In October 1940, Italy attacked Greece and was repelled. Soon the Germans came to their support. Many British soldiers who were fighting alongside the Greeks were chased by the invaders, forced to take refuse on the island of Kythera. The Germans then bombed the island’s ports. The British soldiers were then evacuated to Crete before the Germans disembarked at Aghia Pelagia. The rumbling of their motorcycles, the roar of the tanks terrorized the population of the island. They took the Island without any opposition, and hung the swastika from the Venetian fortress.
The Germans scoured the island for any remaining British soldiers. They didn’t find a single one.
The German’s were not as thorough as they thought, for in the house of a priest from Potamos, Reverend Kyriakos Chlambeas was hiding a young solider from New Zealand who had missed the evacuation. He found refuge with the priest, who lived with his young daughter. To better protect the soldier, the priest moved him around from house to house, and communicated with him through his daughter, whose youth kept her beyond the suspicion of the occupiers.
Liberation would come four years later. The German troops started to disappear. One day the Kytherians saw a ship debark from Kapsali, carrying soldiers from the British Empire to liberate Greece, including some from New Zealand. The young soldier was overcome with tears upon seeing his compatriots, who welcomed him as a hero. He wanted nothing more than to return home, but saying goodbye to the family that saved him would be difficult, all the more so because the young daughter had grown into a beautiful young woman. He heart aches upon leaving. Returning home he found a family who long believed him to have died. He was full of joy at home with his family, but the face of the young Kytherian would not leave him. So he returned to the island and asked her to marry him. The young Chlambeas couldn’t believe it, it was a miracle, she never thought she would see him again. She accepted with happiness and the young couple was soon married, blessed by father Chlambeas. The couple then left to start their new life in New Zealand.
Others were not as fortunate. Not every German soldier was a cruel monster, there were quite a few young boys called to war. Such was the case with one young blond boy found himself falling madly in love with a young girl from Pourko. The girl, for her part, saw nothing of the cruel occupation in the boy, she saw his youth, loneliness, and regret for what he was forced to do and for where he was from. She too fell in love, and the young unlikely couple spent the following months of this sad and gray time fostering a deep and clandestine love.
The occupation had become harsher, cruder, more dangerous, but little by little the winds were turning against the Nazis. Both Italy and Germany were retreating on nearly every front; it was evident that the war was lost. In the meantime, those in the resistance had been emboldened by the allies success, their actions became ever more audacious. The once proud victors were now the hunted.
A young German soldier, in love with a young woman from Pourko, now found himself in danger. His lover hid him, but it was clear he could not stay on the island. He asked her to come leave with him, to follow him to Germany and marry him. She would have accepted, but her family refused to let her leave, and quite literally locked her away to prevent her from leaving.
Soon two German warships appeared and the Nazi troops embarked, including the young fiancé. The young woman was alone, desperate and hopeless. After the war a marriage was arraigned. She wed a Kytherian, it was a loveless marriage. What follows was told to me by Kiria Eleni.
The German returned home and soon found himself a husband and a father. Years later he decided to return to the island. He traveled with his wife and children, and sought out his former lover, who herself had become a mother and then a grandmother. The couple reunited, alone and in a secret place. They spoke at length, they cried together, then they separated, never to see each other again.