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ITHAKA ON THE HORIZON: A Greek-American Journey



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26 November 2006



A well crafted post indeed! As a historical footnote I should mention here the German military cemetery on Crete, which is perfectly tended and kept by Cretans with German money (there is one other German cemetery in Dionysos, near Athens).

In no other occupied country in Europe German war cemeteries survived. In Poland and Russia, remains were dug up and sent to the grinder; in France, bones were pulverized and poured down mine shafts; in former Yugoslavia, German dead not entirely decayed were dug up and propped up for everybody to see. Greeks did none of these things -- and kept the cemeteries of those who had butchered them with no remorse.



Back in 1986 I went through a anti-terrorist driving course in southern Germany run by a retired German Police Chief. We drove Mercedes sedans, of course, and it was all great fun. When the Police Chief found out I was Greek and jumped regularly with the Greek Parachute Regiment he became my instant friend. I found out that he had jumped into Crete as a young Falshirmjager and had survived the ordeal only to be taken prisoner in North Africa two yaers later. He spent the rest of the War in a POW camp in the USA.
I invited him to return to Greece and to bring his family, he accepted and I was their guide for a few days. I offered to accompany him to Crete to visit the cemetery there but he declined saying: "I'm still not ready after all these years."

I visited the German cemetery in Crete the next year during a business trip to Crete and was struck by the upkeep and the quiet dignity of the place. I agree it speaks for volumes for the nobility of the Greek spirit.

Benjamin J. Rendahl

What a wonderful trip through the history of "The Battle of Crete". It was most informative and enlighting being that I will be visiting Crete for three weeks this summer.



Thank you. Enjoy your visit. For more information about Crete. Visit this blog:

Michael C. Louridas

My grandfather was from Crete his name was Michael Miliarakis, I think his brothers where in wine making. but his wife, my grandmother was from Ikarea. As for me I am an artist. 4 of my art works are now in a permanent collection at the Woodmere museum in PA. I very much enjoyed the movies Elcrego. Thanh you for posting it, he was my idol.
I also make easels see them on

Michael C. Louridas

Keep me posted on news from crete. I also have my art work shown at the gallery in Icarea.


Real heroes whose names are barely known.
Where would we be without their sacrifice?
I honor them as i do those who make the same sacrifice today. Those sons and fathers who leave behind their loved ones with ever burning pain by giving their life to give hope for a better future to someone's children they never knew. I will remember.


We just celebrated Memorial Day here in the US. It is the day we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It is good that we remember them but more importantly we should live lives worthy of the sacrifice they made on our behalf.

Paul London

An Enduring Legacy:

The Greeks have a saying; “We have eaten bread and salt together”, meaning, that we have shared the most elementary foods, suffered the same hardships, known the same joys and that nothing can ever break that bond that ties us together, not even death. The following incident clearly personifies that declaration of solidarity.

My story unfolds on Sunday 10th July 2005 as the sun rose above the blue Mediterranean Sea heralding yet another fine northern hemisphere summer’s day; we decided this was the moment to start our pilgrimage through the White Mountains over to the war-time evacuation beach of Hora Sfakion to where a cousin of mine had been left behind in 1941. After loading the hired van with our two small grandsons and packing a cut lunch and water bottles for each of us we set off from our seaside villa at Almirida. About an hour’s drive into the journey we came across the picturesque village of Vrisses nestled in the foothills of the White Mountains. There we stopped at a wayside taverna in an area untouched by time and set in the idyllic surroundings of a small stream and huge shade trees. Initially the charming waitress who served us thought we were European tourists and started to address me in German. My son quickly replied in English saying we were New Zealanders, surprisingly a nationality not immediately recognised by the young lady. Going unnoticed to us, but taking an enormous interest in our lively discussion of explanation were a party of elderly Cretan villagers who had stopped for coffee and wine while on their way to church. After a wonderful brunch of honey and Greek yogurt we got up to depart, when quite unexpectedly our waitress returned with a tray of drinks; two beers, one each for myself and son, two wines for our ladies and a couple of fruit juices for the grandsons. I looked up and was about to say, “But we didn’t order any drinks?” When I stopped, and followed her gaze to the seated Cretan villagers. For there, with wine glass raised in salute and speaking in broken English the elderly gentleman began saying, “It’s alright mate! There’s nothing to pay, the account’s been paid in full 64 years ago!” My heart skipped a beat as the humbling words of this man’s simple gesture began to sink in; acknowledging the supreme sacrifices made by so many of our young countrymen - the honour of his spontaneous recognition of us as New Zealanders made us so proud to be Kiwis that day we could have walked on water!

Some 10 months later in May 2006 I was privileged to return to Crete with a party of 58 New Zealanders to attend the 65th memorial anniversary of the island’s battle.

Our anticipated early arrival at the old Venetian fort in Hania was somewhat delayed due to traffic congestion, which was remedied by the timely intervention of the local police who on sighting our bus allowed the driver to go directly to the restricted waterfront area, something even the dignitaries could not achieve. By this time, veterans from the United Kingdom, Australia, the Greek military, former veterans of the Cretan resistance and members of the public had swamped the area to such an extent there was little room for us. However, as we walked on we were greatly humbled by the crowd’s spontaneous outburst of welcome, “Bravo! Bravo! Nea Zealandos!” A cry that was to be heard wherever we went; an acknowledgment of the friendship forged in the heat of battle so long ago has never been forgotten by those island people. We were treated like royalty.

In front of a setting of perhaps 700 people, the flags of the allied coalition that defended Crete in 1941 were raised to the accompaniment of a Greek military band, playing in turn each country’s national anthem. New Zealand’s ensign was given place of honour and raised first as a mark of respect to General Freyberg VC, with the New Zealand contingent singing “God Defend New Zealand”, followed by the Australian standard, again, Kiwi voices adding passion to “Advance Australia Fair” in a show of uncommon unity normally reserved for ANZAC Day. It was also interesting to note that during the hoisting of Britain’s Union Jack, all of us Commonwealth “colonials” joined in the singing of our once common national anthem, “God Save the Queen”, something I’ve not done for over 42-years! This spontaneous outburst of vocal solidarity brought tears to many of the old veterans, rekindling memories of a once proud Empire where the sun never set and they so willingly defended. In that fleeting moment of humility I came to realise the feeling experienced by an Olympic champion as he gazes on his country’s flag flying proudly over the winner’s dais. I guess in all fairness to those assembled, the most enthusiastic display of patriotic singing came from the Greeks proclaiming the hoisting of their familiar white cross on a blue field of the Hellenic standard.

Posted by New Zealand historian: Paul R. London


Wonderfully told Mr London.

Perhaps you would like to read this old post as well:

May future generations always remember.


I am writing a report about The Battle of Crete for a history class and I was wondering if you would recommend any books that would give a Cretan perspecive? I have plenty of books assessing the German side. Your help would be greatly appiciated.

Thank you.


I would recommend this one:

It gives a more Cretan perspective.

Best wishes for a solid "A."

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  • Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. C. P. Cavafy


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