Recovering the story of a Cretan warrior

Hitting and breaking the brick wall

When Helen Schafer e-mailed gkfamilytrees searching for her Cretan ancestry we couldn’t expect to find anything more than a couple of administrational documents. When we realised we couldn’t find even those, we were, of course, very disappointed! Many members of the family had moved from Crete to Pireaus, most likely, during the revolution of 1866-1869; their Cretan roots seemed non-traceable…

It was that moment when she mentioned something about a Cretan ancestor, Sistonikolis, who was said to be a noted warrior during one of the Cretan revolutions of the 19th century. But how was he connected to the family? Which revolution was that? All these were unknown, until we found something with the help of the Historic Archives of Crete

In their Warriors’ Archive, they found an application of 1901 signed by Nikolaos Sistos! It was when enthusiasm started going higher and higher!


The application

“Your Highness,

Having participated in the virtuous fight for our country since 1821 and therefore having taken part in many battles in Greece and in our homeland -in particular, in the siege of Missolonghi, in the naval battle that took place near Samos under the brave captain “Capetan Lazaros Prouskos”, and in Faliro under the brave “Karaiskakis” where my dearly departed brother Georgios was killed- and in all the revolutions of our country during the past century, not having, however, any means to live and being already one hundred and five years old, I respectfully implore Your Royal Highness, if it wishes, to  provide me with some little help.

I hope, your Highness, that the request of probably the last surviving fighter for the liberation of Greece, who also, as an affectionate offspring, fulfilled his duty to his homeland, will be accepted. I remain always Your Royal Highness’s loyal subject and devoted servant.

Nikolaos Sistos”


The Memory

Helen proved to be the great-great-granddaughter of a forgotten hero, whose life, though, was definitely too big -literally and metaphorically- to be forgotten forever! He had taken part in some of the most crucial battles of the Greek Revolution of 1821: Missolonghi, Samos, Faliro. He lost his brother; he fought under Karaiskakis and Captain Brouskos; under Miaoulis and Sahtouris. He finally lived 108 years; he definitely was the only warrior of the Greek War of Independence to live in the 20th century! But, Nikolaos Sistos aka Sistonikolis finally died penniless and forgotten in his village, Kakodiki, in 1904! His amateur charcoal drawing hanging on the wall of the Sistakis (Sistos) house in Kakodiki was the only remaining memory of Nikolaos -waiting for the moment that it would be just removed from the wall to be replaced by something “more modern”…

His memory would, indeed, have been erased hadn’t Helen searched for it!

Thank you, Helen, for giving us the opportunity to help you recover this dusty family story and join our enthusiasm with yours!



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