The authors childhood dream was to go to America. In 1956, that dream came true; he left for the United States. Today, he is a resident of Delray Beach, Florida, where he has been living with his beloved wife, Darlene, for 39 years.
He is 90 years old and still going strong. He always thanks God for the good life hes had. He also thanks America for the opportunities it gave him.
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About the Author
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Nostalgia for the village
The village Argyri is located in the prefecture of Kardítsa, Thessaly, Greece, right on the border with the prefectures of Evrytanía, Árta and Aetoloakarnanía. It is nestled at an altitude of 650 meters above sea level, boasting a wonderful view over Plataniás, a tributary of Achelóos River. From the country chapel of Prophet Elías, located at the top of the village, one can gaze over the entire flow of Achelóos River as it springs from Métsovo and pours into the Ionian Sea.
A series of mountains form an amphitheater around the small village: Mount Gávrogo to the south; Tsouka to the east; Kókkinos Stanós, Komplítsa, Klókovos and Mermitsála to the north. Neighboring villages include Katafylli to the right, Soumeroú towards Epirus, Avláki towards Váltos, and Néo Argyri, Raftópoulo, Prasiá and Kédra towards Evrytanía.
I was born in Argyri, on January 11, 1927. At the time, Argyri was home to some two hundred people. When I was six years old and only just beginning to get a sense of my life, the first things my parents taught me was to respect my elders and the law and to be a good student. Life in the village was quite difficult back then. The State would not provide any assistance to mountain villages. My village, Argyri, was so small that it wasn't even designated on the map of Greece!
When I was eight years old, my father owned a small farm and five goats to obtain milk for his children. The State imposed on him a 30-drachma tax, which he couldn't afford to pay. One day, the gendarmes from the Vragkianá station came to collect the money. My father made a run for it, but he didn't manage to hide from the gendarmes and got caught; they handcuffed him and brought him to the center of the village, where Mr. Giórgos Papathanasíou, the village priest, presented the 30 drachmas and my father was released.
The only item in the State budget that was spent on our village was the salary of the priest, even though he only served quite a small parish. We had a few farms where we grew corn and wheat. In a couple of others, we grew all our comestibles for the entire year: onions, lentils, potatoes. We also had several fruit trees: cherry trees, plum trees, mulberries, fig trees and grapevines. Every September, the vines were rife with yellow and purple grapes — a feast for the eyes! When they were ripe enough, we'd climb up the vine trees, baskets, hampers and ropes in hand, and when our basket was full we'd tie it to the rope and lower it down the tree, where someone else was waiting to pick it up and empty it into big crates. We made good wine and tsípouro. We had running water, which we used to irrigate the corn fields, and fresh water from the mountains, which we drank.
At that time, our village had only ten houses made of stone; all the rest were wooden huts. None of them had chimney stacks, because they were considered a fire hazard. In winter, when it was cold and we had the fire on, the air inside the house was thick with smoke.
Back then, the women used to work like slaves. They would carry home the logs from the mountain on their backs. They would take the laundry to the stream to wash it and, on the sunny days, they would hang it out to dry. When we went to church, they would sit separately from the men. I never heard the women complain; they did not know a better life.
Ah, the nature in the village ... Up on the mountain we had pine trees, kermes oaks, cedar trees, all garlanded with snow and crystals in the wintertime. Winter nights were very long; we had no TV back then. Many times, my father would tell us fairy tales, which I cherished as if they were true stories.
Come Christmas, we always roasted pork and other Christmas traditions. Then we looked forward to New Year's, when the elders would play cards, 'thirty-one', throughout the night in coffee shops.
We usually baked a New Year's pie, the 'Vasilópita', and hid a silver coin inside it. Whoever picked the slice containing the coin was considered lucky with money.
February, around the twentieth of the month, was the time when the dogwood trees would blossom with their yellow flowers and the almond trees with their white, fragrant ones.
In March, around the 25th of the month, we expected the swallows to fly back from the warmer climates and usher in the spring. Also on the 25th of March we would celebrate the anniversary of the 1821 declaration of the Greek Revolution of Independence from the Turks, who had occupied Greece for four hundred years.
In April, we would prepare for Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, when we'd paint red eggs and roast a lamb on a spit and exchange the giaoúrtes, dairy delicacies, as gifts. The Easter Sunday feast would often continue through Monday and Tuesday, even Wednesday at times, going on from eleven in the morning until late in the evening.
Then came May. May Day was celebrated throughout Greece. We school children would climb up on Mount Klókovo. The teacher and his friends, together with us students, would slaughter a lamb and roast it on a spit and eat it on the spot, amidst the fresh mountain air. May was the best month of the season, with all the green grass and beautiful flowers all around. The roses' fragrance filled the air; multi-colored butterflies fluttered busily from flower to flower; the bees flew up to the mountain, to the fir trees, where they made their honey; the birds were building their nests; the cuckoo would appear on May 1st and usher in the spring.
The cuckoo is very smart; she doesn't build a nest because she is too busy doing her distinctive calling. She lays her eggs in other birds' nests and her fledglings are raised by these other birds. There were very few cuckoos in our village; you could only hear two or three of them calling, mostly up on the mountain, where it was quiet. I was always happy to hear the cuckoo's calling; I always wanted to see one up close. One day, at about ten in the morning, I was in the center of the village. Outside our school there was a tree. All of a sudden, I heard the cuckoo's calling. Unhesitatingly but slowly, I went under the tree and saw him. When he called, his stomach would protrude. His color consisted of a few black feathers mixed into an iridescent plumage beaming like a rainbow. As soon as he got a whiffof me, he flew away. What a beautiful bird the cuckoo! He comes in on May first and is out by June 13th — or so claimed the elders of the village. Now, curious as I was, I of course took it upon myself to find out when the cuckoo would actually stop calling. I was a young goatherd at the time, tending to fifteen goats. Indeed, between the 10th and 12th of June the cuckoo's call grew hoarser and hoarser until it was barely audible. After the 13th of June, it wasn't heard anymore, until the next May, a year later.
In June we would pick the first fruits: the cherries, the plums ... In July we reaped the wheat and took it to the threshing floor. We threshed the wheat with the help of horses. The ants also got their share; they were preparing for the winter. The summer heat grew, although the mornings were still cool. The sheep were grazing and you could hear their bells. It was a melody to cherish! A fresh wind was blowing and the goatherd was playing his flute. When the goats on the mountain slopes would get lost in the woods, one after the other, they would speak amongst themselves in their own language to find each other, especially the young kids. When the heat started, around ten, everything would get quiet, until about five in the afternoon. The sheep and goats would hide wherever they found some shade. During this time, only the cicadas were chirping and, once in a while, some bird. The shepherds would sleep under the pine trees during the day because at night they were tending to their sheep and goats and staying alert to fend the wolves off their herds.
On August 15th, we celebrated the Virgin Mary in Koumbourianá, a village in Argithéa, where there was the monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Pilgrims would come from nearby villages on foot. Some who were sick would be healed by a miracle of Our Lady. We also had festivals.
In September, the grapes and figs were at their best. With the grapes we made wine and tsípouro.
On October 1st, we picked the corn and all the legumes, the beans, the onions, the lentils, the garlic, and the potatoes for the winter.
November was the month for weddings. The clarinets and the violins were on standby. Most of the marriages were arranged. The groom and his relatives would go to see the bride for the first time. If they liked the bride and her parents, and if the bride liked the groom, the matchmaking was good to go.
Once, a groom went to see his bride. The mother of the bride had prepared food. Her best dish was the 'píta' (a savory stuffed fílo dish). When the father of the bride saw the groom, he didn't like him. So he said to his wife: "Woman, may our píta turn to plastó." That meant that he didn't like the groom and that the matchmaking was off. Once the bride and groom were satisfied with each other, the groom wanted to know how much dowry he would be getting from the father of the bride. After that, they'd set a date for the wedding and call up family and friends to let them know when it would be. First, the groom would go to collect the dowry. The wedding usually took place on a Saturday or Sunday. The first ones to gather were the guests and the musicians — the clarinet players and the violinists. Right before the ceremony, they would shave the groom singing "the groom is being shaved, the sky is covered with white clouds." If the bride was from another village, the groom's relatives would saddle up the horses and mules and go pick up the bride, singing all the way. After the wedding wreaths had been exchanged, the in-laws were treated to a feast. If the bride's village was far from the groom's, the party would overnight at the bride's place, dancing throughout the night, and return to the groom's place in the morning. The wedding was concluded on Monday morning, when the newlyweds received wishes for a happy life and a son. They wouldn't go on a honeymoon.
Back then, village girls were virgins. Firstly and foremostly, because there was respect; but also, if someone put the moves on a girl, her parents would probably have the culprit killed to requite the insult. That is what happened in the village of Prasiá. A young woman was in love with a young man and they eloped. The girl's brother, Elías, went on a two-day journey, tracked them down and killed them both, to requite the insult. This wasn't right, what he did. Back then, they believed in fame and honor, the world was different, marriage was for life, there were no divorces.
The ancient city of Byzantion, also known as Constantinople, belonged to the Greeks for eleven centuries, housing the Patriarchate and serving as a hub for Orthodox Christianity. In 1453, 700,000 Turkish troops launched from Ankara, tapping on their drums, and invaded Constantinople. They massacred the Greeks, including women and children, and seized the city forevermore.
In 1816, the Ottoman Empire took hold of all of Greece. At that time, Turkey had a population of 23,000,000 and Greece only 2,400,000. The Greeks were worn out from prolonged suffering and didn't have the power to defeat the Turks. All they did was pray to God to set them free.
Born to peasant parents in the village Kombóti of Árta in 1779, Nikólaos Skoufás was a merchant, often traveling abroad. His last name was a moniker given to his father: he had a small shop in Árta where he manufactured caps (skoúfies), hence the nickname Skoufás. Back then, caps were a popular fashion accessory. The Greeks wore black caps, the Turks red ones and the Jews white ones. Nikólaos Skoufás founded the "Filikí Etaireía" (Society of Friends) together with his two friends Tsakálof and Xánthos.
Kombóti had suffered under the anthropophagus Ali Pasha. Persecuted by Turkey, Ali Pasha's father had settled in Tepeleni, Albania, and that was where Ali Pasha was born. Ali's father was a vizier and died young, while his mother was spoiled by riches. Ali Pasha started committing crimes at a very young age. He killed two people for a handful of money. His mother told him that there was nothing wrong with his actions, that he should become a great man, famous like his father, a pasha or a vizier, feared by all. Ali had some Turko-Albanians on his side and set his headquarters in Ioánnina, Epirus. Ioánnina was a prosperous place at the time. It produced fur and had livestock and there was a French consulate in the city. Ali Pasha was smart and cunning. He had imposed high taxes on the Greeks, 33%. He had a gendarmerie that roamed the villages collecting his taxes. As for those who had no money to pay the taxes, they would confiscate their fields or whatever fortune they might have. Many people from Epirus fled and settled in Ágrafa. Ali Pasha formed his own army of approximately 10,000 Turko-Albanians.
Kombóti of Árta had a large plain with olive groves and orange trees; it was a prosperous place. Ali Pasha made it his chiflik and gave it to his son, Ambrahim.
Thus, Nikólaos Skoufás, Tsakálof and Xánthos met in Odessa, then part of Russia but now part of Ukraine, and discussed the revolution of 1821. With the help of France, England and many more philhellenes and Greek klephts, they declared war against the Turks. Nikólaos Skoufás died very young, before the revolution of 1821. The heroes of the Revolution were Theódoros Kolokotrónis, Geórgios Karaiskákis, Grigórios Papafléssas, Andréas Miaoúlis, Nikitarás, Konstantínos Kanáris, Makrygiánnis.
The war raged on. Getting rid of the Turks was no easy feat. France and England were assisting the Greeks both with their armies and financially. Ali Pasha had quite a big army. France had army bases in Préveza and Ali Pasha ambushed them with his army. France had military bases in Préveza and Ali Pasha launched a surprise attack against them with his army. He also hit the Souliótes; it took him two years to defeat Soúli. It was eventually taken after a blockade by Ali Pasha's son Ibrahim Pasha. The provisional winner in the Peloponnese was Ali Pasha who became famous in Turkey. Hence, the sultan made Ali Pasha a vizier and the latter grew to become formidable.
In 1832, the Great Powers France and England contained the sultan and split Greece into two parts. The part from Vólos to Préveza in the east was Greek (which was called Romaíiko, or Roman, at the time) and the west was Turkish. The village Argyri was separated in two parts by a small stream that ran through it, thus one part of it remained under Turkish rule. The elders used to tell us stories about the Turks. The sultan had imposed laws upon the Greeks. The girls of thirteen or older, especially the beautiful ones, would be taken by the Turks and shipped over to Turkey; they also took the boys, sixteen or older. If their parents raised any objections, they were sentenced to being hanged alive from a tree. The Turks had a gendarmerie station in the village Vragkianá, two hours from Argyri on foot. Many times, the Turks would pay surprise visits to Argyri. The villagers had a sentry, who watched out for Turks. When he'd see them coming, he would immediately warn the villagers, and girls and boys would rush to the other side of the stream, which was Greek. The Turks would not go to the Greek side of the village. They wouldn't break the laws.
In Vragkianá, where the Turks had their gendarmerie station, the chief of police was the Aga. One day, as he was getting ready for a trip and patching up his shoe, one of the villagers told him: "My Aga, you are not patching up your shoe properly." And the Aga said to him: "Well, since you seem to know all about it, why don't you fix it and bring it over to Liaskóvia, four hours away." So, the villager mended the Aga's shoe and brought it over to Liaskóvia. Another Aga had a dog that had lost his appetite from overeating and the Aga thought the dog was sick. Then someone told the Aga: "Leave your dog with me when you leave and I will make him better." That gentleman was a make-believe doctor. When the Aga left for a three-week journey, the dog was put on a strict diet. When the Aga returned and saw his dog well, he was really happy. Then the man told the Aga: "My Aga, your dog is healthy and has an appetite for food." Then he tossed the dog an onion peel and the dog caught it mid-air. The Aga was fully satisfied.
One time, when the Turks from Vragkianá came to Argyri, one Turk was harassing a widow. The widow kept telling him no, but the Turk would not budge. Then she grabbed him by his private parts and the Turk died instantly. The woman notified the Turkish authorities who questioned her to find out how their fellow Turk had died. The woman told them that he had had a heart attack while making love to her. Of course, there was no doctor around to examine the body and, seeing as there were no visible injuries on it, the woman got away with it.
Excerpted from "The Dreams Come True"
Copyright © 2018 Spiros Kalampalikis.
Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Nostalgia for the village, 1,
Athanásios Diákos, 11,
Kosmás the Aetolian, 12,
The first trip, 17,
In Kombóti, 23,
Back in the village, 29,
Lámbros Karaníkas, 32,
My brother Nikólas, 35,
The story of Kalliópi, 39,
The stories of Nikólas, 40,
Grandmother Eléni, 47,
Giórgos in America, 59,
Back in the 1950s, 83,
The past Presidents of the Gulf Stream Bath and Tennis Club, 90,
About the Author, 99,