Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis - Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη  
 
 
 
 
 
 
A citizen's rights should include
the right to know one's history.

Philippos Iliou

 
 
 
 
Life in Ai-Stratis: How "indefinite" internment was organized
 
 
 
 
Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

View of the camp on Ai-Stratis.
Y. Farsakidis. Watercolour and chemical pencil.

In 1951 there were about 3,000 exiles on Ai-Stratis, but by April 1952 the number had fallen to 2,000. The downward trend continued over the next few years: in 1955 there were 950 inmates on the books, in 1956 only 820, and by 1959 the number had dropped to 470. However, it is not possible at present to check the accuracy of these figures.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Exiles on Ai-Stratis.
Vassilis and Vyron Manikakis Papers.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Exiles on Ai-Stratis.
Vassilis and Vyron Manikakis Papers.

In September 1953 the women's camp at Trikeri was closed and the exiles were transferred to Ai-Stratis. From then on, Ai-Stratis was the sole place of exile until early in 1963, when the last of the internees were finally released.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

The women and some of their children on Ai-Stratis, after being moved there from Trikeri.
Vassilis and Vyron Manikakis Papers.

The uncertain time-frame: indefinite exile

The maximum sentence of exile that could be handed down by the Public Security Boards was twelve months, but the Boards were empowered to keep prolonging the term of exile "for one further year".

In this way, hundreds of men and women lingered on in exile for five or ten years or even longer.

"Our persecution is motivated solely by political considerations. In punishing us, the government is not punishing offenders against some particular law: it is punishing its political opponents. The reason why we have been sent into exile for three years - or four, in some cases - is that we refused to sign the so-called "declarations of repentance": in other words, we refused to sign written statements renouncing certain opinions and beliefs."

Memorandum signed by political exiles, 1950

When the Civil War was over, a great many detainees were released, but even so some 3,400 civilians were still in exile in 1951.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

The camp on Ai-Stratis in the 1950s.
Vassilis and Vyron Manikakis Papers.

"Far from anywhere, served only by the occasional mailboat on the subsidized North Aegean route, [Ai-Stratis] cannot support even its few inhabitants, who are constantly emigrating. An island without water, though the air is always laden with humidity. The bare hillsides, battered by the wind all the year round, slope down into the narrow valley where the exiles' tents are pitched...."

' Vardis Vardinoyannis, Oi misoi sta sidera, pp 209-210, Athens 1996

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Tents in Ai-Stratis camp.
Contemporary Social History Archives (ASKI).

The floods

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Flooding on Ai-Stratis, wood-engraving by Y. Farsakidis

"... and when the first heavy rains start, the tents and the whole camp are flooded by torrential streams of water that sweep everything down to the sea...."

Vardis Vardinoyannis
The floods were followed by epidemics of such diseases as dysentery and typhus.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Exiles killed by lightning that struck their tent during a thunderstorm in 1947. They had been trying to hold up the tent pole.
Vassilis and Vyron Manikakis Papers

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Yorgos Farsakidis tries to save part of a stage set from being carried away by a flood in 1951.
Y. Farsakidis Papers.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Clearing the beds of the seasonal torrents after flooding.
Vassilis and Vyron Manikakis Papers.

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Petition protesting against the conditions prevailing after the flood of June 1957.
Iordanis Christodoulou Paper.

"Survival was not possible on Ai-Stratis without an unremitting struggle against the elements. The mailboat was very often unable to call at the island because of bad weather."

Vardis Vardinoyannis, Oi misoi sta sidera, Athens 1996

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Vassilis and Vyron Manikakis Papers

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

Vassilis and Vyron Manikakis Papers

Μουσείο Δημοκρατίας στον 'Aη Στράτη - Democracy Museum, Ai Stratis

The trunk, much-travelled, belonged to Spyros and Ino Garezos. It had been taken by ship and then on a small boat to Ikaria and Ai-Stratis, where Spyros Garezos had spent several terms of exile, and to Chios, to which Ino Garezou had been exiled.
Donated by Maria Garezou

"Every Tuesday evening - for that's when the boat left for Ai-Stratis - I had my trunk roped up and ready to go. My wife knew they might pick me up on the street, as I was sometimes in the EDA (United Democratic Left) offices, or I might have gone out on some errand or other. She knew that if I didn't come home in the evening she would have to go to the police station the next morning to look for me, and then on to the Security Police to find out where I was and bring me my things."
Memoir by Stefanos Stefanou about the periods he spent in Athens 'on leave' from the camp on Ai-Stratis.