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Culture

Kostas: My Story, Ganias’ Greek Civil War Memoir

April 11, 2019

The Greek Civil War continues to haunt many to this day. For those who lived through the horrific events that took place in Greece during and after World War II, the images and experiences have left their indelible mark and indeed have influenced the course of Greek history and current events.

The reconciliation so longed for and needed has been continually put off, delayed by the natural tendency of most people to keep silent about traumatic events in life, to hide the uncomfortable emotions, shame, survivors’ guilt, and just pretend that everything is fine.

Hiding behind political ideology also hinders the healing process as many people cling to outdated notions, preferring to see the world as black and white, and not as the complicated place we actually live in. To say we have moved on from this point when the deep wounds obviously remain and no one has actually forgiven anyone is not helpful.

Hearing individual stories now, some 70 years later, highlights how very little is actually known about the Civil War, the history and the memories that are too painful for some to revisit. The fact that many accounts are only now being published says a great deal about the depth of the trauma to people’s psyche.

For those interested in the time period and in gaining some understanding of what the people really experienced, these published accounts are vital, but that being said, it is also important to keep in mind that all such accounts are inevitably biased.

Writing a memoir is a very personal act and it should not be mistaken for a scholarly history. The author is under no obligation in sharing his or her own story to provide footnotes and evidence for what they saw more than half a century ago. It should also be noted that it is no easy feat to write a memoir and relive the events that shaped an entire life.

Once the first draft is done, first-time authors should be aware that the work has only just begun. Neglecting the revision process and attempting to edit on your own without the benefit of beta readers (who are not relatives or close friends) and without a professional editor can diminish your story as typos and grammatical errors get in the way of the readers’ experience of the author’s voice.

Kostas, My Story: The Gathering of the Children- Pethomazoma, An Unforgettable Civil War 1946-1949, A Mother’s Anguish to Save Her Children by Konstantinos N. Ganias offers an eyewitness account to the very little discussed events of the Civil War and its aftermath.

The gathering of the children or pethomazoma mentioned in the subtitle may bring to mind the practice of blood tax during the Ottoman Empire when Christian boys, ages 8 to 18, were taken from their families, converted to Islam, and sent to train for service to the empire, often as Janissaries, the Sultan’s elite infantry. In this case it refers to the gathering and relocation of children from northern Greece to then-communist countries for their protection, according to the communists. Non-communists saw it as a plan to create communist Janissaries.

In Ganias’ case, his mother and siblings, as well as others, women, children, and the elderly from the same village were sent to Hungary. The journey was harrowing to say the least and the moments captured in Ganias’ memoir are haunting and not for the faint of heart. The day to day hardships and struggles of the people who longed to return home and the eventual return to Greece shed a bit of light on this time period as only someone who lived through it could. The book seems to suggest a sequel is on the way with further details and the continuation of Ganias’ story.

Kostas, My Story: The Gathering of the Children- Pethomazoma, An Unforgettable Civil War 1946-1949, A Mother’s Anguish to Save Her Children by Konstantinos N. Ganias is available online.

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