As in other Macedonian villages, Chereshnitsa was not exempt from having some of its more outspoken residents imprisoned, banished, or even executed in prison. I can go as far back as my grandfather, Dedo Tsilio Popoff, a sub-deacon in the church, who was
imprisoned to the island of Tripoli because he once chanted the church service in church Slavonic (Macedonian). While imprisoned the authorities repeatedly fed him bread laced with broken glass. When he discovered this, he used whatever gold he had hidden to bribe the guards for regular bread.
Back in 1939, just about the time that Hitler was getting ready to conquer the world, Greece was trying to solidify its hold on Macedonia by imprisoning those Macedonians that spoke against oppression and freedom of expression. Greece sent their astinomia (police force) to the Macedonian villages and began to apprehend those that were outspoken. “According to Yugoslav sources, some 1,600 Macedonians were interned on the islands of Thasos and Kefallinia.”7
The following are some Chereshnicheni that were in prison for political reasons between 1939 and 1950:
They arrested Dedo Yorgi Dzonoff, Yorgi Nikoff (Gegata), Tsilio Pliastoff, Gligoreto Zekoff, and my uncle, Gileto Bellioff, who was then a conscript in the Greek army. He was not allowed to finish his service in the army. All of these men were sent to the island of HIOS. They were not released until after Greece was conquered by the Germans in 1941, who then released all political prisoners.
At the initial stages of the Partisan movement, around 1943, four men were arrested and imprisoned for working with the Partisans and against the Germans. They were: Koleto Pandoff, Slavi Pliastoff, Mihali Ristovski, who was executed by the Germans, and for the second time, my uncle Gileto Bellioff.
During the Italian and German occupation, we had the Komitee, Andartes, and Partisan movements; but after they capitulated, Greece proceeded to do the same thing they had started back in 1939. The first such arrest was when the Greek Army and the Bourontades (Greek civilian fanatic volunteers) encircled our village, gathered all of us in the yard in front of the church, and loaded forty-four men, including me, on trucks and jailed us in Kostour as Partisans. Some of us were released after several weeks, while others were kept for years.
The Greek government continued its harassment and imprisonment practices during the year of 1946 and 1947 by arresting the following: Tsilio Kiroff, Kiro Zekoff, Petreto Penchoff, Vaneto Nedelkoff (John Tsilkos), Yorgi Dzodzoff, for the second time, Gileto Mangoff, Yoti Mafin (Soulidis), Tsilio Shamoff, Leko Touarkoff, Stefo Tsinin, and my cousin, Kouzo Shimagoff, who was ultimately executed in prison in Athens. Some of them were at one time or another released and then re-arrested, such as Vaneto Nedelkoff (John Tsilkos), who was once arrested because he was a Komiteen and then again while he was serving as a soldier in the army and exiled to the island of Makronisos.
Harassment and arrests continued in 1948-49, this time including women, as follows: Mara Mangova, the mother of Gileto Mangoff who was arrested in 1946-47; my aunt, Teta Dita Belliova, the wife of Gileto Bellioff; Liopa Shamova, the wife of Tsilio Shamoff who was arrested as a Partisan with the forty-four villagers; Tsilio Ristovski, the brother of Mihali Ristovski who was executed by the Germans; Dineto Pliastoff; Dineto Tsinin; Petreto Popoff; and Dita and Tsilio Parpoff, (mother and son).
Many of us were never officially charged or tried before a tribunal, even though we were given jail terms and/or banishment.
Imprisonment was indiscriminate. All that was needed was for someone to say so and so was this or that. That individual ended up in jail without any questions regardless of what or whom they left behind, as was the case with my aunt, Teta Dita Belliova. She had a young son, Nick, of only six years of age. He was left alone with no one to care for him. His father was persecuted so much that he had no choice but to join the partisans. Nick’s older 18 year old brother Yorgi was taken by the Greek army to carry food and their wounded on mules’ backs. How he survived is beyond anyone’s imagination. Even to this day, you cannot help but notice Koleto’s bitterness against the Greek government and some individuals in the village, who caused his mother’s imprisonment in 1948. Koleto with his wife Nada, and their children Argie and Nicolina now live in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Many efforts were made to have some people released from prison, and in the process much money was paid as bribes to have them released. Some people of the village, representing themselves as influential and in a position to help release the imprisoned, collected much money from the families of those imprisoned under the guise of helping them to get their loved ones released. One such person was the Mayor of the village. Those imprisoned later sued him for falsely extorting sums of money from their relatives.