…They open the chests of their memories and revive with their stories the Piraeus of another era. The time when the Ernest Chiller was leaving his historical imprint on the city, which the Tsar would immortalize with his brush the scenes of Piraeus or from 1925, when the High Life cinema, which would later become the headquarters of the Gestapo, showed the first talking film in the city.
The organization Monumenta began to collect oral testimonies about life and about the amazing buildings of Piraeus, demolished or saved, neighborhood by neighborhood from old residents of the city. Monumenta, which deals with the rescue and promotion of cultural heritage, appeals to old Piraeus residents to submit their testimonies, so that memories can be kept alive with valuable information that cannot be found in other sources. At the same time, he aspires to record all the buildings of the city that were built between 1830 and 1940, as a continuation of the impressive project he implemented in Athens that led to the recording of 11,200 historical buildings.
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Shocking testimonies about the bombing of Piraeus from people who lived through the events as well as stories from building owners are included in the material that has been collected so far. After the completion of the project visitors to a special website will be able to listen or read excerpts of the interviews.
It is estimated that around 3,500 buildings dating from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century are preserved in Piraeus, and experts point out that they are characterized by an extremely interesting variety, both in terms of their uses and forms: They are buildings built in models of Neoclassicism, Eclecticism, transitional currents until the mid-1920s but also of the Modern Movement.
“Buildings are connected with stories that reveal their lives, the micro-stories of their owners, the history of cities, in a particularly vivid and revealing way. Intangible materials are mainly the speech and emotions of the people who designed them, built them, inhabited them, abandoned them. These are systematically collected by MONUMENTA, which for eight years has been recording and studying the buildings of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century in Greek cities and settlements. The collection of oral testimonies as well as personal archives constituted a systematic methodological tool in the process of recording the buildings and their stories with the ultimate goal of documenting, protecting and highlighting them”, points out Irini Gratsia, head of Monumenta.
According to Stamatina Malikoutis, Professor of Architecture at the University of Western Attica, who has studied the buildings of Piraeus, Piraeus is an “architectural gallery” for middle-class, small-town and popular housing. “A walk along the coastal path from the port of Zea to Tzavela Street, at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, reveals buildings, one better than the other, that represent the entire evolution of architecture in the last 100 years in Greek reality,” she says. pointing out that while several buildings of Piraeus are classified as monuments or preserved by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Culture, in recent years this great heritage has been discredited with demolitions, alterations and abandonment taking with it memories, stories, sensations, everything that makes up a city . In this context, the oral testimonies and the effort to record and highlight its remarkable buildings is an effort to not lose the very identity of Piraeus together with the buildings that are leaving…
Victoria Desypri-Christofi, musician
Christofi Mansion, Neo Faliro, preserved as a work of art
“At the corner of Christofis and Davakis in Neo Faliro, there is the house built by my grandfather Christofis Christofis, a maritime agent by profession,” says Mrs. Desypri-Christofis, about the mansion that was built with the architect Ernestos Tsiller. The building permit is dated August 2, 1907, and as indicated by the relief engraving on one of the entrance columns, the construction of the building was completed in 1908. and grandfather’s office. As we enter there is another door which leads to a marble staircase which connected the three floors. In the semi-basement were the kitchen and staff rooms because the grandmother, who came from France and from a high-ranking family, was the granddaughter of a general of the Great Napoleon. Her name was Victoria Dupont.” The house had important innovations for the time, such as the small manual elevator, enclosed in a cabinet, with which the food was transported from the kitchen to the dining room and the dishes were returned for washing, while the unique value of the house is added by the exquisite painted decorations on the walls and ceilings. “At that time, Faliro was the port of Athens and it was considered very fashionable to have a house,” says Ms. Desypri-Christofi. “And because my grandfather had financial flexibility, he hired the best architect, Ziller, and built the three-story detached house…”. .
Dimitris Meremetis, cloth merchant
“I was born in 1932 in Pasalimani, on Mouson Street, above Neorion, almost in the Center of Piraeus, and I remember that I took my first bath in Pasalimani, at the turn of Alexandra Square, where there were bathtubs. There is also a drawing made by the Tsar, which shows these before they were demolished and houses were built, while above, there used to be barracks in the First World War…
I remember a lot from that time, but I certainly don’t forget the bombing of Piraeus. I was 12 years old. Then my father tells me “If there is an alarm, we will close the shop, lower the blinds, you will run ahead, you will not turn back to look, I will leave 20 meters behind and come. If bombs fall, let’s not both be killed.” So I started from the shop on Sotiros Street to Vryonis, both me and my father running. After that we walked on foot and when we got to Ibes I see the planes, like birds, going ten ten or twenty twenty, passing between Aegina and here, low and shaking the world. We entered an entrance on Ives Street, they took their walk, dropped the bombs in the harbor and left, 360 planes said they were. The earth was quiet for half an hour, I could see the pillar moving, there was no glass left in any house, so far from the port.
When it was over, we went home. Many were killed, I also have a newspaper that came out the other day. They calculated at 700-800, another newspaper wrote 2000. Because what had happened? Those who lost their child, their father, didn’t declare themselves, because we had vouchers for bread then and they didn’t go to declare that our mother died in order to keep the voucher so they could also get their mother’s bread. Thus, not all the dead had been declared…
In those days they wouldn’t let me leave the house, but I broke it after three days and went to Tsamadou Street, there they had taken out the doors and shutters and put the dead on boards all the way down that street and people were going to see, he was looking for his own. Whatever the dead had in their pockets, keys or ID, they had put in their chests because they were deformed.
The boundaries of the bombed area were from Sotiros today to Hephaistou, the last bomb fell on the Commercial school and from there to the port below the whole area was bombed.
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