Posted: Feb 6 2018, 06:20 PM
„I was named after my grandfather”, Leftheris started telling the two children. „The name comes from Eleftheria, and it means freedom. He was predestined to be a fighter for freedom, one of the rebels fighting against the Turkish occupation. He was my age now, 34, when the Turks conquered Crete. He had already a wife and two children, who survived and grew to be my father and my aunt Areti.
The Greeks and the few remained Venetians were slaves to the conqueror Turks, deprived of their human rights, considered as second class citizens. They worked and lived only for their rulers. They worked all day in the fields just to be able to pay their huge taxes to the tyrants. The harems of Pashas were full of Greek and Venetian local girls, while the Janissary detachments were made up of Christian boys who were taken by force from their parents.
Many Greeks rebelled against the Turks and hid in the mountains and caves, arms in hand, fighting against the opressors. My father was among them. The rebels raided Turkish outposts in less populated areas or Turkish officials travelling inside the island. They conducted attacks during nighttime, surprising the enemies who didn’t know the surroundings as well.
Some rebels were bandits who preyed not only on Ottomans and their local representatives, but also on local merchants and travelers, but old Leftheris Psarotourkos, how he was nicknamed, Fishing-Turks, was not of this lower kind.
He was agile, cunning, brave and reckless, and rose quickly through the ranks, eventually becoming a rebel group’s captain. The Venetians recognised him and smuggled to him weapons and ammunition.
But ultimately he was shot in a battle. I think the rebels had been betrayed and the Turk soldiers were waiting for them prepared. However, this was not ascertained. Only the death of all his rebel group was ascertained – who didn’t die in battle, were judged quickly and impaled to be an example for the whole population.But they live in the people’s memory, they made them a ballad:
Up in the villages on the mountain
Go, rebel lads, eat and drink, my brothers.
There the many rebels with gold coins on their belts
Sit and rest and think of Chania.
The captain takes a quill and writes to the Pasha:
You, Turks, go away, because otherwise
We are burning your outposts, chasing you like beasts.
We have good Venetian weapons
And we are light-stepped and cunning like wolves”.