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James Prineas

December 2005

The end of a Legend

Dear Friends of Kythera,

a lot has been written about the cafes which Kytherians set up and ran after they migrated, comparatively little though about the cafe culture on the island. Anyone who regularly visited the village of Mitata in the 1980s and '90s probably ate at George and Maria Stamatakou's restaurant which was perched near the ravine on the roller-coaster-road out of the back of the village. The months I spent each year on the island are unthinkable without the unique and tasty culinary delights cooked by Maria and served by George. In the summer the regulars would sit out on the front veranda while the xeni watched the sun set over the gorge on the back veranda. The menu may have had its limitations but the authenticity of the dishes didn't (except perhaps for the Dutch feta which sometimes made it into the salads...): fresh vegetables picked daily from their perivoli and local meat and fish of the highest quality. Whether it was the sophisticated rabbit casserole in a delicate clove sauce or the honest blandness of a yellow chip omelette, one always left the restaurant heartily fed and often a little drunk.

But to tell you the truth, even if the food had been less wondrous, I would still have eaten at Maria and George's a few times a week. Firstly because every evening, no matter who or how many were dining there, it was like a big family meal. Indeed, many Mitatan families whose elderly matriarchs no longer felt obliged to cater to visiting relatives from Australia and the USA every night of the summer would eat at Stamatakou's because it was home cooking without cooking at home.

The second reason why I dined there as often as possible was because Maria and I had adopted each other. Although I towered two feet above her she called me "Dimitraki" (little Jim) and would scold and pamper me as if I were her grandson. During one of my longer periods of vegetarianism
she pointed out how pale I was getting as a result even though I was brown as a peanut from the Grecian sun. And she was sure that my incessant letter-writing on the poorly lit front veranda would send me sightless overnight and duly slapped on all the lights as soon as I produced a pen, blinding all those around me as well as myself.

Her sparkling speaking voice could be heard half-way across the village, and her regular squawks at the dozen kittens she kept underfoot probably kept the Viarathikans from across the valley up until late. She giggled like a schoolgirl and laughed like a dainty bell. She could handle a compliment without any false modesty but never forgot to give God his fair due of credit for her skills.

She and George kept the restaurant open well into their retirement years which gave the village a huge advantage over many other Kytherian horia who barely managed to keep a general story open during the daylight hours. I'm sure I'm not the only "youngster" to have Maria and George to thank for keeping the village lively enough to inspire us to stay on and come back year after year.

George died a few years ago to the great sorrow of the whole island not to mention his family in Australia and those of us to whom he showed ceaseless hospitality. Maria laid down the spoon and had a couple of years retirement before opting for the kind of service she had offered so many thousands of guests for decades: she took a room at the nursing home at Potamos.

Last week I learned that she had passed away in November. One of the great mothers of the island – although ironically she had no children of her own – is gone. But as with all those who have loved and inspired others, she remains with us in some of our fondest memories.
James Prineas. Kythera-Family.net Team Leader Europe

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Kytherian Lecture & Kythera-Family.net Presentation
in Sydney on the 7th of December, 2005

As part of a tour by the distinguished professors of Kytherian origin George N Leontsinis and Athanasia Glykofridi-Leontsini, the Kytherian Association of Australia has organised a lecture on December 7th at the Castellorizian Club,
440-444 Anzac Parade, Kingsford. Professor George N Leontsinis will give a "Kytherian Lecture" beginning at 6:30. This will be followed by a talk by James Prineas - the European Team Leader of Kythera-Family.net - entitled "The Virtual Extended Family". The presentation will cover the website's acheivements and the huge potential it still has to connect Kytherians, preserve heritage and recreate our link to our family history which has all but been lost since extended families ceased living under one roof or even in the same village.
Admission is free.
6:30 PM
Castellorizian Club
440-444 Anzac Parade

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Letter from Kythera November 2005
by Rowan Parkes, our school-student island reporter

Everybody started sneezing and wheezing with the first chills, but although our colds linger on, the rain did not and we are enjoying a surprisingly mild and often sunny November, everything is lush and green, the cyclamen wink from the road sides, the heather changes from lilac to rust red and the moon waxes and wanes in starry skies.

The end of October brought an end to Kythera's annual hosting of photographic exhibitions and seminars for this year. For myself, having seen both the modern photography in the students exhibition in the old school building behind the Gerokomeion and the usual black and white classic photography show in Potamos centre I was slightly disappointed, but that really only tells you that last year was exceptional, not that this year's work wasn't good. Sadly I didn't get the opportunity to visit Kristina Williamson's exhibition in Karavas, however the word of mouth reviews I heard were very positive, the theme was of course her year of integration in to the community and her study of the people and their everyday life, as well as special events such as local celebrations, weddings etc, from what I gather all the local visitors enjoyed pointing and saying "ooh look, there's a lovely picture of your daughter in laws second cousin once removed!", so the island's thanks go out to Kristina for her diligence and talent, and we shall miss her good humour and darting, snapping figure among the carnival crowds now that she has returned to her native land...

Another annual event was October the 28th, accompanied by the usual parade by the Chora schools from Kindergarten through to Lyceum, the national anthems, the laurel wreaths below the statue - everybody clapping extra hard and saying "awww" when the last of the resistance heroes, a tiny stooping little figure marches up, tears in his eyes, to pay his respects with a wreath.

And so winter sets in, the Lyceum teachers have finally all arrived - only a month or so late -, the neighbours are banging about putting up an extra chimney against the onslaught of the cold, the string orchestra screech away in happy harmony, or disharmony depending on whether they practised this week or not, and the quiet out of season life on the island goes on in its usual loud and uncouth manner.

I think I mentioned in my last letter I was going to recommend a few investment possibilities for any Kytherian fans who would like to make a much needed contribution to the island. For the sports fans, I have already published an article about the Kytherian sports/athletics organization, which continues its efforts regardless of lack of finances, and could use a helping (full) hand. For the more musically minded the newly founded local string orchestra are in dire need of sponsors, both for teacher's financing and for less fortunate children who want to join but are having trouble buying the instruments etc. And for the more cultural reader, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk with Manolis Daponte, a treasure of information on the island, and who, unbeknown to most, is responsible for the construction of the port in Kapsali, as well as a myriad of organized events on the island, including the first water skiing institution in Greece! This wonderful man has published no less that three books, and though they are not translated into English, for anyone who has any love of the island they are a mine of information and wonder... not to mention the fact that it would no doubt give Manoli great pleasure to see his work appreciated, even by a few.

Sending you all regards from a very colourful autumn island…

Rowan Parkes
[email protected]

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