Pityos in the 20th and the 21st century

The years following Chios and Pityos liberation were highlighted by some additional significant incidents:

During the wars that came on, the village paid its own blood toll:  In 1913, in the Second Balkan War, Stylianos Leovaris, a soldier from the village, was killed in the battle of Kilkis. During the First World War, in 1916, Elias Stasis was killed on the Macedonian frontier. During the Asia Minor campaign (1919-1922), Apostolis M. Petros, Kostalas Mar. Georgios and Mitros Dim. Georgios (an Asia Minor refugee who lived in Pityos since 1914), were also killed.

Two times, in 1914 and 1922-23, Pityos, like the rest of Chios, received refugees from the coasts of Asia Minor for permanent settlement.

In the second half of the 1910s, Pityos, and all the neighbouring villages on the north likewise, were shaken by the case of the fugitive Giorgis Petikas, who was the first and only “Jessie James” in the modern history of Chios. For many years, with the tolerance of the shepherds and villagers of the area, Petikas used the wider area of Pelinnaio and Mount Oros as his hideaway and refuge; they protected him as he was wanted for a “crime of honour” he committed, murdering the man who married his beloved in Amades.

The arrival of the refugees led to a large increase in the population of the village, which numbered about 550-600 residents during the interwar period.

In 1924, Giorgos Chloros from Pityos founded the football refugee squad Mikrasiatiki FC, as he was the first native Chian to get involved in the sport that was already flourishing in Izmir by the end of the 19th century, with teams like Panionios FC and Apollon Smyrna FC, and actually the island got familiar to it by the refugees. (see https://web.archive.org/web/20190706174110/http://www.sportschios.gr/2012/09/01/istoria-tou-podosfairou-sti-xio-1924/).

In 1925, people from Pityos who had migrated abroad donated the amount needed to build the school of the village. In the 1930s, during the government of Venizelos, the first phase of Chios-Agios Isidoros Road was constructed thus connecting Pityos with the city. A few years later, its extension was built towards Volissos and Amani. Dozens of villagers will find work in the large construction site that was built for over two years in the deserted valley of Agios Isidoros. At the same time, at that site, the refugee Kourounis family built the famous cafe-brewery and meeting point for all voyagers and lodgers of Northern Chios heading to and from the city.

In the 1930s, local and travelling resin growers began the systematic exploitation of pine forest resin in the area named Retsinadika, which is situated between Pityos and Katavasi. During the war the production was temporarily halted, and it started again in the first post-war years. At that period rental contracts were initiated, between the two local communities on the one hand, and the resin farmers from Prokopi, Pili, Vlachia and other villages of North Evia, and on the other.  Every year the latter would set up temporary shelters in that forest area.

During the Second World War, over 40 Pityans participated in the Greco-Italian war and two of them, Giorgos Ant. Liovaris and Dimitris Kyr. Haviaros were killed.

During the German occupation, there was no special activity in the village besides that members of Chios Resistance helped some New Zealand soldiers (of the ANZAC forces) to escape as they had been trapped in mainland Greece in 1941 when the front collapsed. They came to Chios by boat, reached the western shores of the island and then passed by Agios Isidoros area where the Kourounis family helped them to move to the eastern shores, and from there to Cesme, in Turkey that remained neutral (see Nikos G. Kourounis, Events & Memories of a Life, published by ALPHA PI, Chios 2020, pp. 85-86).

During the Occupation, the famine hardly affected the almost self-sufficient, at that time, cattle-raising village. Instead, the Pityan shepherds are ultimately those who provided the neighbouring settlement of Kardamyla and the Chora (the city) with the necessary supplies and goods, as the seafaring and trading population in those areas suffered due to the embargo that was taking place during the war.

In general, the tragic events of the Civil War would not directly affect the village, although there were some notable instances on the border of its meadows, such as the skirmish in neighbouring Kydianta and the ambuscade at Achlada in Aipos (early 1948); in both cases the conflicts extended up to the Pityan pastures. Nevertheless, these events contributed to the desolation of neighbouring Kydianta after the war (see Yannis Priovolos, Evidence from the Margins of History: Testimonies of Chios in the 20th Century, ed. Aigeas 2009, pp. 152-170).

After the war, the earthquake of 1949 will hit North Chios, together with Pityos. That is when the Byzantine church of Panagia Spiliotina was destroyed, to be demolished after a few years, and the Byzantine church of Saint Dimitrios of the Castle was seriously damaged. The school also suffered great damage.  The building was not used until the end of the 20th century when it was restored and now functions as a hostel. A new school building was then erected at the west side of the current parking lot.

The internal and external migration and the massive shift of the Pityans to seafaring – there are dozens of first and second captains from Pityos, as well as many senior crew members in the overseas commercial shipping industry – was the final blow to the structure of the population and to the mainly rural character of the village. Consequently, from 550 inhabitants and 15,000 sheep and goats in the 1950s, nowadays the village is left with 40 permanent residents with an average of over 60 years old and no more than 500 sheep and goats.

This desertification could not be prevented neither by the arrival of electricity and the telephone in the village (in the 1950s), nor by the construction of the new Pityos – Kardamyla road at the same period, or by the continuous efforts to solve the water supply – drainage problem by every community and municipal authorities, nor by the construction of the military base in Agios Isidoros after the events of 1974 (and the consequent flow of soldiers and visitors to the village), nor even by the inauguration of the Agricultural Clinic donated by Antonios Chloros in the early 2000.

Greece’s entry into the European Economic Community (EEC) marked a period of agricultural reformation that maintaining traditional animal farming became unprofitable. Resin cultivation in the forest of Pityos was also abandoned being economically unbeneficial (1976), and, from 1980 onwards, the abandoned forest suffered the effects of fire numerous times. Inevitably, in June 1988, the school bell rang for the last time.

On the contrary, throughout the last decades, Pityos, Aipos and the wider area of Northeast Chios have received pressure, so far unsuccessfully, from the central authority, for a series of “annoying” Pharaonic investments, intended to be located in the wider area.  Such installations, objectively and regardless of intentions, would degrade the environmental, traditional, historical origins of the region, with doubtful or unimportant benefits in return.

Some related examples include the plans that are drawn up from time to time, for the installation of polluting infrastructures such as the landfill (Sanitary Waste Landfill) of Chios or plans for huge Industrial Renewable Energy Production parks – formerly Wind Turbines, more recently Photovoltaics. Or finally, plans for large housing structures that the central authority does not want near the urban centres, such as a new prison, or closed structure of the Pre-Repatriation Detention Centre for Foreigners/refugees.

Regarding the construction of the latter, in February 2020, long, rigid street battles took place in the stony terrain of Aipos, between the residents and the riot police forces: from the intersection of Agios Isidoros of Pityos to the 18th kilometre, and from there to the first turns of Aipos in Vrontados area. As a result, the riot police forces withdrew, and the specific plan was abandoned. Again, that was a sign of the region’s timelessly untamed and distinctive character.

The reinforcement and revitalization of the social and economic life of the area using a new, fresh context that is combining tradition and sustainability to prevent the complete desertification of the settlement is the current pole of many new entrepreneurs and residents of the village, who in 2020 founded the Social Cooperative Enterprise “Pityos Proorismos” (Pityos Destination).