Objects that tell a story: (2) A poetry book in English

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“During the First World War Hoelderlin’s hymns were packed in the soldier’s knapsack together with cleaning gear”.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”.

Demonstration in Athens, March 1942
Demonstration in Athens, March 1942

Today’s object is not available to me.

As a matter of fact, I have never seen it.

Today’s object has no photograph that I can show you.

Military Academy of Athens
Military Academy of Athens

Today’s object has been destroyed.

Today’s object is a poetry book in English.

Today’s object is a book without a title.

At some unknown point in time, it became a possession of my uncle George.

Allied forces in Gazi, Athens, 1944
Allied forces in Gazi, Athens, 1944

This might have been the result of a gift or a loan or a purchase.

But it is not important to dwell on that.

It was sometime before or during the second world war that George got hold of it.

Greek Civil War 1944-1949
Greek Civil War 1944-1949

Shortly after the Germans withdrew from Greece in October 1944, another War started, the Greek Civil War that lasted until 1949.

At that time George was an officer of the Greek Army, and served at the front line.

Map of Grammos
Map of Grammos

It was during a long engagement of the Greek Army with the communist – supported “Democratic Army of Greece” in the Northwestern area near Konitsa, called “Mastorohoria”, that the story with the poetry book unfolded.

George had taken the book with him.

During one of the skirmishes with the enemy, George’s unit had to cross in a haste the river Sarantaporos; in the process he lost the book.

Pyrsogianni - Πυρσογιαννη
Pyrsogianni – Πυρσογιαννη

When George’s unit took the offensive again, they crossed the river going north, and succeeded to push their opponents further to the north.

During this successful offensive, at the end of an operation they went by a machine gun bunker.

There was smoke coming out of it.

As a standard procedure, they had to go in and ensure that it was safe.

Sarantaporos River, Northern Greece
Sarantaporos River, Northern Greece

They went in and found that all inside were dead.

In the middle of the burning debris and the dead bodies, the officer in charge found a and picked up bloodstained book.

Much to his surprise, inside the book he saw an inscription with George’s name.

After the officer finished his inspection of the burned bunker he came out carrying the poetry book in his hands and went straight to George.

Plagia (Zerma)
Plagia (Zerma)

“George, is this your book?” he asked.

George took the book in his hands: “Yes, it is mine”

“Do you want to take it?” the officer asked.

George did not take the book.

He left it there.