kythera family kythera family
  

Oral History

History > Oral History > Remembering Kythera's WWII occupation.

9785: History > Oral History

submitted by Kythiraismos, Newspaper on 25.02.2006

Remembering Kythera's WWII occupation.

APRIL 2003
Edition number: 247
From the archive of the newspaper "Kytherian Idea"*
*Original name of "Kythiraismos", Newspaper.

FROM THE NEWSPAPERS ARCHIVE

ENGLISH SECTION

A Remembering from Kythera's occupation

(An article from the recent editon of the Greek Orthodox Archiocese of Australia)

Kythera is an island that divides the Ionian, Aegean and Cretan seas in the southernmost part of the Peloponnese. It is an exquisite place with many plane and eucalyptus trees, with thyme and myrtle, cool springs and watermills.

Seagulls perch in the caves of the coastline, derelict towers face the sea, there's a castle with turrets, and the many old churches and monasteries give the island its unique beauty and charm.

Although there is no direct geographical link between the island of Kythera (also known as Tsirigo) with mainland Greece, it has been a part of the province of Attica since 1964. This was because many people from Tsirigo lived in Piraeus (which is a port city of Attica province).

I was born in Yitheo where my mother was from. My father had a bakery. I lived there with my parents and siblings quite comfortably. However, our happiness didn't lost long. In 1938 my mother fell ill with a cold. In those days we didn't have the medecines that we do now and science wasn't as advenced. Unfortunately, she didn't recover from that small cold and it sent her to her grave.

Our father was still a young man and was now left with four young orphans - two boys and two girls. He didn't know what to do - should he look after the bakery or his children? He decided to close the shop and move to Elafonisos where his elderly parents were living, so they could take care of us.

We lived with our grandmother for about two years. Then, one day, a friend of my father's from his army days, came and said, "Andreas, I know a respectable young girl who lives in Fratsia in Tsirigo. She's a relative of ours, she's my wife's youngest sister. She will be a good housewife and is what the children need. She will look after them because she loves families. Why don't you get married? It'll be good for you, too."

After much thought, my father decided to marry her. We moved from Elafonisos where we were living to Fratsia, my adoptive mother's village in Kythera. That's where we were when the 1940 war broke out.

At first Kythera was under Italian rule but from 1943 it was under Nazi rule. While the Italians were on the island, they took our food and left us only a little to live off. They would select a "friend" in each region, a cowardly villager, to collect all the food because he would be familiar with the villagers, their crops and their income.

In our district, they appointed two of our villagers as "traitors". One of the two, on a very hot summer's day in July (the month of threshing) came to take his portion for the Italians while we were winnowing the wheat. As soon as my adaptive mother saw him, her blood began to boil. She grabbed the pitchfork and started to chase him. Although he was threatening her, he ran away.

Thankfully, there were no repercussions and my father wasn't there at the time, so we weren't thrown in jail, or punished by the Italians.

In those days my father made trips in his boat. He went from Kythera to Elafonisos, the Peloponnese and Crete.

The Italians didn't do too much damage in our area. They only took our harvest but if someone refused they were beaten.

One time, they rounded up quite a few girls from the village and threw them into a bus. I don't know where they took them but they finally let them without harming them.

The Italians stayed in the capital of the island, and issued their orders from there. They rarely came to the village.

While Germans occupied Greece, my father fought in his one way for our nation's freedom. He often endangered his own life, transporting allies on his boat, and bringing them from the coastline of the Peloponnese, down to Crete. On one of these trips, just before he reached Crete, a fierce wind swelled up the seas. A wild storm broke out. His boat became like a toy tossed about by the waves.

My father, without eating or drinking anything, without sleeping or resting, fought those waves for six days and six nights. He had a few allies with him as well as some Greeks, who were going to continue the struggle for the freedom of Crete. However, they had no experience on the sea, so they couldn't help. But God didn't let us lose him. Saint Nicholas saved him from inevitable death, as my father admitted. "I saw the saint as if he was alive in front of me and he was holding the tiller", said my father.

Another day, in May 1941, my father brought some allies down to Crete, they disembarked asn he was ready to return when a stray bomb suddenly appeared out of nowhere and explosed right next to his boat. Everyone who saw the bomb or heard the loud noise fell flat on the ground or ran to protect themselves. My father and his nephew Mihalis, who was with him, had surely been killed.

The news quickly reached us. "Captain Andreas and Mihalis have been killed in Crete". There was wailing and lament in Kythera. All the relatives wore black and chanted a trisagio (a memorial service) for their souls. However, God protected my father and nothing happened to him or anyone else on the boat.

He has stuck in Kastelli. He couldn't escape because of the bombs. So he hid somewhere and observed the battle of Crete.

Imagine our joy when, after many days, my father and cousin Mihalis returned to us alive and well. We celebrated a resurrection!

In Kythera, we lived the agony of Crete's battle from a distance. We could see the aeroplanes in the sky. Hundreds and thousands of aeroplanes passed over us. The sky became pitch black from these metalic birds. We trembled with fear, in case they bombed us, and we fell to the ground to protect ourselves. We could hear the machine guns and waited for our turn. Fortunately, the Germans didn't bomb our island. We suffered more at the hands of the German s than the Italians. My father dug a large ditch in our garden, so we could hide from the Germans. This was our refuge. We also sought refuge in Panagia Mirtidiotissa, the patron saint of our island. She was our protector, helper and support. We would pray to Panagia Mirtidiotissa for God to free us from our heavy burden and relieve us from our merciless enemies.

Every morning, the Germans came in an army truck to collect the and young boys for compulsory duties. Used as forced labour, these men built a very large office building near Cape Trahilo where the Germans put all their highest-ranking generals. The British demolished the building in 1945 but the ruins remain and remind us of this tragic period. One night my father was very late returning home. This was unusual. What could have happened? We were terribly worried. Finally, he returned and told us that the Germans captured and interrogated him in case he had any weapons. Before letting him go, they beat him.

Around this time, the Germans forced Greeks to surrender their weapons and God help anyone who disobeyed. The Germans searched all the houses and punished or even killed those people they found with weapons.

When the Germans were leaving Kythera, the harbour filled with British boats. As we sat watching our hearts filled with joy.

At last we had our freedom! Finally, those tyrants had left our precious homeland.

Leave a comment

2 Comments

submitted by
Maria Whyte
on 29.08.2008

596:I have just read this incredible story of Nazi occupation in Kythera. Would anyone possibly know if when the Nazis were on the island, someone would want to hide a Mercedes Benz emblem as large as a drink coaster, made from a brass coloured metal, with a raised star, which was obviously hand crafted, but the laurel leaves were stamped on it, and on the area where the star is, the background seems to be silver in colour with a faint tinge of blue? There is a name stamped on the back. It is F.KOHN.or KOHM. It is difficult to say. In recent years a story was shown on the "Sunday" program from Channel 7 TV. The show was on Easter Sunday (Australian) and the story shown was that 16th Century Religious Books had been found, and inside the cover the name KOHN or KOHM was written. The story went on to say that this family had been exterminated by the Nazis during the war in the camps. They were returned to Bosnia. I found this emblem in the wall of an outside crumbling building, where my grandfathers robes were hanging still. He was Reverend Emmanuel Lourantos of Louradianika. Photos of this emblem have been seen by museums in Germany and the archives of Mercedes Benz can shed no light on this mystery. Louradianika is close to the ocean. The wall was made of rocks and cement. I visited that spot so many times, and yet never saw it. One day, I was standing looking at my grandfathers robes, and I felt drawn to a sliver of dark green. I spent a very long time, chipping away at the rocks and cement, until I managed to dislodge it. It took a very long time and effort to clean the mystery emblem, and I have it in my possession. There was a great deal of publicity in the newspapers and television, during which time, efforts were made to break into my car, by someone I would think, that they thought maybe to get my address or some other thinking which I cannot understand. I was working for a short time, and my briefcase was stolen, as I had the emblem with me. I then placed it in a security deposit in the bank for its safety. There is a story to this emblem, and I hope and pray that someone may read this story, and cast some light on tis fascinating mystery.

submitted by
Maria Whyte
on 29.08.2008

597:I have just posted this aarticle, and pressed submit before checking for spelling mitakes, I apologize, but I am sure my fellow greeks will understand what my story is