Patmos: The Sailor, Innocent Victim

As our caïque neared the coast, I was lost in contemplation of the magnificent Patmian countryside before me. The beach was bordered with old tamaris trees, forming a perfect semicircle. Behind, green fields extended to the foot of the rocky hills. A white peasant home stood at the far end of the beach. It once belonged to a great friend of ours, who used it for picnics, back when it was only accessible by boat.

After the death of our friend, it was bought by a couple, cultivated and interesting, who occasionally gave diners at the home. I examined the house for some time, then it came to me, “This home is haunted,” I said in a loud voice. Next to me was Captain Yorgos. He heard me, but didn’t say a word. “It is haunted, badly haunted,” I said. “There was a crime in this home, a horrible crime. The victim is still not at peace.”

We returned frequently to this beach, the most beautiful one on the island. One day, without warning, Yorgos said to me in a heavy voice, “There was a crime in that home. It was towards the end of the war. A German officer stationed on the neighboring island of Leros had committed unspeakable atrocities and needed to put some distance between himself and the people of that island. Pointing his revolver at a young sailor who owned a motor boat, he forced the boy to take him away from Leros. The boy’s name was Yanni. Still threatened by the officer, he brought the German to this home. It was completely isolated then; nobody ever came by. But soon the Patmian people learned of the presence of the German officer. So, three men decided it was time for him to pay for his crimes. The men boarded a small boat and discretely arrived at the beach. They approached the home cautiously, then entered and shot the officer. But what was to be done with Yanni, the young hostage of the officer? They couldn’t risk him speaking, so they killed him too. What did they do with the bodies? Nobody knows.”

In any case, Yanni’s mother heard rumors that her son was in Patmos. She came often, half mad with agony and sorrow. She wandered the streets crying, “Yanni, where is my Yanni. What have you done to my Yanni?” Nobody spoke to her.

“The assassins, I knew them well. They died not long ago. You probably met them too, Kirie Mihail.”

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That is the official story, the one that everybody on the island tells. I learned the truth only recently, from a local erudite. The German officer belonged to an illustrious German military family. He served his country in the army, but was deeply anti-nazi. Far from being detested by the people of Leros, he was respected for his generosity and understanding. He was also a spy of the highest order, and soon caught the attention of the English, as the young officer was reporting the movements of the English fleet back to Berlin. As the war was coming to an end, the English were moving in on Leros, and so they put a bounty on the spy. The officer decided to flee. A young sailor who had become his friend offered him his boat, and the two soon left Leros to find refuge in Patmos, at the home in the deserted bay. As always in Greece, the locals learned of his presence on the island and three men decided get rid of him. It was during the time when the communists, thanks to the anti-German resistance, were gaining more and more control in the country, and it is likely that communism played some role in the assassination. The three men killed the officer, and young Yanni.


by  Prince Michael of Greece