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18 Different Boats

victoria hislop the island

Spinalonga History


Η Ιστορία της Σπιναλόνγα Prince George succeeded in getting the cretan Republic to proclaim a resolution.It was decided to make Spinalonga into a LEPER COLONY. The Turks were told that on Spinalonga all the lepers of Crete (and soon all Greece ) were to be concentrated, and there they would spend the rest of their lives. That was the end of the Turkish "occupation" of Spinalonga. In the same year 1903 the last Turks abandoned the Castle.
The disease LEPROSY was one of the most feared diseases of ancients times. It was believed that leprosy was the sign of impurity, and people kept a distance from anyone who had the disease. Up to 1903 lepers were living in caves in Heraklio. As you probably know the disease causes open wounds on the body, especially on hands and legs. Often it causes the entire loss of fingers and toes. In those days leprosy often gave large frightening wounds in the face resulting sometimes the loss of nose and ears. The tales of the human martyrdom of this disease must be endless. Sometimes it hit a child ,sometimes a young boy or girl. When they caught the infection it could last two to thirty years before the wounds were openly seen, and up to recent times the disease is fought with difficulty & treatment is not commenced in the early stages.
A Norwegian physician by the name of ARMAUER HANSEN was studying leprosy for many years, and marked his name in science when in 1873 he found the leper bacterium or bacillus. Through the work of Armauer Hansen the world got to know that leprosy is contagious through direct contact between a sick person and a healthy one. That is the open wound of a leper patient must be in intimate contact with a fresh wound, scar or scratch of another person to cause infection. During the fifty-four years of the colony, roughly four hundred people lived there, some of them evern born on Spinalonga - many , many died there. I have documents from this period in my office, with names and personal data written down :
There is mentioned Maria Vlakou from the Peloponese, thirty two years old, died 1938. There is Angela Anngirou from Thessalonica, died 1942 forty years old. Yannis Sarin from Edesa died 1928 eighteen year old and so on ... How could they live in this colony, how miserable were their deaths.
You may ask what kind of life they had. Well when you visit this island you will see where we dissembark at the big stone entrance to the Street of Pain. You will be walking along the lines of shops and small houses which were situated at the bottom of the hills , along the coastline and near the main gate. At certain times during the day there must have been an atmosphere of busy life - even there, with people coming and going, chatting and may be laughing, not all, of course, being near to deaath. Some of the lepers were married to each other, and lived together in small apartments, having a a garden outside to tend. Perhaps they had some hens, a dog or cats.
People of this district usually called Spinalonga "The Quiet Island" thinking both of the peacefulness during the war when Spinalonga was like another world, and of the quiet endurance of personal pain.
The priests did however, sometimes perform happier services than burials. It happened that lepers, like other people, fell in love with each other and got married. During the years of the Leper colony twenty babies were born on Spinalonga.