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The material of the present thematic unit is restricted to struggles of the recent Greek history, starting with the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire which, as known, occupied the Greek territory following the fall of Constantinople (in 1453). After the successful outcome of the Greek Revolution, the New Greek State gradually took form. The Greek War of Independence secured the liberation of the Peloponnese and part of mainland Greece. Then followed the annexation of Thessaly (1881), Macedonia after the Balkan Wars (1913), Thrace and the Aegean Islands (except for the Dodecanese) after the First World War (1919) and the Dodecanese after the Second World War (1947)[1]. Without doubt, the victorious battles of the Greeks on the Albanian Front (1940-41) and the coalition of Greece with the “Allies” (the winners of the war) were decisive in the enlargement of Greece after the Second World War.

In accordance with materials at our disposal (historical sources, documents, testimonies of survivors, inscriptions on memorials and tombstones), the Vlahokerasiotes took part in the 1821 Revolution, the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), the First World War, the Asia Minor Campaign (1920-1923) and the Second World War (1940-1944)[2]. The present unit also includes some materials on the participation of immigrant and second-generation Greek Americans in the First and Second World Wars on the side of the Allies.

We begin this unit with photographs and hyperlinks, which refer to the participation of Vlahokerasiotes in the Struggle for Independence (1821) and especially to that of Capetan Giannakas (Ioannis Apostolopoulos), one of Theodore Kolokotronis’ chieftains. The material on Capetan Giannakas includes a Memorial Plaque placed near his house and a statue of him erected in St.George’s churchyard at the entrance to the village. A photo of the Plaque is hyperlinked with the accompanying inscription with information about the sponsors, as well as with a video-clip of NET-TV from the unveiling ceremony (2012) with speeches from the Mayor of Skiritida (Kostas Katsafanas) and the President of the Vlahokerasiotes Association of Attica (Eleni Zeppos). The photo materials of the statue concentrate on the unveiling ceremony that took place on 7 July 2012 and was attended by representatives of the Church and the Local Authorities, a former Minister-descendant from Vlahokerasia and a large number of Vlahokerasiotes. We consider especially significant the hyperlinks with photos from the unveiling ceremony of the statue, which include a catalogue of donors and several video clips from a video-recording by NET-TV.

Activating these video hyperlinks, we hear: (1) the chorus of the Stasinopoulos Foundation (Tripolis), singing popular songs about the protagonists in the Revolution (2) the opening speech of the Vice-Mayor of Tripolis (K. Katsafanas) (3) the recitation of poems by Junior H.S. students (4) a fiery speech by secondary school teacher Kiki Katsafanas with references to the sculpture, Capetan Giannakas, the heroes of the Revolution and their current relevance and (4) an informative speech by secondary school teacher, Vasilis Kyriazis, who meticulously recounts the “Battle of Vlahokerasia” and the role of the Lacones and Arcades protagonists[3]. Finally, we see Stefanos Manos (former Minister) and representatives of local authorities, associations and descendants of Capetan Giannakas taking part in the laying of wreaths.

Additional historical materials (in Greek) on Capetan Giannakas, other Vlahokerasiotes who took part in the Struggle for Independence and a message [order] from Kolokotronis to several villages in the area (Arvanitokerasia, Vlahokerasia, Zeli, Kapareli, Vourvoura and Aloupochori), the visitor can find in Part I, “Anthology of Historical Events”, of the monograph Vlahokerasia: History, Demography and Folklore, by Angelos Bistolas et al. which has been incorporated as a hyperlink in the Vlahokerasia Digital Museum and can be found under the menu category “History – Traditions”.

The collection continues with materials on wars in the 20th Century: The Balkan Wars, the First World War, the Asia Minor Campaign, the Second World War (the Albanian Front) and the Occupation. This subcategory was organized on the basis of information inscribed on the Memorial of the Fallen which was erected in a plot (near the village church) donated to the community by Constaninos Siaperas (See Unit on “Benefactors of Vlahokerasia”). On the sides of the memorial, whose construction was subsidized by Constaninos V. Chronis, are inscribed the names of Vlahokerasiotes, who fell in the above wars. A supplementary list (see hyperlink) includes the names of Vlahokerasiotes who had fallen (15) or were missing (2) during the above wars, but were not inscribed on the Memorial of the Fallen[4].

We start with the materials relating to the Balkan Wars and the Asia Minor Campaign. Activating the relevant hyperlinks, the visitor will be informed about the fallen, the wounded, and the captured Vlahokerasiotes, the conditions of their captivity and death on the front, the correspondence between soldiers and parents or relatives (at departure and from the front), the participation of Vlahokerasiotes omogeneis in the Balkan Wars, and the various documents/orders issued by the Ministries of the Military and Finance for those who served on the Asia Minor Campaign (e.g. distinctions for bravery, death benefits for the parents of the fallen)[5]. Of special interest, we believe, is an excerpt from the book “Life in a Foreign Land” (Viographia Xeniteias) by omogenis George Zeppos, who entrusted his business (cinema) to his cousin and decided to return to Greece in order to support the struggle of the Greeks by taking part in the Balkan Wars (for more information about his life, see the unit, “Vlahokerasiotes Businessmen outside Vlahokerasia”).

We continue with photo materials and hyperlinks pertaining to the participation of Vlahokerasiotes in wars during the 1940s, and especially in the Albanian Front. The photo materials are restricted to the Albanian Front and the Occupation and concern mainly Vlahokerasiotes in Greece. On the other hand, the hyperlinks include testimonies, reminiscences, and narratives, which were collected by Kiki Katsafanas, Maria Kopitas and groups of Junior H.S. students. These involve Vlahokerasiotes, who took part in the Albanian Front campaign, children who recall their parents’ narratives and Vlahokerasiotes, who recount their own experiences of the Occupation. Exploring these hyperlinks, the visitor learns about: (1) the reactions of the villagers during mobilization for the Albanian Front (2) the hardships and the privations during the Occupation (3) the role of religion for survivors (4) the Vlahokerasiotes’ perceptions of the conquerors and (5) acts of resistance by Vlahokerasiotes.

The turbulent decade of the 1940s includes several hyperlinks which deal with the burning of Vlahokerasia by the Germans in 1944 (See a narrative by Giannis Zeppos, an article by Anast. Giannopoulos and a poem by Petros Petropoulos), the participation of Second Generation omogeneis in World War Two (Normandy Invasion or D-Day), and a “Certificate of Gratitude” granted to the families of soldiers fallen during the Civil War (1946-1949). The names of the latter are inscribed on the “Monument for the Fallen” during the decade of the 1940s.

We round-up the present unit with materials on compatriot, Ploutonas Houhoulis, Honorary Lieutenant-General, who was among the protagonists in the military operations in Cyprus during 1964 The materials include his biography, the numerous military decorations/awards he received, a handwritten note on his meeting with Digenis Grivas, a plaque commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Tillyria, a speech made by him (2003) on the significance of the 28th of October (OXI Day), and an article, downloaded from the internet, on Commando Battalion 31 and the Battle of Mansoura (Aug. 1964) and where several references are made to the military commander of the battle, “Lieutenant-Colonel Ploutonas Houhoulis”.

Undoubtedly, there are margins for enriching the present unit. We have a chasm between the 1821 Revolution and the Balkan Wars. Moreover, behind every Vlahokerasiotis who gave his life for his country, there is a hidden story that has to be told, whether or not his name is inscribed in the Memorial for the Fallen. Finally, as indicated above, our collection has gaps with regard to the participation of Vlahokerasiotes in the First World War and of omogeneis (especially Greek Americans) in the Second World War (European or Asian Front). Therefore, we welcome materials (documents, old photographs, etc.) which fill in the above gaps in our collection.

Nikos P. Petropoulos
VDM Committee Coordinator

Click here or on the image above to browse the flipping book.

 


[1] The Ionian Islands were ceded to Greece by the British in 1864 and Crete was united with Greece in 1913, following the Balkan Wars.

[2] As a result of the historical controversy between King Constantine (the “monarchists”) and Eleftherios Venizelos (the “Venizelists”) with regard to the alliances, Greece entered the First World War in 1917 (on the side of the “Allies”), three years after the war broke out. Greeks took part in the battles of 1917-18. Among them were also some Vlahokerasiotes (See hyperlink/article regarding supplementation of the list in Memorial for the Fallen).

[3] For technical reasons, the speech of Vasilis Kyriazis was not totally recorded. The visitor can read the transcript of the full speech (with some corrections}, a list of the participants from Vlahokerasia and Arvanitokerasia, new information on the battle at the “Zeli Straight” (stou Zeli to Isioma), and a poem dedicated to Capetan Giannakas, by clicking on the hyperlinks under the relevant photo caption.

We supplement the presentation of Mr. Vasilis Kyriazis with three texts from the “Voice of our Village” (Nos. 17/1988, 67/2000 69/2001) which deal with the same historical events: an article by George Ziakas on the “Battle of Vlahokerasia”, another article by Paraskevas Velissaris, “Looks (n. pl.) at the History of Vlahokerasia”, and an open letter by Elementary School teacher Constantinos Krekouzos to Constantinos Katsafanas, the Mayor of Skiritida, requesting of the local authorities that they establish a “local national holiday” to commemorate the hero, Antonis Nikolopoulos (from Laconia) who fell in the “Battle of Vlahokerasia”.

[4] This focus on Vlahokerasiotes in Greece excludes Vlahokerasiotes omogeneis who took part in allied operations during the First World War. For instance Georgios A. Kontogiannis was born in Vlahokerasia (1888), emigrated to the U.S. and was killed in the Battle of Argonne (1918). For more details read the inscription on his tombstone.

[5] Worthy of mention is another Vlahokerasiotis, Demosthenis Iliopoulos, who served as Chief Medical Officer during the Asia Minor Campaign. More information about his life and military service can be found in the sub-category “Medical Sciences and Applications”.