mariël tten

Το όμορφο χωριό μας - Ζιάκας in 1983


mariël otten © 2012

Pindochori 1983 → Ζιάκας 2013
October 1983
η Τραγωδία του Ζιάκα
"My great-grandfather was a kλέφτ"
Return to laughter: I will not return a failure
Left, write and Riki van Boeschoten
Ζιάκας on the internet


Ζιάκας 1983
Ζιάκας revisited 1986

See also:

Vrouwenstudies een afweging [Dutch]

pindochori 1983 → zιάκας 2013

mariël (μαρία) otten © october 2012

An old man enters the καφενείο. He says: "Καλησπέρα", puts his walking-cane against the table and sits down. The persons present salute back as if he is a regular guest, but I have never before seen him in the village. The man gets a coffee and water. Nothing much is said. Afterwards I enquire about the man and it turns out he simply walked in after having spent thirty-four years abroad. The old man is one of the 60,000 refugees from the Greek civil war. His return, today, to this village and καφενείο seems like the most ordinary thing in the world. It is not.

In 2013, it will be 30 years ago that I did my fieldwork as a student of anthropology in a village in the mountains of northern Greece. The topic of my research was the return and repatriation of political refugees. I gave the village a fictive name, Pindochori, after prince Πίνδος who was killed by his own brother. There was good reason to be cautious. In post-war Greece, freedom fighters have been treated as traitors of the nation and exiled if not executed.

A significant difference between Pindochori 1983 and Ζιάκας 2012 is the monument that apparently has been erected in the village in remembrance of 1940-1949. Also, the names of those who fell in the 1940s are listed on the walls of the old church. Such a monument was unthinkable in Pindochori in 1983.

Three decades is a very long time. I suppose "Pindochori" does not exist anymore and I can call the village by its real name: Ζιάκας. Because most of the people I got to know in 1983 were already elderly, I must assume some are now deceased. Perhaps one day I have the opportunity to visit their graves and pay my respects.

In 1983, the so-called "civil war" still lingered in the area. Ζιάκας had been more or less the last frontier and in 1949, it was in ruins and deserted. The village had lost 90% of its population. This is referred to as "η tραγωδία του Zιάκα" (the tragedy of Ζιάκας). In 1983, villagers were predominantly occupied with reconstructing the village, restoring community life and reunifying families. Political refugees returned after many years in exile in countries of the Eastern bloc.

Living in Ζιάκας, in October-November 1983, has been an identity-shaping experience for me. Although I decided, before leaving the village, that I would not write my thesis on Ζιάκας, it was never "been there, done that" for me. Back home in Amsterdam, I put the two notebooks with data from the field, my diary (three notebooks), the tapes with interviews and songs, the pictures and all other Ζιάκας-related items in a box. Now, October 2012, I have opened this box and will tell you the story of Ζιάκας. The reason being the torrential flood of negative reporting on Greece and the Greeks.

After five hundred years of Ottoman rule, Greece became independent only in the 1920s. When Mussolini invaded the country in 1940, the Greeks said "No" and fought back. It was the first victory over the Axis in the Second World War. Greece put up fierce resistance in the years under German and Italian occupation... and paid a terrible price. In the war, 5-10% of the civilian population died, a million people were homeless and the economy in ruins. Occupation was followed by a so-called "civil war", between left-wing partisans and the conservative government backed by Britain and the US, which killed another 50,000, made a million more homeless, and resulted in 60,000 refugees. Then there was the US-backed military coup.

In Ζιάκας I spoke with villagers who have lived through all of the conflict and disaster mentioned above. Today the country is struggling again with its EU partners. "Europe" recently won the Nobel prize for peace and "peace" is what the Greeks need and deserve, if only because of its contribution to Europe's post-war peace. Reconstructing the past (what I try to do) is only useful if it has implications for the establishment of responsibilities. We owe them and this debt has not been paid off yet.

In support of today's Greece, I present "Το όμορφο χωριό μας (Our beautiful village) - Ζιάκας in 1983", memories of my days in the field as a student anthropologist, a tribute to those who fought for freedom, democracy and a more righteous society. The title is borrowed from the film Vangelis Zingopis made in the summer of 2011 (see "Ζιάκας on the internet").

I wish to stress that this webpage is not about Ζιάκας in 2012. It's about the village in 1983. It's about heroes turning into criminals because it was the desire of the world powers.

Since the issue of the "civil war" and the topic of "the return and repatriation of the political refugees" even today cause mounting emotions and political mayhem, most villagers are presented using fictive initials instead of their name.

Ευχαριστώ πολύ, Μαργαρίτα, for being my village companion, Ευχαριστώ πολύ, Σπύρος and Ευαγγελίδης for hosting me, Ευχαριστώ πολύ, Παπανικολάου family, Ευχαριστώ πολύ, people of Ζιάκας.

Last updated: 9 November 2012. This is a draft version. I still need to check some (Greek-language) texts and interviews. Some persons (in or related to Ζιάκας) have now been notified about the existence of the site. I am in anticipation of comments. Then I will do the final editing.