"And your country , when you hold it dear in your heart, is
Your constellation, from that height, does not see Mt.Taygetos.
It sees Earth."
Nikiforos Vrettakos, Poet, Academician, was born in our town (Krokees)
on January 1st 1912. His mother Eugenia, was brought here 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 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 (WW2) 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 1980's 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 honored us with his presence 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
The" Nikiforos Vrettakos Archives" which include his personal
library and other personal belongings is housed on the 3rd floor of
the Central Public Library of Sparta in an area he personally chose.
The library has also issued a multimedia CD-ROM .A biographical timeline
of Nikiforos' life and work. The CD is in Greek and is available on
Central Public Library of Sparta: http://www.nikiforos.edu.gr/