Drosopigi, Florina

Drosopigi, Florina

Drosopigi (Δροσοπηγή), is a village in Macedonia, Greece. It lies in the central part of Florina Prefecture, as part of the Perasma municipality. The village's year round population is estimated at 225 people, but in the summer it grows to nearly 400. In the surrounding area many other villages can be found, including Flambouro, Skopia, Kato Idroussa, and Ano Idroussa. The Village of Drosopigi lies on eastward slope of Mount Bitsi at an elevation of 1050 meters approximately 13km from Florina.

The Old Village

The original village, known as Belkamen or Belkameni, was beautiful with walkways paved in cobblestone, archways made from granite and beautiful gardens decorated with flowers and water fountains. A French soldier, who came to the village during the First World War, would call the village "Petit Paris", translated "Little Paris". The original village was established in 1843 by villagers (mostly masons and other tradesmen) who came from Plikati and other villages from Mastorohoria (a region around Mt. Grammos) in Epirus. The villagers were known as Arvanites and they settled in an area of Western Macedonia that was almost exclusively populated by Slavs. There are now three villages in the area that were exclusively settled by Arvanites. They are Drosopigi, Flambouro, and Lechovo. In 1842, leading families from Plikati, Epirus purchased the land and forest after negotiating with Osman Ismael Pasha, the Bey from Florina. The general area was known as Balkmen (Μπάλκμεν). As a result, the original village came to be known as Belkameni (Μπαλκαμένη). From 1843 to 1926 the village name would remain Belkameni and from 1926 until present as Drosopigi. Of course some people still referred to it as Belkameni and the people as Arnaouts. Upon the purchase of the plot of land the people started to build enormous houses made from the materials in the surrounding area. The village inhabited many families. The total population at 1900 had reached 1,500.

Life in the Old Village

Life for the villagers of Drosopigi was very difficult at times. The village was built on the side of the mountain so it could be hidden from the Turks. Many of these villagers had massive gardens on which they grew their crops. These included potatoes, carrots, lettuce and other varieties of crops. The sun only hit the village a certain time of day, which made the production of prosperous crops a tremendous challenge. During the late 19th century, when Greece was struggling as a developing country, many men from the village went to Romania to work, make money, and bring it back with them. As many other men did, Vasilios Dedes worked in Romania, was very prosperous, and sent great amounts of money back to the village for his family. At the turn of the Century when the Communist invaded and took control of the Romanian government these men lost everything they had in the Romanian banks. One man said “I had so much money that even you great grand children did not have to work.” Many families suffered from that loss. The village itself was a mini city. Holidays like Easter, Christmas were great events for the villagers as was Agia Triada, a special celebration to honor the village church. Agia Triada was celebrated forty days after Easter, over the span of three days, and is an event that's celebrated to this day in Drosopigi present.

Historical Significance of Belkameni

The Village of Belkameni was one of the very first villages in its area to have under ground tunnels for the Greek Revolutionaries during the Greek Struggle for Macedonia (Μακεδονικός Αγῶν). Many great revolutionaries stopped at Belkameni as place to heal, rest, or hide. The Hellenic army leader who most symbolized the Macedonian Struggle, Pavlos Melas, other army leaders, and their troops, used these under ground tunnels for a quick escape from their enemies.

The Burning of the Old Village

When the Second World War hit Europe, Greece suffered a lot, as did Drosopigi. When the Nazi Germans invaded Greece they also invaded Drosopigi. On April 3, 1944 the Germans sent a routine patrol to the surrounding area of Drosopigi, outside the village itself. Local guerrilla fighters captured five soldiers and executed them - three of them were outside the village, one in the cemetery and one on the road (Kangeli) leading to the village. The women of the village went to where the Nazi soldiers were shot and cleaned up the blood. The people from the village took the dead bodies and hid them in fertilizer. The Germans quickly concluded that Drosopigi was the place where their soldiers went missing. They demanded an explanation from the villagers and they refused to say anything. Many, fearing reprisals, fled Drosopigi. The men went hiding in the forest and most of the women and children went to Elatia, a small village near Drosopigi. When the Germans arrived seeking retribution they found mostly old people. They killed one elderly lady and one male. On the day of April 4, 1944 the village of Drosopigi was burned by the Germans in reprisal. Following the German devastation to Drosopigi, the people of the village set out to rebuild it to its original glory. From April 1944 till April 1947 the villagers would be rebuilding. At the end of the Second World War, Greece was in a terrible civil war between the Communist led partisans and the Democratic Army of Greece. In the first stages of the Greek Civil War many communist led guerrillas stopped at the village as a hiding place. On April 7, 1947, the Greek government adopted a policy of forced relocation for certain villages that were strategic for the guerrillas, and ordered the inhabitants of Drosopigi to gather their belongings and to vacate the village. It was decided to move most of the inhabitants to the village of Skopia, Florina.

The Great Move

After the Greek Government adopted a policy of forced relocation of certain villages, the National Army of Greece,on April,1947, moved the villagers from Drosopigi to the village of Skopia were they would stay till late 1950/1951. By 1951, most villagers moved yet again to another village known as Kato Idroussa (Kotori). It was at this time that a final decision was made to build a new village at the current location of Drosopigi. Life at Skopia was very hard for everyone from Drosopigi. In Skopia, and entire family, often as many as 8 people, was assigned to one room to live in. Also constant battling was going on in the mountains around Skopia between the Communist and the Republic of Greece. With Greece at this all time low, there was very little hope. In Skopia many families received aid from the United States that originated from the Truman Doctrine, which would allow 100 million dollars in aid go to Greece and Turkey. Families all across Greece received some sort of aid. In Skopia families received aid through food rations, clothing, and other important items. During the Greek Civil war, many Greeks would lose their lives and many people from the village of Drosopigi fought on both sides. A total of twelve Drosopigites died in the Greek Civil War. On the National Army side 5 died including, Εύαγγελος Χαρισης, Αναστάσιος Χαρισης, and Κωνσταντινος Σταθοπουλος. On the partisan side 7 died including Αναστάσιος Στυλιαδης, Αντώνης Ζηκος, Δύοάδελφαί Νάστου, and Αναστάσιος Θεοδώρθυ. After a course of two years the people from the old village wanted to move on. From 1951 till 1952 many families started to build their new homes so they could have some sort of shelter to live in. As the new home construction finished, people began to move into the new village, and shortly thereafter it came to be known as the new Drosopigi. Many of the original families from the old village established themselves in the new village.

Drosopigi Present

From the time the new Drosopigi was built(1951/1952) the people worked hard to make it beautiful but would not reach the beauty of the old village.

In the 1950-60's a new era was coming about in Greece, it was the time of moving. Many families, because of economic conditions, from all around Greece started to emigrate. Individuals and families who emigrated from Drosopigi mostly went to America, Canada, Germany, and Australia in search of a new life. Some went with the intention to make money and return, but many did not return to Greece and left their villages in their past. At present, the city of Rochester, New York has the largest concentration of immigrants and families that trace their roots to Drosopigi. Many people still visit Drosopigi to this day and always keep it their hearts as many Drosopigiotes (people from Drosopigi) say. There are still people who live there but not as many as there were in 1900. The old village lies in ruins never to be touched. Family member long past still buried have not been touched, left in the past only to think about them in their family members dreams. The village that was once a mini city now lies in ruins and over see the new village were the people of Drosopigi now live. Zito Drosopigi.

Written by Ioannis Dedes Revised by many others

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