At a time when, on a global scale, forests are disappearing as result of global warming, desertification, expansion of urban places and disastrous forest fires, Vlahokerasiotes, Kerasiotes, Kolliniates and Kalteziotes are fortunate to be surrounded by the Skiritida Forest ― an artificial forest in the heart of Ancient Skiritida. In the region, there had been a dense natural forest, which however was uprooted as a result of woodcutting following the breakout of the 1821 Revolution. The reforestation of the region, for ecological and economic reasons was envisioned by the forester and pioneer ecologist Anastasios G. Stefanou, when he returned to his home village, Kerasia (Arvanitokerasia), in the decade of the 1910s after his studies in Germany.
His vision became a reality, four decades later, in the early 1960s, when Stefanou was President of the “Kerasiotes Union”, following the initiative of the Association (seat in Athens), the support by other associations of neighboring villages (Vlahokerasiotes, Kolliniates and Kalteziotes) which also had their seat in Athens, and the subsidization by national budget. The residents, men and women, from the neighboring villages (Kerasia, Vlahokerasia, Kollines, Kaltezies, Alepochori and Mavroyianni) took part in the reforestation. The daily wages fluctuated between 30 and 50 drachmas, depending upon the task (planting, digging, etc.) while at the same time, there was a provision for a bonus for those, who worked seven days continuously.
We begin the present thematic category with photographs and hyperlinks which concern Anastasios G. Stefanou and the creation of the artificial forest and continue with materials on the flora, fauna, the landscape and protection of the Skiritida Forest. The hyperlinks are concentrated on Stefanou as the source of inspiration and the history of reforestation. Worth reading is the article by Angeliki Katsafanas, which deals with the life and work of Stefanou as a high-ranking official of the Federal Forest Services of the Ministry of Agriculture ―work that transcends the narrow limits of his village. The ransacking of his statue that had been erected in the middle of the forest in his memory by unscrupulous “citizens” provoked great sorrow and anger among all of us. As Kiki notes, it is an obligation of all of the organizations which collaborated in reforestation to cooperate in the reconstruction of the statue. It is a debt toward the pioneer of sustainable development, a debt toward the younger generations to protect our cultural heritage.
Also worthy of reading are the excerpts from the publications of the “Union of Kerasiotes” which concentrate on the Skiritida Forest and which were edited by Stefanou himself. The excerpts will inform you about the rationale for the reforestation, the systematic documentation of the proposal submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture by the Attica Associations, the protagonists in the project, the process of reforestation and the post-reforestation visionary plans of Stefanou which still await their realization. Finally, we note that the reforestation project was one of the accomplishments of the “Union of Kerasiotes”, for which, among others, the Union of Kerasiotes was awarded by the “Academy of Athens”.
A very interesting hyperlink involves two articles on the Skiritida Forest written by H. S. teacher, Panagiotis Panagoulias, which we republish from the “Voice of the Village” (Nos. 17-18, 1988) and which contain significant data about the characteristics of the Skiritida Forest and the life of the “people of bygone days” (Vlahokerasiotes), who lived and worked in the vicinity of the Forest.
We round up this unit with photographs and hyperlinks which deal with the “Vlahokerasia Trekking Trail”, which passes through a major part of Skiritida Forest. The material focuses on Tasos Mitsios, the protagonist who pegged out the trekking trail. In an interlink/article by Kiki Katsafanas we learn about the motives of the creator, the transfer of this cumulative knowledge/experiences about other trails to his village, the exploration and marking out of the trail and the multiplier effects on the local economy. These materials are further enriched by a hyperlink/video clip from the U-tube, which transports us, virtually, to the alternating and captivating landscapes [of the trail], the multi-color flora, the ruins of mills, which in times past, were pulsating with life, and to natural springs/stations where some time ago the farmers, shepherds and their herds stopped for a rest and where the modern trekkers can stop to quench their thirst.
The present unit can be enriched with new materials (photographs, documents, narratives and films/video clips) for the Skiritida Forest and the Trekking Trail by compatriots, visitors and the trekkers who have relevant files in their private archives. Documents for the expropriation of private plots for the planting of the artificial forest would be priceless for us. Moreover, a more comprehensive study of flora and fauna of Skiritida Forest would be of special interest. Finally, of special interest to us would also be studies of the fruit-bearing trees (e.g. chestnut and walnut trees) which were planted in the forest as well as studies of the viability of the Skiritida Forest.
Nikos P. Petropoulos
VDM Committee Coordinator
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