ATHENS – In a highly charged emotional climate, crowds of people came to the village of Vouliarati (Vouliarates) in Upper Dropoli on November 8 to bid a final farewell to Konstantinos Katsifas, the 35-year-old who was fatally by the Albanian police on October 28th.
Twelve days after his death, relatives, friends, fellow villagers, officials, and many people who traveled from Greece, many of them carrying Greek flags, followed Katsifas to his resting place in the cemetery of St. Athanasios, where the Metropolitan presided over the funeral service.
Residents of the village told The National Herald that more than 4,000 people came to Vouliarati, including many members of the Greek and Albanian media.
The climate was heavy and calm, with many people struggling both because of the long journey, mainly from Athens, and because of the heightened security at the border, in the Kakavia outpost. During the funeral procession from Katsifas’ home to the village cemetery, many slogans were shouted about the Hellenism of Northern Epirus, Macedonia, but also against the government and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
After the burial, a massive march for about 2 kilometers followed from the village to the crossroads of the Kakavia-Tirana National Road, which was symbolically blocked for almost half an hour. Before it began, an announcement was made via microphone asking everyone to respect the family’s wishes for a peaceful march. Both during the funeral and during the march and closure of the highway, the presence of the Albanian Police was particularly discreet.
Among those in attendance at the funeral, Member of the European Parliament from Cyprus Eleni Theocharous spoke to TNH about a “rally for all the people with thousands who manifest their faith in the struggle of Northern Epirus for Freedom. (A rally) for human rights, brutally violated by the corrupt Tirana regime.”
Also in attendance, the Greek Member of Parliament Vangelis Tavos, Dropolis Mayor Achilleas Detsikas, the President of the Human Rights Party Vangelis Doulis, the former Labor Minister of Albania Spyros Xeras, the former President of Omonoia Leonidas Pappas, the President of the Association of Northern Epirus Babis (Charalambos) Karathanos, and many others. The New Democracy MP from Thessaloniki Savvas Anastasiadis and the deputy mayor of Ioannina Pantelis Kolokas also attended the funeral.
The former leader of the community and resident of Vouliarati, Pantelis Kouremenos, told TNH that “it was my honor that with our friends and fellow villagers we carried Katsifas’ coffin from the house to the cemetery on our shoulders,” while a special mention was made of the Greek singer, Savvas Siatras, who also touched the hearts of all those present “at St. Athanasios singing an Epirotic dirge he composed himself especially for Konstantinos Katsifas.”
FILE – More than 3000 people gave on Thursday, Nov. 8, a final farewell to Konstantinos Katsifas, who was shot dead by the Albanian police on October 28 at Vouliarati. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Leonidas Bakollas)
“There was a lot of people, four to five thousand, from the village, from the surrounding villages, from all over Greece,” Vouliarati-native B.K. said (preferring to be identified only by initials), who resides permanently in Greece. “Unfortunately, this unfortunate incident had to happen in order to rally and unite so many people,” he continued.
HL, a native of the nearby village of Georgoutsaki, a permanent resident of Athens, said he traveled to Vouliarati to honor “a young man who died unfairly and so that Katsifas’ parents (Yiannis and Vasileia) did not experience the pain alone and so this won’t happen again.”
However, he also spoke of some nasty behavior, such as “several who have tried to use the occasion for political reasons and some even taking selfies by the grave, overshadowing all those who are not identified with any ideology or party, the common people.”
It is worth mentioning that the Greek flag was covering Katsifas’ coffin and he was buried wearing a military cap.
“Katsifas is a hero martyr,” continued Mrs. Theocharous. “He could have killed many, but he did not and shot in the air. What we experienced today was very moving. Our country has acquired another hero,” she said.
It should be noted that the Albanian authorities did not release Katsifas’ body for 11 days, raising numerous protests from institutions and citizens, including His Eminence Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and all Albania. “Let the body of Konstantinos Katsifas be released for burial according to the religious tradition. Let all the souls calm down. Let the irresponsible noise stop. The rest can then be studied with objectivity and mutual respect,” Archbishop Anastasios said on Tuesday.
(Photo by Eurokinissi/Leonidas Bakollas)
Mourning and Arrests
According to CNN Greece, the Albanian police arrested four Greeks “who were traveling to Vouliarati to attend the funeral of Konstantinos Katsifas,” while the newspaper Eleutheros Press reported that “four top leaders of the Greek community in Northern Epirus, Charalambos Karathanos (President of the Association of Northern Epirus), Thomas Stefos (former member of the General Council of Omonoia), Christos Doutsis (former prefect of Upper Dropolis), and Andreas Kourtis (councilor of the Municipality of Ilioupoli) were taken to the Police Department of Gjirokaster (Thursday, 1 PM Eastern Time) and interrogated by the Albanian Police.”
Earlier yesterday, an appeal was made to the Greeks who went to the region to show restraint and respect to the Foreign and Citizen Protection Ministries, as reported by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency. In particular, the two ministries called on “the Greek citizens who go to Vouliarati for the funeral, to commemorate the dead, showing self-restraint and respect for the family and the ceremony.”
It is noted that already since Wednesday night, the Greek Police were also on alert, carrying out checks on buses and private cars that were traveling to Albania.
Especially close to the Greek-Albanian border a blockade was set up as a checkpoint, while the Albanian authorities took similar precautions on the Albanian side of the border.
(Photo by Eurokinissi/Leonidas Bakollas)
More than 1000 people are expected to give a final farewell to Konstantinos Katsifas, who was shot dead by the Albanian police on October 28 at Vouliarati. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Leonidas Bakollas)