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Out of the Balkans

Part 1: Out of the Balkans

Chapter 2:
Dimitraki: Out of Macedonia

Dimitraki steadied his cocked, long barreled pistol on the top of the garden wall and took aim. It was early spring in 1913, and this twelve year old, Macedonian boy from the village of Mavrovo lay in wait to assassinate the Kaimakam(1) in Kastoria. Leader of a secret band of boy revolutionaries, Dimitraki longed to use the ancient firearm he carried hidden at his waist to kill the Turk who ruled the Greeks under the cursed Ottoman Yoke.

The boys decided to act when sent to Kastoria to trade and buy goods for their parents. Today they had stalked the lordly Kaimakam to his home, hid behind the garden wall that bordered an unpaved, muddy wagon road on the lake's shore and like their heroes, the andartes,(2) waited for an opportunity to strike.

As the late afternoon light faded, the Kaimakam appeared on his second floor balcony to enjoy the evening and his view of the lake. Dimitraki fired his muzzle-loaded pistol. He missed, the bullet striking the frame of the French door next to the Kaimakan's head. Within minutes the would-be assassin was run down and caught. His comrades escaped.

There was no question about what would happen to Dimitraki. The next morning Ottoman officials tried and sentenced him to immediate execution by hanging. However his father's long friendship with the Kaimakam, desperate promises to control the boy, and delivery of a purse filled with gold Turkish Lira(3) saved Dimitraki's life.

* * * * * * *

Demetrios Athanasios Mavrovitis, known in his village as Dimitraki, and later in business and by friends and family as Jimmy, was born on 6 September 1900 in the western Macedonia village of Mavrovo(4) on Lake Orestiada. Macedonia was still an ill-defined geographic region with villages populated by one of several ethnic groups: Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, Vlach, Turk or Albanian.(5) Not yet joined with Greece the entire territory was held by the Ottoman Empire as an integral part of the area known from the sixteenth to beginning of the twentieth centuries as "Turkey in Europe."(6)

The small city across the lake from Dimitraki's village is Kastoria.(7) Its name either honors Zeus' son, Kastor, or is based on the many beaver found by early settlers in Lake Orestiada.(8) It was identified by the Roman Historian, Titus Livy (59 B.C. to A.D. 17), as the ancient Keletron or Celetrum. Located on the west side of the lake, it occupied a defensible promontory protected on three sides by water. A narrow strip of land connected it to the shore.(photo / 9a) (photo / 9b).

Just south of Keletron was Argos Orestikon, a mountain city founded by the Orestae, a Molossian tribe that in the Late Bronze Age moved from the north into the upper Haliakmon river valley. Some believe that the Orestae were the tribe from which the Argeadae Macedones sprang.(10) They became the leading tribe of Macedonia until displaced by the Temenidae, who formed the Macedonian royal house that reigned until the death of Alexander III (the Great).

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