In April 1936 Ioannis Metaxas succeeded to the Premiership in Greece under King George II, and in August of the same year he suspended parliamentary government and ruled as dictator.
In the spring of 1939, Italy, one of the axis powers, extended its control and occupied Albania, a small country northwest of Greece. Greece, fearing that Italy might not stop with Albania, conscripted all young men including horses and mules. A few months later, as the danger of an Italian invasion was no longer imminent, most of the men were released from the army including my father who was drafted in the spring of 1939. This easing of tensions did not last long because in October 1940, Italy declared war on Greece. To Mussolini’s surprise, the Italian forces were driven back into Albania by the Greek 9th Division, which was composed primarily of Aegean Macedonians.
Seeing what happened to the Italian forces, Hitler lost no time in attacking Greece from the north (through Yugoslavia and Bulgaria) in April 1941. Greece was under German and Italian occupation for almost four years, until October 1944.
During the German and Italian occupation several different anti occupation (pro-Allied) Guerrilla movements sprang up in Greece. These included the following:
- The organization EDES (Ethnikos Demokratikos Ellenikos Syndesmos) Greek National Democratic Union, a pro-royalist movement under Colonel Napoleon Zervas.
- The organization EAM (Ethnikon Apeleftherikon Metopon) National Liberation Front, a political arm of a pro-Communist movement with ELAS (Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos) National Popular Liberation Army, as its military arm.
- The organization SNOF (SlavianoMakedonski Naroden Osfoboditelen Front) SlavianoMacedonian Peoples Liberation Front, a pro-Communist Slav Macedonian movement. The SNOF Guerrillas were known by their Slavic name, “Partisans”. The Partisans (SNOF) were aligned with Tito of Yugoslavia.
The EDES and EAM (ELAS) organizations at one time or another fought against each other, in addition to fighting the Germans and the Italians. The Guerrillas of these organizations were known by their Greek name, “Andartes”.
There was also another movement known as the Komitee movement (a pro-Bulgarian organization and thereby pro-axis). The Komitee was primarily organized as a militia to guard the Slaviano Macedonian villages from incursions by the Partisans and/or Andartes
As Allied forces were advancing in the Mediterranean area, the Italian forces capitulated and began to surrender to the Allied forces and the Guerrilla units so that they would not be captured by the Germans. At this point the Komitee movement was either dissolved or incorporated with the Partisan movement which in time crossed into Yugoslav Macedonia or absorbed by the EAM/ELLAS movement. The Germans finally withdrew from Greece.
Now the Guerrillas struggled among themselves over which faction shall control Greece, the EDES Royalists or the EAM Communists.
In the fall of 1946 with the help of Great Britain and the Greek royalist forces that were stationed outside Greece during the war, the EDES Royalists faction prevailed. In order to stop the fighting, EDES and EAM agreed to have elections and let the people make the decision. Apparently this agreement, made in Varkiza a suburb of Athens, was not adhered to by the Greek government (EDES). As soon as the EAM forces began to surrender their weapons, the EDES forces began to arrest them. As a result the EAM/ELAS forces were re-armed and the Civil War in Greece began. The movement is now known as the DSE (Dimokratikou Stratou Elladas) Democratic Forces (Army) of Greece.
The youth of the village (circa 1950). (L to R) Front Row: Lefteri Mangoff, Petreto Despin, Yorgi Bellioff, Petreto Penchoff, Itso Penchoff, and Koleto Shkemboff. Middle Row: Yorgi Tsinin, Goleto Popoff, Yorgi Mangoff, Staseto Dzonoff, and Kocho Stasin. Top Row: Mihali Shkemboff, Itso Baroff, Sotiri Grancharoff of Kontorbi, and Goleto Mangoff