Tears Of The People

BOOK REVIEW by Mavis Manus

The apt subtitle of this book is The tragic life of a great revolutionary. Theopholis Kairis was born on the island of Andros. In the span of his lifetime he lived many lives: he began as a scholar and man of God, was ordained, then became a member of the revolutionary group Filiki Eteria which plotted to free Greece from the 400 year yoke of the Ottomans; he was also an educator, philosopher and fighter in the 1821 Revolution. (Local papers described him as a man with the bible in one hand and a carbine in the other.) He also had the courage and compassion to visit islands where the plague was raging to help care for the sick. The people, and the government of Greece, held him in the highest esteem - he was offered the position of Director of the newly formed Athens University and was chosen to give the welcoming speech when Otto was crowned king of Greece.

Yet at the end of his life, in 1939, he was imprisoned under brutal circumstances, exiled, excommunicated and left to die in a miserable prison cell.

Mantarakis tells his tale well, taking you through the astonishing achievements of Kairis, peppering the narrative with stories he heard from his father on Andros where Kairis is revered and honored as a hero. His library of more than 3,000 books is housed in a building especially built for that purpose. It also includes books written about him and they have endorsed Mantarakis' book which is available for reference or purchase in the library.

After the Turks had been routed from Greece, Kairis returned to Andros and built an orphanage and a school to take care of the children who had managed to survive the war. He was known throughout Greece as a great educator and at the height of the school's reputation, 1,000 students were enrolled. Today the main square in the center of Hora is dedicated to Kairis and is dominated by a large statue of him.

But some areas of Greece (influenced by his excommunication because of disagreement over Orthodox dogma) revile his memory; as for instance in Astypalia where an effigy of him is burned at Easter time. As Mantarakis says, "The tragic irony is that this deeply religious man, who risked his life for others, was one of Greece's greatest war heroes, a philanthropist and humanitarian and educator, was killed and his memory destroyed because of politics and dogma."

Mantarakis writes vividly about the eight years of the war for independence, when Turkey and Greece lost an estimated 400,000 lives. Numbers are difficult to confirm but it is thought that an additional 200,000 to 400,000 Greek women and children were sold into Turkish slavery. What is a fact is that before the war the population of Greece was over 2 million. By the time it was over, in 1829, it had been reduced to 850,000.

"My father's family comes from Andros," explains Mantarakis. "When I was young, he told me stories from his childhood about Father Kairis that I never forgot. Tears of the People evolved from these stories. Fifty years later when I started researching the book, I found that Kairis' story was even more incredible than I had heard and he was, a tragic hero. Many descriptions of the countryside and houses in the book are from recollections from my first visit there in 1956."

Mantarakis grew up in New York City and in 1966 he left to attend the California Institute of Technology where he received a BS and MS in Astronomy. He sowed a few wild oats during the next several years, "In the style of George Plimpton I briefly worked for the CIA, rode with the Hells Angels in Tucson Arizona in the early 70's, and got a bartendending license with the idea of someday buying a bar."

Eventually he settled down, with a successful career in industry where he received 10 patents for various inventions, and rose through the ranks to President and General Manager of several companies. Astrophysics is another of his specialties and he has published numerous articles in astrophysics journals.

When asked what he was doing now, Mantarakis puts a whole new spin on the word 'semi-retired': "I have been semi-retired since 2001, but in these ten years I have written 3 books and done several dozen oil paintings. I have also consulted for military electronics companies, and collaborated on scientific articles for astronomy journals with a professor at the University of Athens. We have written approximately 10 articles together in the last four years."

.. And not all of those oats are sown - last year he began skydiving for the first time - in his mid-sixties.

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Linda; they have two grown children.

(Diavolos Publications)