RARE ARTICLES FOR SPINALONGA FROM ANNA’S GIAKOUMAKI BOOK.

Copyrights: Anna Giakoumaki

{Anna Giakoumaki (author/publisher), Maria Lazaridou (translator), Donald Morgan Nielsen (Editor/Proofreading)}

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Rare letter sent by the lepers of Spinalonga to the editor of “Kritika Nea“, published on 13 August 1935. In the letter, the residents of Spinalonga describe their lives on the islet and request to be transferred to another location with arable land and running water. The rarity of the letter lies in the fact that the patients have signed their full names, knowing that by doing so they would be stigmatised even further.

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This action reflects their frustration and can be interpreted as a desperate cry for help. The article reads: “From the island of pain. The life of the patients of Spina-Longa. How they live – What they do. Honourable Director [of the newspaper], we are sending you this letter so you can publish it among the articles of your reputable newspaper, in the hope that it will appeal to your philanthropy and altruism, and motivate you to help us put an end to the criminal isolation we endure. Whether we like it or not, we are isolated on this inaccessible and barren island. Oh, why is our confinement so terrible? Broken bodies surrounded by nothing but water. In the name of civilisation; in the name of humanity and solidarity, raise your voices in protest against the prolongation of the torturous and disgraceful Golgotha we have to endure on Spinalonga. Yours faithfully.” And it continues: “The living-dead lepers of Spinalonga. An entire community; a community which has to endure the heaviest of fates; people who are tested again and again in every way possible; the most tragic castaways of our times. We, the lepers of Spinalonga, who are haggard and worn-out, not so much by the misfortunes thrust upon us by this damnable disease, but by the manifold horrendous and unbearable tortures caused by our confinement in this dreadful hell, launch a desperate appeal to the authorities; to the scientific community; to all Christian, charitable, humanitarian and labour organisations; to the Church and the Press and beseech you to do everything your charitable and civilised conscience guides you to do, and help to liberate us from the unbearable suffering we endure isolated on Spinalonga by transferring us to another location with LAND and WATER. Living agonising lives on notoriously horrific Spinalonga, we barely managed to summon the strength to launch this appeal through the press to beg you to lend a helping hand to your fellow-men who are drowning in misery. Don’t forget that we are people too and we didn’t choose to get sick; we didn’t choose such a dreadful fate. The innocent supplicants of Spinalonga (followed by the names of the 229 patients who signed the Letter-Complaint), Certified Copy. On Spina Longa, 27 July 1935. The authorised committee. G. Vorizinos, G. Manidakis, N. Baroutis”.

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A three-year-old girl had gone missing and was thought to have been abducted. During church service, a priest addressed the congregation and threatened to “put a curse on him (the abductor) to catch leprosy.” Curses and imprecations related to leprosy were considered especially severe. Article in “Nea Efimeris“, 21 May 1925.

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The social exclusion and discrimination lepers had to endure is clearly evident in the journalist’s words: “We were informed that Dr. Moshakis, Heraklion’s Municipal Doctor, accidentally came across a greengrocer in our market who suffers from… leprosy. How horrendous! The leper was sent by… straight to Spinalonga, where he will live out the remainder of his days in peace. Thanks to Dr. Moshakis’ actions two days ago, our fellow-citizens will no longer consume the now-deported greengrocer’s filth.” Article in “Esperini“, 19 February 1925.

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When an 18-year-old girl, who was born and lived her entire life in the “open prison” of Spinalonga, first stepped out into the “real world”, she saw a dog and mistook it for a sheep. Article published in “Nea Efimeris“, 2 February 1924.

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On 20 November 1944, an article in “Eleftheri Kriti” reads: “The outcry of Spinalonga. We were truly moved when we read the appeal by the lepers of Spinalonga addressed to the people of Crete. Today, and for so many years, they have endured the brutal torture of hunger.

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The heartlessness of the Germans’ accomplices throughout the four years of slavery has taken its toll on them. Isolated on the rock of Golgotha, they cannot even beg for a loaf of bread. Hunger and the lack of medical care have decimated them. (At this point, we’d like to remind you that more than a hundred people died on Spinalonga during the Occupation because the State didn’t pay salaries to the leper colony’s staff; didn’t send the patients their allowances – with all the consequences this would have on their diet and medical care – and at the same time, it didn’t even set them free to scavenge for food on the Cretan mainland. The massive number of deaths led to a debate on closing the leper colony). Their outcry is full of desperation and agony. The Cretan authorities in charge of solving people’s problems without prejudice should also see to the matter of these outcasts of fortune. It’s our duty as citizens; as Christians; as human beings.”

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An article in “Eleftheri Kriti” on 1 June 1945, reads: “SPINA LONGA. In an extensive letter to the authorities and the press, the lepers reveal details of their torturous lives and denounce the Leper colony’s Director – Dr. E. Grammatikakis – for abusing them during and after the Occupation. They accuse Mr. Grammatikakis of beating them; of confining healthy people in the leper colony for revenge and of opening and censoring the patients’ letters. They hold him responsible for the death of 200 lepers during the Occupation, from starvation and other hardships.”

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Sketch by Angelos Sgouros, published in “Empros“, 31 July 1929.

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Sketch of patient of Spinalonga by Angelos Sgouros, “Empros“, 1 August 1929.

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Sketch of patient of Spinalonga by Angelos Sgouros, “Empros“, 1 August 1929.