Kalavryta: 1943 – 1969 – and today

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After reading both the BBC write-up on the Kalavryta Massacre (also known as the Kalavryta Holocaust) and subsequent developments on Germany’s refusal to entertain the notion of compensation for the 1943 murder of all males over the age of 12 (in retaliation for the Andartes killing 79 soldiers), I started to think back to when I first visited that town.

It was June 1969 and together with Fleur, my soul-mate of the time, we had decided to make our first overland journey to Greece; in a rust-red, beat up, left hand drive, 1956 VW Beetle. This was a car that I shared with Dimitris Stavropoulos (the author of the well known OUP English- Greek Dictionary).

We had bought it for £100 and it spent an interesting late life buzzing around the English countryside, visiting French vineyards and travelling down to Greece. Dimitris, on first seeing the vehicle, immediately christened it Kokkinos – and the name stayed.


By Andrew Leech


However, I digress. After leaving the newly built Corinth-Patras motorway and turning onto a second rate road that sent clouds of dust into the air, we slowly made our way towards the town situated on a hill. Then, with second gear whining, we entered Kalavryta and slowly drove down a main street towards what we thought was the square. 

 

What we didn’t understand at the time was why as we passed, people started closing the shutters of their windows and pulling down the blinds of their shops. It was slightly unnerving but, when Fleur remarked on it, I replied I thought it must be lunch time, or perhaps afternoon closing. I certainly didn’t see anything strange or sinister in it, at the time. So we decided to find somewhere to park, visit a local cafe to slake our thirst and then start looking around.

However, after finding a shady place in the main square and getting out of the vehicle, stretching our muscles after what had been a long and rather uncomfortable drive, we couldn’t find a single cafe or bar open. It was so bizarre, and so unlike any other Greek town or village we had visited. Fleur didn’t feel like tramping around so, while she sat in the shade, I wandered about, exploring various side streets that led off the main square.

At times I could see shadows behind the shutters or blinds of the houses and shops, but there was no-one about in the streets. It was as if the town had been subjected to an impromptu curfew. And, somehow, I felt like an invader the populace didn’t want anything to do with (which, as later events were to prove, was actually a fairly accurate interpretation).

After about twenty minutes of fruitlessly searching for a human being – and information as to where we could get a drink – I suddenly saw an old woman come out of a house. She seemed to be carrying some rubbish. I rushed forward.

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