Local History of Neraida - The name Kaloletsi or Kaloletzi

I will start with the name of the village Kaloletsi. None of the elders had an authentic explanation for the name. After some research, I have come to the conclusion that the suffix in the name is Serbo-Croatian:лећи (pronounced "letsi") and it means "lie down", metaphorically "the passage - the ambush". So Kalo-letsi means "the good passage - the good ambush". Indeed, the village is in the passage from the plateau of Foloi to the plain of Enipeas, the tributary of the Alpheus. Today the village is called Neraida, a change that took place in the mid-1950s. In the 1879 census (p. 164) the village was recorded with 328 inhabitants while today has less than 150 permanent residents and most of them elderly. See data from Ε.Ε.Τ.Α.Α (Hellenic Development and Local Government Company).

Of course, it should come as no surprise that a Slavic name exists in a small village in the Peloponnese, since the Peloponnese acted as a melting pot of civilizations over the centuries. Greeks, Slavs, Albanians, Venetians and Turks were from time to time the masters of the region. (See related article THE SLAVS IN PELOPONNESE. ) In Greece, as far as I know, there is another village with a name that has the same suffix Beletsi (Old Monastery of Trikala).

Gero-Giannakis Diamantopoulos

He was a young man who took up arms and together with Sisinis participated in the battles during the revolution of 1821, as chieftain of the area ( Pousi and elsewhere ). In old age - hence Gero-Giannakis /Old-Giannakis - he served as mayor of the Municipality of Oleni, in the mid-1870s, with great influence on the political affairs of the region. It is no coincidence that the first primary school of the area, operated in Kaloletsi in 1890 and served the needs of the neighboring villages of Basta, Helidoni, Persaina etc. To show his strength, he used to say "the train will pass through Kaloletsi". Unfortunately he died before the railway started its operation in Elis the first line Katakolo - Olympia (1882).

I will describe an incident that my blessed father told me about Gero-Giannakis. It describes the morals of the post-Ottoman period and the lawlessness that prevailed.

One day in the mid-1830s, Giannakis Diamantis-Diamantopoulos heads to Pyrgos, the capital of the prefecture, having his young son Dimos on the horse behind him.

In Karoutes, just outside Pyrgos, he gets off his horse to buy cherries that his son envied. He pays the retailer by giving him a coin of great value for the time. The peddler refuses to accept it, telling him that he has no change to return. Gero-Giannakis insists and tells him to keep the change. The peddler refuses and on the dialogue the young Gero-Giannakis pulls out the pistol and kills him shouting, you are not worth living.

On the same route at the entrance of Pyrgos someone holds the bridle of the horse to allow a carriage to pass. "Who are you to hold my horse?" He pulls out his gun again and a new murder ensues. Then going to Gastouni, for an insignificant reason, a third murder follows. When he meets Sisini, he mentions the murders he committed and Sisini's answer was: What can I tell you Diamantis, you and I, we will give account only to God.

Dimos (Rokkos) Diamantopoulos

Dimos was the son of Gero Giannakis and a follower of the Socialist MP Rocco Hoidas. Rocco Hoidas was very active in his time (1880). When members of an anarcho-socialist group were arrested and imprisoned in Patras for their action in the raisin vineyards of Amaliada, Hoidas supported them and demanded their release. Theodoros Kolokotronis, grandson of "Geros tou Moria", gave the money for the guarantee to get them out of prison.

Dimos Diamantopoulos embraced the ideas of Rocco Hoidas and the locals nicknamed him "Roccos". He demolished his house, a small palace for the data of his time and the village's church and school were built out of its materials . Unfortunately, nowadays, in the village, the expression "you became like Rocco" suggests that you do not care about your property. Dimos-Rokkos had a daughter Katina, whose descendants are the Doulis family.

The Diamantopoulos families who still exist in the village are descended from Gero Giannakis brother and have the nickname "Manetas". Gero Giannakis' brother had relations with the children of Zoitsa Kolokotroni (daughter of Gennaios) with the paternal name Manetas. The Manetas were a family of warlords in Arcadia and later some οf them became ministers during the 1880s.

My great-grandmother Victoria Bramos

My grandfather's father, that is, my great-grandfather Theodoros Panagiotopoulos, was the headmaster of the area after 1880. Until then, because he knew how to read and write, he was next to his godfather and mayor Gero-Giannakis as his secretary. Around 1850, Gero-Giannakis decides to mary his baptismal Theodore with Victoria, daughter of the chief and fighter of 1821 Ath. Bramou. Then, as usual, Chief Ath. Bramos became mayor of Gortynia. (Municipality of Thelpousa).

During the visit of the prospective bride, Victoria and her relatives to Kaloletsi, the reception and the matchmaking took place at the house-palace of Gero Giannakis. Victoria ends up as a bride in Kaloletsi at the humble house of Theodoros. The poor woman was expecting to find a rich and comfortable house, but she was disapointed. No mistake is recognized "after the removal of the fund".

The musical drama "Lestenitsa"

The springs of Enipeas river are located at Kaloletsi. The river is called Avoura by the local people, and when it comes out in the plain it is also called Lestenitsa. Chris Daralexis, politician of Elis - from the Avgerinos family, wrote the story of the musical drama entitled "Lestenitsa". The music was written by the composer George Sklavos.

The work refers to a landowner who retires with his daughter to his estate by the river. The love drama follows, set against the backdrop of the river Enipea-Lestenitsa which sometimes calms down and sometimes erupts menacingly. ( See related description ). Marika Kotopouli, Veakis and others played in the theatrical drama

Archaeological findings in Neraida - Kaloletsi

Early in the 1900s, Copper Handles were found, which were got by a collection abroad. Handle of hydria (vertical).

Two Cycladic figurines were found in the village and are in the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Olympia. During my visit to the museum in 2004, the findings were in a display case. But on my last visit (2015) the Cycladic figurines had been moved and I could not find them.

Ilia, Neraida - Kaloletsi, Cycladic figurine

Finally, in the chapel of Agios Georgios on his courtyard, tombs of the Hellenistic period were found. When the bulldozer cleaned the yard after the fires, it sank into the graves. Unfortunately, no research followed up and the Archaeological Service has never excavated the place.

At the time when the "modernization" of the village began in the 60's, the cobbled streets were replaced by cement. When the bulldozers paved the dirt roads, the elders still remember small and larger vases smashed at the sides of the roads.