mariël tten

Το όμορφο χωριό μας - Ζιάκας in 1983

 

mariël otten © 2012

     
 
Pindochori 1983 → Ζιάκας 2013
October 1983
Maps
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

PICTURES

Ζιάκας 1983
Γρεβενά
Σπήλαιο
Ζιάκας revisited 1986

See also:

Vrouwenstudies een afweging [Dutch]
 

left, write and riki van boeschoten [2012]

mariël (μαρία) otten

The topic of my research study was the return and repatriation of political refugees. My supervisor, Hans Vermeulen, told me that in this particular village the percentage of 1940s refugees was as high as 90%. I stayed in the village from 3 October until 14 November 1983. I interviewed 87 villagers, some only briefly, others more frequent and in-depth. In addition, I collected a lot of data from the population registry. I wrote a report and passed the field work test.

Going over my notes and listening to the interviews on tape, once again I am amazed by the eagerness of the villagers to talk open-heartedly about their lives. If the language had not presented such a problem, getting acquainted with the people in Ζιάκας might have resulted in a book on how people in a small community cope with the impact of war and civil war. I wrote a book on transmigration in Indonesia instead.

There are several reasons why I did not write my graduate thesis on Ζιάκας. First of all, language had proven an unbridgeable barrier. My command of Greek wasn't very good and most villagers didn't speak Greek at all but, let's say, χωριάτικη (as in χωριάτικη σαλάτα, Greek salad). Therefore I had not been able to collect sufficient and reliable data. Another reason was the sensibility of the topic itself. During my stay in the village I was warned about tensions between "left" and "right" burning underneath the surface - as if, one day soon, war could start all over just like that. I got the impression that the balance between the two ("right" being there, "left" coming back in mounting numbers) was checked on a daily basis. The most important consideration, however, was reluctance on my part to "use" these people and their stories to get my thesis done.

Perhaps I had, already before going to the field, recognised how biased I was. After all, I participated in demonstrations in Amsterdam against the military junta and still get goose bumps each time I hear Pablo Neruda's "Canto General" being performed in the Athens stadium in August 1974. The military junta in Greece gone, Pinochet taking power in Chile. That incredible moment-in-time captured by Μίκης Θεοδωράκης, Πέτρος Πανδής, Μαρία Φαραντούρη and the audience in the stadium.

I was convinced of the inevitability of taking side with the (former) partisans. Because they had fought and beaten the Italians at the Albanian front, they had resisted the Axis occupation of their country, they had struggled for a more righteous society. Reducing these people who had been willing to be interviewed about their traumatic experiences into footnotes in a graduate thesis I considered an insult.

Perhaps, after being in the field, I realised how biased "science" is. I used to say that in Ζιάκας I became an anthropologist. It is probably more accurate to say that in Ζιάκας I learned to be an anthropologist without behaving like one.

Shortly after my return I had a meeting with Riki van Boeschoten. She studied folk and partisan music and had also ended up in Ζιάκας. Supervisor Hans Vermeulen had given her my field report. What she hoped to get from me was the information from the population registry. I didn't feel comfortable with that and told her how I acquired the data. Without the data I would have more or less returned a failure, so I had pressured the secretary to grant me access. Only a few days before I left, we spent the entire afternoon in his office. I wrote down for all 1,125 entrants (giving them numbers instead of names) the year of birth, gender, family composition, where they lived in exile and current place of residency. He asked me several times why I needed all these data and what I intended to do with it. Then he told me the next day we would burn all the pages containing the information in the oven where we also roasted chestnuts. I sat up all night copying the data into another notebook.

Perhaps the field report and my account have in some way encouraged Riki to return to the village. Searching the internet - keyword "Ziaka" - I recently learned that she has lived many months in Ζιάκας over the period 1987-1996, talking about the "civil war", the παιδομάζωμα, the years of exile and repatriation. I discovered familiar names popping up in footnotes in publications on e.g. "the archeology of memory". Interesting stuff, somewhat theoretical, but after all she has become a professor herself (associate professor of social anthropology and oral history at the University of Thessaly). The important thing is that she did what I omitted to do: she gave the floor to villagers of Ζιάκας...
Her latest publication is "Children of the Greek Civil War: Refugees and the Politics of Memory" (with Loring M. Danforth), The University of Chicago Press, 2012: 321 pp.

I didn't know, before I left Amsterdam, that Riki van Boeschoten had visited Ζιάκας in May 1983. She returned in 1987, and for the next nine years she visited the village for a few months every year. She collected interviews (80 in all), both in the village and in neighbouring villages. In her profile on the internet, she says that "as work progressed" she received "a considerable amount of feedback from interviewees, some of whom actively cooperated in the production of a book with oral testimonies".

That book is "Περασάμε πoλλές μπόρες, κoρίτσι μoυ ..." (We passed a lot of rain-showers, my girl ...), Athens, Plethron, 1988.
You can understand that I would love to hold a copy of that book in my hand, even though I can't really read Greek, but just to glance at it, see if there are any pictures in it. For example: Is that my comrade on the cover?

The same goes for "Αvάπoδα χρόvια. Συλλoγική μvήμη και ιστoρία στo Ζιάκα Γρεβεvώv (1900-1950)" (Twisted Years. Collective Memory and History) Athens, Plethron, 1997: 249 pp.

Over the past weeks, after opening the box with all the Ζιάκας-related items, I have learned a lot about "the archeology of memory" myself. Perhaps, after such a long time, I am more biased or less biased than 30 years ago, the data even more unreliable. But I have come to the conclusion that the story of this remarkable village has to be told. The world should know that once upon a time there were people who shared a strong belief in a better future for their children. They are Greeks and we owe them.

LINKS: Το Παιδομάζωμα part 1 [10:55] and part 2 [10:27] and part 3 [8:24] with Riki van Boeschoten (Alpha TV: μηχάνη του χρόνου)
What I could find of Canto General 1974: Vienen los pajaros - America Insurecta - La United Fruit Co