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  Resistance press in the mountains

RESISTANCE PRESS IN THE MOUNTAINS

Just as powerful as bullets were the words of the partisans. Thousands of leaflets and hundreds of publications circulated illegally in villages and occupied towns. The strict censorship regime made it imperative to issue resistance newspapers, so printers waged their own battle to provide information and encouragement to the people.

Avraam Kalef-Ezra was born in 1913 in Ioannina. He went by his family’s nickname (Kalef-Ezra) instead of surname (Baruch) due to a bureaucratic error. Returning from the Albanian front, he worked on the Kiryx (Herald) newspaper in Ioannina. In 1942 he escaped under a false name, Ioannis Konstantinou, to the villages of Preveza and became one of the first EAM members. From early 1943 to the liberation, he printed and edited EAM newspapers, such as Drassi (Action) and Machitis (Fighter), which were based in Voulgareli, in the partisan-held part of Arta. His younger brother, Yeuda, ran the printing machine for the National Republican Greek League (EDES). The printing and distribution of propaganda materials was of great significance for the remote villages of Epirus. From the mountain, he repeatedly tried to convince the Ioannina community to escape from the city, and even got into conflict with Sabethai Kabelis, a community leader who was submissive to the Germans. The tragic fate of thecitizens of Ioannina, among whom was his mother, tormented him until his death in 1999.

Armando Bezes was born in 1915 in Thessaloniki to a family of printers. His father, Baruch Bezes, published religious books, popular novels and the satirical newspaper El Bourlon (The Coarse Joke). During the occupation, Armando took to the mountains, risking his life by carrying with him a manual printing press. Under the pseudonym “Antonis Bezezis”, he contributed to the struggle as a printer for EAM in Thessaly. His announcements and newspapers informed and inspired the villagers, who would wait anxiously for "Antonis". With great risk, he transported the printing equipment and distributed publications and Rizospastis (the KKE newspaper) in a vast region, from Agrafa to Olympos. In one of his short memoirs he recalled: "Once we made two whole dug outs on Mt Olympos. We were alerted that a sweep operation was underway and we had to hide the printing machine on the mountain or underground." He also worked in the printing press of the PEEA. After the liberation, he settled in Athens, where he continued working as a printer. He lost his entire family, with the exception of a sister, in the camps. In 1948 he printed a book by the Thessaloniki doctor Zak Matarasso, Ki omos olio tous den pethanan (Yet, not everyone died), the first account of the Holocaust in the Greek language.

 

Avraam Kalef-Ezra of Ioannina with two girls who survived the camps in Ioannina, 1945 (John Kalef-Ezra private collection).
Issue of the Drassi (=Action) newspaper, published by the EAM Prefectural Committee of Arta and in which Avraam Kalef-Ezra was involved (ELIA).
Armando Bezes and his wife Maria Vagena in 1945 (Eleni Beze personal collection).
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