In the Spring of 1947, the Greek Civil War (1946-’49) was approaching like a black cloud in the sky above Grammos. By the end of hostilities in August ’49, nearly 27,000 refugee children would leave their lives, their village, their school and their toys, to live in a strange place with other people.
Seven thousand of these children were moved from their homes – on the northern borders of Greece – several months before the KKE planned the evacuation of the villages in the war zones (early 1948) and before it began to be implemented by the DSE at the beginning of March of that year.
In addition, the departure of her families Aetomelitsas and the surrounding villages that June for Albania occurred before the corresponding program of the Greek government, led by Queen Frederica, had begun in July 1947. Nor had the clearing operations of the SS for the transfer of the mountain populations to the cities begun yet, which were intended to cut off DSE fighters from supply and manning.
The reason for the sudden departure was the most ferocious that could invade the child’s psyche: the imminent bombing by the fighter jets of the Greek Air Force. The news had already arrived from other Greek villages: the schools were closed with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1946civilians lost their lives daily from shelling, mortars, hunger and disease, and already cut off populations had sought refuge in the forests.
The “protagonists” of the documentary.
Many of the children of Aetomelitsa on June 26, 1947 believed that they would spend only a few days in hiding places and in the nests of the wild animals of Grammos, and they would soon return to their homes. To their surprise, however, they soon found that they made the crossing to Albania, where they were to stay for more than 10 years.
When the Albanian South began to suffocate from the refugees of the Greek Civil War (about 6,000 children were in the area of Kortsa alone), and their living conditions there became horrible, it was agreed between the KKE and the People’s Democracies to transfer many of them to other Eastern European countries.
Thus, in 1948 thousands of children were transported by trucks from their Albanian settlements to Monastir (Bitola) in Yugoslavia, and from there by trains to Romania, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Many of the 20,000 children transported by the KKE evacuation program had no relatives with them, and would now live in the institutional conditions of daycare centers in communist countries.
When the Greek Civil War ended, on August 29, 1949, those DSE fighters who survived joined the 100 thousand Greek political refugees in the countries of Eastern Europe.
The children from Aetomilitsa would return to their village as adults, now, the 1960s – to meet two new challenges: the extreme poverty of mountainous Greece and the suspicion of the Greek government, and in many cases also of Greek society.
WATCH THE MINI DOCUMENTARY
-“Children of the Greek Civil War. Refugees and politics of memory” – Ricky van Buschoten-Loring Danforth, Alexandria 2015.
-“History of the Greek Civil War 1946-1949” – Giorgos Margaritis, Bibliorama 2005.