In mid-June of 2017, I traveled to the island of Crete. Approximately 7,000 miles from my home in Arizona. Having come all that way, I can’t say the climate was much different, with the exception of the wind. Hot wind. Crete is Greece’s largest island. One only needs to spend a few days there before experiencing the understated charm of the people and culture of the island.
Our flat was about 13 miles east of Heraklion, the island’s capital city. Greek hospitality is known around the world, and we experienced it first hand.
Dry and hot was the weather forecast each day so we decided to go up into the mountains to a town called Anogeia (sounds like Annoya) in the province of Rethymno. In 1944, Crete was under Nazi occupation and the village of Anogeia was a resistance stronghold. Two British officers, Major Fermor and Captain Moss, parachuted into Crete, and conspired with the Creten resistance to kidnap the German General, Karl Kreipe.
Kreipe was abducted after leaving his residence and forced into the back of a car. Fermor and Moss impersonated him through 22 checkpoints. They eventually abandoned the car and Kreipe was smuggled out to Africa.
The Germans retaliated by ordering the total destruction of Anogiea. They shot all the men in the village and razed every building to the ground, with the exception of the church. The widows of the fallen men became known as black widows. Today widows still wear black and sell embroidered and sewn items to tourists. That is how I met this lovely lady…
My brother Colin, his partner Nicola and I wandered around Anogeia on an unrelentingly hot day. Several widows all dressed in black stood outside their residences with their embroidered cottons and crocheted kerchiefs, mantillas and scarves. The widow in black tried to speak to me but she didn’t know English and I only knew a few words of Greek. Nai sounds like you are saying no, but it’s actually yes! After she realized there was nothing outside that I wanted she took my hand and led me down 3 steps into a room in her house. Various pieces of material were scattered over tables and hung up around the room. The white plaster walls were cracking and I almost tripped on the thread-bare brown and red carpet. When I said no again, and there was genuinely nothing that I wanted to buy, the widow began to cry. She motioned from her hand to her mouth as if she was hungry. The only money I had brought with me was a $50 Euro note, which at the time was about $50 American. You can see it in her right pocket in the picture above. I don’t know what she said, but she carried on in Greek for a while, she hugged me, kissed my cheek and then started piling her handmade goods onto my arms. Nicola insisted I had gotten taken by a Black Widow of Anogeia, but I never felt that way. I felt like she was genuine and I will never forget her.
After the war, the Cretans rebuilt the village and Winston Churchill, said of the people’s bravery during and after the Battle of Crete…
“…the world will no longer say that Greeks fight as heroes, but heroes fight as Greeks”.
Beach below flat