Monday, 15 August 2016

August the Fifteenth, 1944.

What exactly happened in the upper village square of the Old Village in Alonnisos on the 15th of August 1944[1]? One hears various accounts, but in his commemorative speech this year[2] Doctor Georgios Athanasiou gave a full, clear and reliable account. Georgios has been kind enough to give me (Simon) a copy of his speech. The following is an English précis of the main points of the story:

 The murderers arrived in our island in the early hours of that blood-soaked day, some landing at Mikro Mourtia, others at Patitiri. On their way up to the village they deceived whomever they met by telling them they were ELLAS fighters, and fished for information about the national resistance movement. They wore no German uniforms or insignia.
On arrival in the village, with the help of local collaborators who knew they were coming,  they gathered all the men over 18 years of age into this little space[3]: Maniacally ringing the church bell they brought out everybody and announced that any man who didn’t appear would have his house burnt down and he himself be executed once found. It was now obvious to all that these so-called ELLAS fighters were the country’s enemies: murderous invaders and their Greek collaborators.
Next they read out the names from a list prepared by local collaborators of all those who belonged, or were suspected of belonging, to the resistance. Any who, hoping to escape, failed to answer to their names were pointed out to the murderers by local traitors. Once the deathly catalogue was completed, they stood the victims against the parapet and tied their hands[4] with the ropes from the pack-saddle of a nearby donkey.
During the few terrible moments of the execution, a bullet happened to sever the rope where it joined the last man to the series. Badly injured as he was he jumped over the parapet in a desperate attempt to escape. But the murderers had stationed a machine-gunner on the opposite hill, known as ‘Paliomylos’[5], (Where the restauarant ‘Astrofengia’ stands now) and the escapee was riddled with bullets. Nevertheless he managed to get away and took refuge in the nearby stream-bed known as Lakka. At once the women of the village, risking their lives, ran to give him — what else? Water. The seriously injured in battle always ask for water. After drinking the water he gave up the struggle for life. He was Athanasios  Xydeas, our beloved fellow islander, known as Thanasakis.
As soon as their dreadful crime was over, the German murderers and their collaborators set out for Patitiri where a boat was waiting for their escape. But before leaving local traitors led them to the house of Panayiotis Tsoukanas, near the church of Ayios Nikolaos. Panayiotis had been lucky enough to be out of the village when the roll was called. They burnt his house to the ground. Continuing towards Patitiri they reached, down by the Alonia[6], the house of Georgios Morisis, who had been among those executed. This house too they burnt to the ground.

The Victims:
Michael Kyriazis.
Nikolaos Alexiou.
Nikolaos Florous.
Agallos Anagnostou.
Agallos Agallou
Georgios Morisis.
Athanasios Xydeas.
Georgios Smyrnaios.
A tenth victim was Georgios Syrianos, a left-wing local politician from Volos, who was in Alonnisos at the time.
Two more people should be mentioned:
Yorgos Alexiou, who was fatally injured by the collaborating police officer Kourlos, and died on board a ship bound for Smyrna, where he was buried.
Nikos Athanasiou, a left-wing thinker, who was betrayed by Greek collaborators with the Nazis, taken to Peristera and tortured in an unheard-of manner: a metal band was fixed round his head and tightened with screws until the pain and brain-injury killed him.
From the commemorative speech given by
Georgios Athanasiou, August the 15th 2012.
Editing and translation ©Simon Darragh 2012.

I have had the above ready for several years now, for reading at the commemorative ceremony held each August the 15th here in Alonnisos in the square where the massacre took place. Every year I have asked the mayor for permission to read it. For this I have the backing of Doctor Athanasiou. Every year the mayor has refused permission, on the ‘grounds’ that no foreigners  come to the ceremony anyway.

[1] It is no coincidence that this day is that of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary; one of the most important dates in the Orthodox calendar.
[2] 2012.
[3] The upper village square, known as ‘Copria’ but recently re-named ‘Heroes’ Square’.
[4] That is to say, not only were their hands tied but the men were tied each to each in a series.
[5] ‘Old Mill’.
[6] Circular threshing-floors.

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