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Theodoros (Rouli) Fardoulis

 



Roulis in his "old" cafe in Potamos in about 1985
Picture by James Prineas

The Last Embrace

Whenever I arrived on Kythera, I would head directly and often from the airport, to Potamos town-square and have a rizogalo (rice pudding) or a fresh-warm galatoboureko (semolina pie) at Rouli’s Kafenion, the centre of the Kytherian universe.

With a razor-sharp ability to comprehend what was happening around him at all times, Theodoros (Rouli) Fardoulis lived-up to his paratsoukli (nickname) of Alepou (fox). A gentle man, with piercing blue eyes and a deep chuckle, for many people both local and of the Diaspora, Rouli was the key to village life.

Born in 1926 to Vasiliki and Konstantinos Fardoulis, Rouli was the second of five children. Growing up in the remote and rugged but spectacular Vithoula (between Potamos and Agia Pelagia), Rouli’s serenity was visible when walking in the fields. Not one to shirk away from hard work and although he became a pastry chef, he always remained a man of the land who had perivolia (gardens) and would pick olives each year.

A direct relative of the Fardoulis Chocolate dynasty, Rouli never visited Australia but was always pleased to meet all people, especially if they were from the Kytherian diaspora. He would begin to unravel the visitors family tree, leaving you with a deep sense of genuine belonging. He was a surrogate papou (grandfather) to generations. It was as if he had been entrusted by hundreds of his customers, who had long passed away, to welcome their offspring to Tsirigo.

Originally based in Agia Pelagia, Rouli ran a general store and was a fishmonger, when Agia Pelagia was just a fishing hamlet. Theodoros married Hariklea Kaponas and had three daughters, Eleni, Vasso, Antiopi. And they bought the Kafenion in Potamos at the beginning of Greece’s post Civil-War mass migration.

In 1992, I began working with Rouli at his legendary kafenion. An astute and patient man, Roulis was the centre of the Kytherian universe. The early morning regulars were rowdy workmen on the way to building jobs. Then from 10am to midday we had the come-to-towners, dressed in their Sunday best, people who were visiting the hospital or doing their tasks would drop in for a handmade glyko (sweet). Sharp as a tack, Rouli would converse with each of these groups remembering with incredible detail who, what, where, when and the why they had come to town.

The shop phone would constantly ring with questions such as, "has the plane landed?", "is the ship going to dock in Pelagia or Kapsali?", "is the plumber there?" And he would politely answer all question put to him. My favourite time of the day, was when the old-timers would come in. Rouli would become a rascal and the jibes would begin, till they all laughed heartily.

Rouli gracefully nurtured many young people, with even the popular Kythera Summer Edition newspaper being born at the Kipseli (the Beehive) Kafenion. In the late 90’s Rouli sold his beloved kafenion in Potamos, semi-retiring to his brand-new kafenion in Agia Pelagia. He continued to live in Potamos and would commute to Agia Pelagia daily. Always up for a chat, Rouli was an original blend of Kytherian kalosini (goodness), authentic hara (delight) and village sofia (wisdom). He is missed.

Anna Cominos