Lemnos, the favorite of her expatriate children
"My childhood is full of reeds. I spent a lot of wind to grow up".
This verse by Odysseus Elytis was in my mind, every time I wondered ............................................how it could become possible to build a hall for the great benefactors of the island before even their faces fade.
They were the ones who left as children from the still enslaved Lemnos, in order to seek a better fortune but also to help the poor parents. And they did not know then how much power this tortured and bright place had when they left it behind. Nor did they know that the mountain wind of the village in which they grew up would blow forever in their souls the great nostalgia, that it would become the sacred and secret bond of their distant homeland.
The "incurable nostalgia" to quote Homer, was expressed with great love full of churches and schools.
And even today it is still admirable that almost all the expatriates, when Lemnos was still suffering the unspeakable pain of slavery, even after its liberation, in 1912, when there were deprivation and poverty, those expatriate children fought hard for their island, they fought god knows how painfully, but with an unwavering goal to help their homeland. Maybe beyond their personal lives. The vow of love for their home was stronger.
To quote the poet, the place where we dreamed as children, the place where we experienced our first pain, our first loneliness, is fiercely tied to the age of maturity. And he also said, the more humble the place of childhood, the stronger the desire, the pain for return, real return or even mental, to return there to rest the mind.
And for more than a century they became "the brave" benefactors for poor Lemnos immersed in abysmal darkness at that time.
"Without a school we walk in darkness" said St Kosmas the Aetolian
And then, whenever I was working or trying for the Hall, another verse by Elytis helped me, when I was thinking of those years of slavery, with the poor oppressed people of the island fighting for bread and hiding their weapons and flags deep in chests
Now I say, how beneficial poetry is, how much it helps you sometimes overcome any pain. Well, this verse came out of me, especially in those days, when philologist Despina Papadopoulou, from the working group, had come to Athens, last winter, to finish the texts of the biographies, in case I couldn't make it so that the Hall would be completed.
"Only mourning everywhere oh and the light is relentless"
I recited it again and again as if I wanted to identify with the ruthless sun in the daily wage of those people - who were slaves in the Turkish estate.
My long journey but also my experience of writing and thinking has taught me that in our life, some things come by themselves and find us.
They find us. So we can help them exist. To be made as a whole. As if for them this is the exact moment, the one appointed by time. And you give everything you have because you loved them because you were trapped by the very events that are prepared in their own dimensions and seek to become life and memory and dream in our daily life.
The need to make them come true becomes your dream.
Somehow, I believe, the project that we are celebrating today, The Hall of the Great Benefactors of Lemnos, came and found me. Today it becomes part of life in the daily life of the island.
In the text I posted in the Benefactor Hall, I say:
Today that man has been so devalued,
is worth, more than ever,
for Lemnos to honour its benefactors
Even after a century.
Unfortunately in these days of the pandemic.
It is not only the devaluation of man by man
But I believe that, just as the pandemic, in essence, fear, has brought us closer to what is precious in our lives, it also makes this honor more valuable to our Great Benefactors, because what has existed in life exists forever and it is waiting for its dues.
Always having a special love for my place - a love that I gave in all my books - for years I looked at the abandonment of some historic buildings and I deeply regretted that all those important people these wonderful donations were slowly sinking into oblivion without the honor they deserved.
Today I say, so from a somewhat metaphysical point of view, that perhaps this day may be the day appointed by time, for the island to express a small gratitude to those who had offered their aid in those four hundred years of slavery.
Just like a collective need for the Lemnians to express this minimal gratitude, even if it is a century later.
A convergence of time and human sensitivity
The way that the Mayor of Lemnos, Mr. Dimitrios Marinakis, embraced and helped this project, saw it as a spiritual work of the collective memory of the island, this I can only say: It was a convergence of time and human sensitivity.
Because these memories are among those that time makes them sacred in our soul.
As for the Lending Library, this idea was purely his own. He wanted to create, he said, a lending library in Sachtoureio, and that's where I began thinking of donating my own books. Seven hundred of them. And I'm glad I was able to part with them. Although not all, not yet.
I confess that I can not believe that everything that has occupied my mind and soul for years today is becoming a reality. How today, with the help of God, are the inaugurations for these two projects. And I wish from the bottom of my heart, together with my own Hall - three works of love in the Sachtourio Palace - I wish that no evil eye will catch them. I wish for them to flourish and to enlighten and to find a small place in the thoughts of Lemnians, as resistance to oblivion, to exist and to beautify the daily life.
A big infinite thank you to say only to the Mayor of Lemnos, Mr. Dimitrios Marinakis for all his generous moral and financial support. But even so, because he trusted us. Today the dream of our endeavor comes true.
I want to mention one by one the names of those who helped us and especially of the voluntary working group that we created and worked collectively to complete this project.
It is all noted in our post "Giving thanks"
Philologist Despina Konstantiou, former Mayor of Myrina, philologist Despina Papadopoulou-Patsarisou. The journalist of the Municipality Katerina Fikari, the interior decorator Thekla Filippou, the philologist Haritini Fotopoulou, Kaiti Sapera, former municipal employee, Fotini Etmektsoglou and Eleni Tsipouridou, at a consulting level. And Maria Lampadaridou Pothou, with "virtue and courage", as Andreas Kalvos would say.
The dear friend of Lemnos Theodoros Belitsos helped us immensely, as he allowed us to use the research of the biographical data, that he had compiled, but also the compatriot friend George Konstandellis who gave us the two volumes, Historical and Cultural Heritage of Lemnos and also allowed us to use in digital form the text of Theodoros Belitsos and all the photos that were there of the Great Benefactors.
We were also helped by the album of historical and rare photos of Lemnos of our compatriot Markos Psarakis, as well as the jewelry painting of our friend Lemnian painter Andreas Kontellis, with which we decorated our biographies.
As we wrote in our Thanksgiving note, we ask the Visitor of the Hall not to dwell on our possible mistakes, small shortcomings, or omissions.
To see it as a minimal expression of gratitude and honor to the Great Benefactors of the island, even after a century.
And we wish, young people, in better richer times, to fill any existing gaps and to give the Hall the functionality of modern technology.
This is all we could do.
I would like to finish with a quote by the psalmist "A thousand years as if it was only yesterday"
The creation of a book club was also mentioned and was greatly received.