I was born in the village of Bapchor (now known as Poimenikon) in the prefecture of Kastoria, high up on the slopes of Mount Vitsi, the third highest mountain in Greece. It lies about half-way between the towns of Florina and Kastoria in Macedonia of northern Greece.
I am told the village was very beautiful, with its stone houses and their slate covered roofs. Records from 1920 show that the Bapchor settlement had Sveti Georgi as its main church, an Orthodox church, under the Metropolis of Kastoria. The village school was grand and smart, and was attended by over 150 pupils. There were approximately 200 houses of two or more storeys. The extended families were patriarchal, with each household consisting of approximately 15/17 persons; a common phenomena those times. From this it can be surmised that the village had over 3000 inhabitants.
It is speculated that the village was built so high up in the mountains by its first inhabitants either to avoid some kind of persecution, or for some religious purpose. Originally, it served the inhabitants as a summer settlement, where the villagers grazed and tended their livestock, returning to their winter habitation, which was situated approximately where Vissini is. There are no records of when Bapchor became a permanent settlement in those early years, but hearsay puts it around the year 1650.
The village had very good craftsmen, but its main industries were forestry, hill farming, animal husbandry and dairy produce. In the Ottoman era there are records of male members from the community traveling for work to Constantinople, mainly as loggers, supporting their families and returning to the village. The main migrations took place at the turns of the 19th and 20th centuries, when migrations to America, Canada, and later Australia took place.
The Greek Civil War of 1946-49 put an end to the village life, and the terrain of the mountains become the centre of the war zone. Every occupant of the village fled, all to become refugees, or to settle in neighboring villages or towns. This was an end to the village life and the village - and all surroundings - lay abandoned and derelict, the houses crumbling. Nature took back what rightfully is hers!.
Early this year it was brought to my attention that Sveti Georgi, the village church, left plundered and decaying over the years, was due to be restored. I followed the progress of the restoration and later learned that before the winter set in, a Divine Liturgy, the first for 70 years, was to be held there with the inauguration ceremony. I am not at all religious, but this news spelled for me a modicum of life being injected back into my birth place. I wanted to be there to hear the bell chime again after 70 years, to see people lighting candles, children running around and playing, as is habitual in a village with life. I decided to try to make the journey, and did it. The event for me was emotional to say the least.
Attached are some photos of the day. These, and many more, were also sent to other members of the community, dispersed around the continents of the earth.
A modicum of life and light returns to Sveti Georgi in Bapchor
Families arrive by foot on the old mule path
They gather again, connected by the past