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Newsletter Archive > June 2009

Newsletter Archive

submitted by James Victor Prineas on 10.06.2009

June 2009

Dear Friends of Kythera,

I'm in Piraeus now after a week on Kythera. When I arrived it was still chilly at night and few people braved the cool Mediterranean. By yesterday the nights were balmy and the seats outside the cafés and restaurants full. Summer has begun.

In the middle of my stay on the island, one of my many wonderful aunts fell sick and I accompanied her in the back of an ambulance up to Tripoli on the Peloponnese. I would not wish that journey on my worst enemy, at least not with that driver. I don't have to tell you how wonderful I think Kythera and Kytherians are. But in the areas of safety and even common sense there is often something lacking. The ambulance driver, though friendly and courteous, drove like a maniac. My aunt was being transferred to another hospital for tests which couldn't be carried out on the island - it wasn't a life or death journey. Possibly because the driver wanted to get back to Neapoli before midnight, he drove, often speaking on not one but two mobile phones at the same time, at over 120km/h along the treacherous roads from Neapoli to Tripoli. We were thrown about in the back like dice in a shaker. As my aunt didn't want to be lying down travelling backwards all the way, the driver suggested she simply sit sideways on the bed. Without a seat-belt. How could a professional ambulance driver even consider allowing a 88 year-old frail and sick woman to balance sideways on a bed in the back of a speeding ambulance?
Fortunately there were some spare straps in the back of the ambulance with which I could fashion a belt for her. But even so, he drove so quickly, tailgating cars in front of him while breaking the speed-limit, that my aunt vomited twice and looked far worse on arrival at the hospital than when the journey had begun. I was so shaken by the journey that I preferred to take a bus to Athens and a flight from there back to Kythera, rather than return with the ambulance driver.

Hopefully the new hospital being built on Kythera - and the structure looks well-underway - will have new facilities which will make such journeys to other hospitals seldom necessary. Until it's finished I suggest, if you are in need of specialist treatment not available on Kythera, that you take the plane to Athens...

>On a lighter note:
A small miracle happened on Kythera while I was there. You might have notice the car-dump at the side of the road on your way from the airport. Until last Sunday there was a an old green and white school bus amongst the the rusty wrecks collected there. Looking inside you would assume that it hadn't driven for 20 years - the steering wheel stiff, the electronics hanging out everywhere, a missing radiator and an engine which would never turn a revolution again. But you'd be wrong. The yard's owner, one Kostas Andronikos, with a face and stature of an epic Trojan War hero, managed to bring the old bus back to life and drive it half way across the island. Kostas is a magician. Watching him scavenge through wrecks of other engines to find a missing part rivalled the concentration of a scholarly archaeologist looking for the final piece of a missing pot sherd amongst the rubble of Mycenae. Kostas' resourcefulness knew no end. The engine refused to stay cool, so in the end he loaded a thousand litre water tank inside the bus - we had already removed all the seats from it - and ran the radiator water through it. Despite this mammoth cooling system, the old engine created so much friction that it almost managed to boil the water in the tank - in only a thirty-minute journey from the airport to its new home just south of Karavas.

So if you ever need to get an old bus moving, Kostas is the man for you...

>The Flowing Island
One might excuse visitors to Kythera if they consider our island a bit dry and barren. Perhaps very dry and barren... Over the years I've discovered a few springs and pools on the island which, now I come to think of it, make the island quite rich in water. And I'm sure I haven't discovered all the fresh water sources. So I thought I could do a "Fresh Water Map" of Kythera. But I need your help. If you've discovered a summer stream, a gushing spring, or even a dripping rock on Kythera, let me know where it is so I can put it on the map which will go onto the website. Here are a few sources of water I can think of off-hand: the spring on the road on the way down to Pelagia; the Mitata and Viarathika "Brisis"; the stream at Karavas/Amir Ali; the Neraitha waterfall and the many pools down below it. What have I missed?


In our last newsletter I suggested energy-saving light bulbs as the perfect present for relatives on the island. Liz Muir sent in this addition:
"Just to let you know that Kapsanis Supermarket in Aghia Pelagia also sells a range of long-life energy saving light bulbs in different sizes and strength." Thanks Liz!

Best regards,

James Prineas (James@kythera-family.net)
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>Message Board

>LOOKING FOR BIRTH MOTHER

Helping out a friend, Minnie Hall, looking for her birth mother. Minnie was adopted in Athens in March of 1956 at 14 months of age.  She was supposedly born in Athens on 20 January 1955.  Her birth mother's name is listed as Anna Anastassopoulos/Anastasopoulos (Anna's father's name was listed as J. Anastassopoulos/Anastasopoulos).  Anna would have been about 19 years old in 1956.  Minnie's birth name was Angelika/Angeliki Anastassopoulos/Anastasopoulos.  Minnie was adopted by an American couple (adopted father was in the military).  If anyone recognizes these names, or could help point me in the right direction, it would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!
Peg Strachan (PeggieS@aol.com)
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>ONE YEAR ON KYTHERA
PHOTOGRAPHS BY KRISTINA WILLIAMSON
www.oneyearonkythera.com

June 5th - August 21st, 2009

The photographs are part of a photographic documentary Kristina Williamson made of life on Kythera over the one year period she lived on the island in 2004-2005.


Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20004-3027 Tel 202.691.4000
Exhibition Hours: Monday - Friday 9am-5pm
June 5th - August 21st, 2009

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>THE KYTHERA BOOKSHELVES PROJECT
Dear Fellow Kytherians and Philo-Kytherians,
Please take a moment to read about a very important grass-roots project whose aim to promote literacy on the island of Kythera.  
Kytherian Society of California member, Cynthia Cavalenes-Jarvis, is spearheading The Kythera Bookshelves Project, to furnish shelving for the first “lending library” on the island. The Kytherian Society of California, has pledged financial and technical support in hopes that other individuals and organizations will join the effort. Please review the website by clicking on the link below, and consider supporting The Kythera Bookshelves Project by making a tax deductible donation today. 
There are addresses on the website indicating where to send donations as well as a Paypal button for the convenience of donating online.
http://web.mac.com/vikvf/KSOC/Literacy.html
Your support will make a world of difference in the lives of children and adults on the island. Any amount you are able to offer would be greatly appreciated. Please forward this email to others who may be willing to help promote this worthy project.
Vikki Vrettos Fraioli
vikvf@mac.com

Secretary of Technology
Kytherian Society of California
http://web.mac.com/vikvf/KSOC/Home.html
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>EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS ON KYTHERA (7 June 2009)

The European Parliament elections were held in Greece on Sunday 7 June. The fine weather, the long weekend and a general sense of disgust with politics and politicians all made for a low turnout at the polls. In Kythera, the turnout reached 46% of those on the electoral rolls, with 2,361 votes cast for a grand total of 27 parties. Of these, six at most could be regarded as serious; the rest were assorted idealists, extremists, nutters, obsessive single-issue candidates and just plain jokers.

After a long spell of ongoing financial and political scandals, the country's mood swung decisively against the conservative New Democracy party (ND) headed by Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, giving the opposition Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) a win of sorts against the ruling party. Despite being a traditionally conservative island, Kythera went with the trend, casting 818 votes for PASOK and 796 for ND - a wafer-thin lead of less than one per cent. Some of the ND votes migrated to the ultra-nationalist, extreme right-wing LAOS party, which achieved a disgraceful total of 172 votes, making a grand total of 968 for the right.

However, repeating the same exercise on the centre and left, adding to PASOK's vote 141 KKE (dogmatic communist party) votes, 113 Synaspismos (Marxist coalition/Eurocommunists) votes and 81 Green Part votes, gives a grand total of 1,153 votes for the centre-left and left - a rather more convincing result, particularly for Kythera. Finally, 186 votes were shared by the other 22 parties.

John Stathatos (mail@arkiotis.com)

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>STORIES OF KYTHERA
by Maria of Lourandianika

As a child, I was raised by strict Kytherian standards. My parents instilled in me from a tender age to be proud to be a Kytherian Greek and for many years I didn't know that anything Greek wasn't also Kytherian.
 
My parents would come into the bedroom shared by myself and my sister every evening, tucking us in for the night, and then my father would sit in a chair at the end of our beds and tell us stories of his life. Of his time as a telecommunications officer in the war, or of the Nazi occupation in Kythera, when the men would continue working their fields and the women and children would continue with their lives, attempting not to bring attention to themselves.
 
Returning to Kythera some years ago, I found the family home in Louradianika which had stood empty for many years, after my beloved Uncle Nick had passed. It was untouched. Preserved from the last day of his life. For me this indicated how unblemished by crime our island was. There was no key to the house to be found, and my son David climbed through a broken window. It was obvious that no one had been in this deserted house during the many years it stood unoccupied.
 
I would often go to Hora, and seeing the police station, displaying our Greek flag, with just one police officer for the entire island, showed clearly that Kythera was an island where people felt safe. I recall the day when I was using the only taxi on the island, sharing it with our one police officer as he was going to the airport, leaving Kythera with no law enforcement officer. This spoke of the sense security which was part of island life.
 
Speaking to the few young people in Kato Livadi, I was told that no matter how well they performed in school, if the hair of the young boys reached the collar of their shirt, his grades would suffer. I was told this by a lad of about seventeen who excelled at school in physics and other difficult subjects. He could grow his hair a little during school holidays, but had to visit the barber before classes began again.
 
During my stay I would often go for long walks, covering areas which I had visited as a young girl. The track I followed was so clear in my memory: we had walked in single file, my parents, then my sister, then me. I passed a place where I vividly remembered seeing a snake raise its head, and the fear I felt. I came upon a stone hut fashioned as an igloo. I was fascinated to find these huts, and looking inside, I would find suitcases full of clothes. Babies clothes in excellent condition, children's swim-wear, and adult clothes, even lacy doilies, and so many personal items. A soldiers uniform as well. I asked myself, what stories this stone hut could tell if it could speak. What would it say of the soldiers uniform? What story would it tell as to why this clothing apparel and personal items had been left, hidden in this stone hut, so small, that I had to crawl to be able to enter it.
 
I continued on my long walk until I reached a Monastery which was now deserted and the gates locked. How strong were the memories of being there as a teenager, with my cousin the priest there, with his black hair and black beard. I was always the one full of mischief, and was dared by my sister to pull the priests beard. I did not give it much thought as he was so pleasant. I laughingly went up to him, and gave his beard a light tug. He was not impressed, and my parents pointed out to me that this behaviour was not acceptable. I should have learned my lesson that day, but still managed, during my year on Kythera, to get into trouble for my mischievous ways.
 
As I sat on the wall surrounding the Monastery, I felt that if I reached out, I would be able to touch the clear blue sky. The beauty of Kythera was so breathtaking. No cloud in the clear blue sky, no breeze even to cause a blade of  grass or small shrubs to move, pure peaceful beauty. As I sat, looking as far as the eye could see, made me realise why Kythera was called "The Isle Of Love".
 
Kythera may have changed radically since then, but for me Kythera will forever be in my heart and soul the "Island of  Love" which I loved as a child, then as an adult.
 
Maria (Marcellos) Whyte (maria.wwhyte@gmail.com)
 

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>BEWARE OF AHTENISTES BEARING GIFTS
by Kythera Correspondent Anna Cominos
When I first moved to Kythera in 1992 after endless childhood visits to see my yiayia Dimitra and papou Georgos Zantiotis, I slowly became aware that, the at first seemingly tight Kytherian local society is actually made up of sub-cultures like the ergolavi (masterbuilders), the dimosiee (public servants), the ekklisastiki (church faithfuls) the agrotis (rural farmers) the xeni (the foreigners) and the ahtenistes (the unkempt australians). I went about my life, begrudgingly aware that to for many people that I had little or no direct connection with I was simply "Anna, the Aufstraleza from Agia Pelagia", which they often called me to my face.
 
I didn't take it on board as the people who knew me and that I had direct contact with, referred to me as Anna or by my baptismal and paternal grandmother's name Theano. So since arriving with my bags in 1992 I have been actively involved in the local community, like all the other ahtenistes. I write for Sia Poulos' Kythera Summer Edition newspaper (due out in 2 -weeks), have journalled local events for the kythera-family.net, I have trodden grapes have picked olives, shared my neighbours grief and joy, ensured my voting rights were registered here and have spent all my Australian dollars here. I have translated English-language correspondence for my neighbours and even the local council. I've eagerly participate in communal festivities, have directed a play and along with Teena Papadopoulos have co-written and performed local comedies and satires.

The Ahtenistes, which is a minority that numbers probably no more than 20 Australian born-Kytherians and another 20 satellite players, also brought with them their huge skills-base. Drama teaching, painting, acupuncture, yoga, medical doctoring, project-planning, apart from their bi-cultural networks and access to information.
 
So when the issue of part-paying the teachers of the elementary creative arts course was discussed in the local council, the age-old Us vs. Them argument was dusted down. Considering that many 'seasonal workers' on the payroll of the local council never actually front to work, but faithfully draw a wage for politcal expediency and, under the advise of an actual council staffer, Teena and Daphne, who have teaching an extensive painting and drama programme for adults and teenagers, attempted to apply. Their queries were met with "they aren't Kytherians and I have heard them talk xena". When the story was relayed to me, I was directly taken back to my mother's story of being a 16-year-old fresh from Kythera, riding on a bus in Sydney talking Greek to her aged uncle and being told to shut and speak the Queen's English because now you are in Australia. 
 
Is the cosmic joker at work, or is it just plain old coincidence that since the Australian dollar has fallen so has the social value of Australian-Kytherians? As the post-war Kytherians who emigrated to Australia and America in the 1950's now age and so do their local siblings, the place of diasporic Kytherians is being relegated to expensive hotel rooms and a visit to tight-lipped extended family who go to lengths not to disclose common ancestral estates. When a local gives me grief about the power of the dollar, which was once considered a panacea, I set them straight: that Kythera is European, and that Europe is the new America and that Australians and Americans are now the Mexicans. 
 
OK so my language so far is wingy, negative and my glass of local wine is half empty, but it is painful to be told that you aren't Kytherian when Kytherian-blood flows through your veins. A positive application to addressing this mind-set would be the next time a grovelling entourage of local Kytherians fly into your city to raise money for a community project on the island, ask lots of questions. How will this enrich my child's bond to their ancestral island? Why do you need dollars - aren't there any sources for euros? What's in it for us the Kytherians of the Diaspora? Because the truth is that Kythera has survived and it will go-on surviving and while 'they' are focused on marginalising the Kytherians born in Australia and America, the children of the economic migrants will tomorrow emerge to marry their sons and daughters, because that's the way that history rolls.
 
This state of mind is isn't particularly Kytherian, not genetically anyway. My observation is that this passive racism goes hand in hand with the aspirations of the nouveaux riche and Kythera certainly has its nouveau riche, who have become extremely wealthy within a generation. If you don't believe me just check-out the cars on the road this summer. Political nepotism and wily foolishness are leading Kythera down the path of mediocrity and erasing its authentic family, which, like it or not, includes their Australian and American cousins.

Anna Cominos (acominos@hotmail.com)

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