Gazing at the lost homeland

Before Vassilis Karatzas died last month in Skopje at an advanced age, he had one great regret. He could not go back to «close his eyes» in Dendrohori in Kastoria, where he was born. Karatzas was a victim of difficult times. Caught on the losing side in the Greek Civil War, he went to the Socialist Republics. After staying in Tashkent, Moscow and Belgrade, he headed for Skopje. In the 1980s, when repatriation for political refugees got underway, he stayed behind. What kept him company was an article he had written for a small newspaper in the 1930s about the Macedonian struggle. It followed the line held at that time by the Communist Party of Greece, which espoused the «self-determination of the Macedonian nation.» He himself later revised his ideas, but he remained on the list of undesirables. Every year on July 26, when Dendrohori held its saint’s day feast, he used to climb a mountain to gaze at his village and dream of returning. He wrote a poem about it: «Gazing.» But, like so many others in the past when the borders were impregnable, he never went back. In 1977, when Giorgos Peperidis from Kilkis was a student in Skopje, he met a political refugee, Costas K., who had gone there from Tashkent to be close to his birthplace, Axioupoli. «He wanted to go for one day to a cousin’s wedding, and we both went to the border for visas, but they wouldn’t give him one. That man may never have seen his birthplace again.»

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