The Cretans in the Struggle for Macedonia

Crete was one of the most important sources of fighters for Macedonia. If we are to believe Karavitis, the Cretans first came to Macedonia, initially from Anopoli in Sfakia, to avenge the cowardly murder of the ill Giorgos Seimenis – one of the first Makedonomachoi – by Bulgarians in Lechovo in 1903. His relatives rushed to seek vengeance and the new dead brought yet others seeking to avenge.

Recruitment on the island was initiated by the Cretan official Georgios Tsontos and, as the first volunteers became chieftains, the network spread throughout various mountain villages. For young Cretans, especially those too young to have participated in the revolution of 1896, this test of their skills as andartes was crucial for their passage to manhood.

The sources provide conflicting information on the true value of the Cretans. Some sources represent them as argumentative, impatient to fight and equally hasty to return, difficult to indoctrinate and unadaptable to the realities of Macedonia. For others, they gave the Struggle its greatest impetus, were unselfish and excellent marksmen, upright characters, full of high spirits and with a genuine sense of humour. Within this group of several hundred volunteers –the single largest — there co-existed many different characters who reacted in a variety of ways to various situations.

It is impossible to find the appropriate criteria with which to assess the contribution of several hundred men. Aside from the Cretan officers in the Greek army, if we are to pay tribute to all those who fell in the line of duty then we should mention several Cretan volunteers: the relatively unknown yet long-serving pioneer Thymios Kaoudis, and Yiannis Karavitis, Giorgos Volanis and Dikonymos Makris, who operated so dynamically for several months in Morichovo, surprising their rivals with their bravery.