A former soldier of the Greek Army published a novel based largely on his diary. “Life in a Tomb” is the name of the work by Stratis Myrivilis, first published in 1924, which we are presenting here.
As a volunteer in the Greek army, his path also led to Macedonia in the Balkan Wars of 1912/1913. In his work we find an interesting passage in which Myrivilis leaves us statements from local Macedonians. These statements are of fundamental importance because this short passage invalidates any propaganda regarding the negation of the Macedonians today.
Far too often it is claimed in that propaganda that the Macedonians “used to see and call themselves Bulgarians“. With this work, or with a quote from this work, by a former Greek soldier, this propaganda is more than refuted and exposed as a simple crude lie.
But first about the author and his work:
About the author Stratis Myrivilis
Stratis Myrivilis (born June 30, 1890 in Skamia on the island of Lesbos, then the Ottoman Empire – died July 19, 1969 in Athens) was a Greek writer.
In his youth, Stratis Myrivilis volunteered to fight in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. He was a reservist in the Greek army in World War I and took part in the campaigns in Anatolia in 1921 and 1922.
He was a soldier for ten years, first in the Balkans in Macedonia and Thrace and then in Asia Minor until the defeat of Greece. The war experiences had a decisive influence on his further life, so that he returned to Lesbos as a staunch pacifist.
Here he worked as a journalist and writer. From 1930 he lived in Athens, where he was program director of the Greek radio from 1936 to 1951. Myrivilis was a member of the Academy of Athens and, after the war, president of the Greek Writers’ Association. In 1960 he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Stratis Myrivilis died in Athens in 1969.
Life in the Tomb
Stratis Myrivilis was one of the most important Greek prose authors of the 20th century. In addition to his extensive journalistic work, he published his first stories as early as 1914 during the war. After his return he brought out the novel “Life in the Tomb”, in which he processed his experiences from the war.
Life in the Tomb grew out of his extensive war experience, some of which arose from his diaries. The novel first appeared in serial form on the island of Lesbos in the early 1920s, but a revised and expanded edition was published in Athens in 1930 with immediate success. His novel is a favorite among Greek readers.
In short chapters, which are presented as letters to his loved ones, Sergeant Andonis Kostulas reports on his war experiences, in which traditional heroic morality and propaganda soon unfold.
“All in all, this Greek madness, clumsiness, is a defect here. It is an underground war,” writes the protagonist.
Ideas and metaphysics collapse. Life is a matter of flesh and blood. Because of his proximity to death, the sergeant recognizes the exuberant life force.
Neither “Bulgari”, “Srrp” or “Gkrrts” but Macedonian Orthodox only
When Myrivilis invaded Macedonia with the Greek army, he also came into contact with Macedonians.
Myrivilis reports that the Macedonians – although from his point of view they speak almost the same language as the Serbs and Bulgarians – consider themselves only as “Macedonian Orthodox”.
Also interesting about this passage, Myrivilis kept the original sound of the Macedonians, so the Macedonians called the Greeks “Gkrrts” (presumably, “Grtsi”), the Bulgarians as “Bulgari” and the Serbs as “Srrp”.
Quote of the pages 104-105, from 1924 edition:
«Αυτοί εδώ οι χωριάτες, που τη γλώσσα τους την καταλαβαίνουν περίφημα κι οι Βούλγαροι κι οι Σέρβοι, αντιπαθούν τους πρώτους γιατί τους πήρανε τα παιδιά τους στο στρατό. Μισούν τους δεύτερους που τους κακομεταχειρίζονται για Βούλγαρους. Και κοιτάνε με αρκετά συμπαθητική περιέργεια εμάς τους περαστικούς Ρωμιούς επειδή είμαστε οι γνήσιοι πνευματικοί υπήκοοι του Πατρίκ, δηλαδή του «Ορθόδοξου Πατριάρχη της Πόλης». (…) Ωστόσο, δεν θέλουν να ΄ναι μήτε «Μπουλγκάρ» (Βούλγαροι), μήτε «Σρρπ» (Σέρβοι), μήτε «Γκρρτς» (Έλληνες). Μονάχα «Μακεντόν ορτοντόξ»
“These are peasants whose language is similar to that of Bulgaria and Serbia. They still do not like the first because it takes their children in army. The latter hated because of their poor treatment of them as “Bulgarians” . They showed sympathy for us Romaios, because we are truly spiritual representatives of “the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople” ( … ) However, they say they are neither Bulgari (Bulgarians), nor “Srrp” (Serbs) nor Gkrrts (Greeks), but “Macedonian Orthodox” only
Source: “Life in the Tomb” Stratis Myrivilis, 1977