Above: The ever-friendly Andreas Kalokarinos and his charming companion at the superb Familia Restaurant in Fratsia for lunch on the first of May!
From The Kytherians, as told by Andreas Kalokarinos
There’s one thing I’m proud of about myself: I’ve got a very good memory. With more recent things I’m not so clear, but still for my age I’m doing all right.
Although my parents and I were born in Alexandrathes, my maternal grandmother Maria Aroney was from Aroniathiaka. And from what I know about her, she was an immigrant to Smyrna because in those days, most of the Kytherian population who left the island used to go there. And also my great-grandfather, from my father’s side, went to Smyrna. Actually I still have a couple of things of my mother’s from there like copper pots and a coffee grinder with writing on it, dated 1888. They have her initials – M.A. – engraved on them. My great-grandfather left here very poor and he ended up becoming rather rich in Smyrna. He had a sort of factory for making drinks. Liquor drinks. When he came back he bought a big property here.
I’m a Kalokairinos from both sides of the family. They weren’t related but had the same surname. Grandmother Mary married Manolis Kalokairinos, whose family nickname was Foudoulis.
My father’s father, I’ve got his name actually, was Andreas Kalokairinos. My father’s mother, she was a Tzannes from Agios Ilias, and her first name was Diamanta. I remember them clearly. As a child I spent quite a bit of a time with them. They had a large property and they also used to take me to do the alonisma, the threshing of the wheat. They had oxen. I’ll never forget how hot it used to become while threshing in the summer. It had to be done in the middle of the day because the heat was needed to keep the grain dry. Very hard work. First we put the wheat in the middle and then the animals walked on it, breaking the wheat under their hooves while someone chased behind to make them go round and round and round all day. Sometimes someone sat on a donkey to keep the oxen moving. And then in the afternoon they took the animals out of the round and separated the grain from the chaff by throwing it up in the wind.
The ahiro, the chaff, was collected and kept in a storeroom as food for the animals. They put the grain in big bags and kept it in the storeroom too. Then they took it bag by bag to the mill. In those days we went to the Mylopotamos watermills but there were windmills on the island too. I went with my grandmother very early on a Sunday – it being the only day we didn’t have other work – and left the bags with the wheat. The next Sunday we would go again to pick up our our.
I remember going to weddings with my mother. Everyone sang and mother had a good voice and she enjoyed it. She was usually quite happy. I often think about the people back then: they were poor, they worked very hard, and they didn’t have much to eat. But still they had time to tell jokes, to laugh and to sing. I was one of them myself – I never came back home in the night without singing, even though I was dirt poor and I worked hard. The only thing I had was my youth. But I see the young people these days and they never smile.
We used to go next door where two old people lived – that was the gathering place of the neighborhood. Musicians came: one played violin and the other the lute. They sat on a stage and all the others, young and old, danced.
We had to go to Karvounathes if we wanted to buy anything. In my grandfather’s time there was a little shop at the top of our village – a café and store – but by the time I came along there was nothing. No shop, no nothing. For shopping we had to go to Karvounathes or Tsikalaria, or Livathi. And we had to go to school in Karvounathes and Kondolianika. So you can imagine going barefoot, every morning – on very cold mornings in the winter – to walk all the way to Karvounathes or Kondolianika. The priest had made a mistake with my year of birth: he declared me a year older than I was so I had to start school a year younger than the others. It took about an hour to get there. Early in the morning.
There were puddles with water that froze over in winter and I enjoyed breaking these with my feet. Other kids did it too, the only difference with me was that I was a year younger.
Read more in The Kytherians.