SELECTED PROCEEDINGS OF THE SYMPOSIUM ON NOTED JOURNALISTS FROM VATOUSSA, LESVOS SPONSORED BY THE CHRISTOS AND MARY PAPOUTSY VATOUSSA REVITALIZATION FOUNDATION
By Yiannis Manoukas
We were preparing for this seminar when the sad news of Nick Anastasiadis passing away reached us on June 1, 2000. He and his brother Rodamanthys are the last descendants (Rodamanthys is still living) of the renowned Anastasiadis family, which produced so many reporters.
After a long illness Nick left his last breath in his beloved birthplace, Mytilini, which he never left, since he worked all his life as a reporter locally. He was schooled to be a reporter at a very young age in his father Terpandros' printing business, "The Democrat," ever since his father began publishing it in Lesvos.
Naturally, he learned the business in the best reporting school, his father's, continuing an already established family tradition, following rather an instinct than a moral obligation to stick to his father's footsteps. At the age of 34 he successfully publishes the "New Mytelenean" from 1951-1953. The short life span of this satirical newspaper is rather due to the limited financial drawbacks, especially in the rural areas where the reading populace of such a newspaper is rather narrow, than its failure as a newspaper. (In addition, I believe, post-war satire does not "touch" the avant-garde society any longer as it "touched" the older, more conservative societies). Mr. Missios informs us that the "New Mytelenean" made quite an impact during its time.
In 1971 Nick, succeeds his father Terpandros, who himself became a legendary reporting figure, not only in Lesvos, but also throughout Greece. Terpandros passed away during that year. Nick takes over during a turbulent time, a time filled with political unrest and a new danger, which was engineered by the new regime of April 21. It was because of this regime that Cyprus became a hostage exactly three years after. This disaster of course is followed by a new democratic administration, freedom for the people, and of course Nick Anastasiadis' "Democrat" thrives in such a situation. Nick Anastasiadis, unguarded, "throws" himself in reporting in "dangerous ground." The Turkish invasion of Cyprus and then the island's occupation altered the balance of military forces between Turkey and Greece with Turkey strategically advantageous in the Aegean.
This new reality became a challenge for Nick Anastasiadis and the "Democrat." At the same time the restoration of Democracy and the adoption of new political ideas turn into a new dare for Nick. It is during that time when an extensive exodus from the countryside to the city takes place, which was the result of rapid financial developments worldwide. On these three issues Nick Anastasiadis in his "Democrat" will etch his political views and convictions. He becomes irreconcilable in such national issues, especially during the time of such dangerous inequity that brings Lesvos in the front of Turkish expansionism.
Anastasiadis was compelled to side with the people's need to listen to honest political speeches by their leading politicians. Nick caters to the citizen's request for an effective government and he acknowledges that the old ways of thinking about politics belong to a bygone era. He also had a taste of it while he was growing up and also as a mature man during the post civil war era.
His conservative nature, which was cultivated by his father's influence, was altered with the current political events, expressing through the "Democrat" more liberal views. He identified with the historic, liberal political party of Venizelos and later with the Central Party (George Papandreou's party). This probably displeased many conservative readers who had other expectations of the Anastasiadis newspaper. Nick however, had the courage and the boldness to follow his instinct. Expressing his political views, he found in his reading community many that shared the same values and beliefs that he had.
The third element Anastasiadis felt passion for was his island, Mytelene. Nick, through his articles, expresses his concern about the new wave of population that frequents the island, altering the local color of Lesvos. At the same time he "battles" through his writings about the problems of the countryside of Mytelene.
Nick Anastasiadis excelled in many types of the reporting skill. He developed his own unique style as a chronicle writer with a strong dose of Mytelenean venom. He wrote beautiful satire with such ease in rhyme. He has written scripts for plays that were performed locally and he even wrote poetic lyrics that were set to music. He worked closely together with Stratis Papanikolas and Stratis Anastasellis.
Anastasiadis was an individual of low profile, he never liked to draw attention to himself and he was uninterested in marketing and public relations. His relationship with Vatousa became strenuous the last twenty years, even though he spent many summers and vacations as a youngster in our village. The reasons why he felt that way are not known. I am sure however, that it did not have to do anything with Vatousa, because he loved Vatousa. Probably an inheritance issue with some of his relatives was the cause of the problem.
I felt honored when I was asked to say a few things about Nick during this occasion. I am familiar with the Anastasiadis family since my relationship with the "Democrat" was always an intimate one throughout the years. Kostas Missios was a rich source of information for my mission as well. In particular however, the Anastasiadis family came into my life in stages since childhood. Every morning when I opened up my eyes I came face to face with Kassandra's home, which had become a heartrending relic of some other era, filled with visions and hope. Christos Anastasiadis, Iakovos' fifth son, a hermit and a recluse, was the only occupant of the homestead. The house would come back alive during Terpandros' and his family's visits. Indeed during a summer in the 1950s, I remember, George and Despo came to stay for quite some time.
My grandmother, a close friend and neighbor to Kassandra, she often talked about her friend's kindness and gentle nature and Iakovos' (Kassandra's husband) "divine" personality. She had the sad privilege to stand-by her friend when Iakovos passed away. My own father, who was my first teacher, was Iakovos' student in Vatousa's High School. Even though he only had three years of secondary education, he always felt as a university graduate due to the fact that Iakovos was his teacher and he held his teacher in high esteem.
I can never forget the Anastasiadis' everlasting apricot tree, whose sweet and juicy fruit we enjoyed every June during Christos' siesta. Even though the old homestead was torn dawn (it should have been fixed and used as a museum) the apricot tree still exists and right now as I am writing these lines, I can hear its leaves softly rustle against the wind. It still exists to remind me that some time its sweet fruit was harvested by Iakovos' hands and under its dense shade played Iakovos' children and grandchildren. My ninety-year-old aunt whose mental capacities are in tact, while she was visiting me the other day, asked "what are you writing now and you don't let yourself relax and enjoy you vacation?" I answered her that I was writing about the Anastasiadis family; as soon as she heard the name she started talking about the "gentle" Kassandra, "sweet" Iakovos and their children. We talked at length about the Anastasiadis family and of course during the conversation the apricot tree was brought up. My aunt, without dithering at all began to sing the song Iakovos sang to the former Kassandra Taxis at the time of their engagement:
I do not know if these lyrics belong to a paraphrased song of that era, or were written by Iakovos himself. I am confident however the apricot tree opposite me greeted with its leaves' mourning murmur all the generations of the Anastasiadis family.
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