Visit to Ai Stratis (Aghios Efstratios) by a delegation of the Committee "Greece 2021"

Visit to Ai Stratis (Aghios Efstratios) by a delegation of the Committee "Greece 2021"

• Gianna AngelopouloS-Daskalaki: "Unity is the best way to honor our landmark national anniversary. Unity generates the modern patriotism of our people"

• The Committee sends a message of support to every frontier, small and remote place of our country

From Ai Stratis, the historic, symbolism-dominated island of the Aegean Archipelago, the Committee "Greece 2021" sent a message of unity on the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution. A message that declares that we Greeks, united, plan to honor our Struggle for Independence and the remarkable journey of 200 years by highlighting contemporary Greece's dynamism. The island was visited by a Committee delegation, consisting of its President, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, and members of the Assembly of the Committee, Professors Nikos Kanellopoulos and Despoina Mouzaki.

"Ai Stratis is a place with unique features and compelling history. For many years, it was associated with violent times, as thousands of Greeks were exiled here. Fortunately, we have left those moments behind us. Greek people have reconciled with our history and our past," the President of the Committee said movingly, adding: "Today, despite all the acknowledged differences between us, we stand united in the face of every difficulty, in the face of every external aggression. And we support all our frontier and isolated islands. Unity and collaboration are the best ways to commemorate our landmark national anniversary, the Struggle for Independence, and the 200-year journey. Unity is what generates the modern patriotism of our people."

A small place with a long history

Despite its small size, the island of Ai Stratis had a significant but not very well-known contribution to the struggle of 1821. Many locally-owned ships helped in the Revolution, while many native sailors served on ships from Spetses and Psara. In this historic land, though, about 9,000 political exiles lived in dire conditions, from the beginning of 1939 until 1962, when the detention camp was finally shut down. Among them, famous Greeks Kostas Varnalis, Giannis Ritsos, Menelaos Loudemis, Manos Katrakis, Ilias Iliou, Giannis Alevras, and others.

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The Committee delegation was emotionally moved during the visit to the Museum of Democracy, which symbolizes the national reconciliation. The building that houses the Museum was used as an infirmary during the years of the displacement of political exiles in Ai Stratis. The Committee was guided through the Museum by Byron Manikakis, who has donated his father's unique photographic archive to the Museum.

The inhabitants of Ai Stratis stand united like a fist

The Committee delegation was welcomed by the Mayor of the island, Maria Kakalis, the youngest Mayor ever elected in Greece, a person who has dedicated her life and energy to tackle the problems of Aghios Efstratios. "It is a great pleasure and honor to welcome you to our island. A remote place, with many problems but with people who are willing to work, who try their best and strive not only to stay here themselves but also to create the right conditions so that, at some point, others shall return." During the discussion with representatives of the Municipality and the local community, the Mayor stressed that the municipal authority's bet is to improve living standards on the island. At the same time, she also spoke about the proposal that the Municipality has submitted to the Committee for the 200th anniversary of the Revolution. The proposal concerns collecting and recording authentic local stories to create a documentary theater, which will help to make the place's noteworthy history more widely known. "We need allies, and we are delighted to have you by our side," she said, among other things.

Speaking about the Municipality’s proposal, the Assembly Member of the Committee Nikos Kanellopoulos proposed digitization as a means of conveying the particular stories of the island to the Greeks of the diaspora. For her part, Assembly member Despoina Mouzaki said that the residents of Ai Stratis are an infinite source of inspiration, and she referred to the possibility of staging, at the small open theater of the island, the play "The Persians," a play that was staged by famous actor Manos Katrakis when he was an exile in Ai Stratis.

The new generation that wishes to contribute to its land

In her address, the President of the Committee spoke emotionally about the example projected by the inhabitants of Ai Stratis, who are united like a clenched fist. "They support each other, and in this manner, they move forward. This place opens a window into the future. People are working hard to create the right conditions for the return of more young people to the island. It is the essence of a new type of patriotism."

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A characteristic example of the unity and solidarity shown by this frontier island's society is the way two young people described their student experience. Malama Giannou, a graduate of the Lyceum of Aghios Efstratios who was accepted into the Athens University of Economics and Business after entrance exams, spoke of the touching way the island inhabitants embraced her effort and made it a collective effort. This, she said, armed her with a stronger motivation and perseverance.

Another graduate of the Lyceum, Charalambos Pavlos, who enrolled at the University of Agriculture of Patras, spoke of his dream to return to Aghios Efstratios after he finishes his studies and put his mark on his birthland, establishing an example that he wishes other graduates would like to follow.