October 28, 2020

The First Greek Priest Killed in the War of 1940


By Fr. Elias Makos

Within the worries and various cares of everyday life, national holidays, such as that of October 28, are stations of contemplation and example.

The epic of 1940, stimulates our historical memory, as well as our patriotic conscience, but also reminds us of the role and sacrifice of the ministers of the Orthodox Church in the national struggles.

In a grassy tomb, in the courtyard of the Church of the Panagia in Delvinaki, there is a simple inscription: "ARCHIMANDRITE CHRYSOSTOMOS TSOKONAS - FELL ON BEHALF OF HOMELAND - 11/25/1940."

Archimandrite Chrysostomos Tsokonas, who was from Lefkada, when the time came, found himself with calm courage in front of the "trial" of his own national present.

He put the dignity of the Homeland above his dreams, and undisturbed, without personal ambitions, he reached the end, which was a sacrifice, but at the same time he embraced immortality.

In addition to the victory of the Nation, he also longed for the return of people to Christ.

As a military priest of the 40th Regiment of Evzoni in Arta, he is a hero and a bastion.

On October 14, 1940, he visited a unit in Despotiko of Ioannina and wrote: "I spoke again about the deeper causes of the current war disaster [World War II had broken out in Europe]. From a spiritual perspective I am tried by many temptations. I have no weapon of repulsion except prayer. I am convinced that the Lord will not abandon me, but will help me to emerge victorious in this struggle and to fulfill my duty and mission."

War breaks out in Greece with the unprovoked attack of the Italians. Fr. Chrysostomos was in the front line of defense.

On November 5, 1940, in the village of Dragomi, he recorded in his diary: "The buzz of planes can be heard from afar ... The explosions of machine guns and bombs can be heard in Kalpakio. But I must not be afraid, I must give courage and strengthen men ... Fear began to overwhelm us, but I have to wait for the bombs as gifts of Christ's love. I do not have enough love for Christ."

But he had made his brave decision. If I am to fall, holding the shield of debt, let me fall. And he fell "for God and country." He passed from the light, that of the defense of the homeland, to the other light, of eternal life. And his eyelids were secured by the sunbeam of freedom.

On November 25, 1940, near Peristeri, Ioannina, he was hit by an Italian bomb from an airplane, a missile cut off his leg and another 3 or 4 were pierced in his chest, and he was dragged to the trunk of a pea tree, where he rested his head and delivered his spirit.

He was only 27 years old. And he became the first dead priest of the war of 1940.

His love for defending the land of his fathers from foreign intrigue and the belief that the Greeks were right on their side, gave him the courage to pray fervently to the Lord and the Panagia, the Protection of the wronged, for victory.

Without hating the invaders ... Such love, such humility ... He even buried the Italians. He states in his diary:

"In Ekklisochori I will bury the deceased Italian wounded man, who had died at 3 in the evening ... The unfortunate man was lying on the deathbed of the village inside the women's quarters. He was young with rich and harmonious characteristics ... Kosta and I chanted for him an incomplete funeral service and buried him in the corner of the cemetery, to rest under the shade of the oak tree. He was unknown. We were unable to find out his name. His family will be waiting for him to return and the question is whether they ever know where his body lies. God rest his soul."

His weapons were spiritual.

He felt in those difficult moments that the Panagia Eleftherotria covered him, and his faith and piety were his moral support.

His weapon is still the warm patriotism, the affection for the blood-soaked Greek soils, which hid the bones of his ancestors.

His weapon is still his enthusiasm, who did not know what the word "obstacle" meant.

With these weapons, Fr. Chrysostomos, as well as the Greek soldiers, showed that they knew how to fight and to decisively chart the path of heroism and dignity.

Then, in 1940, the soul of the Greeks seemed completely Greek. A faithful soul. A Christian soul.

Orthodox faith and pure patriotism are our invincible strength.

This is what 1940 created, and she can create another just as great and even more important.

Let us remain Greeks and Orthodox and let us move on ....

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.