Nikiforos Vrettakos

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Nikiforos with wife Pitsa

Nikiforos Vrettakos, poet, academic, was born in Krokees, Laconia on January 1st 1912. His mother Eugenia, arrived there from "Plumitsa", a near by farming location, to her sister's (Arhondo) home in order to give birth to her first child. Nikiforos grew up in Krokees where he attended grammar school while living his uncle Nikos (his mother's brother) Panteleakis' home who had no children of his own. With the help of his uncle and other relatives Nikiforos continued his education by attending high school in the nearby city of Gythio. Nikiforos' father had been dealing with economic difficulties and was unable to provide for him. In 1929 he left to attend the University of Athens. Unfortunately, he was unable to complete his formal education due to financial difficulties. That year he also published his first book (Cover by Nikos Rozakos) of poetry, "Under Shadows and Lights" . Since then, he rarely visited Krokees and when he visited he came only to see his mother whom he loved very much. Difficult and harsh times followed. His father died and his mother left Plumitsa to settle in Krokees. His sister Sofia and brother Mihali also moved to Krokees and married.

In 1934 he married Kalliopi (Pitsa) Apostolidou and had two children, Kostas and Eugenia (Jenny). He attempted farming for a short while as well as working in a silk factory before entering the Ministry of Works. He fought in the Albanian Campaign of 1940-41 (WWII) and in 1942 joined the Greek National Resistance Movement (EAM). After the war he resumed his civil service career, but due to his political beliefs, was purged in 1947 and compelled to leave Athens for Piraeus. In 1949 the Communist party of Greece revoked his membership primarily because in one of his essays he urged reconciliation between the superpowers. Nikiforos visited the Soviet Union in 1957. The same year he won his second State Prize for Poetry and started working as a journalist, translator and editor.

In 1967 he left Greece (self exile) and during the dictatorship years went to Switzerland and Italy where he fell very ill and almost died from tuberculosis. When he returned to Greece in 1974, Nikiforos as if he rediscovered his birthplace, he came back and settled in Krokees, in the always hospitable home of his uncle and the home of his sister's Sofia. In the early 1980s he built a little house next to ruins of Plumitsa. Here he wrote much of his work gazing at his beloved friend, the mountain Taygetus.

Nikiforos wrote several volumes of poems and several other books such as the study "Nikos Kazantzakis -His Anguish and His Work", the autobiographical "Odyni"and the oratorical, "Liturgy Bellow the Acropolis", an offering to the Hellenes of Diaspora (Greeks living outside of Greece).

Hundreds of cities and organizations in and outside of Greece held events in his honor. In 1982 he appeared at the 29th Krokeai Society Annual Convention in Montreal.

Nikiforos received many national awards for poetry. He was proclaimed "The Saint of Greek poetry". He also received an Honorary Doctorate in literature from the University of Athens, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Poetry. On Sunday morning August 4th 1991 Nikiforos, the poet of peace and love, took his last breath in his beloved "Plumitsa". Learning of his death, the world-renowned composer and Humanist Mikis Theodorakis said: You chose the place of your childhood dreams to start your long journey. Ploumitsa bends from you absence and Mt.Taygetus hurts from your silence. Going down to the silence of the centuries and crossing the threshold of eternity, I send you a farewell and last remembrance, the verse from your poem "Margarita" which I have set to music " The seeds of your soul filled the universe with red iridescence".

Nikiforos' casket was placed for public viewing at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Athens. He was buried on August 7th in the National Cemetery in Athens.

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