This trip to Greece took an unexpected and delightful twist when my friend, Bill Burgi, asked if I would meet him in Mytilene. He had volunteered to review the genealogical records kept by the Greek Orthodox Mitropolis of Lesvos and the Town Hall of his mother’s village of Agiasos for potential preservation purposes. I was excited to have this opportunity, and invited my research colleague, Giannis Michalalakos, to join us.
My flight to Athens landed at 10:30 a.m. on Monday (the 21st) and at 8:30 that night, I returned to the airport with Giannis to head to Lesvos. One hour later, we were enthralled to be on this island. Even the darkness could not hide the beauty of the harbor.
The next morning, I awoke to a city of splendor.
My desire to explore was over ridden by our appointment with Archbishop Frantzi, a man whose eyes and demeanor radiated pure kindness. Despotebthe refugee situation on a continuing crisis level, he maintains a sense of compassionate responsibility to those who have lost everything. I felt that he was a man of his times, placed in this position by God to help those whose needs are overwhelming. He told us that he was leaving the following morning for Bosnia on a humanitarian trip. Bringing food, clothing, and various supplies, he will be working with others to see what can be done for the refugees in that country as well.
Bishop Frantzi has been concerned about the state of the records in the metropolis, and one of his clerks had begun to scan pages of the most recent books. These books are big, heavy, and very difficult to position on a flatbed scanner. We hope to be able to help the Bishop preserve his precious documents.
We then headed to Agiasos, a lovely village nestled in the mountains an hour from Mytilene. We drove through terraces of olive trees–some extremely old and others newly planted. We later learned that Mytilene’s olive oil ranks among the best in Greece.
In Agiasos, we had lunch and walked the streets of Bill’s mother’s family. The town is a mix of old and new, as is evident throughout Greece. Families whose ancestors left the village are now returning to restore and renovate their family, or non-familial, homes. It is one indicator of the start of a new beginning for Greece.
We visited the Dimarheion, and spoke with the clerks about records preservation. Their enthusiasm was so encouraging, and we could see how desperately this work was needed.
Although it can be discouraging to see the state of these records, it is certainly encouraging to see that people are now realizing the importance of archival preservation.
It was late afternoon, yet we decided to drive to Mythmna, a village for its ambience, nightlife, and beautiful views of the sea. Each part of Greece has its own unique beauty. Although we are drawn to our ancestral village, it is delightful to explore and experience other areas.
I hope that keepers of the records throughout this beautiful and ancient land will soon realize that there are resources readily available to assist them in preserving the documents of their history and their people. It is a daunting task, but one that must be undertaken–and soon.