- Yannis Tellis relates a story dating back to the German Occupation
We were little kids… Kostas, my brother, was twelve and I was eight. Famine during the German Occupation was intense, and we had to be traveling around the villages to sell our belongings –clothes, embroidery and practically every valuable thing we owned– so as to buy olive oil, nuts, legumes. One day, my father set off along with my brother, laden with our little clothes, to walk all the way up to Egrigoros to trade them for a bit of wheat; practically though, that would include anything, from wheat to broad beans and olive oil.
Egrigoros was the village where my aunt Eleni, her husband and little Yiorgo were living. Yiorgo was a baby back then that would sleep in a turned upside down saddle serving as a crib. Famine had forced the family to move to Egrigoros where she would make and sell textile slippers while uncle Loukis would work in the fields and in cattle farming; that would put some bread on the table. After managing to sell our little clothes and getting oil, figs, walnuts, almonds and legumes, my father and my brother spent one night in the family’s house before preparing for the long way back home. Luckily for them, uncle Loukis was also planning to head for the town –on his donkey. So, they loaded the animal with all their merch and set off. Back then, it would take someone a day to get from Egrigoros to Vrontados since the road didn’t exist at that time, so people had to take various shortcuts.
Upon reaching Epos plateau, where the army outpost is now, my father says: “Let’s shoulder all this stuff and cut across”. Over there, there was a shortcut leading from our house to Epos, but it was a fairly smooth one. As we were aware of my father and brother going down, laden with all these things on their shoulders, we could see them sloping off down the trail from a distance. But as I was watching them, my brother, who was leading, suddenly dropped out of sight. As my father started looking for him, I realized something was going wrong and rushed to get to them –shoeless! I was so young I could fly back then, darting barefoot across the rocks and broom shrubs! So, I get to them only to see my brother lying down, writhing in tears and wailing over spilt olive oil, almonds, figs and walnuts, while my father was trying to console him: “It’s okay, there’s still some more oil left” –but to no avail.
Poor brother! So desperate was he to get back that the moment our house came into sight, he slipped, dropping and spilling everything –all that hard work and journey having gone down the drain. We heedlessly managed to carry him back home… It took him several days to get past it… He grew old, but he kept recounting that story until he died, tears always springing to his eyes.
Translated into English by Nikos Loutraris
She was born and grew up in Chios. She studied at the Higher School of Tourism Professions of Rhodes and maintains with her family a Tourism Company in Emporios.