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Stavli – The Most Beautiful Village in Evritania (and all of Greece)!
by Tommy Harmantzis*
I was born in Stavli on October 17, 1956. There was no hospital in our village so my mother delivered me right at home with the help of midwives. The day after, my mother went back to work in the fields and my grandmother took care of me. That is how it was in those days.
Growing up in Stavli was wonderful. I had a brother who was born three years after me and I always had fun playing with him and my friends. We had no electricity, so you could always find us running around the village having our own little adventures. I would often climb trees and eat the delicious fruit hanging from them, cherries, apples, plums, and my favorite- figs. Nobody owned a car back then, but everybody did own horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, or cows. My family owned a beautiful horse named Muska. Muska would help with the work in the fields, carry chopped wood for the winter, and take us to Domnista to purchase supplies. I loved riding him to go to Arahova to visit my aunts and to Pallia Arahova to visit my grandparents.
One day when I was visiting my grandparents, I decided to climb this tall fig tree so I could enjoy a nice snack. While I was munching on the juicy fruit, the branch I was comfortably sitting on broke! You could see my little body falling from the sky onto a pile of rocks. Throbbing pain pulsated from my now swollen, blue, broken right wrist. Again, we did not have any hospitals in the villages, so my mother and grandparents took me to this old man they knew who lived nearby. He was not a doctor, but he did fix any broken legs that his sheep and goats had. He took one look at my hand and pulled my wrist a few times to put it back in its place. It hurt more than when I actually broke it. After, he placed my right hand on a piece of wood, put another piece of wood on top, and tied them together. He sent me on my way and my wrist did heal. We might not have had many luxuries, but it was a wonderful, simple life.
My father, Nicholas Harmantzis, (son of Vasilios and Ekaterine Harmantzis) had a general store called “O XENYXTIS”. I used to take chocolates and candy from the store and give them to my friends. I even made deliveries to people’s homes and the ladies of the house would always give me their special homemade pastries- baklava, pantespani, vissino, koulourakia, and more. My father sold everything from cigarettes to wine to candles. He even had a barber’s chair right in the middle of the store where he gave haircuts to the people in our village. Nicholas ran the store, put shoes on horses, and worked on the land. He was a master at everything he did. Everyone called my father, “Xenixti” (the one who stays up all night) because he was always closing the store late, playing cards and drinking with the guys all night long. The annual Panegyri did not start until my father was there. He would start with his famous “colotouumbes” (jumping upside down) and everyone would clap as the party commenced.
When I was not celebrating or climbing trees, I was in school. However, one year, there was no teacher in my village. My parents sent me to Arahova to go to school and I lived with my aunt Maria and uncle Nicholas Sarantis there. For that whole year, I had an amazing teacher and I had a great time learning. Every day after school, my aunt Maria would wait for me at home at the top of the stairs. One day though, she was inside doing some work when I came home from school. I was extremely exhausted so I went straight to my room and fell asleep without saying hello to her. She went to the top of the stairs to wait for me to come home, but I never did. She had all the people of Arahova looking for me and when she came home from searching the village I just woke up from my nap. Tears burst from her eyes as she saw me walk out of my room. She told me she thought she lost me and was so happy that I was alright. After that year, I went back to Stavli for 4th grade. I was not able to finish the school year with my friends …for a very remarkable reason.
My mother, Evpraxia Rigas, (daughter of Demetrios and Anna Rigas) had three sisters- Evanthia, Vasiliki, and Maria- and two brothers- Kosta and Nick. It was Evanthia and her husband, Demetrios Papacostas, who sponsored us to come to America. In March we had to leave. We sold the store and Muska. I heartbroken because I loved that horse immensely. We packed our belongings and a cab came to take us to Lamia. As we drove away to embark upon a new journey, I kept looking back. I wanted to memorize all the homes and trees- the beautiful land I called home. I did not want to forget my village as I was not sure if I would ever be able to come back.
We arrived in the United States in March 10, 1967. Fifteen years later I was finally able to go back to my wonderful village. It was even more beautiful than when I left it. When you go to Greece, visit my village. You will never forget such a beautiful place.
*) Tommy Harmantzis is the Marketing Director of NEO magazine and like his father (and New York for that matter) he never sleeps!