By George Anestopoulos
The following is a true story. It is known in the region of Ypati in Fthiotida from the 1950's when it began to happen. It is one of those miraculous events that occurs occasionally, rare cases of a few "blessed people" throughout the course of history. We refer to the appearances to people of Holy Figures in order to reveal places where icons or relics can be found.
This happened in 1947.
I do not consider it appropriate at this point to mention specific names and families. The facts only will be pointed out.
It depends, of course, if it is decided, even today, nearly 70 years later, if the Church and State are to be interested (and not bureaucratically, as some once did, but essentially all the items will be available to them).
Only the protagonist of the story I will name, Mr. Demetri. He was then around 50 years old.
This incident occurred in the midst of civil war and the serious disturbances of the area mentioned that repeatedly put the family of Mr. Demetri at risk.
To be exact, the rebels threatened the lives of his entire family unless he delivered to them three of his daughters and three nieces that were his responsibility. They were between the ages of fourteen and seventeen. (What did the rebels want to do with them? Could one possibly imagine and maybe tell me?)
Mr. Demetri stubbornly refused to do this. He had hidden them literally inside a hidden makeshift shed that he built in the bramble. The girls literally slept at night with scorpions and snakes.
They didn't even have a home. During the war the Germans burned it along with the entire village (Messochori, named in olden times as "Liaskovo"), where they also executed around 100 inhabitants. One of the many "Distomo and Kalavryta" massacre sites that were never published nor did they receive compensation from ANYONE after the war left them completely destroyed.
I am referring to the region of Oite and in particular "Syka - Messochori - Ypati". Around 1000 meters in altitude.
One evening, being in despair and sadness from the whole situation, Mr. Demetri, knowing that the "margins" given to him by the rebels were diminishing quickly, outside his makeshift hut he had built for his family, there appeared a "Woman in Black".
He thought it was an ordinary woman.
She asked him: "What's going on?"
He explained to her more or less, with head bent, and as is human he offered the old woman something to eat from the few rudimentary things they had.
She asked him to protect "her area" because "the animals are walking on her eyes", and in return she would protect his family forever.
Mr. Demetri didn't understand anything, until suddenly "she changed form" and appeared before him "in white, shining and glittering".
He was flustered. "Who are you?" he asked again.
"Saint Paraskevi", she told him.
Mr. Demetri then began to understand. "St. Paraskevi" ... "Her Eyes".
"Tell me what you want and I will do it", he said to her with awe and reverence, kneeling in front of her.
"Let me show you", she said to him, and again she became "a simple stooped woman in black" as she was before, and they went uphill to an area known as "Palaiochori".
It was a damaged and very old place, it seemed to be only ruins and foundations, probably from Byzantine times, the Middle Ages. The Archaeologists probably would know.
They walked together, it was night, she was in front of him, Mr. Demetri was behind her for some time as they went uphill and in the woods. This in itself must have been an amazing experience for the troubled middle-aged man, who before these things survived with his family the occupation. And for whom many years prior he was for ten years in the Balkan - Anatolian Front and survived that as well. To be there on that night in the woods for so long and walking with a Holy Figure!
She took him to a place where it appeared were the remains of a small church.
She showed it to him, did not explain anything further, and she "disappeared".
At that place, there was a big tree at that time. From its root there gushed out drinking water. All who were shepherds and farmers knew about it and would stop there to be refreshed. No one ever knew from where the water came. Neither did they know where the strong scent of basil came from. Some time later the tree was gone. Perhaps it became firewood? Who knows. However, with it the water and the scent of basil also were gone.
After this "weird night", all these things found their "explanation".
Mr. Demetri talked with his fellow villagers, hopefully to help him to dig. He thought that perhaps it may be an icon of the Saint below.
But everyone told him that anyone who dared dig in such times would be executed by the rebels. They would think they were looking for gold lira. You see, it was a time of the English chests of gold lira that everyone was looking for from the time of the war. They would have tortured him to death to get him to say what he knew.
Let alone the fact that there in Oite and above the village (Messochori) there was a "macabre army" of rebels. They were one of the notorious "Great Peoples Court". There was a ravine nearby. They had hung there many people "punished/executed after quickly being tried". They had found them (a number of rotten corpses) after the end of the civil war. This was another one of those serious incidents of this dishonorable war that was concealed lest we forget the hatreds and vendettas "from one hour earlier". The fear in those mountains at that time "galloped at a thousand".
So, he left it for later. He just set a wire around the remains of the old church so that animals would not enter and step on that sacred and hallowed area.
His story became known everywhere around there in the villages.
Thus, a shepherd would always light incense there.
The years passed. The Saint certainly did her miracle, again and again and again.
She protected the family of Mr. Demetri.
She had told him verbatim when she appeared to him that night that even if bullets passed through the uniform of his son - who served then in the National Army - his uniform may be torn to pieces, but nothing would happen to him.
And this is EXACTLY what happened.
At one point his son participated in battles in Gramos and Vitsi. His uniform was actually torn to pieces by the bullets and the fragments. Yet none touched him.
For decades they would say to him and his kin about the happy and funny outburst of the Governor when he saw him alive with a torn uniform after the battle:
"Hey K..., go and put on another pair of pants, I can't take it anymore seeing everything hang out like unruly nuts."
And the nervous giggles of the troubled Guild would go up to the clouds. They had K... like a "lucky charm".
It was a clear miracle of a "lifesaving intervention".
Before there were similar strange things, and there followed many other such things like it after. Not only to the son, but to the father and the entire family.
Earlier the rebels had taken Mr. Demetri captive for six months until he testified and handed over his girls (as well as his older boys whom he had sent to Athens). They threatened to execute him. For many hours they had him tied upside down on a tree and they flogged him. Eventually, not only did they not execute him, but a Christian Captain among the rebels took pity on him and set him free at night secretly.
At one point, there began other strange "helps". There were many "military operations" up there. Many conflicts. As usual, the people were found in the middle of them. During these his family would be saved thanks to timely information from the National Army as to where the battle would take place, sometimes thanks to the rebels.
There was always someone there to help them avoid the pitfalls.
Similar strange salvations continued with the entire family for the rest of their lives.
The Saint became the Protectress of the families of the children of Mr. Demetri.
Almost 70 years later, the miracles of this family continue.
About ten years ago, one of the grandchildren, the forty year old B..., faced a serious situation. She appeared to them in their home, at night. They had just entered their home and he and his wife had time to see the "Mystery Illumination", her presence, and she disappeared.
Immediately they telephoned their aunt K..., the daughter of Mr. Demetri. They had known something from the past about this story. She told them and explained to them how the Saint informed them in this way that the situation they were facing would be restored immediately.
And it was indeed. The next day the problem was gone.
B..., a stubborn man, a fireman, immediately went to the province, found his aunt and asked for all the details of the story. She told him.
He asked her why there wasn't an effort after all these decades to excavate the place of the ancient church, for perhaps there was something there the Saint wanted to come to surface. His aunt was unable to answer.
B... took her and together tried to take some "measure" in the general bureaucracy to advance the excavation. Everything failed.
Not even from the Ecclesiastical side. Only vague promises of support and assistance.
What I understand from the whole story all in all is that some insurmountable obstacle was intervening "for the place to not be excavated".
For about ten years the area has been designated an archaeological zone. Not just anyone can go there and dig. But neither can any citizen go and mobilize this monstrous bureaucracy as required to allow the excavation.
His aunt was already then in an advanced state of partial disability. Yet she ran along with her husband who had heart surgery to the mountains, they went to priests and counselors, but nothing.
Frustrated, the only thing she could do was restore the metallic icon that her family had made around 50 years prior, and at her own expense erected a three meter metal cross on the spot so that the place is never again lost, like several years ago when the adjacent forest had expanded and choked everything, even the same spot where the ruins of the old destroyed church are. (And after that, a forest fire burned everything, and the place of the church was AGAIN REVEALED.)
Apparently this is a very serious case that cannot be handled by just anyone.
Obviously, gone are the days when a citizen can have such a religious experience, and consider it sufficient to go and look.
How many churches and monasteries were founded in this way?
Anyway, for almost 70 years there have been hindrances to further research. There has never been an in depth systematic excavation. Even in the elementary stages, besides some massive marble visible from the outside that was removed by the Archaeology Office decades ago.
What is strange also is that after 67 years of the story being known, no one has dared ventured to go and dig without reporting it. (For example, they may find something of worth; let us not forget that recently relics were stolen from a church.)
I always had this story in my mind. But I remembered it most strongly when I recently read about the Church of Saint Lazarus in Kition of Cyprus and the small reliquary of the Saint that was found during some restoration work very deep "hidden" under the church.
The main relics were removed by the Byzantine Emperor - as they always did - until in 1204 they were stolen by the Crusaders (together with about everything else in the City, and they went to the West where most were permanently lost).
So when the small reliquary was found (around 1960) everyone knew that those then (around 800 under Leo the Wise) responsible wanted to "secretly keep a small portion of the relic for their church", so they hid it deep beneath the Holy Altar, and it secretly became a legend, a myth, and it was "forgotten" over the years, through the ages, until it was rediscovered in 1960.
Only a man with high Hieratic standing can make a movement by the Greek anti-ecclesiastical bureaucracy for such a thing.
Or will this Sacred History find a Successful Completion now or will it be pulled along with strings always. And now we are going towards more "anti-ecclesiastical atheistic days in our Greek State."
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.