.
Private hiking tours in Kythira with an experienced guide (Juergen - in German and English)
If you'd like more information or a free quote please send us an e-mail with you request and we send you all the information you need.

Porfyra Travel: porfyra@otenet.gr
http://www.kythira.info/

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"Expectations and Achievements" Part 8
This is an excerpt of the autobiography of Peter Haniotis, who died in 2006. Many thanks to his daughters who have allowed us to reprint his life story here. You can read previous episodes in our last newsletter which is in our Newsletter Archive.

LIFE WAS NOT MEANT TO BE EASY

There was a boy in my class by the name of Matthew. He was the son of one of the biggest small-goods manufacturers and always carried a lot of money in his pocket. He told us his father was very generous. One day after school he asked me if I wanted to go with him to a meeting at the park opposite with a few other boys from our class. Surprised and flattered, I tried to work out what this rich boy could possibly want with me. He was a very plump boy, always immaculately dressed, even in school uniform.

There were five boys there from our class and two from the senior class above us. When we were all present he opened his briefcase and pulled out a typed document. He began to read. It said that the seven of us were to form a secret society and our first job was to get some cash. Matthew said he would provide half the money for our needs at first but we had to provide the rest, even if we had to take it from our parents. We had to find a room in town to use as headquarters and choose a president and secretary. Our goal would be to procure young girls and to make money from them. Matthew pulled out a small revolver from his briefcase and told us it was loaded and if any one of us had other ideas he would use it. I was shocked with the whole affair. My brain started working fast, looking for a solution. I had never been so frightened in my life. The meeting finished and Matthew told us he would let us know about the next meeting. I felt very worried and downhearted. After a bad night full of nightmares, I went to school. The headmaster came to our class, spoke to our teacher for a while and called we five boys from the society to go with him to his office. The two other senior boys were already there. There were also two police officers there. Matthew’s briefcase was on the table, with the document and the revolver. The police took us separately to the next room and asked us what we knew. We were all strongly reprimanded and told that our parents would be informed of the matter. Matthew was expelled from school and we never saw or heard of him again.
I told my parents about it before the police.

BALLET PRACTICE

During summer my father took me on Sundays to the open-air cinemas. The ordinary cinemas were closed for summer as it was too hot and there was no air-conditioning. The outdoor pictures were set up in the squares with tables and chairs for the patrons. They did not charge admission fees, but you paid a surcharge on the sweets and drinks at the tables. The films were silent of course, mostly comedies with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Miss Pearl White. In front of the screen was a piano player. I don’t remember my mother ever coming with us as she was always busy at home looking after our big family. Her only entertainment was occasionally to go to town to but some clothes for the children and herself, or to visit her sisters in Athens and Maroussi. She very seldom went to church.

The shopping for food was taken care of by my father. His shop was close to the markets and on his way to work he would do the shopping and send it home with one of the boys from his shop.

My father also took me for picnics with his merchant friends. One Sunday we went to Maroussi where my Aunt Stamatina, my mother’s sister, lived. They had a nice farm with fruit trees. The pear trees were full of silver beetles, which we boys would put in matchboxes with sugar, tie cotton around their necks and spin them around. With hundreds of these beetles in front of me I felt like I’d discovered the treasures of King Solomon and filled my pockets with them. I felt very proud of my possession until the beetles started crawling onto my body. This taught me a lesson about being greedy; two or three beetle in a matchbox would be sufficient.

In Piraeus our house was known as open to all. Our friends, relatives and acquaintances would come for a few days, knowing that they were always welcome by my parents. I didn’t mind their company, but when I had to move from my room and share with my sisters I hated it.

At that time a peculiar problem arose for me. Joanna, the girl my brother James was in love with, would try to kiss me. Embarrassed, I would run away. I had seen people kissing on the mouth in the films and my teacher told us that the human mouth was full of germs and we had to wash our teeth and mouths to kill them. I had kissed my sisters and cousins before, but always on the cheek. I tried to understand why Joanna wanted to kiss me. For sure she was not in love with me. I was just ten years old and she was over twenty. I was sure she was only teasing me, and I didn’t like it. I decided to teach her a lesson she would never forget. One afternoon when she tried to kiss me, I ran into the bathroom, washed my teeth then ran back to Joanna, grabbed her, and kissed her on the lips hard. Everyone was stunned. I saw surprise and fear in Joanna’s eyes. She was shocked. Everyone kept silent for a while and suddenly all burst into laughter. I left the room in a hurry, feeling proud of myself and justified. I had finally paid her back for the torture she had inflicted on me for so long.

After that, Joanna never tried to kiss me again.

Lefteris, my friend who taught me all about life, was getting too old for us. He was already sixteen and started wearing long pants, the sign of adulthood at the time. He left school and started a job at an office.

Lefteris’ widowed mother could not afford to support him with her pension. His father was killed whilst traveling on a merchant navy ship (though I had the impression that he was killed in the war and that he was a hero). Lefteris knew a lot about life; he told me that with twenty drachmas you could go to places where several beautiful girls were ready to satisfy your wildest dreams. The catch was that you had to be over twenty-one to gain admission. With despair I thought, being only thirteen, I had to wait another eight years. But again I thought so many boys wedded at the age of eighteen or even younger, so there was always a chance to try the prohibited fruit sooner.

Lefteris also told me about the café sandans (coffee dancing houses). There were several of them along Miaouli Street, where sailors from every nation spent a lot of their time and money drinking and listening to singers and viewing the ballet girls kicking up their bare legs. Most of those places were around the corner from my father’s shop. With the excuse that I was going to see the ships entering the harbour, I stopped outside those places. They kept the doors closed, but occasionally the tradesmen delivering goods would leave the doors half open and I could have a peep at the girls practicing their ballet.

GREEK NATIONAL SETBACK

The catastrophe the Communists brought to my family made my brother, James, a bit skeptical about his communist ideas. He was attending university regularly and was doing well. With only one year to go to get his degree, he was called up for military service.

When the Great War was over at the end of 1918, Greece, as an ally of the winning side, was rewarded by getting most of Thrace and the two small Aegean islands of Imbros and Tenedos. Those places had been under Turkish rule for 500 years though the majority of the population was Greek.

Greece also received permission to invade Asia Minor to librate the areas Turkey had ruled for centuries. In 1919 the Greek army invaded Asia Minor and the Greek population cheered its liberators. They took Smyrna, a city of about 300,000 people, mostly Greeks, and all the places about 100 miles inland and outside Constantinople. The dream of every Greek was to reinstate Constantinople as the Greek capital as it was 500 years before.

Venizelos, who had ruled Greece since 1917 after a coup d’etat and was friendly with the Great Powers, asked permission to occupy Constantinople. The Great Powers called a meeting at the French town of Sevron. There they signed the Treaty of Sevron, confirming the annexation to Greece of all the occupied places. This also guaranteed the dividing lines between all neighbouring nations. The only request the Great Powers made was that Venizelos hold an election before permission would be given to occupy Constantinople. (Venizelos was not a democratically elected leader.) Venizelos, with the Treaty of Sevron document in his hand, returned to Greece in August 1920.

At Faliron Bay, where the navy ship brought him, the whole of the population of Athens and Piraeus were there to meet him. They went mad with joy, singing and cheering. My father, an ardent supporter of Venizelos, took me with him for the welcome home. Some people, including my father, cried with joy.

Venizelos, certain that he would win the election, proclaimed it to be held on 1st November, 1920. Propaganda from Europe, mostly from Italy, swept Greece. They spent a lot of money buying votes.

King Constantine was in exile, living in Italy. His supporters pointed out that the Greeks were tired of being at war since 1912. They voted for the King and Venizelos even lost his seat.

King Constantine arrived in triumph a few days later and the people were delirious with joy. The Great Powers did not like this one bit. They could not trust Constantine, being a brother-in-law to the German Kaiser. They immediately cancelled the Treaty of Sevron and permission for Greece to occupy Constantinople. The King, going against his promise to end the war, and thinking that the Turks were on the run after their defeat by Venizelos’ army, decided to destroy them all together. He ordered the Greek army to advance and attack the whole front. The Turks started retreating slowly until they reached the Salty Desert a few miles from Ankara, the capital.

The Great Powers, not wanting the Turks banished and worried about the balance of power in the Mediterranean, stopped supplying war materiel to Greece and started supplying Turkey. As a result, the Greek army ran out of everything. On top of that the Turks, under a new commander, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), revitalised.

A fresh Turkish cavalry attacked the disillusioned Greeks, who started to retreat. Only the northern front, under colonels Plastiras and Gonatas, with their regiments, made a stand and halted their attackers. They allowed time for the villages to be evacuated and thus saved thousands of women and children.

The bulk of the army, hungry and exhausted, arrived at Smyrna, which was already in upheaval. Huge fires were raging from one side of the town to the other. Thousands of panic-stricken people were running towards the quay in hope of finding a way to board one of the ships anchored in Smyrna’s harbour. They were persecuted by the ‘chetes’ (the irregular Turkish cavalry), hitting at will with their swords. The Turks were on a rampage, killing, raping and committing unbelievable atrocities. Young girls were the most frightened, wearing old clothes and painting their faces dark, pretending to be old.

Thousands of people were killed before they could reach the sea. Among those killed was Smyrna’s Christian Archbishop, Chrysostomos. After they killed him, they tied him to the back of a horse and paraded him on Smyrna’s streets, while the followers cheered. This massacre lasted three days, and then silence. The only sound was of the wounded who were unlucky not to die. As the crowds reached the quay they dived into the sea and tried to swim to the Great Powers’ fleets which were anchored in the harbour. The Greek fleet and several merchant navy ships were not allowed in the harbour and were standing by outside. The ships of the Great Powers belonged to five nations – England, France, Italy, Russia and Japan.

As the exhausted, panic-stricken swimmers arrived and tried to scale the ships, they were repelled by the sailors. Only one ship helped by transporting them to the Greek ships waiting outside the harbour. They made the trip several times and thus saved hundreds of these unfortunate, exhausted human beings. The nation who helped was Japan and the Greeks will never forget the kindness of the Japanese sailors and their officers. They proved to the world who was civilised.

I would like to clarify the authenticity of those events I have described. At the time, August 1922, I was in Kythera on my school holidays. I read the news in every newspaper I could put my hands on and every detail will remain in my memory forever. I heard even more graphic detail from the hundreds of refugees I met in Piraeus in September when I returned from my holidays. Among those refugees were several relatives and friends of our family. My father tried to help as much as he could. He engaged a young man by the name of Anthony as an accountant and his old father as a helper in our shop.

As mentioned before, my brother James was called up for military service while still attending university. One day he came home as a soldier, minus his hair. He was very depressed about this, as he was proud of his wavy hair. Father knew a few important people and through them tried to keep James in Athens and save him from going to the front in Asia Minor, where they needed reinforcements badly. However, the time was against us; they were sending new recruits to the front daily.

James was notified that he was to leave and with that kissed us goodbye and went to the barracks where his unit assembled and waited for the trucks to take them to the ships.

It was a very hot July day and James felt very nervous. He thought he had a temperature. Walking from one side of the hall to the other, at one point he sang out “Hell, it’s too hot. Can someone open those windows?” and they did. He approached one of the windows, pretending to get a breath of fresh air. It was siesta time and the streets were deserted. He looked down at the eight-foot drop with mixed feelings. He realised that if he was caught he would have to go through a court marshal. However, his feelings of self-preservation won and he decided to take the plunge. He landed on his feet. So far, so good. He looked around. There was not a soul in sight. He jumped the outside fence to the street and started running. A policeman saw him and asked him what the hurry was. A tram was passing and James told the policeman he was going to catch it. He took the electric tram to Faliron where a relative gave him refuge until my father could do something. It took two weeks to arrange for James to become a special envoy (assistant to the colonel’s secretary), attached to the 34th Brigade stationed in Athens.

Two months later, after the Asia Minor disaster, James was shifted to northern Greece. Plastiras and Gonatas made a stand in Thrace ready to repel any Turkish attack. There was peace at last.

James came home and went back to university to finish his degree. He started to be very hard to please; was always cranky and picking on us. Mind you, we were very noisy and made it hard for him to concentrate on his study. Father rented him a room downtown and he seemed to be content. The fact that he now had electric light made it better for him. (At home we still had kerosene lamps. Electricity didn’t come until 1930.)

In 1924 James finally got his degree in Economics. Father wanted him to come into the business and eventually take it over, but James was hesitant. Probably the responsibility was too much. He wanted time to think it over.

A friend of father’s who was Minister of Education, Spyros Stais, offered James a job as a teacher in one of Athens’ high schools, but he declined, thinking it would be a demotion of his status. Eventually he decided to give the family business a go, putting up a lot of conditions and demands. He thought, having a university degree he knew everything, and father, an uneducated man, knew nothing. They started having rows and the family started suffering again. In the end James gave father an ultimatum – to let him run the business and father to take the family to Kythera. James would provide for us. Father tried to bring James to his senses, but to no avail. Finally James decided to go to Australia where our sister Helene lived. He left in early 1925.

Peter Haniotis
(Read the following episode of Peter's family history in the next newsletter, and previous ones in our newsletter archive.)

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Churches and Wildflowers of Kythera
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