Monday, 24 September 2007

Anoyia: Cretan village of heroes and poets

The post below regarding the fabled Cretan mountain village of Anoyia originally appeared on the late, lamented Phylax blog. I’m reprinting it here because it gives me the opportunity to share a clip (above) of the musician Antonis Xylouris, a.k.a. Psarantonis (brother of the legendary Nikos Xylouris – see Stavros’ post at My Greek Odyssey), who interprets Cretan music as a form of ecstatic experience and is from Anoyia.

‘In this April 2006 interview with General Nikolaos Ntouvas, the former Greek Land Forces Commander reflects on the extraordinary bravery of the 300 Greek commandos sent to Cyprus from Crete as part of Operation ‘Niki’ following the Turkish invasion in 1974.

These 300 were the only Greek troops sent in response to ‘Attila’ in what has been described as a ‘suicide mission’ and resulted in one of the most heroic episodes in the Cyprus war, the defence of Nicosia airport.

Ntouvas, serving as a lieutenant in ‘Niki’, is so convinced by the virtues of his comrades and the generally superior quality of the Greek over the Turkish warrior, that he states: ‘Πιστεύω, ακόμα και σήμερα, ότι παρά τα λάθη που είχαν γίνει, ότι αν τότε εκείνο το πρωί βρισκόταν κάποιος που να μπορούσε να συντονίσει τα πράγματα, η Κύπρος θα γινόταν ο τάφος των Τούρκων και θα γινόταν αιτία, για πενήντα χρόνια να μην ξανασηκώσουν κεφάλι.’
('I believe even today that despite the mistakes that were made, if on that morning [when the commandos landed in Cyprus] there had been [leadership] to coordinate matters, Cyprus would have become a grave[yard] for the Turks and they wouldn’t have raised their heads for another 50 years').

Ntouvas stresses the roles of Major Vassilios Manouras and Giorgis Chroniaris in the exploits of the 300 commandos. Ntouvas recalls Manouras being confronted by a UN officer from Austria who demanded he surrender Nicosia airport to the UN and told him, indeed, that these were the instructions of Efstathios Lagakos, the junta’s ambassador in Cyprus. Manouras replied to the Austrian: ‘Ποιος Λαγάκος, ταγματάρχης Μανουράς εδώ.’ ('What Lagakos, Major Manouras is here').

Both Manouras and Chroniaris were from the mountain village of Anoyia, near Rethymnon, and last month (July 2006) an event to commemorate these two heroes was held in the village attended by Ntouvas, other dignitaries and more than 2,000 locals.

Anoyia is also one of the most celebrated WWII Cretan resistance villages and features in the General Kreipe kidnap story, immortalised in the film and book, Ill Met by Moonlight. Anoyia’s incessant resistance eventually earned it the full wrath of the Nazis who massacred 500 men from the village, which they subsequently burned to the ground. See the German order here.

Anoyia also has a rich cultural tradition and can boast in recent times of having produced three outstanding musicians: Nikos Xylouris, Psarantonis and Loudovikos ton Anoyion.

After the so-called earthquake diplomacy of 1999, there was a rush among Greek villages and towns to twin with Turkish equivalents. Anoyia ignored the trend and chose instead to twin with the once-prosperous coastal village of Yialousa in occupied Cyprus.

Among the many Anoyian attributes remarked on by the refugees from Yialousa who were part of the delegation attending the twinning ceremony in Anoyia in September 2004, these two were mentioned most:
1 Every male in Anoyia – including Father Andreas Kefaloyiannis – carried a gun and in moments of high spiritedness liked to fire their weapon in the air.
2 The overwhelming philoxenia of the Anoyiotes, which greatly humbled the Yialousites, who could only promise to reciprocate the hospitality shown them once Yialousa is liberated.’


Stavros said...

Bravo re, another brilliant post. I am reminded that a group of Cretan sailors defended one of the towers guarding the walls of Constantinople. The Turks were unable to dislodge them despite costly repeated attempts. Mehmet finally relented and allowed them safe passage home in recognition of their bravery. Cretan volunteers also fought heroically with the Northern Epirotes during the struggle that resulted in the establishment of their ill-fated autonomous republic in 1914.
I'm currently rereading "Freedom or Death" by Nikos Kazantzakis. It provides a valuable glimpse into the Cretan soul.

john akritas said...

Apart from all that stuff about transubstantiation of matter into spirit – which I don’t get or don’t really want to get – I’ve always liked Kazantzakis and certainly he does a fine job mythologising – in the good sense – Crete and the Cretans – especially in Freedom and Death – which is like the Iliad, if I’m not mistaken – I haven’t read it for a while. Last time I went to Heraklion and climbed up that hill to see Kazantzakis’s tomb, I was disappointed that on one side it overlooked a car park and on the other some dilapidated football pitches. Here’s an article I read the other day on the fight going on over Kazantzakis’s estate:kazantzakisestate

Stavros said...

What a sad mess.Thanks for the link.

Anonymous said...

Where are the stories about Piroi? Some amazing stadoffs happened there but they are not mentioned anywhere. Does anyone know if there is anything written online about the battle of Piroi?

john akritas said...

anonymous. I don't know about Piroi; and the only info I could find on it was this post in Greek from our soldiers involved in the fighting.