text and photos below were sent to me by Anastasios (Tasso) G. Christian
(Christodoulakis), he is the nephew of Democratis Demetrios
Tsagarakis, (the son of Demetrios Tsagarakis nicknamed 'Mitsos'),
who also wrote to me some time ago and is mentioned on the 'Kidnap'
page. I have not changed any of the text sent to me by Tasso, who
now lives in the US.
I recently traveled to Crete
where I had the opportunity to interview the only two living resistance
fighters from the village of Gonies, Meleviziou (near Anoyia).
Eleftherios Markogianakis (Venizelos) and Billionis are now in their
late 80s (early 90s) but can recall the events of the German occupation
as if they occurred yesterday. They were both able to shed light on
several events that have been misrepresented in books and other
historical documents. This was their chance to set the record straight.
The resistance fighters from the village of Gonies,
Meleviziou (near Anoyia) played a significant role during the German
occupation of Crete. They were known as the Goniani andartes. They
fought against the Germans, assisted in the
capture of General Kriepe and finally accepted the
withdrawal of the Germans from Heraklion. Their keen knowledge of the
terrain and willingness to never surrender made them one of the fiercest
resistance groups in Crete. Their actions had a direct impact on the
Battle of Crete.
||The Goniani Andartes consisted of 14-20
men from the village of Gonies (see map on the left) and two others from
neighboring villages. The Goniani Andartes relied heavily on the few men
who had prior military experience. Unconventional, guerrilla-style
tactics were primarily used to deter and defeat the Germans whenever
possible. But in the long run ingenuity and familiarity of the
mountainous region proved to be much more of an asset than military
|On 11 October 1944,
the liberation of Heraklion became a reality. The previous ten days were
tense as battalions of German infantry supported by artillery
anticipated an attack on Heraklion
by several groups of andartes. On the morning of 11 October,
Colonel Andreas Nathenas, the new military representative of the
government-in-exile and governor of the prefecture of Heraklion, ordered
several andartes groups to enter Heraklion and meet at the German
headquarters by the port at 1500 hours. At the time, the Goniani
Andartes were acting as bodyguards and providing personal security for
Colonel Nathenas. Somehow the Goniani andartes misunderstood the order
and entered Heraklion at 1400 hours. They traveled in several vehicles
through the city to the German headquarters. Venizelos and Billionis
described the atmosphere that day as one of uncertainty. They felt alone
and abandoned, as if they were on a suicide mission.
As the vehicles reached the
German headquarters local Cretans began to gather below the balcony
where the Nazi flag continued to fly. In an unexpected spontaneous move
Venizelos, Billionis, Dimitri Tsagarakis (AKA Mitsos, my grandfather),
and another gentleman entered the German headquarters and proceeded to
the balcony. By then the locals began chanting, “take down the flag,
take down the flag.” Billionis described the feeling of helplessness
as he and Venizelos laid down their weapons so they could lower the Nazi
flag. Hundreds of trigger-happy German soldiers also gathered below
waiting for orders from their superiors. As Venizelos began to lower the
Nazi flag several German soldiers raised their weapons. A German officer
on the balcony quickly motioned to all his soldiers not to fire.
As Venizelos lowered the Nazi
flag it fell to the ground. Venizelos picked it up, folded it and
presented it to the German officer. He then raised a Greek flag given to
him earlier that day by Colonel Nathenas. The Greek flag was taken from
a local Greek school’s flag post. Locals began to cheer and shout with
joy. Their day of freedom had finally arrived.
Only after the flag incident did
the other andartes groups enter the city. From the headquarters they
marched the Germans out of Heraklion and to Rethymno where they were
handed off to another group.
If it were not for the selfness
devotion of the Goniani Andartes, I would not be here today. I, as well
as others around the world owe them immensely. They made this world a
better place. Their accomplishments and legacy will live on for
generations as long as we continue to tell their story.
We all owe it to them and to
future generations to continue telling their stories of bravery and
The Goniani andartes epitomize
the Cretan; fierce fighters who would stop at nothing to protect their
family, their land and their freedom. Venizelos and Billionis are true
heroes. You can see it in their eyes and feel the passion in their
voices. I am honored to know them.
Markogianakis (Venizelos) and Billionis in Gonies, Crete Aug 2004
Christian with Venizelos and Billioinis, Aug 2004
we continue to seek the truth, give credit to the deserving, and honor
our ancestor’s legacy by never forgetting” Tasso Christian 2004
|Update (1 March 2005): It
is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Eleftherios
Markogianakis (Venizelos). Venizelos died on February 23, 2005 in
Gonies. He will be greatly missed. I will miss his wisdom, laughter and
most of all his friendship. May God bless him.
Andartes…Picture on the left taken in the Fall of 1943. Billionis
sitting second from left and Venizelos sitting sixth from left. Dimitri
Tsagarakis (my grandfather) standing fifth from left. Thomas Nathenas,
leader of the Goniani Andartes, standing far left.
Note: The entire Goniani Andartes group baptized my Mother in
Gonies in Spring 1944.