Today I started to edit a couple of photos from the trip to the beautiful Greek island Corfu from last year. Or it was two years ago… Or it was three years ago?!? Yeah, I know. I am so much behind with photo editing, that I cannot stress enough how much I need some quiet time to do it. But, on the other hand, editing is also a creative process, and you should be in the right state of mind to do it properly. Right?
While working, I suddenly realized that photo I am editing for quite some time is actually nothing special. No subject, bad lighting, shallow. But for me, it is special and beautiful, simply because it is taken at that particular place called Corfu.
And then I remembered a short text that I wrote as an intro to a series of travel stories for one travel blog a few years ago. I am transferring that text here as a whole and without any modifications. As this is still my personal blog, I am obliged to explain that the text is partly autobiographical and partly biographical. In it, I combined the fates of two ancestors, my great-grandfather Sava and his namesake, whose descendants I met in Corfu a couple of years ago.
Beautiful Corfu and why I am so emotional whenever I talk about Corfu (Intro of Story about one summer on that beautiful island)
It’s a long story about why Serbian people like Greek island Corfu. And a quite sad story. But also the story of everlasting love and deep respect between Greek and Serbian people. To understand this bond and connection between the two nations, you should hear one short story.
Corfu (Kerkyra) is the second-largest island in Ionian sea. It’s located almost at Greek – Albanian border, relatively near to the mainland. Just a few miles of water divides Corfu from Albania and Greece.
There was the year 1915. and the Great War was at the rise. Now we call it ‘World War I’, but back at that time, it was simply Great War. Like any war, it started… Well, I’m not a historian and as you will see, I cannot have an objective opinion about that war. However, there was a war. Serbia was fighting on three large fronts and being a small country, eventually, every man was a soldier. It was an army of young boys, farmers and grandparents. It was army consisted of the whole male population of Serbia. And they were loosing. They were loosing hard!
At some point, the only choice was to retreat or surrender. Complete Serbian army retreated from Serbia over Bosnian, Montenegrin and Albanian mountains. They went to the only friendly country in the neighbourhood – Greece. My grand grandfather was among them. His name was Sava. Poetically and maybe as a sign of his destiny, his name means Savior. He left wife and three young kids at the home and went to the war. His youngest son, my grand grandfather, was just two months old when the war started and his father exchanged the field for the front. He was just a young man, farm boy, dreaming of spending evenings with his family, planing harvest and gathering stock for the winter.
We do not know how brave soldier he was. I like to think that he was the bravest man on earth. He was protecting his family, his homeland. At least I would be brave as a lion to protect my kids. But, he was not a warrior. He was an ordinary farm guy, knowing much more about horses and cows than about the guns. And in one of many battles, he was wounded. He was wounded deadly…
After many months, badly wounded, my grandfather Sava managed to cross Albanian mountains. It was winter. Those mountains are higher than 2000 meters. They are known by heavy snows, deadly frost, blistering wind. Many soldiers died on that journey. But many of team managed to reach shores of Ionian sea. Some of them were transported to island Corfu. One of 150.000 Serbian soldiers transported to this beautiful island was my grandfather Sava. Wounded, frozen to death and starving…
To understand how great was that act of Greek people, you must understand that the population of Corfu at that time was less than 50.000. They accepted three times more Serbian soldiers than their own population.
There are roots of everlasting love between Serbian and Greek people. I’ll repeat words about those times, words which Greek friends told me, words which they hear from their parents:
“There was so many of them. It looked like there are 10 times more Serbian soldiers than us. They were young, starved to death and most of them were wounded. We were afraid at first – they’ll eat all our food. They are soldiers, and war changes people. They may steal, rape… who knows…
But after a few days, we sow how honest and decent they are. It was a time to harvest olives trees. There were thousands and thousands of olive trees around those solders, each one full of best Greek olives you can imagine, and those soldiers were starved to death. But, no one picked a single one. Not a single soldier, not a single olive. They were polite, humble and every one of them knew how to say ‘Thank you’ in Greek as soon as they stepped on the island.”
But many of them died there on the Corfu. So many of them that they could not bury them all. There was simply not enough place on the rocky island. So, Serbian and Greek people decided that the sea will be their grave. As hard as it looks now, it was the only solution. On small island Vido, next to the capital of Corfu – Kerkyra, was a hospital for severely wounded soldiers. When some of them died, they buried him in waters of the small bay next to the island. They named that bay – The Blue Tomb.
My grandfather, Sava died on the Corfu one day. We do not know the exact date of his death. We just know that he’s stayed there on Corfu. He did not survive to see his homeland again. He did not survive to see his family. He was buried there in Blue Tomb.
It’s strange – I didn’t know him, his kids didn’t know him. There is no single memory of him that exists, except words that we pass on from one generation to the next. But we all cry when we talk about him.
And that’s a shortest possible story about Corfu and what it means to me and my family. I travel there whenever I can. I have friends on that island. When I am there, I feel like it’s another home for me. And when I’m there I cross waters of Blue Tomb in memory of my grandfather and lay flowers on his blue grave.