A human look at the Balkan Wars

On the morning of Sunday, March 31, I had the great honor to enjoy a special tour of the exhibition about the Balkan wars (housed in the Old Parliament building (Historical Museum of Greece)) with the great historian Maria Papanastasiou.

From the first exhibit, I could recognize the goodwill and passion that had enabled the creation of that event. The excitement of Maria Papanastasiou helped us go back in time.

"The Eastern Question", the first signs of the coming wars, interventionism by the global powers, political movements, and all the aspects that led to the Balkan Wars were brought to life with great vigor.

The People

But I do not want to talk about all these political aspects. Those interested in them, can refer to the hundreds of studies written on the topic. I do not know and am not interested in the names and locations of the following battles. They are irrelevant. All that matters is the human.

The Lost Poetry

When the first outpost was occupied by the Greeks in the first Balkan war, the Turks fled leaving behind everything. Apart from the flag that was looted by the Greeks, one Turkish soldier forgot a collection of poetry which was written in French and translated to him in Turkish.

The Unsung Heroes

Another story is about the unsung heroes of the war. The volunteer nurses. There were not only Greek women, but also expatriates from other countries who took part. On the wall of the museum there was a keepsake which one of these women was given for her services in Greece. During the course of investigations for the exhibition, one of the researchers found a photo of this girl. Looking at the photo created strong feelings in the researcher and made him appreciate her role.

Through the amazing services she offered to the wounded during the war, she managed to gain eternity.

The Letter

A little further on, I came upon Admiral Kountourioti's letter sent to his daughter. All these heroes of the Greek nation, we have them in our minds as a serious men, stocky and though. Especially when talking about the admiral Koundoriotis that liberated the islands of the North Aegean. Yet, the letter begins with the phrase "My little Despoinaki ...".

The Dime

The note of a soldier sent to the battle of Epirus really touched me. He wrote a letter saying he was old and it is impossible for him to hold the rifle that the Army gave him. He wanted to buy a cigarette to the next soldiers who would carry it. He wrapped the letter with a dime (to buy the next soldier a cigarette) and wedged into the handle of the gun. After years when someone else was cleaning the gun the "gift" was revealed. And through this simple gesture he remained in eternity ...

The Heroes

Finally, through the deaths we saw the real human drama. Such as the story of an officer who sent a letter to his family shortly before entering into battle, telling them that they will fight heroically for the good of the country. Three days after his wife received a letter of condolence for the glorious death of her husband ...

The exhibition will be in the National and Historical Museum of Greece, 13 Stadiou Str, in Athens, during the summer (Tuesday-Sunday 09:00-14:00).