ZAKYNTHOS UNDER WORLD WAR TWO OCCUPATION

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76 years ago today on the 30 April 1941, a Cant-Z-506B seaplane was spotted in Kefalonia’s harbour by Greek residents. The plane was piloted by Italians and its arrival was the start of the Italian invasion of Kefalonia during World War Two. The plane was one of five seaplanes that had taken off from Brindisi, and they were followed by three transport aircraft that contained sixty Italian parachutists.
On the 01 May 1941, two Cant-Z-506B seaplanes landed at Zakynthos. More Italian troops swiftly followed, landing on the island by boat, formally occupying the island. It was a day that islanders had dreaded. Zakynthos and its residents had no choice but to “fall” to the Italian soldiers becoming part of the ever-growing list of occupied territories overseen by the Axis powers. The island of Zakynthos and her neighbouring Ionian islands remained prisoners of the Italians, until fascism fell in 1943. Hopes were high of the war ending in 1943 but things didn’t get better for Greece. They were quickly invaded by the Germans and much of the country, including Zakynthos, found itself under German occupation by September 1943. The war continued to rage on and Zakynthos wasn’t liberated from its captors until 12 September 1944.
During World War Two occupation Italian soldiers based themselves in Zakynthos Town. They brought in numerous laws that included no cigarettes or tabacco to be brought to Zakynthos without permission, they forbid sale of wheat, no islander was allowed to keep weapons and it was illegal for Zakynthians to write cheques. Italian soldiers regularly searched homes and any weapons, food, oil, or wheat discovered by the soldiers were immediately confiscated. The Italian Army received daily supplies of food and other items, but they were for army use only and not for Zakynthians.
The German Headquarters were located in Kipi, but they also had bases throughout the island, if the Germans chose to base themselves in a property already owned by a Zakynthian family, the family were forced to hand the house and its belongings over to the enemy. The only place on the island free from Germans and Italians was the mountains, which was a Resistance stronghold.
If islanders had thought the Italians were bad, life under the Germans were much worse. They stole from locals, disallowed them to cultivate their own food, were inhumane in their general behavior, rounded up locals and killed them for no reason, and regularly abused women. Zakynthians did their best to resist their captors and The Resistance movement was a strong one, made up of both men and women. Based in the mountains The Resistance fought against the Italians and Germans whenever possible, but it wasn’t easy, and many paid for their bravery with their lives if they were caught. The Resistance received news of the war by using hidden radios and connections with newspapers in Athens, which allowed them to plan movements against their captors. Life on Zakynthos during the war was incredibly hard. Food was sparse, the Germans ruthless and many islanders had to sell belongings, including furniture and jewellery just to survive. Many went hungry, and life was lived on a continual knife-edge of hunger, desperation and fear. Zakynthians were monitored wherever they went, there was no work as companies were forced to close, and many islanders ended up begging for food or buying it on the black market just to survive.
There are many stories of Island bravery. Men and women who did their best to protect their own, who tried to stop the Germans from looting, stealing and abusing residents, who fought hard against their oppression whenever they could. Some were successful, others were not.
The bravest story of Zakynthos during World War Two is the story of Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Loukas Karrer. On 09 September 1943, Commandant Berrenz, the German Commandant of Zakynthos at the time, demanded a list of all Jewish island residents from Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Loukas Karrer. The Mayor and Bishop presented Commandant Berrenz with a list of just two names; their own. They refused to give up the Jewish population and went as far as protecting and hiding all 275 Jewish island residents, with help from The Resistance. The bravery of the Mayor and Bishop saved many lives and ultimately saw them become heroes of the war.
A lasting memorial to them now stands in Zante Town.
Nowadays there isn’t much evidence of the war on Zakynthos, but if you know where to look there are still a few small signs. The main Zakynthos airport is situated on the site of the original airfield constructed by the Italians. It was built not long after they arrived so that troops, weapons and ammunition could be flown to the island rather than bringing them by boat. In the north at Exo Hora there is an old Venetian watchtower that was used by the Italians as a base. A smaller watchtower, also used as a lookout, is situated on the east coast at Kipseli. A few World War Two ruins, such as a stone gun placement still exist on the south east of the island but the German pillbox on the cliffs at Kalamaki has now fallen into the sea. Remains of German fortification are also rumoured to be found at the north of the island. At Kampi there is also a large cross dedicated to those who lost their lies during both World War Two and the Civil War that followed. Ask any local though, and they can give you information about specific places on the island that have stories of the war associated with them.
Much of what happened on Zakynthos during World War Two now lives in the minds, hearts and accounts of those who lived through it, and sadly they are becoming fewer as time passes. We should never forget that the island is what it is today because of the bravery of those who fought hard for their families, their island and ultimately, their freedom.
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We all must do more…

I love this huge planet of our and I’ve been lucky enough to visit many different countries, experiencing a wealth of culture and history. Nowadays life is full of convenience. We can jump on a plane and go anywhere we want, we can talk to others on the opposite side of the world at the touch of a button via laptop or phone, and we can get virtually anything we want to eat or drink thanks to generous trade deals struck by our governments.

The downside to all os this is the ‘I’ mentality. The type of mentality that means despite all the good points, many have forgotten how to look after other people and the world around us. Recently I’ve witnessed the awful issues affecting a Greek Ionian island. For the last five months the island has been struggling to cope since their landfill site was shut down before Christmas. Since then rubbish has been piled up on the streets, bins, if you can find them, are overflowing and the smell and disruption caused by the amount of rubbish left in the streets to rot is getting worse by the day. The island is currently in the process of getting the issue resolved, but as with everything nowadays the situation is being vocally discussed across social media. Whilst I agree that authorities in situations like this must do more to take responsibility, we must also ALL take responsibility for our OWN actions.

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An example of the rubbish that has built up

Each time we order something online, go to the supermarket, or go shopping WE make a decision with what we buy. Therefore shouldn’t it be down to us as how the packaging from those purchases is disposed of? Of course it is! So why do people still choose to bury their heads in the sand, and say “why should I recycle, it’s not my problem?” It’s an attitude that’s wrong and self-centred. Rubbish disposal is everyone’s problem, we’re all responsible for how we dispose of our rubbish, old white goods and furniture. Plastic is everywhere, it’s in our landfills and will take hundreds of years to break down, it’s in our rivers, lakes and the sea, and ultimately ends up being eating by marine life, coming back full circle ending up on our plates. Some choose to burn rubbish, but this can also be detrimental as some rubbish such as rubber and plastic releases dangerous toxins into the air, that in due course, makes people ill.

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So what is the answer to problems like this? Well it’s very simple. We all need to take responsibility, we need be mindful when buying products. We need to stop buying items with excess packaging. When disposing of rubbish, we must all dispose of it responsibly, by either recycling or reusing, ensuring that what little goes to landfill is just that; a little. A majority of the rubbish affecting the Greek Ionian island above is recyclable but the attitude of “not my issue” is very much being used, and around 80% of what is currently being discarded could actually be recycled or re-used. We must all challenge retailers and try to encourage or even force them into using less plastic, we must all challenge each other, but most of all, we must ALL take responsibility for our own actions.

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This planet is not owned by us, we merely rent our time here, therefore it’s up to us to ensure that it’s passed on to future generations in a fit state. If we can’t do that then life for future generations will be intolerable, and that really doesn’t bear thinking about.

 

Egypt; Historical inspiration

Egypt is a great country steeped in thousands of years of history and culture. I’ve loved reading and learning about it since I was young and I’ve also completed two Egyptology courses with Exeter University.

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A few years ago, after finishing my first course, I decided to write a book set there. I love the history of Ancient Egypt and I wanted to immerse myself in that history whilst writing a story about a subject that is quite important to me; family ties and the illegal theft of historical artefacts. After a lot of hard work and further research I’ve managed to write a historical suspense that combines both subjects and I can’t wait to share with my readers.

Wind Across the Nile, will be released this year and it centres on Cora Thomas, a woman who’s faced with having to rebuild her life after the tragic loss of family and splitting up with her cheating ex-boyfriend. After a strange discovery in her parents house, Egypt becomes Cora’s sanctuary, where she discovers more about herself, her family heritage and the amazing history of Egypt.

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I enjoyed writing Wind Across the Nile, it’s a book that’s full of passion, and shows how much I adore the country and its incredible history. There’s so much to see. Cairo; the home of the vast Egyptian Museum, Giza Plateau and The Citadel. Luxor; the home of the Valley of the Kings, Luxor and Karnak Temples and the Luxor and Mummification Museums. Aswan; the home of the Temple of Philae on Philae island, the Monastery of St Simeon and Elephantine Island. Further afield there is Abu Simbel, Alexandria, Sharm El Sheik and Abydos.

Researching the book was a lot of fun, and I was able to use much of what I learned from my Egyptology courses, as well as trips to the country with my husband, and regular visits to the British Museum, Petrie Museum and other museums housing Egyptian artefacts.

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Over the next few months, I’ll be writing a series of posts about Egypt and many of the ancient sites that I’ve visited in Cairo and Luxor that all go towards making up the backdrop of Wind Across the Nile. I can’t wait for you to read them!

Wind Across the Nile – Coming soon!

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Hibiscus Tea and Temples

A few years ago I wrote an article for the Ancient Egypt Magazine, it was around the time that I started planning and researching Wind Across the Nile which is being released this year. So I thought I would share it with you again, as it’s one of my favourite articles. So here it is:

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I have a passion for ancient history especially when it relates to Egypt.  I try to impart to people what an amazing place it is, but words never seem to wholly do it justice, I always say, the only way to learn about a country is to go and see it for yourself.

When I talk about Egypt I’m aware of its struggles as a country and of the challenges it faces every day, but I’m more aware of what a truly amazing place it is to visit.  Tourism makes up a large percentage of its income and at present tourist numbers are still low, due to political problems in 2012, and they aren’t picking up as quickly as people hoped.  It’s a shame people choose not to visit and explore the country, as it’s a beautiful place with fantastic history.

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Egypt is filled with culture and history.  Modern day life sits neatly alongside ancient monuments that are thousands of years old.  Contrary to some reports Egyptians are friendly accommodating people who will welcome you with open arms and make you feel at home, and now couldn’t be a better time to visit.  Due to the low tourist numbers, sites that are usually crowded and sometimes difficult to see, are relatively quiet, giving visitors the chance to spend more time there and really absorb their surroundings, making them feel they’re the first people to have stepped into that temple or tomb for generations.

We all know about the famous sites such as the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza, but there are many more magical places to see in Egypt.  There’s the fantastic mortuary temple at Medinet Habu in Luxor that has some of the best coloured reliefs, and accounts of Egyptian life I’ve ever seen.  Or there’s the temple of Isis at Philae, a beautiful temple that only stands today thanks to rescue work undertaken many years ago by UNESCO to save it from flooding and being lost forever.  If you have the time you could journey to the edge of Egypt itself to gaze upon the awe inspiring Abu Simbel, a sight that just takes your breath away and leaves you wanting more.  The list is endless, with so many temples, tombs and other ancient sites spread throughout the Country, you’re spoilt for choice.

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Egypt also has many museums to house it’s collection of treasures. The largest is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo which contains artefacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb, as well as items belonging to the heretic King Akenaten, and if you have a penchant for the more gory side of life you can gaze upon a well preserved collection of mummified bodies of Royalty past.  In Luxor there are two museums, the aptly named Luxor Museum housing treasures found during excavations in Luxor and Karnak, and the Mummification Museum, where every item is dedicated to the ancient art of preserving the dead for the afterlife.

If you get bored with the history, and I promise you, you won’t, you could meander your way through the many shopping streets and bazaars bartering for some interesting souvenirs, or beautiful hand crafted goods, whilst accepting a friendly stallholders hospitality of a glass of hibiscus tea.  If this isn’t to your taste the luxurious Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor is an ideal place to have a break for a relaxing lunch overlooking the Nile.

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I could go on. There are so many incredible things to see and do in Egypt, whether you choose to visit Cairo, Luxor, or venture further south to Aswan.  You could even combine all three by leisurely cruising down the Nile on a Dahabiyya.

So when considering your next holiday, why not try Egypt? It’s safe, there’s more to see and do than you could ever fit into one visit, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms and feel at home in a country that was just made to be discovered. If that hasn’t persuaded you then just imagine stepping onto a felucca, and relaxing as you sail serenely along the Nile, watching the beauty of Egyptian life passes you by, as the sun slowly sets leaving you with a bright shining moon and twinkling stars to guide you gently back to shore.

Wind Across the Nile will be released in May 2017

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The English countryside

I haven’t done much writing these last few weeks, I decided to take some time off and try to enjoy the festive season, and spend some time with family and friends. I’ve also done a lot of walking and been on a few day trips. They inspired me, so, I thought I’d write a short piece just before I put my feet up again until after the New Year.

Near where I live I’m lucky to have some amazing walks, there’s the Grand Western Canal, the last canal ever built in the UK, that spans from Tiverton up to the Somerset border. It’s full of wildlife, including swans, moorhens, ducks, and a variety of other birds. It’s beautiful, serene, and a perfect place to walk on a cold winter day.

There are also lots of public footpaths, one of them takes the walker across fields to the next village, or you can walk up past a working quarry through a vast avenue of trees. The view is fantastic and it’s lovely walking through the trees, watching the birds flit, kicking leaves as you go.

My favourite trip out this festive season was to Dartmoor with my husband. It’s not far to travel to, and it’s an inspiringly wild and beautiful place. I’d recommend it to any Devon visitor.

First stop was Haytor, a set of granite rocks at the Eastern Edge of Dartmoor. It’s very popular with tourist who like to climb up the rocks. The view from the top is fabulous and you can see for miles.

After leaving Haytor we drove across Dartmoor, via Widecombe in the Moor, stopping in a few places along the way. The beauty of Dartmoor is that most of it is signposted, but it’s still easy to drive off the beaten track and explore. There are plenty of stopping places along the way and every view is different, but equally as incredible as the previous one.

Eventually we ended up at Dartmeet. It’s one of my favourite places on Dartmoor; a famous part of Dartmoor where the east and west tributaries of the Dart rivers meet. In the river near to the main road there’s an interesting stone clapper bridge, even though it’s partially collapsed it’s still a great example. It’s a nice place to stop, take in the scenery and picnic.

So that’s just a small taste of my lovely walks and day trips out. I could write so much more, but instead I’ll leave you with the above and the fun of online exploring.

Happy New Year to you all and see you again in 2017!

 

New Release! The Secrets

I’m happy to announce a new release, something that wasn’t planned, but that has happened all the same. A number of years ago I released a short work of poems and short stories. That book is no longer available, but as I own the copyright the decision was made to re-publish it this year.

So with that in mind I bring you The Secrets, a collection of poems and short stories

What’s it about?

The book contains poems and short stories that I wrote between 1989 and 1995. They cover a range of fictional subjects and thoughts and I wanted to share them with my readers rather than have them stuck in a drawer gathering dust.

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Book Description

An imaginative collection of poems and short stories, inspired by a love of ancient history, the English countryside and sites such as Glastonbury Tor, Burrowbridge Mump, Bodium Castle and Giza Plateau.

Exploring life, nature, love, strength and determination, the poems and short stories in this book are both captivating and thought provoking.

“Life is a gift, live it and love it.”

Where can I get it?

You can currently download it on Amazon, and it should roll out on iTunes, Nook and Kobo in the next week. Unfortunately due to it being short it won’t be available as a paperback.

Research Trip – A Night of Thunder

A lot of my work involves research, much of the time it’s done on the internet, or from books, but this time I wanted to return to Bristol, the place I grew up, and delve further into it’s history, especially how the city coped during world war two and its recovery.

The book I’m currently working on is called A Night of Thunder; a sequel to my historical fiction Among the Olive Groves. A Night of Thunder will be set in Bristol, Zakynthos in Greece, and on the Greek mainland during world war two and subsequent decades. So for me it’s essential that I immerse myself back in the city to help with writing the book.

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My first stop was at M Shed. When I last visited Bristol this was an another museum called The Industrial Museum. Now it’s a light bright space full of history and information about Bristol; from how the city began, how it coped during various events such as world war two, and how the people of Bristol lived throughout the centuries. My reason for visiting was that I wanted to reaqquaint myself with the city, and learn more about it during the second world war. I really enjoyed my time at M Shed. There were lots of interesting and informative exhibits; but my favourites were the Anderson Shelter and the Fire Watch Shelter. Both were used in the city during the second world war and they are an excellent reminder of part of the city’s past.

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After my visit to M Shed, I walked up to The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, somewhere I used to love to visit. I ate lunch there and had a quick look around some of my favourite exhibits. The museum has some wonderful artefacts including canopic jars, sarcophagi and wall reliefs in the Egyptian exhibit. There are also loads of great geological items such as crystals and fossils, many of which were discovered in the Bristol area. There are even some dinosaur skeletons on display too, which makes it a great place for both the young and old to visit and explore.

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After leaving the The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery I went to visit two sites in Bristol which are small reminders of the damage inflicted on the city during the second world war. In Redcliffe stands Temple Church, (previously known as Holy Cross Church). It was reportedly built on the site of a church of the Knights Templar. It was bombed, and almost destroyed, on 24/25 November 1940 during the blitz, and is now a listed building owned by English Heritage.

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On Castle Park in the centre of Bristol, are the bombed out ruins of another church, St Peters. The church is said to date from around 1106, it’s thought to be the site of Bristol first church; information that was discovered from excavations that took place in 1975. Sadly, like Temple Church, St Peter’s was bombed during the same blitz that almost destroyed Temple Church. On the front wall of the church there’s a plaque dedicated to civilians and auxiliary personnel who lost their lives during the war, and it’s great that the city chooses to remember them this way.

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Walking around the two churches was very sobering. It was sad to see that only mere skeletons of buildings remained, it gave me a small glimpse into the awful destruction that took place during world war two, and what little remained after the bombs had stopped falling. Yes, the rubble that fell/landed inside the churches is now gone, the grass now grows covering any remaining scars on the ground, and the churches sit abandoned on the sidelines as the city continues to grow and live around them. But they are still ever present, they are still a reminder of what the residents of Bristol went though, and how we should always admire their incredible bravery during a time of great adversity.

A Night of Thunder, sequel to Among the Olive Groves is scheduled for release in 2018, for further updates hop over to my Facebook Group and join in the fun!