General Makriyannis - Memoirs (Excerpts)
Translated by Rick Μ. Newton: The Charioteer 28/1986
Brother Readers !
Since Ι have succumbed to this longing to burden you with my ignorance (if what Ι am writing here sees the light: let me explain that it was in Argos on February 26, 1829 that this idea occurred to me of following the struggles and other events of our country), Ι tell you that if you do not read it all, not one of you readers has the right to form an opinion either for or against. For Ι am illiterate and cannot keep the right order in my writings. And […]* then too the reader is enlightened. In setting out on this task of recording the misfortunes brought on our country and faith by our folly and selfishness -by our clergymen, our politicians, and us in the military- and in being greatly vexed myself by it all, since we did great harm to our country, and so many innocent people have died and are still dying, Ι am noting the mistakes made by everyone, and up to this day we have yet to make a sacrifice of virtue and patriotism, which is why we are in this wretched plight facing destruction. In writing down these causes and circumstances whereby we have all brought our country to ruin, Ι, who have a share in this country and society, write with extreme indignation against those responsible. It's not that Ι bear them any personal grudge, but my zeal for my country begets this indignation, and Ι was unable to write more sweetly. Ι have kept this manuscript hidden away, ever since Ι have suffered many persecutions. Now that I have brought it out, Ι have read it all, having written up to the month of April 1850; and in reading it Ι saw that I give a sweet account of no individual. That's the first thing I noticed, then. Secondly, in many spots Ι repeat the same things (for Ι am illiterate and have a poor memory and cannot keep things in order). And thirdly, Ι noticed the things Ι recorded about the ministry of Colettis, who committed so many grave errors against his country and faith and comrades, all the honest people, and who caused so much blood of his own countrymen to be unjustly shed, and who brought sufferings upon his unfortunate country; and even today, after his death, these sufferings continue at the hands of his own disciples and companions who govern us; and his worthless Parliaments and other men of that sort who didn't leave a cent in the treasury and brought the whole state to great misfortune and confusion. And a large fleet of dogs has blockaded us for over three months and taken all our ships and destroyed all our commerce and trampled our flag, and the people on the islands are dying of starvation, and those who once had ships of their own now roam the streets shedding black tears. All these horrors and a host of others are the work of Colettis and his company, who decreed that we should be governed under this system and by such as were companions of his. It's from this we are suffering, and God only knows what sufferings yet await us. And all this was due to his ulterior motives and self-interests which aimed to overthrow the Constitution of the Third of September -which takes measures for our faith and other matters related to our country's salvation- and we have it on paper and, instead of benefitting us, it continues to destroy us. All the others about whom Ι write from the beginning are saints compared to this man and his present company, although it was those initial mistakes that gave birth to these later troubles.
It is about all these things that Ι am now writing. Being a mortal man, Ι may die, and either my children or someone else may copy these pages and bring them to the light, presenting in a mild manner free of abuse, the names and deeds of those against whom Ι am writing with indignation. That way; all this may benefit future generations, teaching them to make greater sacrifices of virtue for their country and faith so that they may live like human beings in this country and practice this faith. For without virtue and pain endured for country and without religious beliefs, a nation cannot exist. And they must beware of being deluded by selfishness. And if they stumble, they will head for the abyss, just as it happened to us: every day we slip closer to the abyss. Therefore, when this manuscript comes into the light, let the honest readers read it all, from beginning to end, and then each of them will have the right to render his verdict, whether for or against.
*Manuscript damage: the words at this point in the text are illegible.
Argos, February 26, 1829
Ι have been appointed by the government of Governor Capodistrias as General Commander of the Executive Force in the Peloponnese and Sparta. Ι am stationed here in Argos. Ι sit and communicate with the Government and with the officials and officers in all the districts and, when it is needed, I make my rounds in all these parts to keep the general peace. But most of the time Ι attend to my duties while sitting around here. And to keep from running off to the coffee houses and such, which Ι am not accustomed to -(Ι was able to write only a little, since Ι had never gone to a teacher for reasons Ι will explain, not having the means)- Ι asked one friend and another and they taught me some more here in Argos, where Ι sit idle. And so, after spending a couple of months learning these letters you see here, Ι imagined writing the story of my life: everything I did in my childhood and in the community after coming of age, and everything Ι did for my country when Ι joined the Secret Society for the struggle for our freedom, and everything Ι saw and know that happened in the Struggle, and everything Ι personally participated in to the best of my ability and did my duty as Ι was able. It wasn't proper that Ι, an illiterate, set out on this task and burden the honest readers and great and wise men in this society, putting them to the tedious task of wasting their precious moments after Ι had piqued their curiosity. But since Ι too, being only human, have succumbed to this temptation, Ι beg your pardon for the burden Ι am about to impose on you. If Ι am an honest man, Ι will write the truth about how the events Ι will mention. actually took place. Therefore, all you readers are first obligated to investigate my behaviour and see how Ι conducted myself in society and the Struggle; and if Ι behaved honourably, you can accept my writings as true; if my behaviour was dishonourable, don't believe anything. And you will learn that Ι conducted myself honourably, and you will see documented evidence and proofs from beginning to end from various sources -governments, officials, and many others wherever Ι served with my brother-comrades whom God deemed me worthy of leading, ever my superiors in the struggle and in whatever services were assigned me. Ι had 18 men when Ι first set out in the Struggle; eventually, God has deemed me worthy of having up to 1,400 in my command. Never have we brought a blot on the pages of my country's history: nowhere is there the slightest accusation against us, not in the government, nor in the districts, nor among the individuals wherever we fought in Roumeli, the Peloponnese, the islands, and Sparta. In these pages you will see ample proof of the gratitude of those in all these places, and these can be seen everywhere in the state and government archives. And while I was in charge of so many men whom God entrusted to me, various forms of destruction and pillaging took place in our country; but, glory be to God's all-holy name, He never allowed us to disgrace ourselves. The country owes a debt of gratitude for all this to the good, noble, and distinguished patriots, my fellow comrades under my command: we too contributed whatever was in our power in our country's hour of need. The virtue and patriotism which these fine patriots displayed belongs to them, not me. For such virtue was never mine, nor is it even to this day: both in battle and now in this present service, these men are my betters. Even now in the service under my command are the brave and noble officers from Missolonghi, with their brave and noble leader Mitros Deligiorgis, who was garrison commander in the siege of Missolonghi. There are several brave and distinguished islanders and Peloponnesians, fine fighters; there are men from Roumeli. There are brave lovers of their country, the landowners and officers from Athens, along with whom we fought at the Athens Acropolis and elsewhere in our country's battles. And it was the virtue of all these fine patriots -thanks, first, to the kindness of God- that saved us from doing anything that would harm our country. As for you, dear readers, if you wish to learn the truth, Ι beg you to investigate everything in these pages and find out whether they are true or false. Ι have one request to make of all you distinguished readers: you do not have the right to make any judgment either for or against if you do not read the entire work: only then do you have the right to render whatever verdict you like, either for or against. After reading it all, from beginning to end, then you can judge all those who brought misfortunes on our country and caused civil wars through their personal interests and selfishness: these are the ones responsible for the past and present sufferings of our unfortunate country and our honest fighters. Ι will write down the bare truth and do so with dispassion. But the truth is bitter and unwelcome to the ears of those of us who have done wrong: for we want what is wrong and we pursue our self-interests, and we still want others to call us "fine patriots." And that is impossible. Neither will Ι conceal the truth nor will Ι allow it to remain hidden that our country has suffered harm and dishonour and is ever degenerating to this end: we have all been found to be wild beasts. History books will tell of the causes of this evil, and newspapers recount them every day. And my own words carry no weight: educated people, not simple illiterates, ought to be writing of these matters so that our youth can see them and future generations may acquire more virtue and patriotism. For every human being, one's country and faith are his all, and he must make sacrifices of patriotism so that he and his kinsmen may live like honourable people in society. And only when adorned with patriotic sentiments do people earn the name of "nation." Otherwise, they are mere shams of nations and a burden on the earth. This country belongs to each and every one of us and is the product of the struggles of even the smallest and weakest citizen: for he too has a vested interest in this country and this faith. It is improper for any person to be lazy and neglect these duties. And the educated man must proclaim the truth as an educated man; and the simple man must do the same. For the earth has no handle with which a single person, no matter how strong or weak, can lift it on his own shoulders. And when a person is too weak for a task and cannot take up the burden single-handed, he gets the others to help: in that case, let him not imagine saying, "Ι did it!" Let him say, rather, "We did it!" For we have all, not just one, put our shoulders into it. Our rulers and leaders, both native and foreign-born, have become "Most Illustrious" and "Most Brave" : nothing stops them. We were poor and became rich. Here in the Peloponnese Kiamil Bey and the other Turks were extremely wealthy. Kolokotronis, his relatives, and friends have grown rich on the lands, factories, mills, houses, vineyards, and other wealth that belonged to the Turks. When Kolokotronis and his companions came from Zakynthos, they didn't own even a square foot of land. Now all can see what they possess. The same thing happened in Roumeli: Gouras and Mamouris, Kritzotis, the Grivas clan, Staikos, the Tzavelas family and many others. And what are they asking of the nation? Millions more for their great services rendered. And they never let up in this. They are always at work trying to come up with laws and parties for the good of the country. Our country has endured more sufferings and lost more brave young men to their "laws" and "good" than it did in our struggle against the Turks. We have forced our people to live in caves with wild animals. We have desolated the countryside and become the scourge of the earth.
All this has given me cause to learn how to write in my old age so that Ι could write it all down. Ι too was one of them. Let someone else write whatever he knows about me. As for myself, Ι will tell the bare truth. For Ι have a share in this country where Ι and my children will live. For Ι was young and grew old before my time from these horrors brought on my country. Ι have five wounds on my body from various battles for my country, and I have come out of it only half a man. Most of the time Ι am bedridden, debilitated by it all. Ι glorify God for not depriving me of my life, and Ι am grateful to my country for honouring me with promotions in keeping with my position and circumstances up to the rank of General. Ι live like a human being with the blessings God has bestowed upon me, without ever feeling a pang of conscience and without ever having deprived anyone of even a foot of land.
The land of my birth is a village named Avoriti, which is near Lidoriki. The village -five huts- is three hours from Lidoriki. My parents were very poor, and their poverty stemmed from the pillaging by the local Turks and Ali Pasha's Albanians. My parents were poor and had a large family, and when Ι was still in my mother's belly, she went to the forest one day to gather wood. After loading the wood on her shoulder and setting out laden on the road in that isolated area, she was overcome by labour pains and gave birth to me. All by herself, the poor exhausted woman risked her life, hers and mine. All alone, she delivered herself and tidied up, stacked a few pieces of firewood together, put some grass on top, placed me on all this, and went back to the village.
Shortly afterwards, three people in our house were murdered, including my father, by Ali Pasha's Turks, who wanted to take us as slaves. One night then our entire family and all the relatives got up and fled and headed for Livadia, with the hope of settling there. They had to cross a bridge in Lidoriki known as "The Narrow One," since there was no other way to cross the river. The Turks kept guard there and captured anyone who tried to cross. For eighteen days all my people roamed about in the forest, eating wild acorns. My mother ate them too, and so did Ι -through her milk.
Unable to endure the hunger any longer, they decided to cross the bridge. Since Ι was a tiny infant who might cry and endanger everyone's lives, they decided to leave me behind: they abandoned me in the forest known as "The Red Woods" and set out for the bridge. Then my mother repented the decision and told them, "Our sin against the baby will be our ruin! You go ahead to that spot over there and wait […] I will take the baby. If Ι am lucky and it doesn't cry, we'll come over" […] my mother and God saved us. My mother and other relatives told me all this. The notables supported us until we could get on our feet, build houses and start farms.
When Ι turned seven, they put me to work for someone for 100 paras a year. The next year Ι was paid five grosia. After I did many jobs, they wanted me to do some humiliating household chores and take care of the children. That was the end of me! Ι refused to do that kind of work, and both my masters and my relatives beat me. Ι sneaked away and got some other boys together and went to Thebes. But as my bad luck would have it, my relatives came after us there too and brought me back to Livonia and to the same master. Ι spent a considerable time working at that same job. But day and night my self-respect never left me in peace. And so, in order to get out of that work, Ι started beating the children and knocking their heads, hitting even my own mother, and then I'd head for the hills. They finally got tired of this and let me go, since that job had nearly done me in.
When Ι turned fourteen, Ι went to Desphina to stay with a fellow-countryman there. His brother was with Ali Pasha, serving as an officer in Desphina. Ι spent one day with him. It was the feast of St. John, and we had gone to the celebration. He gave me his rifle and asked me to hold it for him. Ι wanted to fire it, and it burst. Right then and there, in front of all those people, he grabbed me and beat the life out of me. It wasn't the beating that hurt so much as the shame Ι felt before the crowd. Then everyone started eating and drinking, but Ι was crying. Not finding any judge to hear my grievance and vindicate me, Ι thought it appropriate to resort to St. John, since it was in his house that Ι had suffered such harm and disgrace. That night Ι went into his church, shut the door, prostrated myself, and started crying in loud sobs, "What's this that's happened to me? Am Ι a donkey that they can beat me so?" Ι begged him to give me some fine silver weapons and fifteen poungia** in cash; if he did, I would have a big silver votive-lamp made for him. After much shouting, Ι reached an agreement with the saint. Shortly after that, my master's brother wrote from Yannina that he needed a boy in his service. Ι was the one they sent there: it was 1811. Ali Pasha had married him to a woman in Arta. He stayed a while in Arta. Ali Pasha sent for him, since he loved him and kept him as a private secretary. He was an honest man named Thanasis Lidorikis. He wanted to leave me behind in his house, but I refused to stay. He said to me, "You will stay, even if Ι have to force you to!" Ι couldn't do anything about it, since he had the power. Ι agreed to stay on only with the understanding that I would not be a servant. "Ι will work for your house, but Ι will also get to know the residents so that Ι can borrow money from them and start a trade: for Ι don't have a shirt on my back and I must buy some clothes." (He was a miser and was giving me nothing) . "That's the first agreement," Ι told him. "Second, about the shopping for the household: let your wife manage the money and accounts -she can read and write. She will give me cash to do the shopping. When Ι bring the purchases in, she can weigh them and pay whatever they cost. The same goes for anything else Ι buy for you. Ι don't want you to say that Ι cheated you, since now you see me without a shirt on my back, but tomorrow you will find me with clothes on, and you will think Ι am a thief." Only under these terms that Ι had dictated did I stay with him, and Ι worked for him for ten years. He also paid me a wage of 400 grosia in all. Ι asked him for a loan, and he lent me the money at 20% per year. Ι made out a promissory note, which Ι have to this day. That much of a favour he had done for me.
In front of his house was a piazza where the town's notables and merchants would gather on summer evenings and sit until midnight. I'd have the area cleaned and Ι got on their good side by giving them anything they needed. Ι got to know them all, including the leaders of the villages. Ι asked all these merchants and leaders for a loan, and they lent me five or six thousand grosia. By that time Ι had a capital of 24 grosia. Ι made an agreement with the people in the villages to prepay them for their oats in the winter and take delivery in the summer at the threshing floors. Ι bought oats at four grosia per sack, took delivery at the threshing floors and sold them at sixteen per sack: there had been a shortage that year. Ι made all that money. In the winter of the following year Ι bought maize for eleven grosia per sack: Ι took delivery at the threshing floors and sold it in Arta for 33. For there had been a plague in Arta and a shortage of bread. Then Ι made a silver rifle, pistols, and other arms, plus a fine votive-lamp. Decked out in all this finery, Ι took the lamp to my patron, benefactor, and true friend, St. John. The lamp still survives, and my name is engraved on it. Ι knelt before him and cried from the depths of my soul, since Ι remembered all the sufferings Ι had endured […].
Later, Ι started a business, and the Greeks and Turks in the area considered me their treasurer. Ι soon had the affluence of God: Ι bought a house and some property, Ι had cash in the hand and a stack of promissory notes from others totalling around 40,000 grosia: Ι still have them to this day. And my money-bag was full. Ι got all Ι wanted and was dependent on no one. Ι spent ten years in Arta and made many friends, among whom was a clergyman who later became a chief priest. He was a close friend of mine, since Ι kept company only with my superiors. This priest loved me more than he loved his own children. Ι spent day and night at his house, for there was a single wall between his house and mine, which Ι had bought from a notable who had fallen on hard times. My friend was a very diligent priest: there was no ne like him in Arta, and he had four sons. One of them was studying in Europe, a dear friend of Capodistrias. The boy had saved his money and asked Capodistrias if he should go away to study medicine. "We are busy trying to liberate Greece, Capodistrias told him. "When that's done, you will have no need of studying medicine. But if this doesn't happen, Ι will send you the means from Russia so that you can go away to study. In that case Ι will write you and we will meet." The boy came to Arta, informed his father of this, and went back to Corfu. Some time passed, Capodistrias wrote to him, and they met. Capodistrias initiated him into the Secret Society for our country's liberation.
Since Ali Pasha was very powerful and had bought Parga and committed other improprieties, they charged him with a heap of crimes to make him quarrel with the Sultan. They acted on many of these charges and thereby the discord between him and the Sultan grew worse. After his initiation, the boy came to Arta, administered the oath to his father, and went back. His father wanted to induct me into the Secret Society as well. Each time he tried to administer the oath, he would change his mind: he did this several times. Then Ι grew stubborn toward him and said, "Has the notion come into your head that Ι am unworthy of your house, and you are ashamed to tell me? Well, I'll be unworthy indeed if Ι ever set foot in your door again!" Ι got up and left. The priest called me back, but Ι did not return. Α couple of days passed, he came to see me, and then he came again; but Ι did not go near him.
After he had come several times, Ι told him with tears in my eyes, "How can you think so lowly of me, who am a son to you?" He too cried and begged me to go back with him and give him a chance to explain and then not to go again if Ι still felt that way. Ι went. He set out the icons, administered the oath, and began initiating me into the Secret Society. Since he was well into the ceremony, Ι took the oath that Ι would not reveal the secret to anyone. But Ι asked him to give me some time -eight days- to consider whether Ι was worthy of this mystery: if Ι could help the cause, Ι would take the oath; if not, Ι would stay as Ι was. So far, it was as if Ι knew nothing at all about it. Ι went and thought and laid it all before me -the killing, the dangers, the struggles- Ι will endure them all for the liberation of my country and my faith. Ι went and told him, "I am worthy!" Ι kissed his hand and took the oath. Ι asked him not to reveal to me the signs of the initiation: for Ι was young and might lack the stamina, take pity on my own life, betray the mystery, and endanger my country. We agreed on this too, and he told me that in my work Ι could not make any money […] and Ι should not abuse my trust; Ι should only get some recognition for my acts and consider this to be my riches. Following the wishes of the blessed priest, my country, and my faith, to this day God has not allowed me to bring shame on myself. Ι have suffered terrible things, wounds, and life-threatening risks, but Ι am fine: God wills it so. Ι told my friend, "Everything will turn out fine, but Ali Pasha is very powerful: he will be our danger, since the captains are in his forces." He explained the situation to me and soon, in 1820, God willed it and they besieged Ali Pasha on all sides.
Initiated into the mystery, Ι departed from my fellow-country- man and went home to begin working for my country and my faith. Ι wanted to put forth my best effort for my country, as I have always done, so that she might call me not "thief" or "robber" but, rather, her "child" and Ι her "my mother." The Sultan had appointed Hoursit Pasha commander-in-chief and sent him with a lot of other pashas to lay siege to Ali Pasha. Yannina and Arta were full of Turks, Albanians, robbers, and thugs. They had taken several Greek women by force, including a servant of my fellow-countryman. They also wanted to take his wife from him: she was beautiful, and a pasha in Arta named Hasan Pasha was going to get her. He was an evil man who, along with a certain Baba Pasha, robbed the people of their wealth and honour.
This Baba Pasha captured me and my fellow-countryman and put us in jail. He intended to kill us but, thanks to the huge bribes my fellow-countryman offered him, we survived. After we had escaped, Ι told him we should go back to our hometown, Lidoriki: we would be safe there. He would not listen to me. He listened only to the women, and he suffered a great deal for it. That was why Ι left him. Later, when he was facing death at the hands of Hasan Pasha, he fled in secret, leaving his family behind in Arta. Hasan Pasha had designs on his wife: she was pregnant, about to give birth, and he waited until she delivered the baby before taking her.
There were a lot of Turks in Arta, Preveza, Souli, and the other parts of Epirus under Ali Pasha's control, including Yannina. The Sultan's large forces were everywhere, keeping a tight rein on the Greeks and confiscating their weapons. They also intended to lock up the magazine in Arta which contained the gunpowder, lead, and flints. This magazine belonged to a good man, a close friend of mine with whom Ι had done some business. His name was Georgakis Korakis, a relative of the brave and patriotic clan of the Zosimades. Since Ι knew he was an honest man, Ι asked the priest, the late Gogos Bakolas, and Skarmitzos (brave men and fine patriots who had joined the Secret Society) if we could initiate Korakis. But when Ι asked them, they refused to do it out of fear he might betray the mystery. We had absolutely no munitions whatsoever in those parts, and the entire region was under occupation: and we were going to stage a revolution without munitions! Even most of our rifles were held together by ropes. Then without asking the others, Ι took it upon myself and swore in the magazine-keeper, a fine patriot. We emptied the entire magazine and took the gunpowder, lead, and flints. We each had a couple of hiding places in our houses where we could conceal them. Leaving just a little bit behind in the magazine, we carried the ammunition home. And, glory be to God, His divine grace blinded the Turks and kept them from catching sight of us as we carried it all off. Then the unforgettable Korakis (for he was later killed) put up some money along with me, and we secretly managed to purchase some weapons, which we hid along with the gunpowder and in the rafters of our houses. And we supplied arms to those in the Ionian islands and elsewhere, giving the men supplies and sending them […] off to the Captains who needed them. We also gave munitions to the Captains themselves.
After Hoursit Pasha was ordered to leave the Peloponnese, where he was stationed, to fight Ali Pasha, he took all his troops with him, leaving very few behind in the Peloponnese. The remaining Turks began suspecting that the Peloponnesian Greeks had started organizing a revolution. The same suspicion cropped up in Roumeli. We kept lulling the Turks to sleep by saying that nothing was going on, but that the Greek subjects in Roumeli had grown wildly angry over the great number of Turks who, because of Ali Pasha, had overrun the entire region: the plundering and slave labour forced upon the people had devastated the area. All of Roumeli had, in fact, been laid waste, especially Yannina and Arta, and all the places there had been completely destroyed. The local Turks in the Peloponnese had written to Hoursit Pasha of their suspicion of the Greeks and asked him to take action on it. At the time we were closed in on all sides by the Turks and had nο way of learning what was going on. Then the chief priest of Arta, Gogos, and Skarmitzos thought it best to send me to Patras ostensibly as a merchant. From there Ι was to cross over to eastern Greece and meet first with Diakos, ask him what was happening, and tell him to attack in all those parts. Then Ι was to go speak to Panourgias and the other captains and urge them to attack too. Ι was to do the same with the Peloponnesians. That way, some of the Turks besieging us might withdraw and thereby enable us to launch an attack from our position.
In the month of March in 1821 Ι took some money and crossed over to Patras. The sight of someone from Roumeli made the Turks suspicious: it was dangerous for me. In the Russian consulate there, where Vlassopoulos was consul, the Greeks began asking me some ridiculous questions. Ι was staying at a place called "Tatarakis' Inn." People from Yannina and Arta were also staying there. Ι went to the consulate and told them of the events in Roumeli. Ι also told them of Ali Pasha's run of bad luck: in the city of Yannina a large number of his troops had rushed out of the fortress to fight the royalist forces and had been killed. The flower of his troops were mowed down. The people in Patras would not believe a word Ι said, since they wanted Ali Pasha to win and come liberate them: that tyrant would bring victory to Greece and freedom to our country! And if he had won, he wouldn't have left a single one of us alive! After Ι had told them all this and they refused to believe me, I left to go to a big merchant's shop to buy some merchandise: Ι wanted to remove any suspicion until Ι could ask questions and learn what was happening there. When Ι went inside his store, the merchant told me, "Buy whatever you want and pay whatever your soul bids you." After Ι bought what Ι needed, he took me to his house to eat dinner and spend the night. When we got there, he asked me questions. He began making the secret signs of the Society. Then Ι made him swear his confidence to me and told him that Ι had not been taught the signs by the clergyman who initiated me. Then Ι told him all Ι knew from Roumeli, and he told me all he knew from the Peloponnese. Ι asked him if there would be any more delays and if they had made their preparations.
"The Turks have begun growing suspicious," he told me. "Not even ten days ago they asked me for a loan, and so, in order to 1ull them to sleep, Ι lent them 150,000 grosia. But we must not delay in this matter."
"If that's the case," Ι answered, "what preparations have you made ?"
"We sent some money to Kolokotronis in Zakynthos," he said. "He came along with some thirty or so men and now they are in Mani. That's the only preparation we've made."
"But all this money," Ι said to him, "these piles of cash I see here!" (There were five or six clerks writing in their ledgers). "Why don't you send it where it could be of use not just to yourself but to your country as well ?"
"'What do you think?" he said to me. "Do you believe that the Greek cause will be delayed? We'll go to bed in Turkey tonight and wake up in the morning in Greece!"
"You are big, important people who know a lot," Ι replied. "Me, I'm small and don't know that much. Do whatever your conscience-and God's light-bids you."
Ι went to bed. At dawn Ι went to buy whatever else Ι needed. The Turkish constable had heard Ι was there, and he was searching everywhere for me. They arrested one of Varnakiotis' men, mistaking him for me, and they took him in. After examining him, the officer saw that this was not the man. "He's not the one", he said. "It's another fellow. The one we want has been brought here as a spy. Catch him and bring him to me so that Ι can hang him: I'll give him exactly what he's come looking for!" Varnakiotis' man mentioned all this in the inn, and the men from Arta came and told me. Ι went to the Russian consulate, explained my situation, and asked if Ι could stay there under their protection. The consul refused to keep me there. At times like these, he said, he too was in danger. Ι forced them to keep me there until evening: at dusk Ι would leave. They locked me inside a room, and nο one would come near. Ι had to piss: there was a hole in the floor and Ι pissed through it. Then a servant came and railed at me.
"I'm only human," Ι told him, "and Ι couldn't stand it any longer!" The servant asked me where Ι was from. When Ι told him Ι was from Roumeli, he told me he was from Vrachori (Agrinion) . Ι asked him if he knew Constantine Yerakaris (who had been present at the consulate when the consul interrogated me) and asked if he would tell him to come see me.
"Yesterday," said the servant, "Odysseas was here too. He left."
"Go on and tell Yerakaris," Ι said. He went and told him, and Yerakaris came to me.
"Tonight," Ι told him "take me where Odysseas is: you will hear a lot of news that Ι came here to tell him." He asked me to tell him first. "Ι am sworn to confidence," Ι said. "Ι cannot tell anyone else."
Yerakaris left. It started getting dark. They were pressuring me to leave the consulate at once. Ι arranged my pistols and sword on my belt, said a prayer, and told the boy to bring me some raki, which Ι downed to bolster my courage to go out with my sword on -coward though Ι was. Stationed outside the door were the guards, the Turks working for the consul, and other Turks: they had learned Ι was in there and they wanted me to come out so they could arrest me. Ι was determined not to be taken alive: they would torture me, my will might weaken, and Ι might betray some secret -I'd rather face immediate death.
While Ι was getting ready to leave, a Cephalonian came and said, "Are you the one who was inside here ?"
"There are a lot of people in here," Ι replied. "Who are you looking for? Who sent you?" "Yerakaris," he answered. "Yes, I'm the one," Ι told him.
"Let's go and get to work," he said. "The Turks are guarding the door," Ι said. "Take a look at the garden wall there: I'm going to jump off it. You, go around and guard the spot where Ι will land. We'll run away together, since Ι don't know the backroads."
He went outside. Ι threw myself from the wall -it was a high one- and nearly killed myself on my weapons. The fear made me run faster than Ι would if Ι had not been hurt. We headed toward the sea. Ι told him we should take the route that goes along the vineyards, and he agreed: for there were Turks in the customs house who might capture us. Ι told him Ι would hide in a ditch while he called for a boat, since Odysseas was in a cutter. When Ι told him Ι would hide, he said to me, "What a bunch of chicken-shit cowards you guys […] are! You're afraid of your own shadow!" Ι felt ashamed and went with him. When he called for the boat, the Turks caught sight of us and started after us. By God's grace, a small boat pulled up. Ι spoke to them, they let us jump in, and they took us to their schooner. Then the Turks all rushed up. But the men in the boat picked up their guns and fired back.
Later, they took me to meet Odysseas, and Ι told him everything that was going on. Ι also told him Ι was going to see Diakos and others. He said that he had already talked to them himself and that they were going to strike. He got weapons and ammunition to take to Xeromeron in Zavitsa. He said that we should go there together. "I'll see things through to the end here," Ι told him. "Then Ι will get my rifle, which is at the inn. Ι will bring word of anything Ι find out, as well as what you told me." That night he left.
Shooting broke out two days later in Patras. The Turks had seized the fortress, and the Greeks had taken the seashore. Then Ι took a dozen or so young fellows from the boat and went ashore with our weapons. Crowds of people were jamming the customs house area, and the sea was full of women and children standing neck-deep in the water. Then Ι saw my friend the merchant. With his one hand he was leading his wife; with his other, his children -he had nothing else out of all his great wealth. And this was the man who was counting on waking up in Greece! The bigger people are, the bigger their mistakes. The little guy makes smaller errors. Ι went up to them, took them on board the boat, and offered them consolation. After staying there for one more day, Ι crossed over to Missolonghi. A ship had docked there from Trieste, and Ι bought some white candles, rum, oil, and tobacco: Ι was going to take them to Arta and sell them, so that the Turks who saw me would not be suspicious. Ι loaded the caique and put up outside Vasiladi at a nearby harbor called Voukentro. At daybreak on Palm Sunday, when it was still dark (since the weather was severe), we saw many fires burning in Patras on the other side. We could also hear the cannons and rifle shots. At noon Vlassopoulos arrived in the harbor along with more caiques loaded with families. When Ι asked them, they told me that Isouf Pasha had invaded Patras, destroyed the city, and wiped out the inhabitants.
Ι left there on Good Friday. Ι went to Preveza and sold my candles, rum, and tobacco at a high price. On the night of Holy Saturday, as Easter Sunday was dawning, Ι went to Arta, met with our people, and told them what was going on. They brought the leading men of Patras along and were taking them to Hoursit Pasha. Then they arrested me too as a rebel against the Sultan, since Ι had been in the Moreas, and took me to the fortress in Arta. They put shackles on my feet and subjected me to other tortures to make me betray the secret. They tortured me for 75 days.
They took 26 of us for hanging, and Ι was the only one God saved. The others were from Vonitsa and other places, and they were all hanged in the market place. Since they wanted to interrogate me further and force me to reveal where Ι kept my money, they took me from the execution site back to the pasha, who asked me where Ι and my fellow countryman kept our money. They took me back to the prison, planning to kill me later, and threw me into a dungeon. There were 180 men inside. There were loaves of rotten bread in the place, and the prisoners relieved themselves on them, since there was no room to do it anywhere else. All that filth and odour made a horrible stench: there can be no fouler smell on earth. We would stick our noses through the keyhole to get air. And they kept beating me and subjecting me to countless tortures; they almost killed me. The beatings made my body swell up and turn yellow with pus. Ι was at death's door. Ι promised a healthy sum of money to an Albanian to let me out to see a doctor, get some medicine, and bring him the money. He had a Turk escort me to my house. On our way there, Ι was walking doubled-over, limping and moaning a great deal. The Turk, who was as dumb as an ox, must have thought Ι was giving up the ghost -he had no idea how deeply rooted my soul was in my body. Ι went into the house and lay down as if it were my death bed. The doctor came in. Ι was trying to figure out a way to give the Τurk the slip. Ι took out the money, pulled the Turk aside, and said, "Take it! (as if it were a secret). The Albanian told me that you should give it to him, so that no one else would be in on this. "Ι gave about a hundred grosia to him as well. He took it, and Ι told him, "Take it (secretly) to the prison and come back; by that time the doctor will have my medicine ready: we'll go back there together, since Ι won't go out by myself. I'm afraid of the Turks in the area." He took the money and, as he was walking out the door, Ι got myself ready. Ι slipped out and went to the residence of one of Ali Pasha's cousins: his name was Smail Bey of Konitsa, God rest his soul. He took great pity on me the moment he saw me. Ι told him what Ι had suffered and asked him if he would protect me and not give me up.
"I'll have a shoot-out with the Koniarian Turks if necessary," he said, "but Ι will not give you up." Right away, he gave me weapons, took me with his troop, and together we went to Komboti. The Turkish camp was there, a three hour journey from Arta.
After we had spent a few days there, the poor man fell gravely ill. Since he had been my benefactor, Ι nursed him better than I would have nursed by own father. If Ι had wanted, Ι could have escaped from there: my own people were fifteen minutes away. But Ι was determined not to prove unfaithful to my benefactor and leave him in sickness. As he was, he got on his feet, and Ι went back with him to Arta, where Ι would work for him until he got his strength back and also Ι would try to rescue the wife of my other benefactor, my fellow-countryman whose bread I had eaten for so many years; the Turks were planning to seize his wife and make a Turk out of her. It was for the sake of these two benefactors of mine that Ι returned to face the dangers in Arta. One day, after we had arrived in Arta, the pashas and all the Albanian commanders came to the Bey's residence to see him. Ι told the Bey about my countryman's wife, whom Hasan Pasha was going to seize. He spoke to the pashas and the others, including the high-ranking Albanians:
"Pashas and Beys, we will be destroyed! Destroyed, Ι tell you," the Bey said, "since this war is not with the Muscovite nor with the Englishman nor with the Frenchman. It's the Greek infidel that we have wronged: we have violated his wealth and his honour. He is glowering at us with dark eyes and has risen up in arms. And the Sultan, the stupid beast, doesn't know what's happening: everyone around him is deceiving him. And this will be the beginning of the downfall of our kingdom. We've been paying a fortune to find a traitor. But there's no way any of them will betray their secret whereby we can find out if the Greeks are fighting on their own or with the support of the great Powers. That's why we've been paying out money, impaling captives, killing prisoners -and we have not been able to learn the truth."
After telling them all this, the Bey then said that the Sultan was sending the most wicked among the pashas who had plundered the land and stolen all the women. "They will go back to their own homes, but we will be left here. "Then he went on to tell them about my countryman's wife and how the pasha wanted to take her. Then they all agreed with one voice to take her from the place she was being held. They took her to the English consulate and left her under their protection.
After Ι had rescued the wife of my other benefactor, the poor Bey was overcome by a high fever one day, and Ι went for the doctor. The Turks were on the lookout for me, since Ι had escaped from their prison and the pasha had learned that Ι was the one behind the rescue of the woman. They were looking out to capture me and hang me. After Ι set out for the doctor, the Turks attacked me. But Ι was a fast runner and escaped. They hunted me down as far as the Bey's house, where our own men appeared at the door: we started fighting and I was saved.
After the Bey recovered, Ι asked for his blessing and told him, "I'm leaving." He wouldn't let me. "If Ι had wanted to" Ι told him, "Ι could have run away even back at Komboti. But Ι didn't, for the sake of my honour." When he saw that Ι was not going to stay, he gave me his blessing and told me to tell the captains out at Petas and elsewhere that they should treat the people justly and fairly in order to succeed. For the Turks had committed such injustices that they would be ruined.
"Let them observe justice," he said, "so that this affair may come to an end and we Turks too may find some peace. For by now our kingdom is doomed in the eyes of God, since we have strayed from His justice."
Ι kissed his hand as Ι left. He gave me some money, and I told him, "My dear Bey, Ι do not want your money: you have many expenses in maintaining your own people. "He gave me weapons and ordered me to conduct myself properly and to go with Gogos, who was an honest and upstanding man and a friend of his. He bid me to tell the captains not to enter Arta, since there were too many Turks there and they might get killed; but they should close the Turks in and they would leave on their own, since they had no provisions. Ι also asked him to take care of my countryman's wife and, in early August 1821, Ι departed.
**1 poungi = 500 grosia. 1 grosi = 40 paras.
The word "poungi" also means wallet or purse.