Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 23 May 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 23 MAY 2015 15 SKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 23 MAY 2015 15 perspective perspective (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) spirit, took it upon themselves to form part of the resistance. The Cretans, at risk of certain death from the Germans, would shelter and protect Australians fighting in the resistance. The bonds that were forged would never be broken. My koumbaro knows this to be only too true. His next door neighbour in Sydney was an Australian veteran of the Battle of Crete. He, like many others, was stranded in Crete after the evacuation and was kept safe by the Cretans, who also ensured his safe passage off the island. George recounted to me the story of when his father first met this grateful World War Two veteran. "Upon hearing of my Dad's Cretan roots, he told him 'I owe my life to the people of Crete. If there is anything I can do for you, do not hesitate to ask'." It should be noted that more than 25,000 people across Greece would go on to be executed by the Nazis for helping or sheltering Allies during the German occupation. Most Australians who fell during battle in Crete are buried in the British and Commonwealth War Cemetery at Suda Bay, on the northern coast of Crete. The memorial that stands in honour of the Australians is called Stavromeni. The cemetery has received visits from thousands of Australians over the years and it is one battle that is commemorated in Crete and by the Australian, New Zealand and British embassies every year. At one stage during the Cretan occupation, there were approximately 75,000 Nazis on the island. It is truly a testament to the inhabitants of Crete and the Anzacs who continued the fight against such overwhelming odds. REMEMBERING CRETE Crete has a population of approximately 700,000 people, with a history that can be traced back to Minoan times from 2600BC. It is the oldest Greek civilisation and the second largest Greek island after Cyprus. The island has had many inspirational stories and people throughout its history. Some of the famous names include Eleftherios Venizelos, King Minos, the philosopher Epimenides, Alexander’s General Nearchus, Saint Eumene, Nana Mouskouri and El Greco – whose home I visited in Toledo, Spain. (I even had the dubious honour of being chased out of an El Greco inspired museum for taking unauthorised pictures.) Since 1941 you can add the heroes of the Battle of Crete - Australians and Greeks alike. I continued my brief holiday in Crete, taking in the sights and the glorious coastline – the same scenic images that soldiers on both sides would have taken in during May 1941. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would have ever wanted to bombard this beautiful island. As for my koumbaro and me, we drove along the Cretan coastline, making the occasional stop to admire yet another idyllic seaside town. Our thoughts could not help but turn to all the suffering that had been visited upon this tranquil place and friendly people. It was then that I realised, if all those who had fallen in battle were alive today, their thoughts would probably not be brooding over such dark days in history. They would no doubt be sitting in a cafe ordering a frappe while enjoying another game of tavli with their friends, lazing on the beach, or just soaking up all the simple pleasures Crete has to offer. In salute to the Greeks and Anzacs, George and I downed raiki, glazed our eyes over the Sea of Crete, and with a renewed admiration for our ancestors we decided we would take our time here. That Cretan taxi driver was right: the culture is different here. George’s next door neighbour knew it, and we were beginning to understand it as well. *Billy Cotsis is a freelance writer and a short film director.
16 May 2015
30 May 2015