Goniani andartes
Home Up The Cretan Runner Kidnap Vasili Goniani andartes British characters Sgt Corbould

 

 

The 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 They were both able to shed light on several events that have been misrepresented in books and other historical documents.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 experience.
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 commitment. 

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.

Eleftherios Markogianakis (Venizelos) and Billionis in Gonies, Crete Aug 2004

Tasso Christian with Venizelos and Billioinis, Aug 2004

“May 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.

Goniani 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.