Famed for the shipwreck discovery of the world’s first rudimentary computer, the Antikythera Mechanism, the island of Antikythera – off Crete – is as remote and beautiful as the ancient times in which the device was built, but needs people.
With a population of 68 enjoying the unspoiled land and surveying the sea, they want some company, said the Los Angeles Times’ Maria Petrakis in a feature about the residents hoping to lure some more to live there year-round.
Antikythera could do with a baker, a builder, and maybe a veterinarian but especially young families, she wrote because until three children arrived in September, 2018 the only school had been shut for 24 years for lack of students.
With an aging population and the effects of a nine-year Greek economic crisis making living tough there, the islanders fear they could be the last and go the way of other Greek islands that became uninhabited.
“We are an island of pensioners, old men, not children,” 62-year-old native Vassilis Aloizos, a retiree who spends seven months of the year on the island told the writer. “One family won’t make a difference.” As students progress to higher grades and university, they will have to leave the island, so “if it’s more than one family, then that’s good,” he said.
The local diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church is preparing four families with young children to move there from the greater Athens area to keep the history and population going so that its name will live, having had inhabitants for thousands of years.
The four new families coming will receive housing and land and an allowance of 500 euros ($560.26) a month for three years to allow them to start make a living. But the church program is not open to everyone, and the pace of preparation for new arrivals is slow, held up by the wait for final approvals.
While tourists flock to islands such as Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Skiathos, and Rhodes, they shun hard-to-get-to Antikythera where there are few attractions for the busy, although plenty for those who want little to do but relax and enjoy real charms.
“The beaches are beautiful but inaccessible. Ferries to the island are at the mercy of treacherous winds that can leave visitors stranded. There are no taxis, no supermarkets, and no gas stations,” the story said, indicating it’s a lifestyle for the hardy and austere.
Besides the famed mechanism, the island also produced the Antikythera Ephebe, a striking bronze sculpture of a youth, ironic on an island where there are so few in human form.
Dionysis Andronikos and his wife, Despina, made the move from the capital, Athens, to Antikythera to give their children a better life. But he has held on to his job in Athens and divides his time between the island and the mainland to live.
“They have a freedom, a quality of life here they cannot have in Athens,” he said in the small restaurant his wife operates as the children – Anastasia, 11, Stamatia, 8 and Iakovos, 6 – hang off his arms.
Newcomers will need assistance to tackle the difficulties of adapting to life on Antikythera. It’s even an adjustment for Dionysis and Despina, who lived on the island or visited for long periods of time as children, the story wrote.
George Katsanevakis, an islander who visits every two weeks to tend to his beehives has two small children and lives in Athens. There is little incentive to live on the island, he said, economic or otherwise.
“Whatever we pay in Athens, we pay in Antikythera,” he says. “If they gave some incentives it would be different. I work day and night and still can’t make ends meet.”