Follow by Email

Συνολικες προβολες

Ο καιρός στο χωριό μας

Πέμπτη, 27 Οκτωβρίου 2016

Memories of my grandfather Michalis Malavazos

By Michael Adamantiou Malavazos

On the occasion of OXI Day 2016, Michael Malavazos, Australian-born grandson of legendary fellow-villager whom he was named after, on his most recent Facebook post reminiscences  about his grandfather whom he met only once as a ten-year-old in 1972.

Pappou Michalis Malavazos 1914 portrait
with two medals awarded for his valour
in First and Second Balkan Wars
The 28th October 2016 is Greece’s national celebration of “Οχι” (“No”) day commemorating the rejection by Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on 28 October 1940. The ultimatum demanded that Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain "strategic locations" or otherwise face war. This outright rejection by Metaxas was the beginning of Greece’s participation in “yet” another war, this time World War 2.

Being such an important day, I thought it appropriate to share a bit about my paternal grandfather, Μιχάλης Μαλαβάζος (Michael Malavazos) a man whose stature and wartime heroism during the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 is well renown by many within Laconia (Greece) and beyond.

Greece’s participation in the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 was a significant moment in Greece’s history, as it allowed the Greek state to almost double its size and achieve most of its present territorial size. It also served to bring to prominence two Greek famous personalities, the Prime Minister and arguably Greece’s finest statesman, Eleftherios Venizelos, and the Army's commander-in-chief, the Crown Prince and later King, Constantine I.

Both these men were highly regarded by my grandfather, and when I was 10 years old and met him for the first and only time back in 1972, he personally told be me of how proud (υπερήφανος) he was to have served these men and their quest to rid Greece of the Ottoman poison once and for all. I remember him telling me that those who died fighting alongside him for Greece’s freedom were the heroes he would never forget. Particularly in the major offensive against Bulgaria, which was known as the “second Balkan war” where Greece suffered major casualties, but in the end triumphed and delivered Greece’s territorial freedom it enjoys today.

The Balkan Wars comprised of two stages, in the First Balkan War, Greece was allied with Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro in the "Balkan League" against the Ottoman Empire. This initial principal thrust on land by the Army of Thessaly succeeded in occupying much of Macedonia, including the strategically important port of Thessaloniki just hours ahead of a Bulgarian division. The Second Balkan War, 29 June 1913, was where the Bulgarian forces launched a surprise attack against Greece and Serbia, the Bulgarian attacks were contained, and pushed back. This is where my grandfather witnessed death and glory as many of his mates fell in charges and sorties against Bulgarian forces.

It was in both these stages of the Balkan Wars that my grandfather made his claim to fame as a decorated hero as part of one of the 4 Evzones (Εύζωνοι) battalions forming part of the Army of Thessaly (Στρατός Θεσσαλίας), commanded by the Crown Prince Constantine. In recognition of his bravery, my pappou (my grandfather) was awarded the 2 medals pictured in his portrait shown below.

When I visited pappou back in 1972, with great pride he showed me his medals. I distinctly remember the embroidered detail on the medals and vividly recollect pappou’s passion as he described the battles as his proud evzones marched onto Thessaloniki on the 9th November 1912 with their loyal general Constantine by their side on horseback, this icon of a man in the eyes of my grandfather, became King Constantine (the first) in March the following year.

I recollect pappou telling me it was his proudest moment in his life as the inhabitants poured onto the streets greeting General Constantine’s Army of Thessaly as it liberated Thessaloniki from 100’s of years of Ottoman occupation. Pappou made it very clear, even to a 10year-old, that his allegiances lay very much in the Monarchist camp, he spoke proudly of his beloved King Constantine. Particularly, recollecting his vision of the young king, as a general, riding proudly on his horse into Thessaloniki only meters away from papou. As a young 10year-old boy, I didn’t appreciate the historical significance of the content of this casual grandfather to grandson conversation, but as a 54year-old man that I am now, I relish that moment.

The significance of those medals are permanently enshrined in the diploma shown in the picture below, that accompanied the medals.

The diploma makes reference to a famous battle, the Battle of Giannitsa that was of critical strategic significance to the liberation of Thessaloniki back into Greek hands. Pappou was awarded one of his medals for this battle. His second medal was awarded for another famous battle as referenced in the diploma here, the Battle of Kilkis (Lachanas). This battle secured Thessaloniki from any Bulgarian threat and basically put to an end the Second Balkan War. In my conversation with pappou, I recollect his story of this latter battle which he remembered with great sadness as many of his mates had fallen as they faced and defeated the Bulgarian onslaught. I clearly remember his words as he described to me one of his last attacks that he and a dozen or so of his platoon from his beloved evzones battalion made, on what I gather, was a Bulgarian garrison or command post. He described in detail how he and his mates dressed in the traditional evzones army outfit (φουστανελα) charged with bayonets the Bulgarian post and as they charged a number of his mates fell to their death beside him but he and the remaining platoon reached and defeated the Bulgarian position. When I asked pappou what happened to the Bulgarians that they captured, he fell silent and gazed out the window while puffing on his pipe, I took that to mean that he and his remaining mates didn’t show too much mercy!

As inscribed on this diploma, the medals were awarded to pappou on the 25th March 1914, and of further historical significance contained on this invaluable document, is the signature of Eleftherios K Venizelos on the bottom right hand corner. On the bottom left corner of this diploma it is claimed that the signature may be that of General Constantine, however I remain to be convinced.

Papou passed away circa 1981 from injuries sustained after a fatal fall from a wall while cutting feed from a tree for his beloved goats. Papou was at a ripe old age of about 99 years, battle scared he died in the arms of his beloved daughters, Maria and Evgenia. In 1988 I went back to the village as a 26-year-old to witness the age old tradition of exhumation of his remains and finally put his battle weary bones to rest with the humility and dignity deserving of such a great hero.

While I was there, remembering his great story I went back to his house to set my eyes once again on those medals only to realise to my horror and sadness that they had been stolen. Luckily the diploma was still there as was his portrait which I brought both back to Australia restoring the former as proudly displayed here in my post.

Included here is a photo of pappou with grandma (giagia) Stella and pappou on his own, both circa 1970.
Finally, in keeping with the commemoration of this important day of 28th October, it’s worth also honouring two of pappou’s sons who also served Greece in the army. The first was my uncle George, who in World War 2 became a decorated hero for his service as an artilleryman serving on the Albanian border defeating the Italians in their first invasion attempt of Greece shortly after Greece’s declaration of war on the Axis forces.

My father, Adamantios, in 1946, just after conscription
The other son, was my father Adamantios, pictured in the attached photo shortly after joining the army in 1946. Dad fought for Greece for nearly 4 years in what was probably one of Greece’s low points of it proud history, the civil war!

In closing I’d also like to honour in this post all those men, women and children, friends and foes who lost their lives not only in World War 2 but all wars throughout history, including wars happening this very moment.

Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια: