Revisiting a sunken village

Forty years ago, the inhabitants of Kallio, a stone-built village in Fokis, saw their houses slowly disappear underwater. In 1981, a dam was built in the Mornos River in order to create an artificial lake that would supply Athens with drinking water. The villagers were given no choice: their village was expropriated, and they could only watch silently while the river water flooded their gardens, while the church sank, while the last chimney vanished. The were forced to relocate elsewhere; but they didn’t forget.

Now 27 year old Athenian visual artist Sotiris Tsiganos and his colleague Jonian Bisai have made a short film, NEROMANNA, in memory of the drowned village and the dispersal of its community. They filmed the ghost village underwater, and collected testimonies from its former inhabitants, whom they managed to locate by scouring Greece. “Our village was beautiful”, says an elderly lady, speaking in old fashioned Greek. “It had springs, cold clear waters. We couldn’t believe it when they told us we had to leave. We took the icons from the church, we had to pack everything up and go. We lost our homes.” They also lost each other, as neighbors and friends dispersed to different places.
A lot of the antiquities found locally were also dispersed, some to the museum in Lidoriki, some remaining at the bottom of the lake.
Since that day, this lake has been the main source of water of the Greek capital.

 

 

In 1993, a drought shrank the waters of the artificial lake, and part of the ruins emerged. Some of the villagers, who had gathered to see this sight, compared the occasion to a memorial service. It just made everyone sad. “Better not to have seen,” mused one old man. Then the houses sank back under the waters, and only memories remained.

 

 

 

The film was shown at the Athens Biennale 2017, as part of the whole project, Latent Community, whose aim was to present the history of Kallio and to briefly reconstitute its lost community. The filmmakers invited the villagers to a feast, so that they could meet up and tell their stories, thus creating an environment of narratives based on the community’s experiences. A public archive of documents and records, much of which had been provided by the village residents themselves, was also presented.

The two artists described their visual arts research project as having been very emotional, because while doing it they realized that the sacrifice made by these people had never been properly acknowledged. They had become refugees, they had lost their community, and some who could not adapt to the new situation had died. Some of the inhabitants still believe that when they die, they will all go back there to be together again.

The hauntingly beautiful photo below is by photographer danos kounenis (Trek Earth)

I first came upon this story in an article in the newspaper  Kathimerini

And here is the link to the film NEROMANNA / http://vimeo.com/latentcommunityproject

15 thoughts on “Revisiting a sunken village

  1. I’m struck by your phrase “old-fashioned Greek.” How much has Greek changed in living memory? I can’t say English has changed that much. Many phrases have come and gone but the core of the language hasn’t changed enough that I’d describe someone from, say, the 1940s as speaking an old-fashioned English

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Greek language, interestingly enough, has gone through various transformations, mainly between the old ‘katharevousa’ and the more modern ‘demotic’. While I was in school, we switched from one to the other a few times! Nowadays they’ve gone a step further to the ‘monotonic’, which means they’ve abolished all accents except one (in written Greek, of course.) Those accents were a devil to learn! Again, the core has not really changed, but some elderly people can still sound very old fashioned. To a Greek, this is obvious in the film.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That must have been so awful for the residents, I can’t even imagine the heartbreak of having to leave your home, and all it had meant to you, behind. Was there really no other way?

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  3. This has happened in wales too, the people of the drowned (Welsh-speaking) village of Tryweryn were also not given a choice. very sad. It still causes anger today in Wales. I have seen the graffiti on a wall in Swansea which reads “Cofiwch Dryweryn” which in English: means “Remember Tryweryn”

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