Rules and values, on which they based their individual and social progress, hold a special place in the cultural legacy of mountain societies. The conditions of isolation from the nearest large rural and urban centers and the particularity of the residential area required a set of principles and values such as hard work, solidarity, justice, frugality, self-sufficiency, and simplicity.
The mountain village people know their area is poor and their labor cannot be richly rewarded. They fight not to get rich, but to survive, getting the necessary daily bread. And they succeed. Thus, even in extreme poverty and famine during the German occupation, they did not suffer like the Greeks of the urban centers.
“Life in the village was tough. Our land was narrow, our fields and our pastures few. Winters were always hard because the village is mountainous and snowed a lot. But we managed it. With great efforts.”
sums up in his wise speech, the former President of the Community, George I. Konstantinidis.
They lead a simple and frugal life. They do not seek ostentation or luxury. They are modest and humble but dutiful, dignified, and proud.
Frugality becomes a lifestyle and a life philosophy. By adopting frugality and self-sufficiency to govern their lives, they use all the goods that nature gives them, those they produce by working in the fields and having domestic animals, and those they will buy by selling or exchanging the surplus of their products.
“Back then, we didn’t have diseases”,
emphasizes Spyridoula Karageorgou, connecting the quality and purity of their produced goods with health. “We did not eat what we eat today. Food straight from the earth. And people were healthy.”
They honor the bread they make. It is the symbol and essence of their life. They never throw it away because it is sacred. From the first wheat they grind, they make the holy bread –“litourgia”- for the church service.
Young people of the time, at their best, in 1958, in Proussos
Families are large. Grandparents live in the same house with their children and grandchildren and help in any way they can. Younger people love, respect, and honor older people. Grandmothers care for the children, spin wool into yarn, knit clothes for everyone, and cook. Grandfathers work close to home, take care of tools, and advise wisely, having experience and maturity…
Grandfathers try to resolve the disputes that arise with a view to justice, and their opinion is respected. They care for the future of the family and community, enjoying love and respect. They carry traditional values, stories, songs, and ancestral wisdom about crops, weather, diseases, herbs, and coping with difficulties. They act as a link not only to the past but also to the broader community.
Children live fully integrated into family life. When they don’t go to school, they help with the farm work, while during the holidays, they play endlessly in the yards and alleys. And when they return home tired, hungry, and often shivering with cold, they will find the fireplace lit and the frugal meal waiting for them, usually cooked by their grandmother, a precious presence in the grandchildren’s lives and the rest of the family.
Free time practically does not exist because they always have something to do. Especially women, they never rest. They take care to keep their home beautiful, neat, and tidy. Water, soap, and lime are their tools.
“My mother never ran out of soap. I don’t know how she could find it”,
says Rina Konstantinidis.
Our group of friends, 1970. In the courtyard of Ai-Dimitris, after the liturgy
The parents-in-law help the new bride adapt to her new environment and assimilate the values of the new family. Sometimes two families live in the same house.
“My sister-in-law and I lived in the same house. Two rooms… Even though there was no room. We never argued. We were bothered by all the other problems. If we had arguments as well…In this fireplace, we did all the chores”,
says Giannoula Dourou, emphatically pointing out tolerance and apprenticeship in coexistence.
Interdependence is a crucial feature of their small society. The neighborhood and the wider community, the village, complement the strength of the family.
The neighborhood is a vital community cell. As life essentially unfolds outside the house building, they know what the neighbors are doing and if they face any problems. And they help them. Tomorrow they might need the help of their neighbors too. Centuries of human experience have taught them that everyone needs everyone else. They need them and vice versa, with their positive and negative sides.
They are not afraid of people. They are not introverted. They never lock their houses. No thefts happen. But they often lend and borrow tools and utensils. They also lend each other money if they need to visit the doctor or do urgent work.
They have strong bonds of trust with each other and the village grocer, the shoemaker, and other shop owners in Thermo, the nearest town. They will need to buy on credit, but they will sell animals or leather, beans, potatoes, garlic, butter, nuts, and the silkworm cocoon, or they will work as craftsmen or laborers and soon pay off their debts.
1961. Neighbors Rina Konstantinidis, Kostas Sotiropoulos and Charalambos Konstantinidis pose with their children
The people of Argyro Pigadi are aware that each is part of a community, which depends on individual behaviors, and its orderly functioning facilitates them. They support the community because it ensures the conditions for all its members’ lives. Collectivity and team spirit characterize them. Of course, there are unwritten but strong rules, as is the constant social control.
Damage to the water supply network. Some worthy and willing rush to meet it
No one can hide. Everyone knows where everyone is and what everyone is doing. Their behavior is evaluated every moment: either it is approved, and they enjoy collective appreciation, or it is disapproved, and they are isolated. But no one wants to feel isolated or even more scorned by the group. “Who can bear the outcry of the village?”
Nikos and Dina E. Karageorgou in the care of the small church of Metamorphosis
We can find the spirit of cooperation, mutual help, and solidarity in all aspects of everyday life: in joy and sorrows, in the plowing, in the husking of the corn, and in the building of new houses.
When someone starts to build a house, he knows he will have help from everyone, especially when carrying the building materials. This help was called “parakalia.”
“What can we say? That we carried the stones on our backs to cover the house roofs? Back then, we brought the cornerstones from the “scala” area from the quarry. We, women, went and loaded up. It was such a narrow path; it’s amazing how we could carry them… Charalambos had started building the house and went opposite Tsolkeika to quarry stones. And at nightfall, we, all the village women, gathered, took care of the children like goats do for their kids, and ran to go there. “Hey,” we said. “Let’s go and get some slabs so they can cover the house roof tomorrow.” Charalambos, Christopher, whoever was building a house”,
says Giannoula Dourou.
And this attitude of theirs is a good lesson for their children today. Christos Kostopoulos says:
“We are proud of what existed in our village, solidarity, cooperation… when they were building a house, the women ran and carried stones and slabs on their backs and the men on their shoulders.”
Or as our fellow countryman and poet Giorgos Spyropoulos says:
“I will not forget the nights in the threshing floors, the “parakalia,” the grape harvest, how they build houses, giving hands and hearts.”
When someone gets sick, everyone helps him. They will even carry him on a stretcher to the doctor to Thermo if necessary. They will support the family in farm work and at home. If someone loses his animal, the family’s means of transport, they will lend him theirs.
They are compassionate and welcoming. When a stranger comes to the village, he goes to a relative’s or a friend’s house. But even if he has neither a relative nor a friend, he, again, will find accommodation. No one will stay on the street. They will share with him the family’s frugal meal. They will put him up for the night. “He is a man, too,” says Nikos G. Karageorgos and lets the beggar in his house because it is cold outside.
There is no social stratification. All the villagers live almost the same way, but in their social evaluation, personal skills, hard work, social skills, decency, dancing, and singing certainly count.
They are conscious of the finitude of life and understand that they are just passing through life, which has existed before them and will continue to exist after them.
“I know I will die,” said Vassilis Douros, sick in a clinic bed. “What can we do? Sο many passed through this life….”
They don’t whine, and they don’t complain to God or about the weather. Anyway, they believe that whatever He wants will happen. “Dig as much as you want, and I will give you as much as I want” they used to say, accepting the superior power and will. They deal with weather phenomena with wisdom and patience. They are not afraid of winter. They know it will snow and prepare by storing firewood for the house and food for people and animals.
They respect the power of nature and the weather. They know what blurred, flooding rivers mean. They know that a dry river can easily overflow and, in its passing, uproots trees and sweeps people away. Nature becomes a song, and they compare it to their beloved one as a model of beauty and harmony: “There is no other like you.”
They observe the night sky and are in awe of the Divine. They wake up before dawn when they have to go to work, estimating the time from the star position in the sky, from“Poulia” (the Pleiades) and “Avgerinos” (the morning star). They enjoy the beauty of nature and sing about it. “Wake up in the morning, little bird, and climb a tree…” This beauty cultivates their appreciation of Nature and Life. They are grateful that they are alive and feel their life is in harmony with their natural environment. “Up on a Rosebush, a partridge is building a nest.”
Their songs are about love, nature, rivers, birds, freedom, and the rebels’ fights. They follow and respect tradition because they know it is a cohesive element of their society. “This is how we found it, and this is how we will leave it,” they often say.
They show their love of beauty with the ornaments on their clothes, embroideries, woven fabrics, and beautiful flowers in their yards. They take care of their alleys, their fountains, and their churches.
From their experience, they understand the wisdom of the saying, “Life without a feast, a long road without a guesthouse.” They wait for Sundays and holidays to rest and enjoy. They wear their best clothes. The men will shave and wear their white shirts. Everyone goes to church, and after that, they go to the homes of people celebrating their names (according to the Orthodox tradition) to wish them “Many happy returns.” Other opportunities for fun are the festivity of Saint Demetrius, the three days of Easter, and weddings.
“I remember the dance at the festivity of Saint Demetrius”,
says Yiannis Kotsalos…
“After the church service, we would go outside, and the dancing would begin. As a boy, I remember 32 men in fustanellas (a traditional pleated skirt, part of the Greek male national costume). Everyone danced wearing a fustanella. And the women in their dresses with the “kuda,” the series of golden chains. That was the best costume”.
The sense that the State doesn’t sufficiently care for their remote community strengthens the feeling of responsibility for the community’s course in the present and future. They are not afraid of difficult circumstances. Having confidence in their strength, they build their churches and school and are proud of it.
“Hey, my child Niko.” Papa- Lazarus, the old priest, told me once. “We need a road to reach the village, did you say? No, my child, not with them. Unless you build it with your own little hands…” “What did he mean? Of course, we, children of Argyro Pigadi, must grow, occupy high positions in society and ensure that the road reaches the village.”
Nikos G. Konstantinidis remembers while writing about Papa- Lazarus Kostopoulos.
They believe in the power of education and fight to keep the Primary School open in their village and send their children to the high school in Thermo or Proussos.
They experience the tides of time with the stamina and strength that the mountainous place and way forged for them. They live raising their families in the houses they built and with the products they produce.
Happy in their way, they share with us the magical bond between man and nature, a universal value education that restores man to the functions and economy of nature.
Worthy and enlightened teachers also offered education in the sacred place of this school. This school continues its course in time in another form.
Our Teacher Athanasios Pyrpylis sums up briefly the wealth of values of the small Mountain Communities:
“Miracles happen where there is a will, zeal, love, and unity.
Our ancestors built schools, churches, water mills, and threshing floors with voluntary personal labor. They built roads and ditches and raised the cultural level of their small societies.
We respectfully bow our heads to their memory and are inspired by their love for their poor but beautiful land.
I served as a teacher at the Argyro Pigadi Primary School for about three years, from November 1962 to June 1965. I feel great joy because this school, where so many other worthy teachers educated generations of Argyro Pigadi children, will not be allowed to collapse but will continue to function as a Centre that will highlight the organization of our mountain village communities, where Culture and Education will be served.
I wish this Centre to function smoothly and be a bright beacon for studying the past.”