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Liberation Day in Kastellorizo (Meis) - 13th September PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Meis harbour

If you are in Kalkan around the middle of next month and are looking for an interesting day out you might like to consider a day trip to the nearby Greek island of Meis (Kastellorizo), where on Wednesday 13th September 2017 they celebrate Liberation Day

Normally the island is a sleepy backwater where nothing much happens but on this day they hold a ceremony at the harbour that is attended by the great and the good - including VIPs from the Greek mainland.  Even on such an auspicious day it won't be over crowded but there should certainly be a buzz about the place.

To give you some background about what Liberation Day is all about we thought we would give you a brief history of the island.  It’s rather complex so we have made it simple.

At different times this small island has come under the rule of different masters.  Ottoman domination began in the 1530s but subsequently the island found itself occupied at different times by the Venetians, Greeks, assorted marauding pirates, and even the Russians (briefly).

The start of the 20th century
The 20th century began under Ottoman rule but the island’s inhabitants mostly considered themselves to be Greek.  It wasn’t a happy time.  By the outbreak of the First World War (WWI) in 1914 the island was in turmoil and chaos.  France occupied the island in 1915 which was welcomed by the islanders who were not too happy with Ottoman rule, but as there was a war on the arrival of the French inevitably led to attacks from both Germany and Turkey.

Mediterraneo filmThe Italians
After WWI ended the French were set to hand over the island to self-rule but the Italians stepped in pronto and claimed it for themselves and there began a harsh period of Italian rule - from 1921 to 1943.  Many of the island’s Greek inhabitants left.

In 1940 when Italy entered the Second World War (WWII) the island suffered even more.  The film Mediterraneo was filmed on location on Meis and tells the story of a group of Italian soldiers posted to the island in WWII.  Worth a look especially given the local interest.

British forces attacked the island in 1941 and in September 1943 when the Italians surrendered to the Allied forces, the British moved in to liberate the island.  This is why every year on 13th September the islanders of Meis celebrate and commemorate this event from WWII.

British occupation
Unfortunately the experience of British occupation was not a happy one.  After the island's liberation the war raged on and with Meis still under British control it was subjected to continual attacks from the Germans.  Many inhabitants were hurriedly removed from the island for their own safety but the exodus was badly managed and people were not sure how long they would be away.  Many left most of their possessions behind as they were sent to safer temporary locations such as Cyprus and Gaza.

Whilst the islanders were away from Meis many properties were destroyed by German aerial attacks and also by a serious fire that broke out in 1944.  By the end of WWII in 1945 Meis, still under British rule, was in ruins as its inhabitants slowly began to return home only to find their homes and possessions gone. 

Greek rule
The Dodecanese islands, including Meis, were formally ceded to Greece on 15th February 1947.  Sadly by this time there were very few inhabitants on the island compared to the pre war years - around 600 or so, and those numbers have fallen further over recent decades.  Where did they all go you may ask?  Well some moved to a place near Athens on the Greek mainland and many more ended up in Australia.  But that’s another story.

So after that whirlwind history lesson if you fancy being around on a special day in the island’s calendar why not pay them a visit on 13th September.  Local tour operators in Kalkan will be happy to help you arrange this day trip.

Below: An image from 13th September 2016.  The ceremony is just visible in the background.

Liberation Day on Meis - 13th September

Below: The picturesque harbour at Meis.

Meis harbour

P.S. We are hoping to publish a few articles on the history of Kalkan later this year.  We have collated quite a lot of information already but we are always happy to learn of new material, so if you have anything that sheds light on Kalkan's distant past do get in touch.

 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 August 2017