Spyros Mazitzoglou

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Spyros Mazitzoglou

Birthplace: Antalya, Turkey
Death: February 11, 1963 (61)
Athens, Attica, Greece (Leukemia)
Immediate Family:

Son of Nicholas Mazitzoglou and Athina Giannikoglou
Husband of Georgia Eleftheroudakis
Father of Private and Private
Brother of Maria Mazitzoglou; Eleni Matzizoglou and Apostolos Matzizoglou

Occupation: Pharmacist
Managed by: Maria Klumpp
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Spyros Mazitzoglou

Biography of Spyro Mazitzoglou

As told by his sister, Maria Markante through her daughter, Athina Halkiotis

Spyros Mazitzoglou was born in 1901 in Attalia, Turkey. He was one of five children born to Athina Giannikoglou and Nicholas Mazitzoglou. His sisters, Maria and Eleni were older than he. The ages of his brothers, Theodoros and Lazaros are not known. His brother, Lazaros, died of acute appendicitis at the age of 18 or 19. Nothing is known of Lazaros. He may have died as a very young child.

The family was well-to-do. They lived in a two-story house which was situated on enough land to provide space for gardens and fruit trees including dates, peaches, oranges, and lemons. His father was well employed as a bookkeeper/paymaster of a large lumbering firm. This required some travel. There were servants employed in the house. Maria and Eleni were well educated, having learned French and to play the mandolin. They were both skilled needlewomen and adept at designing their own tapestries and embroidery work. They were school teachers in Attalia. An example of their lifestyle and the culture of the period is in the story that Maria used to tell. She was never allowed to go shopping for anything without her maidservant, whose job it was to carry any purchases she made.

Spyro was 18 or 19 when he and all the other young Greek men of the small city of Attalia were ‘conscripted’ into the Turkish army. This would have been in 1919 or 1920. Gradually, all the prosperous wealthy merchant class of Greeks were taken. This left the city impoverished of its upper-class citizens, its wealth and culture.

The men were taken far into the northeastern part of Turkey to the region of Caesaria. They suffered mistreatment and many hardships. Spyro’s sister, Maria, tells the story of how he was placed in a boat with many others and set adrift on a lake without oars in the hope that they would perish. The family in Attalia received very few letters from him during his exile.

Spyro was still gone when in 1923 Turkey became a republic. In an effort to put an end to the slaughter of civilians in the Greco-Turkish War, the Allied powers decreed there should be a population exchange. As a result, over 1,000,000 Greeks left Asia-Minor, their homeland, and were transported to Greece.

At this time, the Mazitzoglou family remaining in Attalia was comprised of Spyro’s mother, Athina, his two sisters, Maria and Eleni, and his uncle Efstratios Giannikoglou. His father, according to Maria, had died several years before. And now Nono, as his uncle was fondly called, was the head of the family.

When the Greek community in Attalia received notice of the edict (the population exchange) they were given 48 hours to prepare for evacuation to the harbor. They were told that the hordes were descending from Anatolia. It was not safe to remain. They could only take two trunks and one bundle with them. They were permitted to take some food but no money.

The bundle which the family prepared included a mattress into which gold coins were sewn. The two sisters each had a casket with their personal jewelry including pearls, gold chains, and ruby and diamond rings. These were placed in the Italian bank for safekeeping, together with other valuables including large painted and embroidered pictures. An inventory of Maria’s jewelry exists written in Italian—undated and without the bank’s name or any kind of identification. One of the trunks contained a set of blue willow china.

There are many stories of how the refugees smuggled their wealth out of Turkey. Many baked their gold coins into bread. One man made a false bottom for his trunk, and filled it with honey and wax and gold coins. This may have been Eleni’s future husband, John Karadenisli.

The family spent three days aboard the British tanker which took them to Greece. There was insufficient drinking water. They were terribly crowded and in a state of shock. Maria did not sleep at all. They had to guard their trunks and bundle at all times. Orders were not to allow any people off at the port of Athens. When the ship docked in the harbor, a small rowboat came along side and a man called up asking whether there were any members of the Giannikoglou family aboard and was there anything they needed. Of course, they asked for water. A keg was brought out to them and later, during the night, they were smuggled off the tanker.

The boatman, who was bribed to take them off the tanker, refused to take the trunks. They arrived in Piraeus with only the bundle. The scene at the harbor was chaotic. Refugees had filled every available space with tents made of sheets. The boatman took them to a coffee house where they were permitted to sleep in the broom closet. However, the owner of the coffee house would not let them bring the bundle into the coffee house. Therefore, it was necessary that someone keep watch over the bundle outside in the street.

Athens was crowded, filled with refugees. There was no housing to be found. Maria had a friend, Polyxenie, who had come to the city two years prior. She appealed to her for help. Polyxenie offered them a room temporarily until relatives she was expecting arrived. They remained there for a very short while until they found a single room—in a basement with a small barred window which looked out into the street. As soon as they moved in they pulled down the blinds and opened their bundle. With their first coins they purchased a cook pot, an earthenware coal burning stove, some rice, and a comb. They also bought a lamp and oil to burn. It was St. Demetrios Day, October 26, 1923.

Nono and the two sisters looked for work. The women were unsuccessful. Nono found work as a pharmacist at Marinopoulos Pharmacy in Omonia Square, Athens.

Meanwhile, word came through that the men who had been taken by the Turks were beginning to arrive by train in Athens. Eleni went every day to the train station to watch for Spyro.

Maria became seriously ill with diphtheria. She was delirious for ten days. She lost all her hair. Nono, with his knowledge of drugs, cared for her. She was given daily enemas containing morphine to ease her pain.

One day, as Eleni kept watch at the train station, Spyro arrived carrying a small carpet under his arm. Imagine the joy of the little family! Maria tells of how she would wake up during the night, get up with the lamp, and go to watch where he was sleeping on the floor to be sure he was really there.

Spyro had made his way across Turkey and was living on the island of Chios when he somehow learned that his family was in Athens. He made his way overland and arrived there by train. The family had been able to send him money from time to time when he was in Caesaria.

He registered as a citizen of Athens, adding four yars to his age in order to avoid being called up to serve in the army. However, his mother was not satisfied that this would keep him safe and it was decided that he would leave Greece and go to live in France. He went to Marseille with his cousin, Michael and lived there for an undetermined period of time. His sister, Maria, saved the post cards which he sent her from there. Maria in the interim had married and was living in the United States. She maintained a sporadic correspondence with this cousin Michael for many years and then lost track of him.

When Spyro returned to Athens in 1924, Nono took him to Marinopoulos Pharmacy and introduced him. He was hired and worked there for many years. He was a highly skilled and knowledgeable professional whose work was recognized and valuaed. It was here at Marinopoulos Pharmacy that he met his future wife, Georgia Eleftheroudakis.

In May 1931, his sister, Maria, returned to Athens from the United States. She was accompanied by her husband, Kyriako Velonides, and their daughter, aged 6, Athena.

At this time, the Mazitzoglou family were all living together in two rooms in an old district in Athens. The following are the recollections of Athena of this visit.

We sailed from Boston aboard the ship Lord Byron. I remember that I was recovering from whooping cough. I had been taken out of the first grade early in order to make the trip to Greece. There was great excitement on board as we passed through the Straits of Gibralter. Mother got me up early in the morning to view my first sight of Greece, and I shall never forget it. The mountains rose out of the mists all purple. When we entered the Port of Piraeus, the people went wild shouting, “Zito Hellas!” Then the poverty struck me. I had never seen barefoot men working like beasts of burden. They were the ‘hamalithes’ (Stevedores or Longshoremen). Grandmother Athina, Nono, Spyro, and Eleni lived up the street from the Palea Agora. Across the street from them excavations had begun on some ruins. We entered their dwelling through an iron door which led into a courtyard which was stone floored. Another family lived upstairs. They had a daughter a few years older than me called Amalia, and she was called upon to play with me. The other children in the neighborhood and even the adults treated me as something of an oddity—a little princess, because I wore shoes. The other children were barefoot. I remember that the best treat for Amalia was a thick slice of white bread moistened with water and sprinkled with sugar.

The courtyard of the house was entirely of stone and very deep. It seemed to me as though it was under the shoulder of the Acropolis. Nothing grew in it. There was just the house on the left as one came in from the street. Way in the back was the outdoor lavatory. Water was drawn from a common faucet in the street only at certain hours of the day. The women would gather with their tin vessels, gossip and wait. Early every morning the man would come calling out his dairy foods: milk and yogurt. Bread was bought down the street from the baker, although in the city, street vendors sold wonderfully fragrant simitia (or koulouria) (the crusty, sesame coated rounds). When food needed to be cooked in an oven, it was taken to the fourno (the brick oven bakery) where it would be left to the baker to tend.

I can remember Uncle Spyro as a very handsome young man. He was very excited when he bought a motorcycle he wanted quite badly. Something must have happened and he reprimanded me. I was deeply offended and stopped speaking to him. A few days later, he brought me strawberries. He made a conquest for life with that gesture.

I can remember the family discussing his desire to marry. He was very much in love with Georgia at the time. He would dress up in the evening in a freshly ironed white shirt and go courting. Plans for the wedding progressed. It was decided I should be the koumbara. Preparations began for my outfit. The shoemaker came and made outlines of my feet. The dressmaker measured me for my white silk crepe dress. Nono and I had our portrait taken. And I was rehearsed as to what I should do with the stephana. I stood on a chair behind the bride and groom during the ceremony.

And so, Spyro and Georgia were married in September 1931 and we returned to the United States in mid October. The years passed and my dear cousins were born, first another Athina and then Maria. The second World War created great anxiety for our loved ones in occupied Greece. I used to dream of my cousins and wonder whether I would ever meet them and see Uncle Spyro, and Georgia and Aunt Eleni again. The world has grown smaller and the fates have been kind. Mot only have I met my cousins, but I count them as my friends.

Aunt Eleni was the last to marry, a year or two after Spyro. She married John Karadenisli who was also from Asia Minor….perhaps even Attalia. Aunt Eleni was very beautiful as a young woman. She had light brown hair and blue eyes. She never fully recovered from the trauma of their removal from their home in Attalia. She had two children, the beautiful Yasoula and our only make cousin dear Theodori. Yasoula married and has two children, Dido and Phivo. She lost her husband early in the 1980’s. Thodori is married to Karina and they have no children.

Translation from the Greek of a letter written to Athina (Mazitzoglou) Gumas by her aunt, Maria (Mazitzoglou) Velonides Markante, regarding her brother, Spyro Mazitzoglou, who was Athina’s father and Maria’s brother.

October 30, 1984

Regarding the biography of my brother, Spyro. I write the following briefly.

As a child he was an excellent student, really brilliant. He spent his youth in the pharmacy of my godfather (maternal uncle, Efstratios Giannikoglou), who was like a father to us. When he graduated from high school, our Nono (godfather) worked to arrange to have him sent to Leipzig, Germany, where there was an excellent school of pharmacy so that he could complete his education as a pharmacist. Unfortunately, the First World War started and all the ports were blockaded. Turkey sided with Germany. Spyro was 18 years old and working in the pharmacy belonging to Pitosakis, who had been taken by the Turks to work in an army hospital. Spyro operated the pharmacy with Pitosakis’ wife.

One morning, the Turks caught him and his cousin, who worked at another pharmacy, along with 50 other Greek adult men who were merchants and professionals (scientists and intellectuals). They were taken as hostages, a 25 day march. They crossed rivers and lakes and made their way north to Caesaria, the cold village of St. Basil. As soon as we learned where they had been taken we sent money to Spyro so he could live. He remained there for two years and as a result of the hardships he suffered, he had rheumatism for the rest of his life. This is why he went to Edipso for the baths every summer.

When Spyro became 21, the age to be conscripted into the army, he would have been taken to the front. But we immediately sent him money and he paid his way out of having to serve. Shortly after this, a cease –fire occurred and he was excused from service.

In the interim, we left Attalia and established ourselves in Athens. Of course, Spyro did not know this, and he set out by land and sea for the island of Chios, where he learned that the Greek residents of Attalia had gone to Athens. He came and found us.

Spyro registered himself as a citizen of Athens but added 4 years to his age before witnesses so that he would not be drafted into the Greek army. Because he was still apprehensive of being taken, he went to France with his cousin to avoid the draft. He remained there until he was no longer of draft age and then returned to Athens. Everyone was overjoyed to have him back because I (Maria) had left for America.*

Fortunately he found work at the Marinopoulos Pharmacy in Omonia Square, Athens, where he worked for many years. It was here that he met his future wife, Georgia, whom he married after many years. They had two lovely daughters. However, the Second World War began and he lost his job. He worked at odd jobs until he became of retirement age.

Spyro had the joy of watching his daughters become young women and marry, and lived long enough to embrace one grand-daughter. But he had the misfortune to become ill with leukemia, which he fought for two years* after which ‘Charos’ caught him (death overtook him). He died on February 11, 1963 at the age of 62.

May his memory be everlasting and may you live long and enjoy your children. I hope you will be able to read my handwriting.

Your Aunt Maria

P.S. Dear Tom and Nana,

That which I have written I learned through correspondence because I did not know and enjoy my brother as a young, unmarried man. They took him from us at age 18 and I met him after 10-12 years at his wedding, and again after many years. I hope we can meet and talk face to face. I am happy you are going to California to meet (my daughter) Joanna (Knight). She is 2-3 hours from (your son) Spyro (Gumas). Write and tell me if you can read my writing. I send you kisses. Aunt Maria

  • The foregoing is an exact translation but not necessarily an accurate account, as there seem to be some discrepancies.
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Spyros Mazitzoglou's Timeline

May 16, 1901
Antalya, Turkey
February 11, 1963
Age 61
Athens, Attica, Greece