Narration by Ananias Tsirambides, Professor Emeritus of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Member of the Board of HARH
In the summer of 1914, Venizelos’ government welcomed 3,260 Greek refugees from Caucasus. The Care Committee showed them parts of our free Macedonia, where most of them settled. But some of them immigrated to America, while some returned to Caucasus, as was the case with relatives of my grandmother Anna Anastasiadou from Demir Kapi. They did not like the heat. They preferred the cold climate of Caucasus with temperatures up to 20 degrees below zero and snow for six months every year up to three meters high.
“The egg is baked under the sun”, was their typical phrase.
Many thousands of Greek refugees from the East passed through the disinfection station and the Kalamaria camp. First the Caucasians, then the other Pontians, the Smyrnians, the Constantinopolitans, the Cappadocians, etc. About 22,000 of them died of diseases, mainly malaria and typhus (hamnia).
“Cursed and desolate Karambournou, graves all around. Open and look at them, all children from Kars”.
Thus the muse sang the sad death toll of that time in Kalamaria.
On June 3, 1920, 3,550 refugees, including most of the families of the village of Konk, departed from Batum on the ship Argo. With them are many families of Tsirambides. They, apart from cattle breeding, were also engaged in logging. In Turkish our surname means “family of woodcutters”.
Sailing close to the coast and after a short stop in Constantinople they arrived in Kalamaria after 6 days. On the way three people died on board the ship and were dumped into the sea. They were promised much for Greece, but got little, said grandfather Alexis. The people from Konk, on Christmas Eve 1920, came by carts to Drosato Kilkis, where the Care Committee settled them in empty houses of Turks and Bulgarians.
2150 refugees departed from Batum on August 27, 1920 on the ship ELEFTHERIA and arrived in Kalamaria on September 3. Among them were the remaining families of Tsirambides from Konk, the Anastasiadis families from Demir Kapi in Ardahan, including the 17-year-old girl Anna (my grandmother), and other families from villages in Ardahan. The rest of the Tsirambides families, including my now married grandmother Anna, stayed in Kalamaria for about seven months until Easter 1921, when they too settled permanently in Drosato Kilkis.
“Work and run, and never have enough bread to eat”. It was the widowed mother’s curse (?) to her then 17-year-old daughter Anna, my grandmother, because she did not want to go in and out of the hospital. Here in Kalamaria, her mother Symela (~52 years old) and her brother Lazaros 10 years old died of typhus.
Anna married in the Kalamaria camp Stelios Ioannidis, who also died of typhus a few months later in Drosato. In the spring of 1922 Anna married my grandfather Ananias, a widower with two boys who also died young at her hands (2 and 12 years old). After two deaths of her own babies she was finally lucky enough to see two boys Efthymis (1927), my father, and Panagiotis (1929).
On the other hand my grandfather Dimitris Chalyvopoulos came from Serpuske of Argyroupoulis. He had attended the 4th grade in high school in the school of the same name, he was a cantor in the church of Plagia Kilkis, where he settled after his marriage. He was very hard-working and nervous. His wife Angeliki Giannakidou came from Seyutli Tsalka, located 80 km west of Tbilisi. There were 10 brothers, among them Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and with Adam as their father, that is the whole Old Testament.
“Whoever does not have (a more reliable card) throws an ace”, grandfather George Serides used to say, whenever he played cards with my father Efthymis (his nephew) and other uncles.
His wife Anna was first cousin to my grandfather Ananias. Illiterate but unreachable in the “tanomeni” soup, nettle soup and yofkades.
The American help with the Marshall Plan (1948-1953) reached also Kalamaria.
“These Udra (UNRRA) parcels do not fill the belly. These are the words of the right-wing pro-Americans, to deceive the world”.
This was the typical response of some of the Kalamaria refugees who were infected by the Bolshevik virus, according to History Professor Kostas Fotiadis.
Hard work, honesty, respect and solidarity were some of the virtues of our refugee ancestors. They took root in their new homeland by working hard and patiently. They sacrificed themselves for their children.
May their memory be eternal.
By Ananias Tsirambides, Professor Emeritus of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and Member of the Board of HARH
Our English-French allies created and operated military installations (airfields, camps, warehouses, hospitals) from the beach of Karambournou to Phoenix and the War Academy and east to the limits of the later regional moat, for the needs of the Thessaloniki Front against the Central Powers. They also constructed a railway line for the transport of ammunition from the port of Thessaloniki to the area of the War Academy. It crossed eastern Thessaloniki passing roughly parallel to Papanastasiou, from Charilaou and the outskirts of Votsis and Phoenix.
On an area of about 100 acres, the British established a camp that served as an engine room and camp for the soldiers of the Indian Battalion. This camp was located between the present-day streets of Alexander the Great – Eastern Thrace – Ektoros – Pericleous – Keramopoulou.
The British created the allied cemetery (today behind the Dalipi camp). This was the period when they brought the first piped water from Chortiatis for the needs of the cemetery and other facilities. They also drilled several boreholes to find water which they located around the junction of Kalantidou and Lassani streets. With pipes they transferred it to a large tank behind the present 14th Public School (Lassani-Kaesaria streets).
From May of this year refugees from Caucasus and after September 1922 (Asia Minor Catastrophe) refugees from Pontus, Cappadocia, the rest of Asia Minor and other regions of Turkey arrived by ship to Kalamaria, where several of them (mainly of urban origin) settled permanently. The Refugee Care Committee temporarily housed them in the allied wards.
Next to the allied cemetery, the municipal (then community) cemetery of Kalamaria was created.
The entire area of the Votsis settlement, as well as the whole of Kalamaria, was the fields of the Pylaiotes (Kaputzidianoi) and a Turkish owner of manors, Hamdi Bey. The area was called “buffaloes’ strata“, because it was the passage of buffaloes for the cattle breeders. Apart from livestock products, okra cultivation and viticulture were the main occupations of the inhabitants of Pylaia until the 1960s.
In particular, the area east of Ethn. Antistaseos (during the Turkish occupation Yalkar, then Vas. Olgas, then Grammou-Vitsi) was called in Turkish Yeni Tsavous, i.e. “New Sergeant“.
The British sold the camp with all the facilities to the Anglo-Jewish businessman Campbell. Then the first refugees began to settle around the periphery of the camp, where they lived in makeshift houses. The settlement is now known as “Campbell“.
The Jewish community of Thessaloniki buys the premises from Campbell, as well as 35 neighboring properties by expropriation. A new settlement for the rehabilitation of fire-stricken Jews is established. Relocation and settlement of 210 poor Jewish families in wards in the eastern part of the military camp. They remained there until 1931.
Construction of a power plant (junction of Pontou and Aegaiou streets) for Kalamaria. From 1946 to 1957, the electricity supply was continued by the “Thessaloniki Suburbs Electricity Company Petychakis and Co”. Then it was taken over by the PPC.
1931 June 30:
Burning of the Jewish settlement of Campbell by members of the Nationalist Organization “National Union Hellas”. Destruction of synagogue, school, pharmacy and 6 large chambers. Two dead, the Christian baker Leonidas Pappas and the Jew Leon Vidal. In August, the Jews leave the settlement of Campbell permanently.
It is renamed to settlement “Stylianos Gonatas”, who at that time was Minister General of Macedonia (16 December 1929 – 4 November 1932). But he refused this honor. In August of the same year the camp was bought by the Greek State (final contract in 1969).
1930 beginning of the decade:
The Wireless Police Station began to operate as a branch of the A’ Police Station. Until 1941 it was housed in a section of the 2nd allied chamber (approximately at the junction of Lassani and Chatzipanagiotidou), then until 1953 in a single-family house immediately after the tavern of Krikela. In the period 1953-73 it operated in a two-story villa before the junction of Vas. Olgas and Aegaiou. In 1973 it was abolished.
Housing for 45 years of the “Admiral Votsis” Landscaping Association in the abandoned synagogue. Maintenance of the building by voluntary work of members and athletes. Final concession in 1969 by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Demolition of a crumbling building in 1980, due to the earthquake of June 1978. Construction of an indoor two-story gym of the General Secretariat of Sports on the same site in 1987.
The settlement is given the name “Votsis“ in honor of the glorious Admiral Nikolaos Votsis who managed to sink the Turkish battleship Fethi Bulent in the harbor of Thessaloniki (18.10.1912) during the struggle for the liberation of Macedonia.
In the same year, the main street of the settlement and some of its houses were electrified.
Construction of 16 four-family houses and 18 two-family houses by the Providence for housing refugees on both sides of the streets Ethnikis Antistaseos, Lassani, Aristeidou, Aristotelous. In the same year, Dalipi camp was established as an artillery base and then an armored tank base to this day. Placement of the antenna of the Armed Forces Radio Station (today ERT3).
Start of urban public transport with one gaz vehicle and three drivers from Ethnikis Antistaseos and Omirou to Depot, where the tram starting point was.
The restaurant Perikoklada started to operate on Vas. Olgas by Kritikos from Constantinople, which in 1948 was moved across the street (today 32 Ethn. Antistaseos) with the new name KRIKELAS after his nickname. The lights of Krikelas were extinguished in March 2005, while a high-rise building was built in its place.
Kalamaria becomes a municipality with an area of 6.5 km2 and a population of 10,500 inhabitants.
The Votsis settlement after the occupation
By this year there were five livestock stables in the settlement.
The State decides on a system of self-housing, i.e. allocation of a plot of land and a loan from the Land Bank according to the number of members of each refugee family, so 150 detached houses were built east of Ethnikis Antistaseos for residents who lived in allied chambers until 1958.
Opening of a regional ditch by MOMA as a flood control project. It is 15 km long, 10-17 m wide, 2-25 m deep. It starts from Ano Toumba, passes through the outskirts of Votsis and flows out after the School of Judges in Phoenix.
Until 1965 there was no sewage network, so all houses had individual septic tank. The streets were earthy, mud everywhere, which is why the name of Kalamaria as the city of “tsamouria”, i.e. muds, is considered successful.
They took their summer baths in Aretsou and Krini, where they went on foot or in Perea with the urban bus.
The Votsi workers’ residences were built opposite the Dalipi camp (Proodos settlement with 38 apartments). Also, the three three-story buildings of the UNO at Alexander the Great street, the residences of the workers and dockers (settlement of K. Karamanlis initially and after 1974 St. Panteleimon) and finally the workers’ residences in Phoenix (1200 apartments).
Until about 1965, at the junction of Ethnikis Antistaseos 139 and Anapafseos, a weighbridge for trucks and carts was operating and the corresponding tax was paid. The neighborhood was informally called “Foros”.
The WSOTh (now called EYATh) tank is constructed next to the cemetery. The gradual connection to the residential houses begins.
1970 beginning of the decade:
Electric lighting of Grammou – Vitsi Avenue (Ethnikis Antistaseos). Asphalt and gravel paving of roads.
Inauguration of IKA clinics in a prefabricated building (Kalantidou street). It was a great success of the Sports and Cultural Association of Admiral Votsis with Athanasios Alexakis as its president.
The Kalamaria Land Registry Office is established, initially housed at the Kazazi-Kaladidou junction and since 2000 in Phoenix.
The operation of the 2nd KAPI (Open Protection Center for the Elderly) of Kalamaria in Kifissia settlement began, initially at Souri street and since 2008 in a two-story municipal building at Kappadokias street.
The easternmost part of the settlement (80 acres) was included in the city plan with a building factor of 0.8 compared to 2.4 that applied to the rest of the settlement.
The Waste Transfer Station (Municipality of Pylaia-Chortiatis) started operating at the eastern boundary of the settlement (next to the Media Markt hypermarket).
The terminal of the Thessaloniki Metro station at the eastern boundary of the settlement with the Municipality of Pylaia-Chortiatis (at the end of Erythrou Stavrou street) was completed.
In the neighboring areas of the Settlement, craft and industrial units were operating (Alatini pottery, Kazazi factory, Makedoniki Eriourgia, ELAYF textile factory, Phoenix hinges and padlocks, Stamatiadis Christmas toys), as well as the offices of the newspapers “Ellinikos Vorras” and “Esperini Ora”, where many residents worked. Unfortunately, today they have all been shut down.
Until the end of the 1950s, i.e. before the start of the intensive reconstruction, there was much more greenery in the Votsis settlement. There were many pine, cypresses, acacias and other evergreen trees, as well as shrubs and flowers in the yards of the houses.