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Memorial Day of Cham Albanians. June 27th, 1944

Chameria is a mountainous region of the southwestern Balkan Peninsula that now straddles the Greek-Albanian border. Most of Chameria is in the Greek Province of Epirus, corresponding largely to the prefectures of Thesprotia and Preveza, but it also includes the southern-most part of Albania, the area around Konispol. It is approximately 10,000 square kilometres in size and has a current, mostly Greek-speaking population of about 150,000. The core or central region of Chameria, known in Greek as Thesprotia, could be said to be the basins of the Kalamas and Acheron Rivers. It was the Kalamas River, known in ancient times as the Thyamis, that gave Chameria its name. The Chams, known in Greek as Tsamides, are no other than Albanians living in the extreme southern part of Albanian-speaking territory. Among their traditional settlements in the now relatively sparsely inhabited region of Chameria were Gumenica/Igoumenitsa, Filat/Filiates, Paramithia/Paramythia, Parga and Margëlliç/Margariti and, in particular, many smaller villages that were abandoned and are in ruins and presently covered in vegetation. There were Cham settlements sporadically southwards as far as Preveza. When Greek forces took possession of Chameria and southern Epirus in the Balkan War of 1912, the Chams suddenly found themselves in Greece, cut off from the rest of Albania. In the following decades, in particular the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, the vast majority of the Chams emigrated or were expelled from Chameria. With the German withdrawal from Greece in the summer and early autumn of 1944, the region was enmeshed in the initial throes of a bloody civil war. British forces, anxious to secure the Ionian coastline in order to ensure maritime supply routes, encouraged the forces of a local military commander, General Napoleon Zervas (1891-1957), to take over the region. Zervas, the founder and leader of a Greek resistance movement called the National Republican Greek League (Ethnikós Demokratikós Ellenikós Sýndesmos – EDES), became known for his brutal ethnic cleansing of the Albanians of Chameria from June 1944 to March 1945. He and many of his men regarded the Chams collectively as collaborators with the Italians and Germans, and sought vengeance. Several thousand men, women and children from Chameria found their deaths during his incursions. On 27 June 1944, his forces entered the town of Paramithia and killed about 600 Muslim Chams - men, women and children - in an orgy of violence. Many of the victims were raped and tortured before being slaughtered. Another EDES battalion advanced into Parga the next day where 52 more Albanians were killed. On 23 September 1944, the village of Spatar near Filat was looted and 157 people were murdered. Numerous young women and girls were raped, and other unspeakable crimes were committed. In the immediate aftermath, virtually the entire Cham population, defenceless and petrified, took to the hills and fled for their lives to Albania. The Chameria Association in Tirana estimates that a total of 2,771 Albanian civilians were killed during the 1944-1945 attacks on Cham villages.The cleansing of the Muslim Chams of Greece at the end of the Second World War marked the end of a one painful chapter of Cham history and the beginning of another. The Albania, to which the exhausted and starving Chams fled, had shortly before their arrival come under the control of Enver Hoxha (1908-1985) and his communist forces. The new Marxist rulers were not entirely disposed to assist their suffering compatriots. The Chams were nonetheless given refugee status and allowed to remain in Albania. It was the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), active as a relief agency in Albania from September 1945 to the spring of 1947, that provided emergency assistance to the Chams by distributing tents, food and medicine to their squalid camps in Vlora, Fier, Durrës, Kavaja, Delvina and Tirana. In the years immediately following the Second World War, the Anti-Fascist Committee of Cham Immigrants campaigned for the return of the Chams to their homeland. Most of them did not want to stay in Albania anyway, in particular in view of the Stalinist-type purges taking place there. The Committee held two congresses in 1945, one in Konispol and the other in Vlora, and wrote memoranda and sent telegrams in support of its goals. The Cham issue was also brought up by Albania at the Paris Peace Conference of 1946, but all of these activities proved to be in vain. Efforts to internationalize the Cham issue fell, for the most part, on deaf ears. For several years, the Chams continued to hope that when the political situation calmed down, they would be able to return to Greece. However, this did not happen. Even today, in the twenty-first century, elderly Chams wishing to see the land of their birth, even on a short visit, are turned back at the border by Greek customs officials. Their passports are stamped persona non grata and on occasion are even torn up before their very eyes.

 These photos were taken in 1945 at Cham refugee camps in Albania by members of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). They are preserved in the United Nations Archives.

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Interesting find at garage sale- Pat’s letter teddy bear

O.k so while i was at my part time, this church from across our apartment was having a yard sale, my sister tells me she found a cute teddy bear and has gotten it for me, she paid 50 cents for it. Little did we knew that this little teddy bear hold a incredible secrets.

The teddy bear, or as I call him, Pappi, had writing all over him. At first we thought it was some scribble made by little kids, but the more we examined it closely it was an old writing wishing someone well. One thing we noticed is that the teddy bear was presented at 4/15/1944. Guys this teddy is like 73 years old.

There is so much thing that is unusual about Pappi, and here are couple of things we figured out so far.

-It was gifted to a girl name Patula, but everyone calls her Pat. And according to the letters she was a sweet and swell gal.

-All the letters where indicating that she was going away somewhere, one writer stated that they will soon meet at Tulsa.

-Pappi was signed by 25 different people, who really treasured Pat.

- Black inks turn brown over long period of time, so this is as legit as it can get.

-Pappi’s design is highly unusual for a teddy who is from 40′s. He has no sign indicating that he was manufactured. (Such as logo print, or a button with company name engraved to it) Not only that he was made with a cloth instead of being covered with fur like the rest of the teddy from that time period.

Here is an example of type of teddy bear that was common in that time frame, a popular one from the 1940 was the Steiff teddy bears.)

-There is a high indication that Pappi has been hand made by someone from scratch, likely with a sewing machine. Whoever made him ran out of materials and left his arm in a simple floppy design, again i shall mention, is a unusual design choice compare to a popular designs.

-We know for the fact that, Pat adored this bear and treasured it, keeping it such incredible condition for past 70 years.

-It’s possible that Pat is no longer with us.

-And my sister and I know for a fact that Pat’s family saw no value in it and decided to simply toss it at a yard sale.

It’s sad to see such wonderful thing to be thrown out like this, honestly this teddy bear belongs in a museum, not because how old or unusual it is but because of the love put in by the 25 different people and the owner who took such good care of it for seven decades.

But for now, I think this teddy deserves some cuddling.

Whelp, where ever you are Ms.Pat, I adore this really strange, mysterious and sentimental teddy, Pappi gets to see sunshine and travels with me now.

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March 24th 1944: The ‘Great Escape’

On this day in 1944, a group of Allied prisoners of war staged a daring escape attempt from the German prisoner of war camp at Stalag Luft III. This camp, located in what is now Poland, held captured Allied pilots mostly from Britain and the United States. In 1943, an Escape Committee under the leadership of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell of the RAF, supervised prisoners surreptitiously digging three 30 foot tunnels out of the camp, which they nicknamed ‘Tom’, ‘Dick’ and ‘Harry’. The tunnels led to woods beyond the camp and were remarkably sophisticated - lined with wood, and equipped with rudimentary ventilation and electric lighting. The successful construction of the tunnels was particularly impressive as the Stalag Luft III camp was designed to make it extremely difficult to tunnel out as the barracks were raised and the area had a sandy subsoil. ‘Tom’ was discovered by the Germans in September 1943, and ‘Dick’ was abandoned to be used as a dirt depository, leaving ‘Harry’ as the prisoners’ only hope. By the time of the escape, American prisoners who had assisted in tunneling had been relocated to a different compound, making the escapeees mostly British and Commonwealth citizens. 200 airmen had planned to make their escape through the ‘Harry’ tunnel, but on the night of March 24th 1944, only 76 managed to escape the camp before they were discovered by the guards. However, only three of the escapees - Norwegians Per Bergsland and Jens Müller and Dutchman Bram van der Stok - found their freedom. The remaining 73 were recaptured, and 50 of them, including Bushell, were executed by the Gestapo on Adolf Hitler’s orders, while the rest were sent to other camps. While the escape was generally a failure, it helped boost morale among prisoners of war, and has become enshrined in popular memory due to its fictionalised depiction in the 1963 film The Great Escape.

“Three bloody deep, bloody long tunnels will be dug – Tom, Dick, and Harry. One will succeed!”
- Roger Bushell