Friends of Tsamantas - Newsletter December 2016
News from Tsamantas
During the first week of December, I visited the village for the fourth time this year. Spread across the slopes of Mount Mourgana, and as beautiful as ever, it sparkled under the bright winter sun. One could hear the occasional cry of a bird of prey, the soporific sound of distant goat bells, and the continuous murmur of two streams, Xera and Platanakis, rushing to form the River Pavlas before disappearing into the magnificent Koziakas gorge.
The reason for my visit was the distribution, for a third year running, of foodstuff donated by the St. George’s Hellenic Benefit of Tsamanta(s), Inc, in Worcester, MA, in the United States. The generous donation of US$1,000 by the Society was used to provide a small bursary to four pupils who live permanently in the village, enabling them to gain access to the internet, and to distribute a bag of basic groceries, olive oil and meat for the Christmas dinner to nine households, benefiting a total of 23 individuals.
The few remaining inhabitants of Tsamantas, like other Greeks, continue to feel the humiliation and pain of the ongoing austerity measures imposed by the government, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund. Their meagre pensions have been further reduced, while indirect taxes and utility bills have increased substantially (for instance, the water rates in Tsamantas went up 20% during the current year). In addition, the ailing Greek health and social services system is facing meltdown. It is not surprising that 2016 has been a cruel year for the community of Tsamantas, with the passing away of a larger than average number of its elderly inhabitants.We remember those residents who sadly died this year, along with others in the diasporic Tsamantiot community. I learned of the following losses during the course of the year:
John and Andromache Goulas (Tsamantas), Anna Ntente (Tsamantas), Chrysanthi Katsiari(Tsamantas), Aggeliki Ntente (Athens), Basiliki Pitsaris (Athens), Theophilos (Ted) Raptis (Worcester, MA), Dinos Kiratsis (Worcester, MA), Peter Gogororis (Melbourne, VIC) and Athanasios Athanasiou(Worcester, MA).
Fundraising Appeal for Urgent Repairs to the Parish Church of the Dormition of the Virgin(Ιερός Ναός Κοιμήσεως της Θεοτόκου) in Tsamantas
The historic Church of the Dormition of the Virgin – built in 1784, and ever since the main place of worship in Tsamantas – was the first building in the village to have its traditional roof of heavy slate replaced with modern tiles, shortly after the destruction of the civil war. Now, that roof is in need of urgent repairs, as confirmed by structural engineers. The tiled roof is leaking badly, and a number of its rafters are rotting away. The cost of replacement is estimated at €35,000.
Unfortunately, this far outstrips the church’s income, which is derived mostly from the annual mid-August festivities (Πανηγύρι) and donations from its dwindling congregation. From the Πανηγύρι of 2016, the Church earned some €700, but this was used straightaway in replacing the church’s guttering and downpipes, and in repairs to the pointing.
Unlike St George’s in Kamitsiani, the church is not a designated archaeological monument, so it is unlikely to receive state funding. The Community of Tsamantas would therefore welcome contributions from anyone associated with the village, in support of the appeal for replacing the church’s roof. You can donate directly to the bank account of the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin Tsamanta(s) using the International IBAN account: GR4301104590000045929605322.
The bank may ask you for the SWIFT code, which is (BIC) ETHNGRAA. They may also ask for the church’s account number, at the National Bank of Greece, which is 459/296053-22 (this number is
incorporated in the IBAN account number above).
The name of the account is ΙΕΡΟΣ ΝΑΟΣ ΚΟΙΜ. ΘΕΟΤ. ΤΣΑΜΑΝΤΑ (Holy Church of the Dormition of the Virgin, Tsamanta(s)).
Recent Successful Projects
During the present decade, two major projects, costing almost half a million euros in total, have been completed – mainly with the help of European funding, money from the Liagos and Bellos legacies, and individual donations. I am pleased to report that the restoration and conservation of the priceless murals in the Church of St. George’s in Kamitsiani is near completion. There is now a suggestion – as yet unconfirmed – that the Region of Epirus will approve the funds for structurally securing the foundations of St. George’s.
Secondly, the Parish Hall on the first floor of the old school/museum, next to the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin, is now fully functioning.
The Unresolved Status of Tsamantas and the Challenges of the Bellos Legacy
You might be aware that the community of Tsamantas is one of the beneficiaries of the Bellos legacy.
Prior to his death in 1999, the wealthy expatriate Stavros Bellos generously donated two lots of shares in American companies, and in his will he left to the village a further substantial amount (the Bellos Fund. Regrettably, recent administrative changes in Greece have resulted in the village of Tsamantas, like all other communities in Greece, ceasing to be legal entities per se, and instead becoming a part of larger municipalities. Now, Tsamantas – together with 40 other villages in Thesprotia – is part of the Municipality of Filiates. In addition, in-fighting and accusations of mismanagement among the Tsamantiots themselves have led to the postponement of the remittance of funds from the USA to the village, and the freezing of its bank account.
At the same time, the question has arisen of who is going to manage the Bellos Trust funds and pay any taxes due: the village itself, or the Mayor of Filiates. The community’s lawyers took the issue to the Ministry of the Economy in Athens. In October, after a long delay, the deputy minister Mr Alexiadis announced that he was unable to make a decision, and referred the case to the regional court (εφετειον),based in Corfu. However, there is an extensive backlog of cases in the Greek legal system: according to the World Bank (2016), a Greek plaintiff has to wait an average of four and a half years for his case to be heard by the relevant court. As a result, the people of Tsamantas will be denied the village’s annual income of approximately US$3,000-4,000 – accrued from the Bellos Fund and the shares – for years to come.
I am aware of this situation through my own involvement in attempting to resolve the matter. Last July, the head of the St. George’s Society in Worcester – in his concern about economic hardship in
Tsamantas – asked me to assist the newly elected representative of the village, Soterios Lagaris. We are trying, on many fronts, to resolve the various issues as soon as we can, in order to release funds from the legacy for the benefit of the community.
I am delighted to report that I shall be visiting the Tsamantiot Community in Melbourne, Australia from the 15th to 17th of February and the Tsamantiot Community in Worcester, MA, USA from the 29th to the 31st of May 2017.
A reminder of the two recent books on Tsamantas:
a) D. Konstadakopulos (2014), ‘From Pax Ottomanica to Pax Europaea: the growth and decline of a Greek village’s micro-economy’, Vol. 11 of Byzantine and Neohellenic Studies, University of Durham and King’s College London, Peter Lang, Oxford.
Available at Amazon:
For an academic review in the Journal of Modern Greek Studies see:
b) N. Nitsos  (2015), ‘Tales, Rituals and Songs: Exploring the Unknown Popular Culture of a Greek Mountain Village.’ Translated by Panayotis League, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Brookline, MA.
Available at the Holy Cross Bookstore:
Available at Amazon:
Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a
Prosperous New Year
Bristol, UK / Tsamantas
Email: Dimitrios Konstadakopulos