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Anna Cominos

52 weeks in Kythera - An Island in Grief

Is the fragility of Death linked to seismic activity? While the Greek mass media speculates about a futuristic natural catastrophe, this week Kythera has been plunged into deep grief with the sad passing of two popular people, boat-builder Dimitri (Vlahos) Diacopoulos and professional diver Polychronis Chrysafitis, both of whom lived larger than life.

Dimitri (Vlahos) Diacopoulos aged 63, was a modern-day Poseidon and one of Greece’s remaining traditional boat-builders. A Kytherian enigma, Dimtri could be found at his boat-shed at Agia Patrikia working on the construction of a caique (wooden fishing boat) or at Moustakia’s Taverna in Agia Pelagia adding his laconic remarks to any political debate.

Part-poet/part-philosopher, Dimitri was an incredible boat builder and carpenter, his knowledge of sea vessels was unmatched in Kythera. His woodworking capabilities were a bridge to a time long gone. Unafraid of whom he was the often gruff Dimitri, had amassed an impressive collection of by-gone woodworking tools.

A deeply caring man with short curly hair and bright ocean blue eyes, Dimitri could recognise where a ‘caique’ (fishing boat) was built, from afar. Always a big-man Dimitri had various medical complications that intensified with age, recently underwent a serious operation that he never recovered from.

Dimtri leaves behind his wife Irini, children Mihalis, Nicoletta and Ourania and grandchildren. It feels as if the bright candlelight of Agia Patrikia has been snuffed-out.

The tragedy of the accidental death of Polychronis Chrysafides aged 36m feels insurmountable. Polychronis, the eldest of ‘the Baker Boys’ (The Chrysafides family have long owned the Bakery in Potamos, delivering bread to most of the island) was a gentleman, who lived an inspirational and dignified life pursuing what he loved doing - adventuring.

In the Navy he became a ‘frogman’ with the elite diving team. Once he was released from the Navy he went on diving professionally and professionally travelled internationally diving recover ships.

Much beloved by all, the gentle and softly-spoken Polychronis had a deep respect for life. He wasn’t a person to shout and bellow and yet he pursued his own path with absolute determination. While the first generation of Baker Boys now in their 60s Tassos & Jimmy recently retired passing the business onto their sons, Tassos’s sons Polychronis & Nikos along with Jimmy’s sons Polychronis (nicknamed Seinfeld) and George, Polychronis maturely walked away from the lucrative Bakery setting up a Diving/Fishing shop in Potamos.

The elder Polychronis was born with a deep love of exploring the natural world, even as a teenager he was an accomplished spear-fisherman and mountaineer. He had in detail explored many of the island’s most inhospitable rock-faces and coastlines. Perhaps you joined Polychronis on one of his climbing tours along the Kaki-Lagada.

The painful stillness of Potamos as people helplessly gathered last night outside the iconic Potamos bakery in shock, needing to hear that it wasn’t true, was eerie. While details of his passing are still vague it has been reported in the media he was diving at the Scaramanga Ship Yard, the tragedy is heightened with the accident occurred in 4 metre deep waters.

There is a deep lament for all the dreams Polychronis will not actualise, Kythera’s own diving school he recently bought a building in Potamos to relocate his shop and business, looking forward to being permanently based here. A family of his own and what the island had to gain from his deep love of it.

Like Dimtri, Polychronis was loved by many and will be missed by All. I feel sadness for the young people of the island who will never come into contact with these two truly individual beings, but the best lesson we have from them is that we can all learn to honour the beat of own drum.

Today Wednesday 26 February 2008 Kythera cries for its Fallen
May They Both Rest in Peace.

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