When I arrive in 1983, the village is known as "Zákas". I expect an isolated mountain parish. Approaching the village at dawn, I immediately realise I am wrong. Although many houses are deserted and sealed off, these are modern, newly-built houses.
One of the first things I set out to do is outline a map of the village, a complicated and suspicious activity which draws a lot of attention. Within a couple of days, villagers start asking me how many houses there are. I can only guess. There are ruins, old houses, new houses and houses under construction. Almost every month another house is finished. Many of the new buildings remain empty. Apparently uninhabitable
sheds, on the other hand, are occupied.
What we do know is that, before the 1940s, there were 155 houses, 200 families, 750 inhabitants.
By the end of the 1940s, the village is without any population at all. This is referred to as "η tραγωδία του Zιάκα" (the tragedy of Ζιάκας). Some have taken refuge in the nearby town of Γρεβενά. The majority, however, some 650 villagers, including 200 children (younger than 19 years of age), have fled across the border into Albania, whereupon they are resettled in various countries of the Eastern bloc. Most of the adults (72%) and children (80%) have ended up in Czechoslovakia.
In 1950, villagers started coming back, first 70 from Γρεβενά, followed by 30 refugees from abroad with the assistance of the Red Cross. In 1954, the borders are closed for exiles. In 1960, there are 100 inhabitants (80 families). Then villagers started leaving again, 40 left to find jobs in other Greek towns and cities, another 40 went as labour migrants to other European countries.
In 1983, Ζιάκας is inhabited by elderly people and three young families, joined by many more from all over the world in summer. The official number is 176 (80 men, 96 women), but not all of these actually live in the village year-round, e.g. many elderly spend the winter months elsewhere.