In Evia

In mid-July we were on our way to the railway station, around seventy political prisoners, tied up and escorted by a crowd of gendarmes. In the morning they had taken us for disinfection in the bath and the steam room, but when the commander of the escort gave the order to leave, our clothes were still in the steam room. We retrieved them as best we could and wore them crumpled and sopping wet.

Some horrible wagons were waiting for us at the station. We protested and refused from the start to board, but when we saw a detachment of Germans preparing their machine guns, we hurriedly got into them. They shut us up in the wagons in the unbearable heat of July, and only opened them again on arrival at Halkida.

There, in the transfer section, during the formalities of handover and reception, some of us suggested that the bugs in the cells could be counted in millions and that we risked being “devoured” by them. We asked the sergeant-gaoler to remain in the courtyard and to let us lie down there. Faced with his refusal, we refused in turn to enter the cells and grappled with the gendarmes. Remboutsikas gave the sergeant a punch in the head which knocked him back two metres. Finally, they made us enter by force and locked us up thanks to the intervention of armed Italian mountain troops. The bugs didn’t wait for the night to throw themselves on us in their thousands. (…)

Yet, apart from the bugs and the beastliness of the sergeant, our stay in the transfer section of Halkida didn’t pass too badly. Of course the section didn’t give us anything to eat, and it was impossible to find what there was in the market. But the bishop of Halkida took care of that and we received a large enough quantity of peas every day. We cooked them ourselves and ate them. Skarimbas23came to visit the section. He saluted us one by one with a great deal of emotion, recommending courage and patience to us and gave each of us a packet of cigarettes and a box of matches.

At the end of July we were transferred to various police stations on Evia. They sent me to the one at Konistres, a village around an hour from Kimi, possessing a telephone and telegraph and a few shops. It was in some way the commercial centre of the region. Each Sunday there was a fruit and beans market.

The inhabitants behaved well towards me, as did the sergeant and the gendarmes. With the sergeant’s permission I rented a room, and on the order of the bishop of Karystos they gave me the same ration that the International Red Cross provided for children: gruel and raisins almost every day.

I established friendly relations with a barber from Piraeus who lived with his brother-in-law, an old atheist and two close sympathisers, one from the same village, the other from Passas, a little village inhabited almost entirely by workers in the lignite mines. They competed as to who could provide me with the most raisins and figs.

I passed my days in discussion with them, often openly, in the café. The sergeant was tolerant and didn’t care. The old man (who was called Mitsos Karalis) was famous. He knew very little about the revolutionary movement but he was a convinced atheist and he’d read a lot, particularly the authors that Marx and Engels had described as vulgar materialists (Büchner, etc.).

Bishop Panteleimon of Karystos (who then lived in Kimi) had taken on a real affection for all the exiles of the region. In addition to organising the provisions and medicines of the IRC, with which he helped the exiles and condemned men, he also seems to have been linked to the Allied secret services. A short time after our escape he also left for Egypt and returned with the government24 and the Rimini brigade3 as the Metropolitan of the armed forces. In the persons of these two bishops, that of Halkida and that of Karystos, we had known two men who demonstrated affection, sympathy and real concern for us. Kordatos and Dante were wrong when they placed them completely on the side of reaction, for one, and completely in Hell, for the other.

  1. [23] A well known poet and writer of the left. [zurück]
  2. [24] The Greek government in exile, which was in Cairo. [zurück]
  3. [25] The Greek brigade formed in Egypt which participated in fighting in Italy in 1943-1944, notably in the taking of Rimini. [zurück]