We will continue with the historical article we left off from the last issue of “Kapetan Zaharias.” If our readers recall, in the last issue we mentioned about some of the major events pertaining to Kapetan Zaharias in the year of 1786. The events that were covered in the article had to do with the important trip Zaharias made to the city of Corinth (after the incident with the Turkish tax collectors) and his contact with Kiamilbeg. In addition, we mentioned the confrontation between Zaharias and Mitromara.
In this issue of the newspaper “Kapetan Zaharias”, we continue with the historical article about the events, which occurred in 1786. We will cover the battles which took place in Varvitsa and Vassara (after Zaharias returned from his trip to Corinth), as well as the relocation by Zaharias to Skoufomiti and setting up his “central base” in Mani.
Zaharias returned from Corinth to his village of Varvitsa but was not able to return in time to rescue the monastery in Malevi from destruction. He was seeking revenge from the tragedy in Malevi and was planning on a major operation against the Turks. At the same time, villagers from the region went to Zaharias and begged him not to seek revenge and to come to terms with the Turks. The villagers were afraid that their homes and villages would be destroyed the same way the monastery in Malevi was destroyed. Zaharias then said to the villagers that he will do one more battle, burn his own forts in Varvitsa and then he will leave. In addition, Zaharias also mentioned that when he leaves, the villagers will then hear and see sorrow, mourning, sadness, and tears. What he meant by this was that after his battle and confrontation with the Turks, the end result would be tragic for the Turks in which it would bring pain and suffering to them. At the same time, Zaharias was planning on leaving his village of Varvitsa and setting up a new base somewhere south in the Mani region. It was not uncommon for Greek rebels during the Turkish occupation to have more than one living quarters. The Greek rebels would use it to their advantage in case they were in trouble or if the enemy had found out where they were staying, the rebels could then use their other living quarters for safety. For Zaharias, even though Varvitsa was located high up in the Parnon mountains, it still was subject to constant attack by the Turks (and their native allies) and that is because the village was located near two major cities, Mistra and Tripoli, which was primarily dominated by Turks. These two cities had the presence of large Turkish military forces. Zaharias move to the Mani region would make it easier to conduct military campaigns against the Turks since it was farther south and away from any major cities. Zaharias home village of Varvitsa would become a second home for the time being, while his new home in the Mani region would become his primary residence. But before his move to the Mani region, Zaharias had to do battle against the Turks.
The Turks arrived in Varvitsa to do battle against Zaharias. The battle lasted all afternoon and in the end, Zaharias burned his forts as he said he would. The smoke was used as a smoke screen in order to help the Greek klephtes leave the burning forts undetected from the Turks. From Varvitsa, Zaharias and his unit went to Agia Paraskevi, located 3 hours (by foot) southeast of Varvitsa. Meanwhile, a Turkish unit from Mistra found out where Zaharias and his unit were situated, in which the Turks decided to march on to the area to do battle against Zaharias. Specifically, they marched to an area called Marinou rema (the stream of Marinou) near Vassara, in which they hoped to ambush and trap Zaharias and his unit. But this was a very difficult task for the Turks, because Zaharias was a brilliant commander and an excellent military strategist.
The Turks positioned themselves near the stream of Marinou where they hoped to ambush Zaharias and his unit, as they would be crossing the stream. But when Zaharias approached the stream he divided his unit in two and he told his men to take up positions to the extreme left and right of the stream. He told his men to do this in case the Turks were positioned near the stream and were planning an ambush. With this tactic, Zaharias was outflanking the Turks on both sides, and putting them in a disadvantage position by leaving them in the middle of the ensuing battle. Zaharias was correct about the planned ambush and the position of the Turks. The battle erupted between the two sides and lasted for many hours. The Turks suffered a major defeat from this battle. It is believed that the battle took place between the month of August and early September. The remains of the Turkish soldiers were still present at the battle site up to the year 1900. After this incident, the area of the battle site near the stream was named "sphereodromion" ("bullet road") of Zaharias, which is still called even today. The words of Zaharias were coming true, the Turks were experiencing sadness, sorrow, mourning, and tears.
Apparently, this was not the first incident between Zaharias and the Turks in Vassara. In another conflict, which probably took place a few years earlier when Zaharias had just built his forts in Varvitsa, three Turks from Mistra set out to pillage the monastery of Agion Anargiron (a few miles east of Vassara). This was a time when Zaharias had not become too well known throughout the region, so it was common for the Turks to raid and pillage churches, monasteries and villages. The three Turks also brought along a mule, so they would be able to load and transport the loot that they would steal from the monastery.
The three Turks went ahead and committed their horrible act against the monastery of Agion Anargiron. They took with them many goods, in which their most valuable “catch” was the olive oil. When Zaharias found out about it he immediately took action. He and his men decided to set up an ambush against the Turkish thieves, as they were returning back from the monastery. The ambush was set just outside of the village of Vassara, and as the Turks were approaching, Zaharias and his men attacked. As expected, the Turks were caught off guard, and they were easily defeated by Zaharias. Zaharias returned the mule, which was carrying all of the goods stolen from the monastery, back to the monastery of Agion Anargiron. After this incident, the Turks would never again set out to pillage and steal from the villages in the Parnon Mountains.
The Turkish political leaders of the Peloponnese decided to write a letter to Zaharias whereby they would offer to pay 500 louphedes in the hope that they would be able to pacify him. Kiamilbeg played a small role in the decision of the Turkish leaders by advising them to support and pay Zaharias so that he may oversee the security of the region. The Turkish leaders were afraid that Zaharias would upset the balance of power and cause havoc not only in the Peloponnese region but in the Roumeli (Central Greece) region as well. They figured that since Zaharias burned his forts, he would go on a wild rampage in which he would burn Turkish property, while at the same time it would be difficult for them to get back at Zaharias. By offering him compensation, the Turks were hoping to prevent all of this with the possibility of capturing or planning a secret assassination on Zaharias.
Zaharias wrote a letter to the Turkish leaders telling them that he wants 1,000 louphedes for his federation members. He warned them not to burden the poor with tax payments because he will eventually find out about it. He also mentioned to them that if his demands are not met, he will then burn their properties the same way he burned his forts and then they will see him go after the Turkish troops whereby he will cut off the heads of forty Turks with one charge. But the Turkish leaders insisted that he accept their original offer and that they will make incremental increases to their payments. Zaharias response to this was negative in that he said, "I do not want it, I will take it with my sword." He told his sergeant in arms to hoist the flag, gather the unit for they will be marching in the direction of southeast of Sparta, along the Evrotas river. His plan was to burn the villages along this route, which were under Turkish control. Before burning each village, he would visit the Greek serfs who were working for their Turkish landowners, in which he would tell and help them pack their belongings (including their animals) so that he can burn the village without suffering any Greek casualties. Zaharias burned the villages of Kakari, Vaphio, Skoura, Phloka, Platana, Zaganou, and Rizia. This act was very shocking to the Greeks since not only was it was a major and extreme campaign against Turkish control, but also, the fact that they had never heard or seen anything of this magnitude in the past. It was an act that was initiated and executed by Zaharias. It was an act of freedom, and that is what Zaharias stood for; The freedom for Greece and her people.
This year the convention will award 15 of the top bright junior high school students from the prefecture of Laconia. In addition, the itinerary includes visiting various towns, archeological sites, and monasteries throughout Laconia. Along with many dignitaries who will be present at the convention, the honorary speaker this year will be the United States Ambassador to Greece, Mr. Nicholas Burns. The final event that is scheduled for this year’s convention is laying a reef in memory of Leonidas, the ancient king and hero of Sparti.
SKOURA-VARVITSA BROTHERHOOD USA
A new president, vice president, treasurer as well as a new board was elected, which carries a term of two years. The new president of the Skoura-Varvitsa Brotherhood is none other than yours truly. I replace Tasos Mathaios, who is now the vice president of this organization.
I am very much honored that I was named president of the Skoura Varvitsa Brotherhood U.S.A. The Brotherhood was formed in 1907, and is considered one of the oldest existing Greek-American organizations in the United States. It is filled with a rich history and a glorious past in part because the early generations, which emigrated from Greece, worked hard for the success of the Brotherhood. They also dedicated themselves to support and help their respected villages, Skoura and Varvitsa, which they had left behind but would always keep close ties and contacts. They made it happen, with the hope that the younger and upcoming generations would continue the hard work and dedication that would help thrive the Brotherhood and make it grow throughout the years. Today, our dedication and loyalty to our villages from the motherland has remained unchanged. We shall always stand by their side whenever needed.
I certainly have a very difficult task ahead of me. There is a certain apathy that has hung over the Brotherhood lately, and one of the biggest problems we are facing is the lack of involvement by the younger generations (not to mention lack of involvement by a good chunk of the older generations as well). I believe that it is vital to reach out to our younger generations and bring them closer to the Brotherhood, for this will not only benefit them, but also the organization. The Brotherhood would then be able to grow and continue to function well into the century, while at the same time, the younger generations would be able to learn more about their roots. I think we should also keep in close contact and increase our communication with our members and the younger generation from all over the country. We cannot lose touch with our members, for if we lose touch with them, then we all lose out.
The Skoura-Varvitsa Brotherhood should definitely increase the number of activities and events in the upcoming years. By doing so, the involvement and interest with the Brotherhood will not dissipate. There will be a Board meeting coming up soon, which we will discuss about having a picnic out on Long Island sometime in the fall of this year. There is also a possibility that we may be having a dinner-dance in late November. I would also like to see events for the younger generation which they would be interested in attending (such as parties, lectures, shows, etc). If we can achieve initial success with these events, then we can move ahead and go forward with participating into other events. One is to have a presence in the annual Greek Independence Day Parade. Another possibility is to bring back the annual picnic in Saratoga, New York, but this is something to look into the near future. First, let’s concentrate on addressing and solving our main problems, then we can move ahead. I will provide our readers with more information on a continuos basis about the Brotherhood, and on any plans and events we have decided on.
As of May 21, 2000 the new Board of Directors for the Skoura-Varvitsa Brotherhood U.S.A. is as follows:
President: Andrew Pagonis
ΝΕΟ ΠΡΟΕΔΡΕΙΟ ΣΤΟΝ ΣΥΛΛΟΓΟ ΣΚΟΥΡΟΒΑΡΒΙΤΣΙΩΤΩΝ ΑΜΕΡΙΚΗΣ
ΠΡΟΕΔΡΟΣ Ο ΑΝΔΡΕΑΣ ΠΑΓΩΝΗΣ
Παγώνης Ανδρέας Πρόεδρος
Ο Σύλλογος Σκουροβαρβιτσιωτών ιδρύθηκε το 1907 και είναι ένας από τους παλαιότερους Ελληνικούς Συλλόγους στην Αμερική.
Σε μήνυμά του ο νέος πρόεδρος ευχαριστεί όλους για την τιμή που του έγινε να εκλεχτεί πρόεδρος και αναφέρθηκε στη συμβολή όλων των προγενεστέρων του που αγωνίστηκαν σκληρά για την αδελφότητα. Αναφέρθηκε στην προσπάθεια που θα κάνει ο Σύλλογος να γραφτούν μέλη όσο το δυνατόν περισσότεροι νέοι προκειμένου να ενημερωθούν καλύτερα για την πατρίδα και να δραστηριοποιηθούν δυναμικά.
Στον Τάσο Ματθαίου που αποχωρεί από την προεδρία εκφράζουμε τις ευχαριστίες μας για την συνεργασία μας στον δε νέο πρόεδρο ευχόμαστε «σιδεροκέφαλος» και σε ανώτερα.