From: (LYNGOS 2)
Date: 3 Apr 1998 06:37:19 GMT
Lines: 293
Message-ID: <>

Good morning to all.

Today I am continuing the translations of George Modis' Makedonians Stories with the one by the title ""Pictures from Paylos Melas Journey"". In it we can see the real situation of those days to the West of Florina. We can see that the only makedonians of those days were the ones with the Greek conscience and heart. The ones that were speaking the idiom of the land, the Arvanitika, the Greek language. The ones that knew about Alexander's days, about the  Greek coins, about the Greek marbles. The Makedonia of those days was the Makedonia that they were trying to free from the Turks, in the name of Greece.

The Bulgars were the other enemy,  and is becoming clear from Kotas speech. The SKOPIANS of today, are trying to present their theories based upon the use of a language that has nothing to do with the land, but don't forget that the language was never an important issue, and everybody can understand it from today's posting. In addition certain ""bitter " truths come up, truths about the Theotokis goverment, and it's relation with the Turkish goverment. The fact that Melas was received on those mountains as the liberator sent from Mother Greece, is plenty of proof for the real  positions and expectations of our villagers. The only Makedonian conscience existing those days was the one associated with Greece. The Skopian was developed much later, by Tito , for Tito, and his leftovers.

Also all the members of the Church were part of the Greek Orthodox, and in other places part of the Exarchate. As i posted the other day under the title SKOPIANS and CHURCH, those days the SKOPIAN church, the one that today wishes to name it's self thwe Ma-c-edonian church was NOT existing. Do not allow the Skopians to tell you that their clergy fought the Turks  in order to free Makedonia. They had NO Church, they had NO flag, they had NO country, but above anything else they did not have a dream, a dream of a FREE MAKEDONIA.

The translation is again mine.......apologies for the mistakes............

Enjoy it............


It was the 12th of March 1904 when arrived up-high in Vogatsiko's mountain, the Comission of Officers, sent by the Goverment of Theotokhs, in order to study the situation in Makedonia, and find out if we could, us too, start the struggle. It's members were, Pavlos Melas, George Kolokotronhs, who died as a major during the Greek-Bulgarian war of 1913, Anastasios Papoulas, commander-in-chief in Asia Minor, who was executed in 1935. President and leader was, the then captain and later lieutenant general, Alexandros Kontoulhs. With them were the "Oplarxhgoi"" (chieftains) , Kotas, Lakhs Pyrzas  from Florina, Payvlos Kyrou from Antartiko, who fell in an ambush by the Komitatzhdes in 1906, and who was "the" excellent guide. He knew every square inch of the land all the way to the border. There were others also, 30 all together with guns, a real army corps of Antartes.

     Kontoulhs entered the Turkish  soil from the Kalampaka territory, riding on a "villagers" horse, with a passport showing him as a dealer in livestock. The Captains those days were not too young, and anything but short, was himself(The name Kontouilhs in Greek means short guy...L.). The rest  walked hard through the forests and canyons. They crossed mountains and rivers, while it was snowing and raining, They slept on top of mud and snows, they got hungry, thirsty,they sweat, they got cold.  In Venetiko, a river of Grevena, Kolokotronhs' saddle moved and found himself in the fast running and cold  water, with his foot caught in the ropes of the horse. He was going to drown if it wasn't for the others that run to help him. Hlias Gkantoushs from Antartiko also fell in the water.

     On Vogatsiko's mountain they entered into the small church of the prophet Hlias, and they slept on the flat stones. The guides had told them, in order not to disappoint them, as it was their habit, that in one hour, at the most three quarters of an hour, they were going to find themselves up there on the lair by the church. But they needed, walking fast, three ""desperate"" hours, as Melas has written.

     Thick fog was covering  the whole place. They couldn't see ""five meters"" ahead of them.  The next day they went down a little farther in the church of ST.Athanasios, which was bigger and had layers of wood as floor.

     In there, arrived to welcome them, the teacher from Vogatsiko, Athanasios Iatrou, older, fat, heavy. It took a heroic try to go up the steep, hard, full with rocks, uphill road. Yet, he had a load of a big bag full with loukoums, crackers,bottles with ouzo,boxes with cigarettes etc.

     Dripping wet in his own sweat,  breathing heavily he shows up at the door of the church.

     He took an agitade glance inside. He made sure that they were not  Kleft-Andartes, with dirty fustanellas, tsaprazia, tsarouxia, but much different ones, officers for sure, according to their fame. He recognized from the photographs, Melas, son in law of the Dragoumis family,  with origins from Vogatsiko. He took a step.......but all of a sudden he turned into marble, he became dumb, and  he melted in tears. Standing straight, agitade, he was wiping off sweat and tears. The rest were staring at him,  full of surprise and emotion, at this elderly man who was crying like a baby. The teacher was fighting hard to restrain himself, he took another step, and retreated in order to whisper:

.....You......You.....forgive me........I don't.......I don't .........know what is happening to me. I.....I wanted.........I wanted to........

     Most likely he had prepared a welcoming speech, but again unrestrained tears had the best of him.  Melas stood up first, and then the other two officers, and they gave him each one kiss.

.....Your tears and  your emotion are speaking better than any kind of oration, Melas told him.

     The poor teacher gathered together himself in a corner and kept crying. He was ashamed to give them his hand, and for a  time he didn't open his mouth again.

     Later arrived up there  two priests and two of the elders from Vogatsiko, older and very tired themselves. They didn't have the patience to wait for them and meet them during the evening when they were going down to the village. They chose to go up the mountain like Moses, up the difficult mountain,a true Calvary, to them, in order to meet them one hour earlier.

     They gave them assurances that the 50 fighters from the village where ready to grab the guns. While they were returning, a blow of the wind grabbed the hat of Papadhmos. Next morning, many women went around to look for it, in the deep of a canyon. If the Turks were to find it first, they were going to understand that one of the priests from Vogatsiko went up the mountain to meet ""shadows"".

     From Vogatsiko they went to the monastery of Tsirilovo, that is on a side, above the village bearing the same name, and across from the lake of Kastoria. In the afternoon of the same day two Turks ""Tzelephdes"" ( for the taxes of sheep and goats)  attempted to stay in the monastery. But two old women showed up, half-nuns, and they told them that they couldn't accomodate them because the abbot was away and they were by themselves. The Turks left with insults and threats that they were going to notify the authorities, that they were entertaining that night Komitatzhdes in the monastery.  And yet the abbot received them with great willingness and guileless enthusiasm.

     Kontoulhs was waiting for them in there. At midnight the Arch-bishop of Kastoria was to arrive. But with all the rumors that finally Greek officers had arrived for  Andartes, the population in Kastoria became uneasy and started provocative displays, and as a result the Turks placed four in prison and were guarding the Arch-bishop very close............

     The abbot was old, around 70 years old. Melas is writing about him: <<Very seldom one meets a better looking man. He is of very high stature, with the  appearance of a Prussian officer, with all-white beard and the hair, very vivid and restless eyes, skin without wrinkles and very white. He is very smart. And he has inextinguishable hate against the Bulgars>>. He was from Tsirilovo and speaking Bulgarian. He placed in the big ""onta""( room ) the four officers, Kota, and Pyrza. At noon of the next day he chopped with his ""very white"" hands a baked lamb. In the evening he set the table again and then they left towards the villages of Kotas, ""for Kotas kingdoms"" as Kontoulhs was writing. He gave them, both mules of the monastery, to load them with the wool coats and the backpacks, and to mount them the ones that would become tired. They were going to walk for 8-10 hours on the mountains . The abbot was pulling one of the mules and he was walking ahead, for a long time and for a long  distance. Melas is writing: <>.

     Sometime, the youthfull old-man stopped, blessed and kissed all in a row and was saying :<< God and Panagia  be with you brave ones. It is  very big , the task that you undertook. With Christ's help we are going to win. We are going to crush the enemies, Bulgars and Turks>>.

     He returned after that on foot, alone in the dark, to the far away and tall monastery.

     During the march, we took a devious course to Sidhroxori (Sistevo) for Kotas to see the widow of his follower Ioannou Papanastasiou, whom, Tsakalarof cut in pieces after  treason , and gave her something for Easter. She had seven young children! The poor woman  fell in the arms of Kottas and both were crying with big tears. Papoulas and Melas  gave her each a golden coin. The widow and her oldest  child, 10 years old followed them for some time and kissed  them all <<crying >> as Melas is writing.

     After the abbot's kisses,  those came too, a real << widow's mite>>.

     Around morning's  twilight they stopped at Gavros (Gampresi) and they entered the house of Ntaliphs, who was Kota's soldier and fell as Chieftain in 1906 crippled by the Turks in an ambush by the Komitatzhdes: << Melas is writing, a young woman  villager opened the outside door for us, making light with a torch. The yard is plenty large. In it are running like crazy many small pigs, goats,and lambs that we awakened and scared them. On the balcony of the xayiati, are showing up all kinds  of women and children, old men, old women, youths, about fifteen of them. As soon as they recognize Kotas, laughs and joy are following. The happiness for Kota's presence and his return is indescribable. All the villages are  worshipping him.>>.

     Melas remembered the family of his father in law, Stefanos Dragoumis, one with many members too, <<where someone lose his direction>>.

     The next day, Melas visited with Kolokotronhs the school. The teacher was someone who was working as assistant-builder (<<Phloforos>> carrying the mud as Melas is writing)  in Athens.  Many those days from Korestia were working as builders in Athens. He studied in the evening school of Parnassos and he was the best in the area-----relatively speaking---. Most of the other ones were lame and hunchbacks, who were able to teach  the children a little of reading without understanding the text very well themselves. In the afternoon they spoke to a meeting of the villagers. Kotas on his knees, in his traditional uniform, was talking in the local idiom, with great eloquence and even greater persuasiveness.

      He was saying: <<From here , the Greek border is three days away. The Bulgarian border is thirty days away and they are full with thorns. We are receiving the guns and the bullets from Greece. Our fathers were always Greeks, so they were our grand-fathers and they fought the Turks as Greeks. The old coins that are found in our land have Greek letters. You know these things. These ones here are from Alexander the Great and from Filip------and he showed them---- Greek letters  are  the ones on  the marbles also.

 I mean the soil  and the land is Greek. How could we be Bulgars ?

We are Makedonians. What relation could we possibly have with the Bulgars >>?

     In Roulia, Kota's village, that today is bearing his name, went to welcome them three elders from Pisoderi, the <<mouxtarhs>> Xasopoulos-----Melas baptized the mouxtarhdes ""Mayors"" because those days were not existing ""Presidents of the Communities""-----the grocer Gkogkos, and Xatzhkotshs, nephew of the-- clergyman of the Holy Land---Archimandrite Modestos, who built a very big school in Pisoderi and established among other things, a fund in order to have two children from Pisoderi and Monastiri study in the University of Athens .One day a gang made up of  Albano-Bulgaro-Greeks  arrested him.  But instead of  them taking a  few golden coins from him, he took plenty of  golden coins from them, for the  Holy Sepulchre !...............

     It had become a common secret  among our people, the arrival of the Committee of the Officers with the army corps. The snow was coming down very thick.

     In the beginning the three persons from Pisoderi are shy and  hesitant. They are limited to the basic salutations:<<Welcome. Are you OK? God  take care of your children and your families. How was your journey ? You must be tired Long and difficult the road etc.>> Slowly-slowly the conversation is becoming warmer and the emotion increases. They mentioned the today's Komitatzhdes and the old Antartes who had fought in  those places in 1896 and 1897 and even earlier. At that point all three of them stand up, hug and kiss the officers.

They accumulated many kisses on their journey............Melas is writing: << Then,  we see how much  enthusiasm,  they are having within their chests, all these patriots,  whom our officials were never able to understant........We are opening our heart to them and they are opening theirs>>.

    At some instance Xasopoulos tells him :
Kapetan Paylo------that's the way Papoulas ( Kapetan Tasos) introduced him ---I have seen your picture at Papastayros.

-----Must be someone else looking like me.
-----Never mind if you are not him. We are going to love  you as if you were him.

     When the conversation turned around Modestos, Xatzhkotshs told him: You do know  my uncle well Paylo.

     Also in Karyes of Prespa, the old priest told him confidetially:

-----I saw your picture at Papastavros. He told me that big things are about to happen, as soon as this man comes up here. God  help you my child, and he winked his eye  to reassure him that he was going to keep the secret well............

     Melas was trying not to give himself away, because he was afraid that the responsibles in Athens might call him back, something that after all, he  was unable to accomplish.

     In Antartiko (Zelovo) arrived to welcome the Committee, Papastayros, the famous priest of Pisoderi. He  was corresponding with Melas. He knew him personally too. There was not a chance of hiding from him. He was holding on his shoulder a short rifle.

     Instead of coming close, he stood straight across, and began singing with all the power of his lungs the << Mayrh ein'h nyxta sta vouna>>( The night is black in the mountains) and the << O ligyron kai kofteron spathi mou >> ( oh  slender and sharp  sword of mine). He arranged the last one and he substituted the <<Eseis ton Tourko sfaxate, ton  tyranno sparaxate >> (You  slaughtered the Turk, the tyrrant  you made him squirm), with << ton Tourko sfaxate, ton Boulgaro sparaxate>>, (  You slaughtered the Turk, the Bulgar you made him squirm).

Everybody becomes enthusiastic and are helping him <<all together>> Melas is writing. And Papoulas even though he was sick,  he sang a nice song of the kleftes with his "deep" and "sweet" voice. Papastyros gave as a present to Melas a "Kompoloi" and a "European knife". << He was drunk from enthusiasm >>, Melas is writing.

     Two years later though, he fell with two more from Pisoderi, in an ambush by Komitatzhdes, who they deceived  them  with  a fake letter, telling them that they were the new Greek Antartes army-corps. Papastayros within his enthusiasm didn't take the time to check out the invitation.

     Kontoulhs, Melas, Kotas, Pyrzas, with 8 men left for Prespa. Kolokotronhs remained in Antartiko in order to keep company to the sick Papoula. They walked in deep darkness with many difficulties because of the snow and mud, in order to climb the pass <<Prevali >> and with even more difficulties to go down.

     At Karyes (Orovnik) where they stopped, the next day they had a meeting of the people and many  others from the close villages, who ran to meet them, as it did happen in all the other places that they went through.

     Again everybody gave speeches. Kontoulhs (Kontoulhs was from Eleysina.He was communicating with Kotas in the Arvanitika language. He had loved him and appreciated him and in his later years he became a poet because of him.He wrote a small book after many years ,his biography, that ends with a poem dedicated to his hero. On the bottom, from one end to the other there was his signature: Alexandros Kontoulhs, Lieutenant General ) , had  a lot of success. He spoke to them in Arvanitika, that most of them were understanding. The "Mouxtarhs" of Mikrolimnh (Lhgka)  became so enthusiastic that he hugged him and kissed him and told him: << Now that our  King remembered of us and sent you , give us guns and don't worry>>. Another co-villager of his brought news from Iona Dragoumis who was serving in the Greek consulate of Monastiri. They were going to Kallithea (Rountari) for the evening. But a woman taking many precautions, arrived, sent from St. Germanos, and told them not to go, because that night the Turks were going to have a search in Kallithea with 40 soldiers, regarding the ""Tzelepi"" the tax for the sheep and the goats.For each sheep they had to pay 5 "grosia" per year, one golden drachma. The Turks used to make searches and  were counting, in order to make sure that the livestock farmers ------the Christians of course-----had declared the exact number of sheep. If they had gone, the clash  was going to have happened for sure, with bad consequences.

     The woman and the ones that had sent her, had played with their heads literally. If the komitatzhdes were going to find out , they were going to cut them into  pieces. Kotas had even in the villages of Prespa, that were not part of his ""Kingdom"",  a magnificent organization, awake, and alive.

But at the same time all those villagers, speaking a different language and being unpolished, were fighting in any possible way and  making sacrifices in order to protect the Greek Officers, who were coming for the first time on their land. This is the explanation about how come for so long time the Turks and the komitatzhdes didn't bother them, while they were going around many villages, visited schools, went to churches , spoke in meetings, and received big Committees from other villages. If the Bulgars knew  exactly in which village they were, they were going to send the Turks. They were going to inform the Turks officers that in that village were existing Greek komitatzhdes. They were planning to go to Kallithea the next evening. However a "half-crazy with rags" showed up as Melas is writing, a begger, bringing a message in code from the consulate, a real thunder for Melas. The goverment was ordering him to return to Athens immediately, because the Turkish Embassy was complaining!

Melas resisted. He prepared  his resignation from the ranks of the army, but in the end, under pressure from Kontoulhs was forced to yield ""very sad to death"". Dressed like a Sarakatsanos he went to Monastiri and as dealer in livestock left with the train for Thessaloniki. The  railroad workers, almost all of them Greeks and marvelous patriots, helped him.

     The letters from Melas to his wife, gentle and enlightening, come also to an end.

George Sofoklis Tsapanos

Regards to all.......L.

[Previous] [Next]
[Back to Index]