As the number of people who actually lived through and witnessed World War II gradually declines, it is ever more important to gather the stories and accounts of the war before it is too late. Many of those people from the older generation were perhaps reluctant to share the painful and traumatic memories of the war, but it is vital to record those memories for future generations and as a service to history.
The Cursed Day: Eyewitness Accounts of the Nazi Massacres during Operation Kalavryta by Antonis Kakoyannis offers a unique opportunity to understand the history of the Kalavryta Massacre from the perspective of those who were there.
In December 1943, after months battling resistance fighters, Nazi units marched through the mountains of the Greek Peloponnese, conducting reprisals against Greek civilians. The operation reached its brutal conclusion with the massacre of 438 civilian men and boys in the town of Kalavryta. The Cursed Day brings these events to life through the personal narratives of the author’s own family and other villagers who lived through those tumultuous times.
Author Antonis Kakoyannis noted, “my goal in writing this book was to capture the events surrounding Operation Kalavryta as experienced by those of us who lived through it. As time passed, and the survivors grew fewer, I felt an urgency to record these stories and let them serve as lessons in the suffering wrought by war.”
Kakoyannis was born and raised in Skepasto, Kalavryta, Greece. As a teenage boy, he was an eyewitness to many of the events that took place in Kalavryta during World War II. He later immigrated to the United States and raised his family in South Florida. He began writing the book in response to one of his daughter’s questions about the war in Greece.
Recognizing that his children had not learned about the Axis occupation of Greece in school and were thus unaware of the events surrounding the German massacres of Operation Kalavryta, he began years of research to capture the true stories before they were lost to time. He reviewed Greek and German documents and official records, incorporated his own recollections from that time, and interviewed over seventy local residents who survived the experience.
The result of his dedication is The Cursed Day, which focuses on the Kalavryta district – a historic, mountainous region of Greece – where Germans massacred over 600 civilians and destroyed twenty-eight towns, villages, and monasteries in their attempt to dampen support for resistance activities. The book describes village life before the war, the Italian and German invasions and occupation, the formation of the Greek Resistance, and the events leading up to the German army’s reprisals against Greek civilians.
Kakoyannis daughter, Christina, spoke with The National Herald about the book. When asked how long it took to write, she told TNH, “my father conducted research and interviews for the book throughout the 1990s and wrote a more geopolitically-focused version that was published in Greek in 2000. He wanted his children and grandchildren who couldn’t read Greek well to better understand the events and the impact on everyone’s lives, so he spent several more years translating key sections of the Greek version, removing much of the broader context, and adding in a personal element. He was going to leave it as a book just for the family to have, but then we all thought it was important for others to know about what happened in Kalavryta as well, so he published it in English recently. In summary, he worked on this book for over 15 years, although not consecutive years.”
The Cursed Day: Eyewitness Accounts of the Nazi Massacres during Operation Kalavryta by Antonis Kakoyannis is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.